Travel: back to the ‘old normal’ – tomorrow

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TROTTINGS*

 

Travel: back to the ‘old normal’ – tomorrow

Not quite, but soon, very soon – two months?

 

This tentative, and tenuous, belief is based on a few developments:

 

-Markets where covid coronavirus cases are rapidly falling are rapidly opening. However, the definition for ‘rapidly’ is in the eye of the beholder – as well as a continuous reduction in new cases over the previous 10/14 days.

 

-Rapid (every 48 hours?) easing of restrictions. Remember those reports, only weeks ago, picturing the ‘new normal’ – aircraft centre-seat blocked, plastic separation-shields, airline cabin-crew in hospital-like protective clothes, and so on?

 

-Vaccines, etc. Despite the fact that hydroxychloroquine has been largely dismissed as a possible cure, there are now frequent (almost every week?) reports of other treatments, the latest being dexamethasone.

 

-Continuing speculation that a vaccine may be discovered as early as September – which is only about two months away. Although ‘discovered’ is not necessarily the same as ‘available’.

 

 

That said, there are many not-minor potential problems. They include:

 

-Some travel operators – airlines, hotels, rentalcar companies, travel agencies, ground/tour operators, etc – have run out of money.

 

-And many travel operators are close to running out of money. It is no good knowing that you can fill all the aircraft’s seats if you cannot afford the fuel for the plane to take off, or the landing fee at the destination airport, or even the salaries of hotel check-in staff.

 

-And many of those that have not shut down, might be very close. That would normally mean pushing up prices to make up for their peak-covid losses – but potential travellers might not buy if prices were not low, which means prices at before-covid levels.

 

-Potential travellers might not have time or money for leisure travel so soon. That said, many fortunates received government support – some generous – and not much to spend it on. Could that positive cancel out the negative out-of-money?

 

 

NFAs (no-frills-airlines), particularly Ryanair of course, are trying to motivate potential travellers with low fares. For this near peak-season period, many fares are lower than before-covid.

 

But those low fares may be short-term motivators – say for July only. If there were a reasonable (an airline’s management would decide what is ‘reasonable’) response in the market, will prices jump starting August? And would fares noticeably-higher (noticeable to the customer) slow the recovery?

 

For inbound leisure travel, some destinations plan onerous conditions for visitors. In Cambodia what can be considered a US$3000 bond. In the Maldives, various conditions on travellers and the industry that appear designed to steal money from travellers, not to reduce risk (some of the more unjust have since been eased). Although these will slow visitor recovery in those destinations, the thrust of the moves will be negative – but even for travellers to other destinations.

 

Will visitors wonder whether they are welcome or not? Cambodia and Maldives are effectively saying No.

 

In turn, negative moves or sentiments might push some travellers to consider domestic travel, or near- or ‘friendly’-destinations. That, however, in itself, is not necessarily a problem.

 

Still not clear is when we will start to see moves in the direction of the ‘old normal’. Perhaps only when 2020 totals are added will we know. Our comments are based on a return to normal, not a recovery of what has been lost.

 

The WTTC*, in its best-case scenario*, forecasts that covid will have caused a -41% fall in all-2020 arrivals, and -26% in domestic travel.

 

For a return to our ‘old normal’, our indicators are necessarily complicated – because at the time of writing, covid is still growing fast in some countries – notably Brazil, US – and regions, notably South America.

 

Our recovering regions are Europe (except Sweden, UK), most of Asia (despite recent outbursts in China, Japan, Korea), Australasia (although Australia seems reluctant to reopen, possibly because it can profit from growth in domestic travel).

 

For those recovering regions, we would need to see – for domestic travel plus visitor arrivals:

 

-July. Minus 10-20% traveller-plus-arrival numbers.

 

-August. Minus 5-15%.

 

-September. Minus 0-10%.

 

-October. 0%.

 

-After October. A possible slight fall for the northern winter as some travellers will have taken ‘late’ travel July-October, and may not be ready travel again so soon. However, that may be countered by the hopeful recovery of the still-hurting places such as Brazil, US.

 

 

*Notes:

-Best-case scenario: Current (in early June) measures starting to ease from June for shorthaul- and regional-travel, from July for medium-haul, from August for longhaul.

 

-WTTC – World Travel & Tourism Council – is a lobby group for the travel business. It has its own methodology for calculating the turnover of the travel business including not just inbound, outbound, and domestic travel, but other industries involved in the business. For instance, if 0.5% of the world’s cars go into the car-rental business, that measure would be calculated into the turnover of the overall travel business. It terms all this a travel GDP (gross domestic product), which we usually reduce to TGDP.

 

-Unfortunately, WTTC is not always clear that its data is related to this grand total, and often its commentary appears to be related to just one sector – often, the inbound visitor business. In addition, it sometimes uses the terms ‘travel’ or ‘tourism’ alone; we cannot always determine if these mean something different from ‘travel & tourism’.

 

-WTTC’s name does not help – the ‘TT’ is ‘travel & tourism’, where we would define ‘travel’ as covering all segments of the travel business, with ‘tourism’ meaning ‘leisure travel’ to most observers, just one segment. This means that most people and bodies the WTTC lobbies may think they are discussing just inbound leisure travel.

 

-WTTC reports that the travel business in 2019 represented 10.3% of world GDP.

 

 

 

 

The Fox.

*Trottings = Travel Jottings

*The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.

 

Bumbling, good riddance, welcome?

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TROTTINGS*

 

Bumbling, good riddance, welcome?

An excerpt from our W.Y.S.K:What-You-Should-Know, published by Travel Business Analyst.

 

A bumbling bureaucrat

This is the first time we have included a report under Leader or an opinion-piece. We have been motivated by a short speech this month by Antonio Guterres head of the United Nations (UN). His ‘speechlet’ was about the travel business, and thus was diffused by the WTO*.

 

Our interpretation is that Guterres tells us that travelling can help the world recover from the damage caused by the covid coronavirus. Firstly, however, some comments:

 

-As noted, this is our interpretation. We have included below some excerpts from what Guterres said. But obviously, those interested should listen to the full speechlet; it is only about five minutes.

 

-Guterres did not say, but covid has caused medical and economic damage. If he is saying that travel can help economic recovery, then he is correct. But he did not clarify.

 

Now for the most egregious countering fact – travel was the sole cause of the worldwide spread of covid. If the virus started in Wuhan, China, as generally believed, then it would likely have not gone further if the first carrier/s stayed in Wuhan. But they travelled, as did others, and so spread the virus worldwide.

 

To have the chutzpah not only to ignore this fact, but to add that travel can help the recovery, seems shockingly irresponsible – if not plain stupid.

 

Worse, we thought that Guterres simply treats people as fools, and ready to believe anything that comes from a generally-respected organisation. But no, because the WTO repeated Guterres’ comments. Whereas that might be understandable – because one of the WTO’s jobs is to promote travel – does credibility or respect or truth no longer have any value?

 

We end our speechlet with a comment that damages a little more the respect we once had for Guterres, and makes us think that perhaps he is no more than a bumbling bureaucrat.

 

Guterres referred to the WTO in his speechlet. But he called it the ‘United Nations World Tourism Organization’. It is not. It is the World Tourism Organization, which it abbreviates to UNWTO, although it is a UN body. We would have thought Guterres should know; Wikipedia reports that he has headed the UN since 2017.

 

We add that Guterres also repeated the fault of many (including the WTO) of presuming that ‘tourism’ (meaning the travel business) is just inbound leisure travel. Not only is there outbound and domestic travel (ok, and space travel), but also non-leisure segments, including business-, MICE-, VFR-, sports-, and religious-travel, and more.

 

 

Good riddance. And welcome?

As noted above, this is our first Leader. Thus we take the opportunity to add more, and more lightly.

 

The subjects are ‘overtourism’, the value of travel, and the environment.

 

 

Overtourism, travel value, the environment

We were never a ‘supporter’ of mostly negative comments about ‘overtourism’, believing it to be a vogue word for ‘busy’ or ‘peak season’ – except for a few cases such as Angkor Wat and Venice. Now, post-covid, we suspect many – in and outside of the travel business – would welcome ‘overtourism’.

 

Concomitant with welcoming ‘overtourism’ is the public’s realisation of the value of the travel business (defined as ‘tourism’ in most writings). In fact, an important part of the work of WTTC* was to explain to world governments how valuable was the travel business (which, in respect of its name, the WTTC must define as the meaningless ‘travel & tourism’).

 

What the WTTC has been struggling to do in its 30 years of existence, has been achieved in 4/5 months of the covid coronavirus. Surely everyone now knows the value of the travel business?

 

So will the WTTC now disband? If not – and we suspect it will not – what will its new role be?

 

We will try to conclude on a constructive note. Much of what the WTTC does (for instance, its current counts on covid-caused job and financial losses) could also be done by the WTO. And in some cases both are indeed already doing different versions of the same thing.

 

And so we propose a new role for WTTC – environmentally-friendly travel (EFT). (We avoid the word ‘sustainable’ because it has been devalued to mean almost nothing.)

 

Our publication ZERO already has a list of what various segments of the travel business should do to become Gold standard. At present, no airline, hotel-group, destination, etc, qualifies for Gold. Likewise, none qualifies for the Silver standard, and only a (very) small number qualify for the Bronze standard. Indeed, most travel companies do not even qualify for ‘Entry Level’.

 

We would like the WTTC to take up/over this challenge – although we worry that it would want its members to get at least ‘Entry Level’, thus threatening credibility from the beginning.

 

Could the WTTC start to push for travel organisations to get financial help only if they worked on EFT measures?

 

Will we be able to say in five years’ time that the covid brought about a new beginning for the travel business?

 

*Notes:

-WTO – World Tourism Organization, which it abbreviates to UNWTO – is a lobby group for the travel business.

-WTTC – World Travel & Tourism Council – is a lobby group for the travel business.

 

 

Edited excerpts

From UN secretary general Antonio Guterres:

-‘Tourism can be a platform for overcoming the pandemic.

-By bringing people together, tourism can promote solidarity and trust.

-The United Nations World Tourism Organization is strongly committed to this work.

-The livelihoods of many depend on [‘tourism’], especially women and particularly in the world’s most vulnerable countries.

-The protection of biodiversity relies heavily on the tourist sector, from conservation to the revenue generated by those efforts.’

 

 

The Fox.

*Trottings = Travel Jottings

*The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.

 

Our World-Famous Story-Headlines…All-Time-Great Headlines

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TROTTINGS*

 

Our World-Famous Story-Headlines…All-Time-Great Headlines

Following popular-request (ok, self-request) here are the headlines that got us into the Great Headlines Hall of Fame (ok, it doesn’t exist, but if it did, this would be our application).

 

We sympathsize; our measured response

Virus-affected falls in travel. 2020.

 

Magic mushrooms

Report on (financing) growth at Magic Stay. 2019.

 

Trump Slump Bumped

After the US released new (questionable) methods for counting visitor arrivals that turned a slump-fall in President Trump’s first year into growth. 2018.

 

Scoop! Peach & Vanilla to merge!

We report on a planned merger of Peach and Vanilla, two airline subsidiaries of All Nippon Airways. 2018.

 

Can’t Get No Statisfaction

WTTC uses non-comparable statistics. 2016.

 

Out in Africa

Two African airline CEOs fired. 2016.

 

Ball’s in Alitalia’s court

Appointment of Cramer Ball to CEO of Alitalia. 2016.

 

Two inns, two outs

When the CEOs of two big hotel groups (Accor and Four Seasons) were fired. 2013.

 

Cereal killer

Report on high-price breakfasts at Soneva Kiri. 2013.

 

WTO; no water marks

Our scorecard for the World Tourism Organization on its water-preservation non-policy. 2010.

 

At the sharp end?

Discussion on retirement by Four Seasons Hotels head, Isadore Sharp.

 

Under-developments

News items on travel companies in Australia.

 

Strip mining

About Macau taking ideas from Las Vegas.

 

The new Big Mac

Big developments in Macau.

 

Fix me a drink

On appointment of two CEOs to two hotel companies – one moving from Black & Decker, the other from Coca Cola.

 

Star Track: Watch This Space

Report on registration by the US’s FAA of space companies. 2007.

 

Flock; off

Our disagreement with J W Marriott’s comments about Chinese ‘flocking’ to countries other than the US. 2007; times have changed since then.

 

Rock off

When Hard Rock Hotels separated from Melia Hotels. 2006.

 

Pisa off?

Disagreeing with some statements made at IPKI’s Pisa Forum travel gathering.

 

Pisa cake

Saying that some statements made at IPKI’s Pisa Forum travel gathering were obvious conclusions.

 

Cracking tracking

Trying to interpret outbound travel figures from Eurostat.

 

‘6-2-0’

(Six-To-Zero) About Six Senses Resorts planning a zero-emissions resort. (When Sonu Shivdasani owned SSR.)

 

Game of the name

Comments on some mis-hit hotel brands – including (all sic) Waldorf=Astoria, EdeNH.

 

Hire education

About (someone; name on application) taking his honorary degree and using it to entitle himself ‘Professor’.

 

 

*Trottings = Travel Jottings

The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.

If outbound travellers became domestic travellers

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FOXTROTS*

 

 

If outbound travellers became domestic travellers

 

Caveat:

-We have mixed ES data with WTO’s for some calculations. This is a risk, as criteria may not be the same.

 

 

We have seen some data from the OECD and Bernstein on if domestic travel was converted to domestic.

 

(Bernstein is a respected US-based research company, but which nevertheless would not help us with our research by explaining how it made its calculations on OECD data.)

 

Some countries are beginning to open up to domestic travel, and a return to ‘normal’ international travel still looks at least one year away. Even if some international ‘bubbles’ are introduced, such as a mooted one between Australia and New Zealand, travel numbers will not become ‘normal’, also probably for a year.

 

Bernstein’s base was spending; ours is travel/trip numbers.

 

Using Eurostat data (for 2018, the latest available), we have arbitrarily assumed that only 40% of outbound travellers would switch to domestic over one year. After all, we cannot imagine travellers from France normally heading for the Canaries in January will switch to, say, Lille instead.

 

We have selected 12 markets in Europe. We believe these are the most significant markets, and they are also almost the 12 largest.

 

We have not considered domestic-visitor capacity in our statistical processing. But we think this might be a problem only in Switzerland, where our 40%-switch would represent 92% of the current domestic market. (Surely, hopefully, that would not resuscitate complaints about ‘overtourism’?)

 

The percentages are higher for Belgium, but we are sure our 40%-switch would not be achieved there.

 

 

Commentary:

-Germany is the clear leader in relation to its normal inbound visitor traffic. Our findings indicate that if only 40% of outbound travellers switched to domestic over one year, that would represent more than double its normal inbound traffic!

 

-Three other markets would do well – by which we mean covering at least 50% of their inbound travel. They are Belgium 57%, Switzerland 52%, UK 67%. Unfortunately, we believe that our arbitrary 40%-switch would be lower for Belgium – not enough attractive/different places to go. And possibly for Switzerland; plenty of attractive domestic destinations, but could Swiss residents afford to holiday there?

 

-Losing out badly would be the big-volume summer-sun-heavy destinations – such as Greece 1% (based on 40% of its outbound as a share of its inbound), Italy 9%, Spain 5%. But that is a statistical observation. With so much capacity – those big high-rise hotels one step from the beach, certainly in Spain – surely a combination of price cuts, convenience, attraction, might entice more than our arbitrary 40%?

 

-France is another destination that probably does not fit our standard 40%. Our 12%-switch calculation does not take into account the numerous attractions of France – at least in the lower half of the country. Not just Beaujolais-country, Lyon, Monaco (ok, we know it is not France), Nice, Toulouse, but spectacular scenery and delightful countryside through the lower half – including the Alps. Surely that would bump up our 40% to at least 50%?

 

 

If outbound travel from selected markets in Europe switched to domestic

Market Share*,%
  Of inbound Of domestic
Austria 15.4 38.0
Belgium 57.5 138.1
Denmark 21.8 23.3
France 11.8 6.3
Germany 111.7 27.2
Greece 1.2 6.1
Italy 9.3 10.6
Netherlands 43.9 35.3
Poland 26.0 10.7
Spain 7.9 4.7
Switzerland 52.2 91.8
UK 67.1 19.5

Notes:

-TBA manipulation on ES counts on outbound and domestic travel, and on WTO counts on inbound travel.

-*If 40% of outbound travellers switched to travel domestically, that would represent xx% of the annual inbound-visitor or domestic-traveller count.

-┼ES has also given an implausible, but unexplained, figure that would near double the shares shown.

-╪Based on 2013 data; even before it decided in 2016 to leave the European Union, the UK cooperated poorly with EU institutions.

-See editorial for other amplifications/caveats.

Source: ES=Eurostat, TBA=Travel Business Analyst, WTO=World Tourism Organization.

 

An excerpt from our WYSK:What-You-Should-Know, published by Travel Business Analyst.

 

 

 

The Fox. Remember, I’m an industry expert in the parallel world.

*Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

 

Travel Industry Data News, February 24 – March 6.

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FOXTROTS*

 

Travel Industry Data News, February 24 – March 6.

From http://www.travelbusinessanalyst.com

 

 

IATA on the Covid coronavirus

6 March 2020

IATA (International Air Transport Association, the airlines’ trade body) reports:

-2020 drop in passenger revenue US$63-113bn. That’s $63bn if Covid is contained in current markets with over 100 cases by 2 March; $113bn if a broader spread of Covid.

-Earlier analysis (on 20 February) put lost revenues at US$29.3bn – which assumed Covid would be largely confined to markets associated with China.

-Airline share prices have fallen 25% since the outbreak began, 21pts more than the fall at a similar point in the SARS coronavirus in 2003.

  Our data is for a different period. Our data shows February airline share prices fell -12% for airlines in Asia Pacific (excluding China), -27% Europe, -23% US. Conversely, all categories of travel stocks (including airlines) in China grew – by +10%, and for all China-based travel stocks (wherever quoted) +5%.

-Forecast market falls, annual: Italy -24%, China -23%, Iran -16%, Korea -14%, Japan -12%, France -10%, Germany -10%, Singapore -10%.

-Forecast market falls, annual: Asia (excluding China, Japan, Korea, Singapore) -11%, Europe (excluding France, Germany, Italy) -7%, Middle East (excluding Iran) -7%.

-Of missed US$63bn revenue, China would account for US$22bn. Markets associated with Asia (including China) would account for US$47bn. We do not know why the totals add up, but we believe perfect precision is not necessary in this case.

-Extensive Spread – markets that at 2 March had at least 10 confirmed Covid cases. The US$113bn missed revenue would be on a financial scale equivalent to losses in the Global Financial Crisis in 2008.

-Forecast market impact if extensive spread of Covid:

-Australia, China, Japan, Korea, Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam: seat sales -23%; passenger revenues -US$49.7bn.

-Rest of Asia Pacific: -9% -$7.6bn.

-Austria, France, Italy, Germany, Netherlands, Norway, Spain, Switzerland, Sweden, UK: -24% -$37.3bn.

-Rest of Europe: -9% -$6.6bn.

-Bahrain, Iraq, Iran, Kuwait, Lebanon, UAE: -23% -$4.9bn.

-Rest of Middle East: -9% -$2.3bn.

-Canada, US: -10% -$21.1bn.

-Positive. Oil prices have fallen -US$13/barrel since start-2020. This could cut US$28bn from the airlines’ fuel bill this year.

*Notes: A full report on this topic in our WYSK:What-You-Should-Know monthly-report contains some important additional information, qualification, and analysis.

 

France-UK fares

5 March 2020

Algofly (AF*) forecasts higher prices on France-UK* air prices. Some details:

-Since the Brexit referendum in 2016, to 2018 (presumed end-2018; not specified), air fares grew (see below).

-Forecasts seat sales +10% this year. However, other index data from AF shows that may be a rounding for public presentation; based on 100 in 2016 – LON-PAR 105 2017, 112 2018, 98 2019, 105 2020; PAR-LON 93 86 84 94.

-Reports (neither confirming nor contradicting data above) -15% fewer seats sold 2016-18 over PAR-LON, but AF customers, not all travellers. Our database (on all travellers) shows over PAR-LON shows different development – +2.6% in 2019, -2.3% 2018, +2.7% 2017, +9.6% 2016.

-Forecasts fare growth +7-20% this year. Again, AF’s forecasting is inexcusably weak. Is this growth in fares, or growth in what its customers, or all customers, will pay?

Its support documentation shows: LON-PAR airfare at US$106.82 (at US$1 to €0.90) in 2019, and PAR-LON US$127.02. For this year AF forecasts (AF rounded) US$114-129 and US$136-152. We calculate that would mean growth of +7.1-20.7% and +6.7-19.8%.

*Notes:

-France-based AF compares air fare prices – usually those of its customers, not all travellers.

-Data provided by AF is over only PAR-LON routes.

-At press time, AF had not answered our request for clarifications.

 

TBA Tracking: February travel stocks; don’t look for logic

4 March 2020

Commentary (numbers below):

-Phew! As expected, a bad bad month. But don’t look for logic in the results.

-Perhaps many of the moves in China you thought were unlikely, at least, happened in February. Samples: all China travel stocks grew; Hainan Airlines, in deep financial trouble, was almost the fastest-growing in China, +19%; Shanghai was the only stockmarket to grow; fastest-growing airline stock worldwide was Cathay, whose home-base Hong Kong is mired in often-violent demonstrations, as well as the Covid virus.

-Airbus fell -19%, but more-troubled Boeing -9%.

-Royal Caribbean was worst among our ‘other’ travel stocks, but the world’s biggest cruiseline, Carnival, was there as well, -26%. We believe the (Princess) cruise ship quarantined in Japan with hundreds of Covid cases and a few deaths, became an ‘avoid cruises’ call.

-The best-performer among those ‘other’ stocks actually fell -2% (Avis).

-Mirroring that, the worst-performing China stock grew +2% (China Eastern).

-China-quotes. Growth, for all 11 stocks we track. Although that might be the opposite of what would be expected, China’s big fall came in January, when Covid contamination was highest. Now that contamination counts in China are falling, investors are (relatively) encouraged.

  Note, however, that 9-of-11 of our China travel stocks are still below their end-2019 prices. Above are HNA (ironic in that this is a failing company, but perhaps that means Covid is less important to its financial well-being) and Jinjiang (which also owns the Louvre and Radisson hotel groups). Note (there are often ‘Notes’ needed for China) that Jinjiang grew +24% in Shanghai, but only +3% in Hong Kong; who can guess at the reasons, although the Shanghai stockmarket grew +9% compared with Hong Kong’s -0.1%.

-The worst stockmarket index was Travel Weekly’s in the US. As this is the only index that is pure travel business companies, that is not a good sign.

-Not shown in our best/worst list below is how bad most results were.

  -Average fall, airlines: -12% AsPac, -27% Europe, -23% US.

  -Average fall, hotels: -2% AsPac, -9% Europe, -11% US.

  -Average fall, tech: -14%.

  -Average fall, others: -5% AsPac, -19% Europe, -15% US.

  -Average growth, China: +10%.

  -Average growth, Chinese: +5%.

  -Average fall, stockmarkets: -5%.

Travel stock prices (Asia Pacific, Europe, US) in February. Airlines: biggest growth, Cathay Pacific +3%; biggest fall, Norwegian -41%. Hotels: Jinjiang +3%, Melia -16%. Tech: Travelport, cTrip flat, Trivago -31%. China travel stocks (new): Hainan +19%, China Eastern +2% (sic). Others: Avis -2% (sic), Royal Caribbean -31%.

Previous month: Airlines: biggest growth, Wizz +8%; biggest fall, Air Asia -25%. Hotels: NH Hoteles +11%, Jinjiang -18%. Tech: eDreams +4%, Booking -11%. China travel stocks (new): Hainan -13% (sic), Beijing Hotels -25%. Others: Amex +4%, Genting -21%.

TBA Travel Stocks Index: World 176, Asia Pacific 54, Europe 172, US 302. Index previous month: World 203, Asia Pacific 69, Europe 208, US 333.

TBA China Travel Stocks Index (new; quotes from China, Hong Kong, US): 91; previous month 88.

NVTT (Net Value Travel Tech) Stocks Index: 137; previous month 156.

Stockmarkets. Biggest growth Shanghai +9%; biggest fall New York-Travel Weekly -15%. Previous month: biggest growth Istanbul +4%; biggest fall Shanghai -10%.

Info from Travel Business Analyst. Details in next month’s editions of WYSK:What-You-Should-Know, published by Travel Business Analyst. Our February issue includes annual comparisons, as well as 5-year, 10-year, and millennium comparisons.

 

Travel business updates

3 March 2020

[] Greece’s DMO reports January air arrivals +8.3%. Bank of Greece all arrivals December +5.4%, YTD +4.1%; spend +6.1%, YTD +12.8%.

[] STR (nee Smith Travel Research) reports:

-On Middle East hotels in January: occupancy +8.1% to 73.3%, average room rate -2.6% to US$148.57.

-On US hotels 16-22 February: occupancy -2.1% to 63.2%, average room rate +0.7% to US$130.55.

[] Despite negative publicity for Myanmar, its main airport, Yangon, handled 6.5mn +7.9% passengers in 2019.

 

Reports on Philippines and Spain

2 March 2020

Research & Markets (RM), a company, reports on Philippines and Spain.

[] Philippines:

-Forecasts 15mn arrivals spending US$22.5bn ‘by 2026’; we believe this should be ‘in 2026’.

[] Spain:

-Domestic trips 169.5mn in 2019; growth not given.

-Those aged 50-64 the main group, 47.9mn trips. RM describes this category as fastest-growing, but provides no data.

 

Cote d’Azur in 2019

28 February 2020

CRT* reports 2019 visitor results for France’s Cote d’Azur* (CDA). Much categorisation is different from what CRT reported for 2018; when relevant, we have added information on 2018 from our database.

Details (any rounding by CRT):

-CRT did not report number of stays (= visitors) in 2019, but reported 11mn in 2018.

-Growth of domestic stays in some categories (see below) compensated for the fall in foreign.

-Hotel stays 4.5mn +2.4% – ‘stable’ Jan-Sep, grew +9% Oct-Dec.

-Hotel nights (not specified if guest- or room-nights) 10mn +1.4%. Occupancy 63% +1pt. CRT also reported 63% +1pt in 2018; its rounding might have caused this apparent discrepancy.

-3-star hotel nights +5% (number not given); occupancy 64% +2pts. 4/5-star hotel nights (number, growth, not given); occupancy, 65% +0.5pt.

-Hotel nights by France nationals +5%, foreigners ‘almost unchanged’. (Hoteliers register nationality and residence, but report the less-important nationality count – as does CRT.)

-Accommodation nights in mountain locations were +4% Oct-Dec. Other categories not given.

-Number of foreigners 58% -2pts. We are not clear how this figure (presumably hotel occupancy, but possibly market share), is measured, nor whether it is important marketing information.

-Private accommodation 1.2mn stays; growth not given.

-Holiday resorts 0.6mn -5% stays.

-Of foreign markets, most were ‘stable’ or ‘changed marginally’. Specified: Japan +20%, Russia +9%, Middle East -26%. In 2019, CRT provided no analysis on China – the world’s largest travel market.

-Main foreign markets, reason for order not given: Italy +3%, UK/Ireland (CRT still combines these, even more anachronistic as the UK leaves the European Union and Ireland stays in) -3%, Germany ‘stable’, US +1%.

-Top-5 foreign markets for all types of accommodation, in order – Italy, UK/Ireland, US, Germany, Scandinavia (CRT sometimes wrongly includes Finland in ‘Scandinavia’; specifics not given here).

-Visitor spend (including accommodation, meals, shopping, excursions) down (figure not given). Share of visitors who spend more than US$83 (€75) daily was below 50% (figure not given).

-In 2018, CRT gave hotel rates (via the MKG consultancy), but these were for all France, not CDA. Growth was +3% in ‘average price’ (we believe this is ‘average room rate’).

-In 2018, the visitor business was 15% of the region’s GDP. Change not given, nor share in 2019.

-90% of visitors were ‘very satisfied’ with their stay in 2019. Those who were not satisfied fell by 50%. Data to put these in context not given.

-Nice airport (which the CRT reports as though it is the only airport for CDA, although there are 10 smaller ones handling commercial flights) counted 14.5mn +4.6% passengers.

-Two markets have priority for CRT promotional activity this year – Russia, US (despite weak direct air links).

*Notes:

-Cote d’Azur (CDA) in France – a ‘brandname’ also known as the South of France, the French Riviera, or sometimes by the names of some of its main cities, Cannes, Monaco/Monte Carlo, Nice, St Tropez. The problem is that – brand identity.

-CRT (Comite Regional de Tourisme Cote d’Azur), the regional visitor office for the Cote d’Azur.

-At press time, CRT had not answered our request for clarifications.

 

Travel business updates

27 February 2020

[] STR (nee Smith Travel Research) reports on hotel occupancy in Asia Pacific and the Covid coronavirus for the six weeks 6 January to 16 February:

-Macau’s occupancy fall was -97%, the biggest, falling from 96% to 3%.

-Two others, selected by STR – Hong Kong -64% to 25%, Taiwan -59% to 26%.

-Reporting growth – Australia +11% to 73%, Indonesia +4% to 58%.

*Notes: A full report on this topic in our WYSK:What-You-Should-Know monthly-report contains some important additional information, qualification, and analysis.

[] Radisson Hospitality* revenue in 2019 was US$1.11bn (€999.3mn) +4.2%.

*Notes:

-Brussels/Stockholm based. Owned primarily by US-based group of same name (other brands – Country, Park). In turn, US-based Radisson was bought by China’s (now troubled) HNA group in 2016, but on-sold to China’s Jinjiang group in 2018. Still listed on Stockholm stock exchange.

-A full report on this topic in our WYSK:What-You-Should-Know monthly-report contains some important additional information, qualification, and analysis.

 

Global Hotel Alliance in 2019

26 February 2020

GHA* has announced 2019 results. Most information is about its loyalty program, Discovery (DLP). Selected business results (most data for 2018 and 2017 is from our database, not necessarily GHA):

-DLP has 16.4mn +18% members. End-2018 13.6mn +21%.

-Property portfolio 570, which we calculate to be +15.6%.

-Same-store room-revenue from DLP members at US$1.7bn, which we calculate was +6.3%.

-Cross-brand roomnights (generated by members enrolled at one GHA company/brand and staying in the property of another GHA member) 700,000 +20%.

-Cross-brand revenue US$125mn. Change not given; we calculate +15.7%, but not same store.

-As in 2017 and 2018, revenue growth came partly from growth in DLP membership – those who reside in North America 7mn (GHA rounded; we calculate +16.7%), Asia 2.9mn (+26.1%), Europe 2.6mn (+18.2%), Australasia 1.4mn (+7.7%).

-In 2019, 4.2% of active DLP members were top-tier and they produced US$420mn room revenue. We calculate that to be a 25% share – substantial if correct.

-Bookings via DLP’s app (launched 2016) grew +49% to a 33% share of online bookings. $s not given for 2019.

-In 2019, website bookings details not given.

-DLP members who booked direct paid a 40% rate premium over the average DLP rate, despite a 10% direct-booking discount.

-For the biggest-performing hotels, DLP produces half roomnights sold and 7.5% in incremental occupancy.

-Highest-growth of cross-brand bookings was into Dubai +23%, Singapore +15%, London +6%.

-Most-booked hotels: Pan Pacific, Singapore; Kempinski Nile, Cairo; Parkroyal Darling Harbour, Sydney; Adlon Kempinski, Berlin; Outrigger Waikiki Beach, Hawaii; Tivoli Mofarrej, Sao Paulo.

-‘Local Experiences’, the name of DLP rewards, grew +35%.

-New groups joining GHA – Campbell Gray, Capella, Divani, Fauchon, Nikki Beach, Sukhothai, Sun.

*Notes:

-GHA is a Dubai-based alliance of small hotel groups. It is not well known publicly, but works well as a back-desk referrer.

-At press time, GHA had not answered our request for clarifications.

-A full report on this topic in our WYSK: What-You-Should-Know monthly-report contains some important additional information, qualification, and analysis.

 

Travel business updates

25 February 2020

[] STR (nee Smith Travel Research) reports on US hotels 9-15 February: occupancy +0.2% to 63.6%, average room rate +0.9% to US$133.55.

[] Global Data*, a data and analytics company, reports that ‘cruise tourism’* contributed $3.5bn* +11% to Australia’s economy in 2018.

*Notes:

-We have found in other reports that Global Data sometimes misreads/misinterprets/misreports core travel data – apparently mostly due to imprecision in its editorial commentary.

-We believe this is spending by visitors arriving in Australia on cruises.

-Not stated if these are A$ or US$. At present US$1 is A$1.45.

-At press time, GD had not answered our request for clarifications.

 

Cirium and STR on Covid and SARS

24 February 2020

[] Cirium* reports on Covid affect:

-200,000 flights cancelled or removed from schedules to, from and within China.

-January 23 to February 18 99,254 scheduled flights, 89% domestic, cancelled.

-January 23-28, 9807 scheduled flights, 100% domestic, cancelled.

-For the first eight weeks of the year, Cirium reports worldwide capacity fell -0.9%. Weeks 8-10 showed a -10% fall, of which China’s airlines cancelled 60% of their flights.

-Most-affected airlines over January 23 to February 18: Lucky Air, with 51.2% of flights cancelled out of 4857 scheduled; China Southern, 53.8% of 44,274; Xiamen, 56.2% of 14,495.

-Most-affected airports: Wuhan, with 94% of flights cancelled (meaning 3443 flights). Percentage not given for others – Urumqi 4506 flights cancelled; Guiyang 4321; Changsha 4757; Hangzhou 6084.

*Notes: Cirium is a UK-based data and analysis company owned by Relx (sic).

[] STR (nee Smith Travel Research) reports on the SRS coronavirus in China in 2003:

-Lowest occupancy was May, 18%, with average room rate at US$73.58 (at today’s US$1 to Y7.04).

-August 67% US$78.41.

-Beijing May occupancy 10%, July 52%, August 65%, September 72%.
-Guangdong (province) July 56%. Other months not given.
-Hong Kong July 60%, August 75%.
-Chengdu, Chongqing, Shanghai July 60%.

 

 

 

The Fox. Remember, I’m an industry expert in the parallel world.

*Fox – sly.  Trots – left-leaning (Trotsky) plus its more insalubrious meaning.  Foxtrots – leading the industry in a dance.

ATF; Asean Tourism Forum; Brunei blocks Asean

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TROTTINGS*

 

ATF; Asean Tourism Forum; Brunei blocks Asean

This time of the year, we usually report on travel product and travel marketing developments in the 10 Asean* destinations.

 

This year, the Brunei host-committee for the Asean Travel Forum this month in Brunei, blocked attendance by Travel Business Analyst.

 

Our first reaction was disappointment, then umbrage. Then on reflection, perhaps this is a better way. We espouse liberalism in the travel business, so that should be applied to coverage of travel industry events.

 

But there are other factors, most important is that Brunei should not decide for Asean.

 

Organisers need to think the reason for media attendance in the first place – to encourage editorial coverage of travel-related developments in the 10 destinations, not just the host destination.

 

As it is, we will wait until ITB in Berlin in March to get the information we usually collect at ATF. But, because of ITBB logistics, we will probably not cover some smaller destinations that are also less important to Asean – say Brunei, Laos, Myanmar.

 

There needs to be a change in rules for host destinations.

 

Asean should give host committees their ‘must’ list of media (and probably of other hosted sectors as well, such as buyers). This can be companies as well as individuals. For instance, TTG Asia could be on the ‘must’ list as could, say, some named media people.

 

If a person or company is on the host destination’s ‘banned’ list, then the host committee would have to transmit its reasons for the ‘no’, and Asean could decide whether to accept those reasons or not.

 

Incredibly, Brunei’s host committee does not have to transmit to anyone why we were delisted. So it could have been one person on the committee who said no, or other reasons. But without knowing those reasons, there is little we could do to change the decision.

 

As a result, Brunei – representing about 5% of Asean’s travel business – has prevented us from reporting on the 95%. Worse, no one in Asean cares whether this is a good or bad situation.

 

We are prompted to write this because of our own experience, but the reasons are professional. For sure this has happened to other people in other destinations.

 

Hosting an Asean event is a privilege, and a service to Asean. But Brunei appears to have ignored both those factors.

 

*Notes:

-Asean = Association of South East Asian Nations (Asean writes ‘Southeast’, even though that should make the abbreviation ASAN). Asean members are Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam.

 

-We did not seek comments from Asean for this report. Unfortunately, our experience is no acknowledgement, and never have we received a comment. We believe that despite the economic importance of the travel business to many of the 10 destinations, matters of state, not economics, get most attention.

 

 

*Trottings = Travel Jottings

*The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.

 

Travel Industry Data News, August 19-23

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Travel Industry Data News, August 19-23.

From http://www.travelbusinessanalyst.com

 

US travel loses in China war

23 August 2019

Tourism Economics (TE) reports*:

[] The China/US trade war forecast to reduce visitors in the US from China by 1.9mn and US$11bn in visitor spend over 2018-20. See below for details.

[] Visitors in the US from China fell -5.7% in 2018; they grew over 2004-17.

[] Visitors in the US from China spend US$5800 per visitor, compared with US$2500 for visitors from the UK, the largest overseas market for the US.

[] TE estimates that there were 351,000 fewer visitors in the US from China in 2018, which would mean US$2.0bn in reduced visitor spend. For this year, it forecasts 648,000 fewer visitors, thus US$3.8bn in reduced visitor spend.

[] TE calculates that if the trade war continues, there will be 857,000mn fewer visitors in 2020, thus US$5.3bn in reduced visitor spend.

*Notes: A full report on this topic in our WYSK:What-You-Should-Know monthly-report contains some important additional information, qualification, and analysis.

 

TBA Tracking; Asia Pacific visitor arrivals, outbound travel

22 August 2019

Visitor arrivals

Our calculation of Asia Pacific visitor arrivals for latest-month March, from the current editions of WYSK:What-You-Should-Know, published by Travel Business Analyst, shows +5.2%; previous month +7.5%. YTD +6.5%.

Outbound nationals/residents travel

Our calculation of Asia Pacific nationals/residents departures for latest-month April, from the current editions of WYSK:What-You-Should-Know, published by Travel Business Analyst, shows +8.7%; previous month +11.5%. YTD +10.3%.

 

TBA Tracking: World hotel results, Sales by Europe’s big-3 airline groups

21 August 2019

World hotel results

The May hotel-track from the current editions of WYSK:What-You-Should-Know, published by Travel Business Analyst, shows occupancy growth in points: World -0.9; Asia Pacific -3.9; Europe +0.7; US +0.5.

Seat sales by Europe’s big-3 airline groups

Our calculation of seats sold by the big-3 airline groups in Europe in July, from the current editions of WYSK:What-You-Should-Know, published by Travel Business Analyst, shows for AF+KL+A5+HV +2%, BA+EI+IB+VY +4%, LH+LX+OS+EW+SN +3%. Previous month +4%, +8%, +6%.

 

STR hotel reports

20 August 2019

STR (nee Smith Travel Research) reports:

[] On US hotels 11-17 August: occupancy -1.0% to 71.7%, average room rate +0.4% to US$130.89.

[] On US hotels in July: occupancy +0.4% to 73.8%, average room rate +0.7% to US$135.04.

[] STR with HNN (Hotel News Now; combined ‘HS’) report*:

-Asia Pacific. Supply +3.6%, demand +2.7%. Hotels or rooms or period not given.

-Brazil. Demand +3.5% in 2017, +7.6% in 2018.

-Dubai. Hotels/rooms forecast to grow +31.8%/46.7% through 2021.

*Notes. The HS report focuses on hotel revpar (revenue per available room), which has little marketing value to those outside the hotel business. As a result, we have reduced our report to locations where measures other than revpar are given.

 

Travel business updates

19 August 2019

[] Luxembourg-based Corporacion America Airports, which operates 52 airports mainly in Latin America (in Europe in Armenia and Italy), reports passengers-handled in July at 7.9mn + 1.4%, YTD 48.1mn + 3.5%.

[] PCW (Phocuswright, a travel research company specialising in online data) reports* that in 2018, total travel bookings grew +7.3% to US$1.4tn, and online travel bookings grew twice as fast – no data.

*Notes: A full report on this topic in our WYSK:What-You-Should-Know monthly-report contains some important additional information, qualification, and analysis.

[] Thailand’s DMO has a quarterly Tourism Confidence Index. It was at 100 in both Q1 and Q2, and is also forecast to be 100 in Q3.

Ratings range over 0-200; 100 is normal, -100 below, +100 above. We do not have confidence in the TCI but believes the motivation is important.

In addition, the TCI includes forecasts – not usually part of an Index. TCI forecasts 9.7mn +7.1% visitors in Q3, and 40.06mn +4.7% in all-2019. Unfortunately, the DMO has stopped producing regular visitor totals, and so progress has become difficult to track.

 

end

TROTTINGS*. How to run an airline

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TROTTINGS*. How to run an airline

Following two recent developments, my comments on running an airline and how many airline managers seem not to know. I have a section entitled PAGPFT (pronounced pag-puffed. People Are Getting Paid For This), and many would qualify for an entry.

 

Two recent developments are Air Belgium’s decision to stop its (only) scheduled route Brussels-Hong Kong, and Cathay Pacific’s purchase of HK Express.

 

My comments need to be read in conjunction with our description of broad airline types, see Notes*.

 

Air Belgium

Quick trip: In 2016 AB announced plan to fly Brussels-Hong Kong and mainland China points in 2017. The first, to Hong Kong, started June 2018, but was stopped September. None other started.

 

Our contemporary (April 2018) comments:

 

We expect AB’s new businessplan, from new owners in 2016, to fail before year-end. Some of the reasons:

-Frequency/routes. 4/week is not enough for its target market – upmarket. At least daily is needed.

-Routes. AB’s potential customers will fly other to other places as well of course, thus use other airlines. As most upmarket travellers are likely to be members in loyalty programs, they may prefer to stay with those other airlines when they fly to Hong Kong. If AB cannot start other routes itself, it should sign deals with other airlines on selected routes.

-Aircraft. The 4-engine A340 is a good aircraft, but costly for fuel, particularly for a start-up airline. Many would try to operate a 2-engine A350 or B787 on this route if traffic is not enough for B777s A380s etc.

-It has two A340s at present. That is enough for schedule reliability for Hong Kong flights, but at least four more will be needed to operate those other planned routes and to offer schedule reliability.

-Airport. AB plans to use Brussels Charleroi, not good for connections.

-China. AB considers Hong Kong a ‘China’ destination. Although correct in theory, it is not ‘China’ in terms of politics or in airline route-rights. Six by summer is not impossible of course, but looks over-ambitious.

-Sales via internet, but also GDS and travel agencies. GDS and agencies are usually too costly for a start-up because of fees.

-AB plans to employ 100 in Hong Kong this year. That is a foolishly-costly decision. We would think one staff member (Hong Kong Manager), with a handling agent for operations, and a GSA for sales – at least until it is established and/or the first 2/3 years.

-AB’s A340s will have economy, premium, business classes. That is at least one too many, and will also cause confusion, eg is ‘premium’ above ‘business’?

 

The interesting thing is that there is a market for Brussels-Hong Kong. It is just that AB management does not know how to run an airline to suit a particular market. What should have been done is partly obvious from our report in 2018 on what was wrong with the AB businessplan. Just a few things to add/amplify:

 

-It is very hard (if not impossible) to start an FSA* with a single route, and anything less than once daily. What business traveller would fly AB knowing the miles earned could not be burned on any other route? And there are other elements, such as schedule reliability, that most FSA managers know.

 

-Fares should be low (at least as low as the lowest in the market – Aeroflot via Moscow?), and simple. No travel agencies, no GDSs. Direct booking only.

 

-Invite travel writers with ticket-only offers (plus deals with 4/5 local hotels, in exchange for editorial. Freelancers are good because they try to sell their reports to many outlets. Create some marketing buzz.

 

 

 

Cathay Pacific

The Cathay group’s purchase of HK Express (main owner is China’s deeply-troubled HNA group) is a smart move. It was a long time coming, and did not seem to be coming – although may not be coming, as there has been a legal challenge by an HKE shareholder.

 

But if it happens, there is one cover-all proviso – HKE must be left to run itself separate of Cathay’s two other airlines – Dragon and Pacific.

 

We are not sure that Cathay management is capable of that – because many have a superiority complex, and there are no indications that it knows how to run a NFA*. After all, it could have converted what is now Cathay Dragon into a NFA long ago. (Now, it would make sense to make Dragon an LCA*.)

 

However, and in an awkward twist, Cathay itself has to find someone to run HKE – because HKE has not been managed well until now. Thus Cathay must find a manager who does not think like Cathay managers. Although not categorical, an indication will be if Cathay makes an internal move from someone in the group, or looks for someone outside. Strangely, the media loves NFA CEOs with an Irish passport – because Europe’s highly-successful NFA is Irish!

 

*Notes: Following are our airline-type definitions:

 Airline groups selling at least 75mn seats/year should have these three types of airline.

 

FSA = full-service-airline. Offering first/business/economy, travel agency bookings, meals/bookings/baggage/cancellations included, etc. As its name indicates – full service.

 

LCA = low-cost-airline. (Not a no-frills-airline; see next.) An FSA but with lower operating costs – cheaper longer-hours flight-deck crew, younger/new longer-hours cabin crew, tighter cost control (twinned 3-star hotel rooms, for example), fewer fare types, may have first and business cabins as well as economy, and which allows bookings through travel agencies etc. If relevant, usually similar to the parent airline, but a different name, and competition against parent airline allowed.

 

NFA = no-frills-airline. We believe that among the many essential elements that make a successful NFA are: shorthaul point-to-point routes; market freedom in terms of fares, routes; single aircraft type; where relevant, competition against parent airline allowed; extremely-low fares when bought at least three months in advance, say US$25; one fare at one time (no wholesale rates, travel agency commissions, etc); no refunds; no (free) service frills; single economy-class cabin; no (free) seat selection; two toilets for 150-seat aircraft; 25-minute turnaround time; cabin crew do daytime cabin cleaning; name and flight change charged at least US$25 each; no trade shows; plenty of consumer advertising and promotion; and much more. Developments in technology are making some of these ‘requirements’ less important.

 

 

 

 

*Trottings = Trip Jottings

*The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.

 

Trottings*: Palawan, Philippines

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TROTTINGS*

 

Trottings*: Palawan, Philippines

Pristine islands, marine treasure trove, unique bio diversity

 

I thought I had seen many beautiful islands in my world travels, until I arrived in the Palawan archipelago.

 

Palawan’s endless coastlines, landscapes and seascapes are straight out of National Geographic spread. It feels like I entered a geological wonderland with stunning topography everywhere. Travelling along the coastline, the visual panoramas of karst limestone islands carpeted in lush greenery jutting out vertically from the seas is awe-inspiring.

 

Palawan is a terrestrial and marine treasure trove of the most bio-diverse islands in the Philippines. The island has had a Biosphere Reserve status since the early 1990s. With a farsighted former local mayor, Edward Hagedorn, who initiated and created blueprints for their conservation and sustainable development, most locals we met are well-versed in environmental preservation.

 

 

Where: Geographical location

Palawan is an elongated island province southwest Philippines, in the Mimaropa region. It is the largest province in the country in terms of total area of jurisdiction. Its capital is Puerto Princesa, but it is governed independently from the province.

 

The islands of Palawan stretch between Mindoro in the northeast and Borneo in the southwest. The province is named after its largest island, Palawan Island, measuring 450km long and 50km wide. Palawan, the least populated province in Philippines, consists of 431 districts (barangays) in 23 municipalities and the capital of Puerto Princesa.

 

Palawan is also the largest supplier of fish to the country.

 

 

Puerto Princesa, capital city

Landing in the capital, Puerto Princesa, was a welcome break after hectic Manila. It is the only urbanised centre in the low-density province, with low-rise buildings and an unhurried pace, retaining an old world charm.

 

 

Area

With Puerto Princesa City included for geographical purposes, the province’s land area is 17,030sq km.

 

 

Bio-diversity

The province also represents a significant habitat for bio-diversity conservation. The area contains a full mountain to the sea ecosystem and protects forests.

 

 

The Land

Pristine lagoons with serene turquoise-green waters, sparkling sea, emerald islets, hidden beaches, caves with unique formations, mountain ranges shrouded in mist, and a diverse variety of wildlife, many special to the islands. To many, this must be paradise on earth.

 

 

History

Researchers found evidence in Tabon Caves that man, along with his tools and artifacts, has continuously lived in Palawan for more than 50,000 years. They also found bone fragments, named the Tabon Man in the municipality of Quezon. Although the origin of the cave dwellers is not yet established, anthropologists believe they came from Borneo. It is known as the cradle of Philippine civilisation.

 

We visited a Batak village (highland tribes), and saw an interesting family performing a tribal dance. I believe their dances and culture are similar to the Bataks I have met in the Lake Toba region of Sumatra, Indonesia.

 

I bought some handwoven Batak baskets, which now adorn my desk.

 

 

Community-based tourism

Many of the tourist attractions are community-based projects employing locals and their families. Partly because Palawan does not have an advanced infrastructure and access, it also does not have some of the less-attractive aspects of big-numbers tourism.

 

For instance, I did not see large groups of tourists nor overcrowding in their attractions. The pace is laid-back, the locals are friendly and welcoming, sometimes breaking into a song after only little encouragement. Filipinos love to sing, and seem to be born with natural talents for music and dance.

 

 

Destination Highlights

-The Puerto Princesa Subterranean River National Park

This park has a spectacular limestones karst landscape with a long navigable underground river. The lower section of the river is subject to tidal influences, so those planning to take the tour should check with the coastguard for weather conditions. Especially for those who get seasick easily and not keen to be tossed around in a kayak.

 

The river ride consists of a motorised boat then transfer onto a kayak. The cave’s ceiling seems like nature has created and produced a sci-fi movie landscape, with fantastic shaped rocks, gigantic mushrooms looming above.

 

 

Island Hopping in Honda Bay, Pandan & Cowrie Island

A short and scenic boat ride takes the visitor from the Wharf to Cowrie Island where you can snorkel, swim and laze around amid coconut trees. Lunch was a buffet smorgasbord of Filipino seafood, rice and sinigang soup, zinging with sour tamarind and spicy chilies.

 

Then another short boat ride to Pandan island. There is a family selling their fresh catch of seafood in giant sizes, displayed on a wooden stall. Visitors can have an amazing grilled seafood lunch with big crabs, squids, prawns for five for less than US$15. By big-city standards, this is a feast and a great-value deal.

 

 

-Shopping

Everything seems cheap converted from Filipino pesos to US$. There is a bazaar-like market where one can buy local handicrafts, dried mangoes, pearls, colourful clothing, and souvenir T-shirts. My favourite buys are dried mangoes, strands of pearls, beautiful woven handbags, and handcrafted leather bracelets.

 

 

-Crocodile Wildlife Rescue and Conservation Center

At the entry, a large crocodile skeleton welcomes you. Visitors can walk over a metal bridge over a crocodile farm to see dozens of crocodiles lying on top, motionless for a long time.

 

The action starts when one crocodile from under the pile starts to move, the rest untangle themselves from the jam and scramble around. Fascinating but scary too if you imagine falling into the crocodile pits.

 

 

-Ugong Rock

Arrived on a windswept day in this almost deserted beach with undulating hills on east side and a splendid sea view on other. Activities available include cave climbing. The community guide may be an elderly white hair auntie outpacing you in stamina.

 

 

-Firefly watching in a mangrove river

This is one of the most unusual tours we have done. There is something special about being in a kayak watching the luminous fireflies emitting their bioluminescence in the silence of a moonlit night.

 

We had the incredible luck of a magical full moon and a knowledgeable guide – a combination of astronomer, botanist, etymologist. He held us enthralled in our canoe, pointing his laser beam light towards the sky and share insights of the constellations, etc.

 

 

Low Crime

Once when we were strolling in Puerto Princesa Chinatown, I saw our local guide’s wallet and phone sticking out of his back pockets. I told him he would be a target of pickpockets. He proudly told me “This is Palawan, we don’t worry. “There is zero crime here.” Certainly not zero, but unusually low.

 

 

 

*Trottings = Trip Jottings

*The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox’s Friends.

 

The Fox’s Friends; Renee Chew

 

Trottings: Direct Ferries – False Promises.

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TROTTINGS*

 

Trottings: Direct Ferries – False Promises.

Direct Ferries (DF) is a UK-based wholesaler of ferry trips. The other week it offered a 25% discount on Italy’s GNV ferry company for sailings to Sicily booked before September 30.

 

I did it; I booked Sicily on the 30th on GNV via DF.

 

Where was the discount? It did not seem to be there. Indeed, DF even added a booking fee to the price it quoted.

 

I contacted them.

 

First contact after getting my details was to inform me that a bus transfer was not available on the DF site, but it was available on the GNV site. As I had not enquired about a transfer, bus or other, this explanation was a puzzle.

 

I reverted, and another agent replied, apologising for the reference to the transfer. The agent added that he/she did not know why I had received that first message. I replied perhaps he/she should ask the other agent, and would then know the reason, and could then tell me.

 

The agent also told me that the fare I was quoted included the 25% discount – if I had clicked through the discount offer on the DF site.

 

In fact, that is what I did – clicked through on the DF site. But I had also checked on another system on another computer, and the fare was the same as the one available from a click-through. Also, the fare was the same as when I checked two weeks earlier.

 

In other words, the DF agent either did not know, or believed that was the system, or was lying. Given that they sent me no further message, I am tempted to believe that they were lying.

 

I never got my discount.

 

Obviously, the moral of this message is for travellers to beware statements by Direct Ferries, and to assume they may not provide what they seem to be offering.

 

 

*Trottings = Trip Jottings

*The Fox Trots: Travel Stories from The Fox.

 

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