Trottings: Sicily shorted

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TROTTINGS = Trip Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.

 

Trottings: Sicily shorted

During a short trip to Sicily, we decided to travel to Taormina, hillside tourist spot on the east side of the island.

 

We chose accommodation via AirBnB (ABB), not in Taormina, but in Gallodoro, a village even higher up the mountain than Taormina. Although this is also billed as a tourist village, there is little there – apart from a magnificent view, although that is probably how Taormina started.

 

We were there at the end of the main season, but early September, so just into the shoulder season. The village has two restaurants, but both were closed, not for the season but for that day. Wouldn’t you have thought they would get together, and make some arrangement – maybe pooling revenue? There were still a few summer tourists around. Worse, the villagers – and this has a population of 400 – did not know the restaurants were closed. Even the bar owner did not know.

 

We also found no 711-type shop, or any other, but fortunately we had stopped at a supermarket before we got to Gallodoro.

 

The village, as most hillside villages, has many between-houses steps. One came down two sides of ours, close to the apartment. So close that on the balcony, one feels obliged to greet the person. I regarded this as a plus, and the traffic is slight – four people a day?

 

Parking was just across the street from the apartment. However, the road led nowhere except to the top of the village (same way back), so probably always space. But if no space, there are options further up the street. Ten steps from the apartment is a little square – which could be called Piazza San Nicola, although I don’t think it has a name. At one time, there was a church there, and the shell of the building remains.

 

The little piazza has a couple of benches, and a railing, and a spectacular view. Down over the village, and where you realise how steep is the hillside. And where you realise that it would take not an earthquake, but just a tremor, to bring the whole village down.

 

Then further in the distance, the buildings by the seaside from Taormina. And of course the sea and the hillside.

 

The apartment?

 

Problems again with what is offered on ABB and what is delivered. I searched for a property that provided WiFi. But in Gallodoro, WiFi was available only upstairs in the owner’s apartment. I blame this more on ABB. They obviously have no system to check what is offered and what you pay for is there. Yet ABB got its full commission on this false-pretences sale.

 

(I have had this problem before. It is clearly something ABB needs to fix. ABB appears to be unconcerned, as I have had no response on either of these matters. I think that one day this will allow the growth of a rival, as obviously other travellers have had the same experience as me.)

 

The Gallodoro flat is very good for its price. The view is great, from one room. From the balcony, you have to look out at one side to see the view, because facing the balcony is a bare wall – 1m away and thus blocking any view.

 

The lounge needs better lighting; there is just one in the centre of the room.

 

Bathroom. There is a step up, that most visitors will trip up, because the tiling is dark. But not as bad as a trip down. There is a bidet – which I used for its more useful purpose – a footbath.

 

The shower unit is small. I needed to enter sideways; some overweight Chinese children and American adults might not even get that far. The shower unit is also small once you get inside. Sure I knocked my head, elbows, knees – but it is so small that it is hard to reach as far down to your calf and feet – which makes that footbath in the bathroom even more useful – or bring your leg up.

 

The shower unit is cheaply made, so does not work well. It is not easy to slide the doors closed. On my visit, the shower-window-screen partly came out of its setting, and one of the shower doors itself out of its guide-railing.

 

There is no microwave oven; not advertised, but would be nice. But the owners provided coffee, coffee machine (proper expresso style), sugar, salt, and even biscuits; also not advertised, but nice.

 

There is washing machine and clothes line.

 

 

 

The Fox

Trottings = Trip Jottings

 

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Double WYSKs – Paris summer traffic, Asia Pacific inbound outbound.

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FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

Double WYSKs – Paris summer traffic, Asia Pacific inbound outbound.

WYSK = What You Should Know.

 

Paris – summer traffic

Looking for indicators in August* passenger traffic at Paris airports to-and-from Asia, Europe, US:

 

ASIA

-China, still growth. +3% August, +5% Jan-Jul.

-Japan, heavy fall, but year-long. -21%, -19%.

-Korea, fast-moving market and now 50% bigger than Japan, but not on Paris routes. -6%, +2%.

-Thailand, heavy fall. -20%, flat.

 

US

– -3%, +5%.

 

EUROPE

-Germany. -4%, +1%.

-Italy. -5%, +1%.

-Spain. -1%, +10%.

-UK, but also affected by Brexit-related fall in value of UK currency. +12%, +9%.

 

*Differences with YTD trend, following particularly-heavy terrorist attack in Nice July 14.

 

 

 

Asia Pacific inbound outbound

IN

Our calculation of AsPac visitor arrivals for latest-month May, in the current editions of the Travel Business Analyst newsletter, shows +8.2%; previous month +8.6%. Slow month; under average among the bigger destinations were China, Hong Kong, India, Macau, Taiwan.

 

OUT

Our calculation of AsPac resident departures for latest-month May, in the current editions of the Travel Business Analyst newsletter, shows +3.0%; previous month +6.5%. Slow month; under average among the bigger destinations were China (our estimates) Australia, Hong Kong, Japan, Korea Singapore.

 

 

 

The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.

Double WYSKs – Saving Air Malta and others; Malaysia Airlines’ Q2 report misleads.

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FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

Double WYSKs – Saving Air Malta and others; Malaysia Airlines’ Q2 report misleads.

WYSK = What You Should Know.

 

Saving Air Malta, and others

I’ve got it. I now know what small FSAs (full-service-airlines) in the European Union can do to survive.

 

 

Problem:

For some time I have thought there is no solution for small FSAs (SFSAs!) such as Air Malta. They will simply fade and die. Because few travellers are ready to pay their fares that are necessarily higher than the NFAs (no-frills-airlines).

 

If they are not higher, then the SFSA is losing money when matching or near-matching NFA fares. If the SFSA is privately owned, the owners will either shut-down or pay the cost of running a ‘trophy’ airline. If state-owned, EU rules do not allow – in most cases in theory – state bail-outs.

 

And SFSAs cannot match NFA cost levels because SFSAs’ cost base – as FSAs – is unavoidably higher. And fast-expanding NFAs are offering a wider choice of routes/destinations to the traveller. And thus turning yet more passengers to them, ergo away from the SFSAs.

 

Solution:

SFSAs to provide traffic-feed flights for the bigger intercontinental FSAs into their main hubs. So for Air Malta (AM) that would be from Malta to Paris for Air France; to Rome for Alitalia; to London for British; to Madrid for Iberia; to Frankfurt and Munich for Lufthansa; to Copenhagen for SAS; to Zurich for Swiss; and so on.

 

Of course, these routes are already operated, as well as others – such as Lyon and Marseille in France. Those ‘others’ should continue.

 

But those main routes I listed are main departure points for most of the medium- and long-haul flights of those intercontinental FSAs.

 

These flights by Air Malta to Paris, for example, should:

 

-be frequent; at least 3 daily?

-scheduled to fit timings of flights to main medium/long-haul destinations from Malta; Malta-Paris-New York?

-be tailored to requirements of ‘receiving’ airline, such as Air France. At least on the busiest flight times. To give a crude example, a special/better meal service on the Malta-Paris flight, with choice of French wines for example. So that ‘code-share’ becomes more than nominal. And because the idea is that AM flights would replace those of AF on the Malta-Paris route, something else; an AF stewardess for instance on each AM flight Malta-Paris?

-give loyalty-program points to the program of the ‘receiving’ airline, whether One, Sky, or Star.

 

Down/up-sides:

-AM would clearly be primarily a small feeder FSA – and that might be loss of face for the nation, even if absurd. The upside is that although AM would be ‘serving’ those bigger FSAs, there would be many of those airlines, and so that would leave it some independence. And, as noted, those ‘other’ routes – Lyon etc – would continue, and more could be added.

-to encourage AF and others to drop their flights to Malta, AM would have to be generous with the code-share financial deal. Upside: a better chance of staying alive.

 

 

 

Malaysia Airlines; Q2 report misleads

Malaysia Airlines reports of its Q2 results seem to be designed to mislead rather than inform.

 

We could show many small examples, but will stick with the bigger ones:

 

[] “In a seasonally weaker quarter”. Factually correct, but difference so slight it should not be worth mentioning – unless to mislead the audience. In 2015, international capacity Q2 98% of Q1, traffic 94%. This year 95% and 92% – thus ‘worse’ than 2015.

 

[] Most companies do not compare one Q with the previous Q but with the Q-year-earlier – certainly in businesses with big seasonal differences. In addition, the key is not whether it is the slowest Q or not (because that rarely changes from year to year), but how it compares with previous ‘slow’ Q.

 

[] “[Q2] weaker due to seasonality [and] soft demand during Ramadan.” But this is like-with-like! Seasonality slowdown was also there in 2015. And – again, mischievously, Ramadan was in the same Q in 2015. MA is misleading its public.

 

[] “Group expected to record a loss for…2016…significantly smaller than initially budgeted at the beginning of the year, and ahead of the turnaround plan for the airline to be sustainably profitable by 2018.”

 

This defies belief. It says Q2 results were worse than Q1 (no financial data) – as it forecast – but 2016 loss expected to be smaller than forecast at start-2016. How can? Likewise how can a forecast fall translate to being “ahead of the turnaround plan”?

 

[] “[Two A350s] were leased in the quarter for delivery in 2018.” This makes no sense. Perhaps MA means it signed lease contracts for two A350s to start operating in 2018? If that, then someone should wonder why. MA’s capacity this year is down about 30%. Delaying delivery of purchased aircraft can be costly, but why is MA adding capacity by leasing-in aircraft? In addition, the first of six of its own A350s is due in October 2017. MA may not be giving the whole story on its fleet plan.

 

[] Heavy maintenance on A380 aircraft in Q2 was “only the second time this…has been completed in the southern hemisphere.” Malaysia is not in the southern hemisphere; so where was this work done?

 

But the maintenance matter is less important than the fact that MA should have leased out its six A380s – to a Gulf airline, for instance?

 

[] “…our Asean fleet”. MA has a fleet to fly just to Asean destinations? Those A330s never operate on, say, Malaysia-China flights?

 

[] To boost sales, MA will be “aggressively engaging with travel agents”. Given the near universal move to internet activity, MA’s sales plan seems like a blast from the past.

 

 

The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.

Double WYSKs – EuroMonitor whoops, SkyTrax smashed?

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FOXTROTS

Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.

Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

Double WYSKs – EuroMonitor whoops, SkyTrax smashed?

WYSK = What You Should Know.

EuroMonitor; whoops.

EuroMonitor has the chutzpah to laud its accuracy in its travel forecasts in its annual forecast report one year ago*.

 

Well, two of them. Of which one hopefully did not take much brainpower – that the ‘sharing economy’ would ‘take-off’ in China. The other, on hipster holidays, is just vague; EM gives no figures and nothing it says indicates anything has changed.

 

The following are the forecasts EM made a year ago, and which (understandably, you will realise) it has not revisited. But to us, they show EM’s prognoses flopped badly:

 

-Forecast +3.7% in Americas 2015 arrivals; it was a fast +5.9%.

 

-After fast 2013 UK arrivals post 2012-Olympics, forecast slowing. Whoops. +4.4% in 2013, +5.0% in 2014, +5.6% in 2015.

 

-Forecast growth slowdown in 2015 Europe arrivals, linking that to weaker economies, forecasting 593mn in 2015. Whoops. Growth was +2.3% in 2014, but faster in 2015 – +4.7%. Total 607.7mn.

 

-(Bravely) forecast +3.4% arrivals in 2015 in Middle East. Whoops. +1.7%.

 

-Forecast great things for Iran arrivals. To us, and as we noted in our earlier report, it flopped. On Iran’s small 5mn total in 2014, it counted only +5.4% more in 2015 – about 300k more visitors.

 

-Forecast +6.0% arrivals in Africa in 2015. Whoops. -3.3%.

 

-For Kenya and South Africa we must wait, as EM forecast annual average growth rates over 2014-9. However, the start is not auspicious. For Kenya EM thought +6% AAGR 2014-9; but it was -12% in 2014 and another -12% in 2015. SA +5% AAGR; actual flat and -7%.

 

-‘Regional destinations remain popular with Chinese tourists, particularly Hong Kong and Macau…’ – for 2015. Whoops. Unprecedented falls: Hong Kong -3.0%, Macau -4.0%.

 

*We ran a scathing report on EM’s outlooks at the time, under (er, sorry) Euromonitor Puerilities. See http://www.travelbusinessanalyst.com/, 7 December 2015.

 

 

 

SkyTrax credibility smashed?

ST’s findings on ‘most loved’ airlines (sic) have put Garuda #1, followed by Asiana and Eva. ST rebuffed us earlier when we asked for more information on another set of findings – thus we no longer bother.

 

But even if the category ‘most loved’ is accepted (we find it professionally unsound), there is clearly something wrong with the result. For instance, we would guess that most travellers have never heard of Eva.

 

ST needs to revisit its methodology.

 

 

The Fox

Remember, I’ll be famous after I’m dead.