Editorial The race to the bottom “Never let a good crisis go to waste’ has…
Whilst growing up, the area where I lived was a test market for a new type of crisp (that’s chips to those speaking American), the product was called Stackers and was actually very nice. The product disappeared for a length of time but several years later re-appeared, this time called Pringles; the rest is history. This was a classic and successful text book product re-brand and marketing job.
A few weeks ago, when the worlds media was telling us about the new Covid variant that had the power to wipe out man kind as we know it, it listed the common symptoms: headache, runny nose, feeling tired, sore throat etc; wait haven’t we seen these before? Indeed, we have, they have been around for hundreds and probably thousands of years and it’s called having a “cold”. As these few weeks have gone by its been noticeable that more and more people seem to have begun to realise that what is be banged out by the “experts” (sic) is total nonsense. Facts are produced but not challenged, such as in one western country 15 people died in one day having tested for Covid in the past 28 days; how many died because of covid though? Ah, that detail is not forthcoming and just to add, that in normal times 3 times this figure would die daily from pneumonia and these days, pneumonia does not exist as a cause of death, it’s been re-branded to Covid. So, the new variant, one must conclude, is reducing deaths and stopping people dying from Pneumonia! Itself almost as stupid a claim as the one that it threatens life as we know it. This re-brand though does seem to have been hugely successful, we don’t have colds anymore, no-one has flu and no-one has Pneumonia. The commercial activity around the merchandise supplementing this re-brand has been in over drive and record revenues are being made by a select few. The free-market rules pertain and there are winners and losers. Politicians carry on regardless and certain parts of the world rock on. Except that is that at some point someone will tell the king he is not wearing any clothes.
So, as another year ends and the dawn of a new one is around the corner, surely the time is fast arriving when common sense will prevail. Political correctness has stretched itself to beyond breaking point and the democracy is now held ransom to whichever minority cause shouts the loudest. Much is made of autocratic or dictator led societies but is the part of the world where we find ourself any better or indeed any different? The media gives out its message and anyone challenging it is either ignored or left to feel isolated when they are likely the voice of the majority. The near history will reveal some interesting societal traits, amongst them will be how easily people are led down the garden path, the same path that in centuries past saw similar manipulation and from it, evil regimes flourished.
On the 28th December, our colleague Ani Cherechanska sadly passed away after a short illness. Ani has been with Jamadvice for eleven years and was very much a part of our family. We will miss her deeply and so too will her many friends, family and colleagues from the industry.
Rest in Peace Ani.
Jamadvice Travel | BCD Bulgaria
Here is a look back at what caught our eye throughout the year with a selection of articles taken from each months edition:
As the year draws to a close the magic total of 2m people completing their vaccination cycles has still not been attained. The bottom line is this article was treating failure as a success; only politicians can do that and get away with it. remember this article was from January 2021!
Sometimes it’s difficult to second guess certain comments by politicians, to the sane and logical the layperson is often unsure if certain comments are made in jest or whether those making the comments fail to realise the absurdity of what they say. Marginally conflicting comments recently came from various interested parties involved with managing the Coronavirus: the first saying that 2 million people in Bulgaria will be vaccinated by the end of 2021, the other saying between 1 -2 million will be vaccinated by the end of summer 2021.
If either of these comments were true, then it would appear that the authorities want to ensure that summer 2021 will not go ahead for the Bulgarian Tourism sector. Rather more alarming is the mere idea that inoculating only 2 million people, even by the end of summer, is a success. Most people of a sane and logical disposition would consider that to be an alarming failure. Whilst Bulgaria does not have the resources of a German, UK or France, countries who can immunise a million and more people per month, surely the ability to vaccinate around 50% of the country’s population by summer would be the minimum of expectations.
Wait! Low and behold just a couple of days later and the faux pas seems to have resonated, now the politicians are saying they can inoculate between 80,000 – 100.00 people per day, an altogether more positive soundbite. Whether its true or not is immaterial: it’s infinitely more digestible. At those levels the entire population can be sorted out in two and a half months!
The bottom line on all this is that the general public no longer believes what anyone says, not just in Bulgaria but across Europe. The desperately poor quality of journalism only adds fuel to this scepticism.
Anyone want to buy an airport – going cheap? The more cynical amongst us would speculate that new build commercial buildings will appear soon. Sic.
Reality and Optimism
The ongoing mini-soap opera surrounding the concession for Plovdiv Airport seems to ideally showcase the lack of reality and expose the oft held belief that a rock is a diamond. The concession for Plovdiv Airport has been pushed back for a fourth time until the end of March, it was originally due to be concluded in April 2020.
Back then the Chinese Group HNA were involved in the concession but that was before their finances (or lack of) was exposed on a much wider level. What goes beyond eye watering and into the sphere of comedy is the asking price of 51,000 Euro per year: which is reasonable, but rather the 100 million Leva of investment the government demands. No-one is so stupid (are they) to go for that despite the theoretical geographical potential the airport holds (even if it doesn’t have a proper road leading to it).
No doubt the facility will finds it way into the hands of Georgi and Gosho (sic) for an undisclosed price when everyone else is frightened away by the unrealistic financials.
Fast Forward to June – the Tender was scrapped! Surprise surprise. Georgi and Gosho are waiting quietly in the wings.
Journalism currently has a lot to answer for, not for its openness and introspective approach but more for its stupidity and desire to jump in a blind bandwagon. The careful choice of a few key words can and does change the meaning of an article and how that article is perceived. This March editorial also (Still) asks a relevant question:- “What does being vaccinated have to do with stopping the spread of a disease”. People who are still of a sane mind and not gaining commercially from certain professions will answer you honestly: nothing.
So, what does a vaccination do: Honestly?
It’s a dying skill whilst reading to not only read but to be able to absorb what the real meaning is of the article they are reading. Whether by accident or design, the choice of words we see in articles seem chosen for their opaqueness rather than providing clarity to a text or subject matter. The word “massive” has been frequently used to describe absolutely anything connected with the morbidity surrounding the coronavirus: what is massive? In percentage terms is a “massive increase” 5%, 10%, 25% or 50% or even more? Ask 5 people for their interpretation of the world massive and you will likely get 5 different answers from across the spectrum. The authors or editors task has thus been achieved: confusion amongst the masses prevails. So, moving on with the confusion aspect, we are all led to believe that the only way for travel to be available to the general public is for those wanting to travel to get vaccinated. Getting a vaccination is not hard nor dangerous and is in fact already a requirement prior to travel to many countries across the globe. Vaccinations stop you getting ill. Period. Their intention is not to stop you passing on anything you may come into contact with and therein is the issue most people are missing.
Whilst reading a blog reply to a travel article, a traveller made the comment that she “would never dream of being sat next to someone on a plane who had not been vaccinated”. She, like many, is missing the plot. If you have 150 vaccinated people travelling on a plane, all 150 could in theory still be carrying the coronavirus; they could then transmit this to people at the “other end”, but the impact of them doing so disappears if those whom they are in contact with have also been vaccinated. It is this aspect that most people have lost sight of thanks to murky information. However, it is worth pointing out that a bonus of the current vaccination – or some of them – is that it appears that the jabs do in fact stop the virus being passed on; however, this was not the original intention and it will be many months before this extra benefit can be either proved or disproved as critical mass is achieved through the vaccination process. The bottom line thus is how therefore can so called “’Vaccination Passports” prevent the spread of the disease? If logic is applied the only benefit having a vaccine has is that it stops you from getting ill and thus potentially overloading the health system of that country you happen to be in. Therefore, having a negative PCR test should still be a pre-requisite for travelling if the intention is to stop the spread of the virus. Surely!
There is also one other small but interesting facet of the “Vaccination Passport hype” leaving aside the political games EU leaders have resorted to in an attempt to cover their own shortcomings. The effectiveness of the Moderna and Pfizer jabs, is apparently measured as to (quote) “how they protect people against moderate to severe Covid- 19 disease, not how well they prevent infection or the spread of it”. This is a plain and simple medical fact. The science behind these two jabs also suspects that in the longer term they may also or possibly stop the spread of the disease, but again this will take some time and greater scrutiny to either prove or disprove whether the virus has been stopped from jumping from one person to another.
At the end of the day, as long as people think that it is safe to fly, they will fly, regardless of the facts behind the theories that aim to get the world back into the comfort zone. Just as the world talked itself into a downward frenzy a year ago, now is the time for the pendulum to swing the other way.
SAF is going to become a rather populist theme moving ahead with many airlines keen to be seen to be doing the right thing. However, be aware of the expression “smoke and mirrors” as commercial reality will likely make long and sustained use of SAF more of a feel good PR/marketing ploy that sends out the ’right” message rather than being of any use practically. Numbers involved in the take up of green fuels start at levels best described as miniscule and the sheer cost of such fuels make them a toy that is easy to discard.
Alternative Fuels Ticking Boxes
In poorer parts of the world, farmers didn’t take long to discover that they could improve their income by turning their backs on growing traditional crops and instead, grow crops of the illicit nature. As the world looks to reduce carbon emissions, aviation is one of the soft targets for the green brigade and airlines are keen to appear whiter than white and go along with the same desire to reduce their carbon footprint. There is absolutely nothing wrong with this but sometimes it seems people don’t always see the wood for the trees.
Sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) is often touted as the quick fix answer from the ills of using traditional aviation fuel as SAF can be used (we think) in the same engines that airlines use now. It is however about three times more expensive than usual fuel and economics would dictate that that will means fares have to increase. It will also likely highlight the point that travel will once again become an item for the rich.
A foundation stone of SAF is using used cooking oil, though the problem here is that most of it comes from outside the EU and there are grave doubts that enough can be supplied to meet the (potential) demand for it. That brings our farmers back into the conversation!
If farmers can smell a new quick-fire way to make money, they can in theory trigger the production of palm oil which can be passed off as “used cooking oil”. Except that is that to do this they would need clear swathes of land to produce the alternative variant ie. Illegal deforestation occurs. So, the double bonus for the farmers is they can make a shed load of money from their new crops and maybe the other illicit crops are spurned, much to the benefit of the wider society. However, the bottom line is that the carbon footprint is reduced and everyone on the face of it is happy. Except that is, the Amazon and other vital organs of the earth have disappeared; cut down by the farmers who were out to make a short-term gain. All made possible but the newly found awareness of Social Responsibility.
The prophecy in May was predicating what and who would dictate the success or otherwise of a summer resort; namely whoever it is the operates flights to it. The toes had already been dipped in the water the previous summer when charter flights disappeared and other airlines did their utmost to fill in the gaps: as well as make a fast buck of course. The lesson had been learned by both Low Cost Airlines and Traditional ones alike. The big question now is perhaps is their any future at all for Charter Flights in the guise the public have known them?
Past newsletter articles have made mention of the fact that the success of the forthcoming summer period will, to a certain extent, be dependent on how rapidly flights can be set up to operate to traditional holiday destinations. Historically, the plans made by Tour Operators for a summer are made some twelve months in advance; this includes the booking and scheduling of planes. This of course has been almost impossible to do for the forthcoming summer, so the task of getting holiday makers to a resort is likely to fall into the hands of Low Cost Airlines as well as more traditional carriers. Low Cost operators such as Wizz and Ryanair are more fluid and flexible in how their operations are set up so can react quickly to demand, but for possibly the first time we are seeing airlines like Lufthansa, Austrian and BA operating substantial numbers of leisure based flights to destinations which typically go against their “’moral ethos”. The fact of the matter being that making some money is better than making no money and planes doing nothing cost more to the airlines bottom line than planes in active service.
Past articles have made mention of Bulgaria Air’s new operations to leisure markets in Greece and the Bulgarian market will now also have the chance to use rival airlines Wizz and Ryanair to fly to Crete, Corfu, Mykonos in Greece plus Malaga and Lisbon. Most of these operations start mid June.
In an indirect manner, there is also the possibility that this is a step in the evolution of how people will travel on their holidays with the potential losers being those charter airlines who operated traditional holiday packages.
2021 will likely go down as the year political correctness over took common sense. The ability of the vociferous minority to gain control of anything and everything became the norm globally. All (not) in the interests of our safety of course.
Risking Safety Perhaps?
“Passenger safety is our number one priority” is the strap line from almost every company that transports people from A to B, this of course is non truer than in the aviation sector. It goes without saying the passengers on board a plane don’t care about the race, colour of gender of their pilot as long as he or she is capable of doing the job they have been entrusted with. The best person for the job is what (all) people want.
Therefore, it’s interesting that in the USA, United Airlines has a policy that when recruiting trainee pilots, 50% of the intake need to be people of colour and female no matter what their flying skills may be (quote).
Only when somethings serious happens and a loss of life ensues will people start to engage common sense and revert back to the “best man/woman for the job”.
The Glasgow Climate change pow wow even took questionable stories of flu away from our front pages for a few days in summer. All the great and the good and those sent their by their PR teams were evident with many arriving in their private jets for good measure. This though probably isn’t the ultimate hypocrisy, that title would have to go to those belting out a green agenda whilst developing their own space ships and encouraging space travel; all in the interests of science of course because as we all know “science has the answer”.
Back on the green theme following the EasyJet article, billionaire and “virtuous touching on condescending to anything that will save the plant” as well as being Amazon boss, Jeff Bezos did his bit to save the planet recently (not) when he took off on a 10.5 minute space flight. One can only guess the carbon footprint that left behind but as many now realise with the new world order, its more a case of “’do as I say not as I do”.
Just to put a slight knife into the equation, the advent of joy riders in space; a slant at Mr Bezos and Richard Branson the week before, the definition of an astronaut has been updated by NASA to ensure space joy riders do not claim to be such! This was also triggered by the sales pitch of Branson’s Virgin Galactic, self- styling their passengers as astronauts.
As most people already know, politicians are about as far removed from reality as a goldfish but that still doesn’t stop idiotic statements emitting from Brussels. Aviation is a soft target and one where quick fix taxes can be applied to fill in black holes in current accounts. Little is ever made of the fact that aviation accounts for a mere 3% of greenhouse gasses and with the technology in the pipeline this can easily be reduced massively in the near years. Animals produce more of such gasses but if you would follow the green extremists, we will soon be travelling on a zillion kilometres of rail infrastructure (think of the carbon footprint in making such infrastructure!) and travel by rail from Brussels to the out posts of the EU such as Cyprus, Malta and even Kaspuchan will be the norm. Really!
The Real World
When the current farce eventually ends and the world starts to travel again, the Green agenda will soon become the most talked about facet of travel. Most rational people are aware of the need to do better to “save the planet” and most are doing their little bit to help attain this goal. Aviation is, for some reason, one of the prime targets of those following a green agenda, possibly because it’s a soft target and its also a good focus point of government to collect more taxes to swell their coffers under the pretext that this will also somehow help save the planet. This despite the sector being responsible for less than 3% of greenhouse emissions. Stopping people from travelling is not the big picture answer but the use of technology in helping reduce these emissions, even if more people travel, is the real answer.
Airlines with old fleets are actually the issue and conversely, airlines with young fleets of say 5 – 6 years old actually produce roughly 35% less emissions than older planes; however, you can’t dispose of planes after just 5 – 6 years for economic reasons. New materials, improved airplane designs and better in flight management (air traffic control) can make a huge improvement in green house emission and just possibly rid the industry of its bad boy tag.
Of course, there are many who are getting even more vocal in suggesting flying is ceased and the word can travel by bike or by train. There are elected EU Parliamentarians who think along the same lines (frighteningly). Just think what the carbon footprint would be in building tens of thousands of new rail lines across Europe and trains and stations to accommodate them. It would sink planet Earth! Still, the Green brigade will be happy in their new environmentally friendly HQ’s in Cyprus and Malta as they head to the train station there to travel to Brussels to attend yet another forum with likeminded people who have travelled from across the globe to re-shape the world. Sic.
This article was the one most commented on for some considerable time. What it shows is that experts are not necessarily experts. Ring familiar in any other current sphere?
Ignore the Experts
This article about planes that carry cargo is hardly the most interesting but one, but it does also create a laugh at its punch line (don’t read it yet).
Many planes today are able to carry a small amount of cargo as this is lucrative extra income for airlines which couldn’t be derived from passenger or passenger bags alone. Not so long ago, planes referred to as “Combi Planes”” were specially designed modified aircraft that would carry considerably less passengers than usual for its aircraft type, but would also carry significant amounts of cargo in the modified hold. However, an article written by a Yale student and featured in a magazine in 1960 questioned whether this was an efficient process of not as the movement of cargo was dependent on the movement of people. The suggestion from the author being that cargo should be moved by dedicated aircraft.
The students professor gave the student a polite C for his efforts and noted it to be ‘” infeasible”. Not to be deterred the student, a boy by the name of Fred Smith bided his time and then set up his own company using planes to move cargo. The company he founded was named “’FedEx”.
With downturn in the world economy, service providers, like airlines who sack their pilots then re-hire them on lesser contracts, have also used the opportunity to get rid of staff and services we have long considered “”the norm”. Since the article was written several people have also commented on how services have changed in facilities that have provided the same consistently high level of services for years and years; until now. the service providers will argue that they had to do this to survive, which is a reasonable comment. However the loss of skilled labour from travel and tourism is not something that is easily replaced. We may all have to get used to services that are way below the levels we have come to expect. At the end of the day we are now all used to Low Cost Airlines and their business model aren’t we!
The race to the bottom
“Never let a good crises go to waste’ has been a quote cited by us on several occasions over the past months but without over playing it, the expression has never been as true as it is now across many aspects on the world stage and that particularly applies to the travel and hospitality sector.
In a pure simplistic form, a good crisis provides the perfect opportunity to reduce costs which often starts at reducing head count. Reducing head count and thus in theory reducing cost theoretically drives or maintains a profit for the shareholders; keeping both the Chief Accountant or CFO happy as well as the shareholders. What also happens, regardless of the sector within the travel and hospitality sector you are involved in, is it also has the habit of driving down standards, service levels and satisfaction amongst clients. The satisfaction of your clients is merely something that companies pay lip service towards and is followed invariably with ”your comments are highly appreciated and we are sorry that……etc etc” before being quickly ignored.
Without realising it and despite our kicking and screaming that we would never do so, we now pay for: our suitcase to travel on the same plane as ourselves; to pay to sit next to our wife/husband/child when the finely tuned airline software system defaults to enforced seat separation at the time of booking; the pleasure of buying a cup of rancid tea or coffee for the three hour journey: but whatever we said we would never do, we now do just that. The system won, the voice of the travelling public lost; we are at the point now where we almost expect service with a grimace when travelling and we should be lucky that these underpaid and over worked staff belonging to or working on behalf of airlines, are there at all to offer that grimace. All in the interest of “our safety of course”. The journey to the bottom is where we are at and there is no sign of that stopping. In the meantime, airlines generally like to boast about their superior quality compared with their rivals and indeed, its more than likely airlines across the board would prefer to compete on quality, but every time an airline tries to do so it runs into a barrier: cost. Passengers nowadays are price conscious and not quality conscious, they don’t care if they don’t get a meal but they do care that they think they have the lowest fare, that they have a convenient timetable or schedule and even a good frequent flyer offering; anything else is viewed as being of negligible benefit.
The hotel industry, initially slow to see the same trick, seem equally to be desperate to get in on the act and reduce their own costs using the pandemic as camouflage. AI (that’s artificial intelligence apparently) is now greeting us at receptions, we may well be expected to check in before arrival and get a key to enter our rooms via mobile applications, we are asked if we want our room cleaning at all and if we want to have clean towels. Food and beverage is often served either remotely or from behind Perspex screens: is this really hospitality? What is missing from all this process provides an obvious answer: its people.
Perhaps as a surprise to many, especially the CFO, people value human interaction, that’s why they travel for business purposes and for pleasure. The world has a habit of turning full circle and whilst it is unfair to assume that every five-star hotel will reduce its standards to fit the aforementioned scenario, it’s clear that many hotels down the pecking order are doing just that. It wasn’t so very long ago that butter was an evil to the human diet, then it was discovered that it actually benefits the human body in a positive way. The world constantly changes and evolves and it may not be long before those supplying travel and hospitality services find the human mind set has also changed and cost is not the be and end all but service is. The question is then will they have the skill sets to provide it.