Airlines, hotels, travel & tourism

The new wave of tourists

Experts predict that the next boom in tourism will be shaped by the tastes of the Chinese. At present only 2% of Chinese people travel internationally (as opposed to 15% of Americans), but according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA), this figure will rise by 9.6% per annum until 2009. Then, like the American tourists of the 1960s and the Japanese tourists of the 80s, their preferences will have a huge effect on the tourism business. What hasn’t been predicted, however, is what these tastes might be. The Economist, in a June 2006 article, described a typical Chinese tourist as wanting to stay in the cheapest hotels, eating only Chinese food and steering clear of upmarket restaurants and resorts. But the New Yorker adds that tourists coming out of China tend to be quite affluent, spending more per capita than other international tourists – with 31 million travellers clocking up US$15.2 billion in 2005. So where to start for those wishing to attract the Chinese tourist dollar? Gambling is still a very popular pastime, so casinos could do well out of it, but will need to remain aware of tourists’ Las Vegas style expectations. Shopping could also bring a lot of money in, but with China producing so much, it could be difficult to find something to sell to its people. One avenue could be designer goods, with many Chinese people still very brand-focused; or another option could be to provide high-quality service, such as Mandarin-speaking shop assistants. There will be many lessons to be learned from trying to appeal to an entirely new cultural market, but at the same time the relative inexperience of the tourist could provide a multitude of opportunities for airlines, travel agents and small businesses.
Ref: Resilience Report, 15 March 2007, ‘Tourism: China’s New Diaspora’, Ronald Haddock, Kevin Ma, Edward Tse.
Search words: tourism, China, travel
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Aircraft and the environment

With more and more commercial flights taking off (currently 85,000 per day and set to double by 2050), it’s high time that the aviation industry examined the impact these flights have on the environment. It’s true that there have been plenty of advances in fuel efficiency (today’s jet engines are 40% more efficient than those of the 1960s), however, the problem is that these changes may not be enough. And with the aviation industry accused of being mature and conservative, it’s feared that nothing substantial will be done to combat the enormous consumption of fuels. At present jetliners are burning around 130 million tonnes of fuel per year, with a single trans-Atlantic flight using the same as 20 years of driving the average car. And to make things worse, fuels burning at that altitude are four times more damaging than those burned at ground level. To make any kind of a dent in this consumption, it seems, will require a major redesign of our aircraft. The problem here is that airlines have little reason to develop new aircraft, and mergers between manufacturers mean reduced competition between designers. But this doesn’t mean that there’s a scarcity of good ideas floating around On the contrary. Most of these ideas involve drag control – reducing the amount of friction on an aircraft’s surface and therefore its fuel consumption. One way this can be achieved is by the use of tiny holes all over the aircraft’s surface (known as laminar flow control), but another is to modify the shape of the aircraft. New fuselage and wing designs (some of which have been kicking around since the 1920s), have been shown to reduce drag by up to 50% and fuel consumption by 25%. So why aren’t they being put to use? One reason is the cost. Development and testing could take $10-$15 billion and a decade of testing, and with fuel costs as low as they are now, there is little incentive for airlines to pioneer new designs. Another reason is simply that many in the industry believe all the good ideas in aerodynamics are being used.But do we have to wait for the aviation industry to develop new types of planes before we set about tackling the problem of emissions? Well no. It would appear that there are a few things that can be done in the meantime:
1. Control the growth of the industry – by taking measures such as the EU’s that will see airlines paying for all the carbon they emit from 2001. (Though some say increasing prices will not stop people flying). 2. Eliminate oil-based fuels – this would remove one of the bigger problems. However, aside from the challenges associated with creating new fuels, problems with the fuels themselves suggest that the aviation industry will be relying on kerosene for a good 40 years. 3. Offset our emissions – this is one way that consumers can help directly. There are plenty of programs in place that will (apparently) cancel out your share of carbon from a flight by planting trees or investing in renewable energy. The problem here is the credibility of such programs, and whether or not this is just distracting us from reducing carbon emissions in the first place. 4. Change the way we fly – apparently huge amounts of fuel are wasted as planes queue to take off or circle while waiting to land. Virgin are looking at electric tractors that will tow planes to the runway, meaning they can leave their engines switched off for longer, saving up to 2 tonnes of fuel per flight. 5. There are also theories that software could be used to determine an unbroken line of descent from cruising altitude to landing, saving around 400 litres of fuel per flight.
Ref: New Scientist (US), 24 February 2007, ‘Green sky thinking’, Bennett Daviss.
Search words: flying, aircraft, fuel, global warming, carbon offsetting,
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Carry on camping

More and more people across the UK are dusting off their tents and taking off for the weekend, with a 10% increase in membership to the Caravan and Camping Club in the past three years, and there are reports of a recent boom in camping holidays. Since when did camping become the cool way to spend your holiday? According to author of ‘Cool Camping: England’, Jonathan Knight, an increasing number of people are living in an urban environment, without regular access to a garden or green space. For them camping can be a chance to get away from urbanisation and connect with the earth. But this doesn’t necessarily mean that they want to leave behind all of their creature comforts. With top designers recently showing interest in the luxury camping market, this new breed of camper doesn’t have to go without. Ted Baker and Cath Kidson have both rolled out a series of designer-print tents, as well as other camping products like tiger-skin blow-up mattresses, floral windbreaks and mini espresso makers. Heck, there’s even a tent featuring a built-in LED lighting system! Another option to take is the ready-pitched tent, which can be found at an increasing number of luxury campsites around Europe and Britain. Depending on where you choose to stay you could be sleeping in a Mongolian-style yurt with internal wood-burning stove, a canvas cottage complete with electricity and en suite or a tent decked out with bamboo four-poster beds. This pre-fab accommodation proves popular in the British festival season, with punters at Glastonbury able to rent one of 50 Indian tents that featured king-sized beds, showers and access to the bar tent. And if you’re not looking for the latest technology but would still like a bit of style with your weekend away, there’s always the retro option. Vintage Vacations campsite offers vintage silver trailers all kitted out with 1950’s Americana furnishings, linen and even a Studebaker radio.
Ref: BBC News (UK), 17 April 2006, ‘Why the British carry on camping’.; The Guardian (UK), 16 April 2006, ‘Cool camping’, Rhiannon Batten.; The Times (UK), 21 April 2007, ‘Vintage holidays are the height of cool’, David Matten.
Search words: camping, holidays, luxury, design, travel
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Fly and learn

This April, Air France introduced a program to help passengers learn a language as they fly. The in-flight interactive instruction was created by Berlitz and is featured as part of the airline’s regular entertainment. Passengers can choose from 23 languages and will be introduced to words in four categories: numbers, dates, words and dialogues. The program, Berlitz World Traveller, is already in place on flights from JAL and Singapore Airlines, while Virgin Atlantic has offered lessons in Spanish and Japanese. Another way travellers can brush-up a bit is with AudioSnacks. The Chicago-based company offers audio tours of destinations in the United States, Canada, Australia, South Africa and Europe. And while audio tours are nothing new, AudioSnacks have one difference: the content is user generated, providing listeners with an insider’s view of the city they are visiting. The product is available as an MP3 which can be downloaded from the site. Customers can browse a library of tours and preview snippets before purchase. The site also allows them to upload their own tour for purchase by others.
Ref: Springwise (Neth), 18 April 2007, ‘In-flight education’.; Springwise (Neth), 16 April 2007, ‘User-generated pod-tours’.
Search words: travel, language, tours, education, flying
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Future jets

With the crash of the Concorde in 2000, followed by the fallout from 9/11 in the aviation industry, it appeared that the successful supersonic passenger jet was dead and buried. But according to some, it was never really a viable business option to begin with. Both British Airways and Air France tried but could not fill the hundred or so seats at full price. Despite this, two US-based companies have put their hand up and said they can turn the planes into a profitable business. One company has put US$2.5 billion toward a 12-seater that will be ready by 2013, while the other has spent $2 billion on a 12-seater that could be boarding by 2012. So why should they succeed where others, even countries, have failed? The answer lies in aiming high: selling a few tickets to the filthy rich may add up to be better than a full jet at half-price. And analysts say their hopes for a successful business are not unreasonable, if current trends are anything to go by. The private jet business is currently worth around $16 billion, having risen from $3 billion a decade ago. Both Boeing and Airbus produce 10 luxury jets annually, which sell for $45 million to $60 million each for private use only; and Gulfstream manufacture 30 to 35 private planes that go for the same price. It’s also important to remember the historically, most innovations in communications and transportation technology began life to be used by the super-rich. When the telegraph first arrived in 1866 it cost $10 a letter. And Ford’s Model A originally sold for $850 in 1903, but 20 years later the Model T cost only $265. So the trickle-down effect might apply to super-sonic flight, but it may take a few years before the competition gets involved in a $24 billion market.