January 2021 Newsletter
A new day dawns
The sentiment of good riddance to 2020 seems universal, that said, the thinking that 2021 will certainly be better needs to be taken with caution. Perhaps the approach of “hope for the best but prepare for the worst” might be a useful policy to adopt. What is clear is that across many aspects of life, things will have changed; whether this is forever or simply for the near future (until the lights are turned back on), only the following weeks, months and possibly years will dictate. Travel will certainly be affected in some way or another as the whole airport, airplane, travel experience will be forcibly changed even if it’s simply to appear to be doing something positive regardless of the benefits or practicalities of these changes. The way we ourselves work will also likely see change.
People have now got used to working remotely, whether they like it or ot is another question and whether they would return back to an office environment at the drop of a hat is also a highly debateable point. The jury is out on the future of the office but writing it off as a commercial liability that the company accountant can erase overnight might be a tad short sighted. That said, what is clear is that in the short term more people will have to work some or part of their time remotely: like it or lump it. The expression “’digital nomads’ is used to describe those working from home (or remotely) and is just one of many new words that have made a significant impact on the Oxford dictionary.
So, what’s this got to do with the travel industry? Well, two things spring to mind when adding a commercial spin onto the things. The first is that these “’Digital Nomads”’ need to work from somewhere and this “’somewhere” does not have to be a city apartment where the office is located, it can be a house in the country, a beachside villa, a tent up the Amazon, an apartment/house or even an Airbnb in a “’must see”’ city or a ski or mountain resort anywhere in the world. In fact, there may well be no reason whatsoever why an employee is forced to stay in the immediate vicinity of where their former office is based. For example, parts of Spain are seeing the average age of expats dropping from the 40-50’s to the 30’s as tech savvy 30 odd year olds relocate to warmer climes from Northern Europe. The cost of relocating and working from afar can and often does work out cheaper than remaining in that original home city apartment and the standard of living is invariably much higher. Several countries across Europe have been pro-active in attracting such people, partly as a substitute for lost incoming tourism. One wonders if the same thought; trying to attract digital nomads to Bulgaria has ever crossed anyone’s mind? Probably not as its not beach or ski tourism. Tourism comes in many guises, much of it lost on those tasked with its promotion yet it’s an income and any income to the country is better than no income. 10,000 digital nomads here for one year could equate to the same revenue garnered from around half – million tourists per annum. Any bells ringing yet?
The other thing that might yield an indirect benefit to the local travel industry is that as more and more people work from home, they do, at some time, have to get together to brainstorm, to talk, to discuss and to share ideas; these tend to be significantly hampered via zoom calls and if they have to get together then they need facilities to do so. Meetings as such can take place at the head office but the accountant may have cancelled the rent contract to save money or downsized the space available and hence, out of “office” venues suddenly are required. This of course provides a wonderful opportunity for those in the industry who specialise in working with meetings and events to source and run such options for their clients. It also gives the opportunity to the many hotels across the country to gain back some of the years lost revenue by hosting such events. Even if travel from overseas is restricted, the demand domestically can be quite significant, significant enough to set the wheels of the travel industry back in motion.
Jamadvice Travel | BCD Travel
For many people, not being able to travel anywhere during 2020 will be a first. It will also likely be the first time in ages that one’s bathroom cabinet is empty of all the stolen toiletries from hotels. Everyone does it and usually, everyone owns up to it. However, whilst one would barley raise an eyebrow at stories of stolen Molten Brown toiletry collections from deluxe starred hotels, the eyebrows would certainly be raised at some of the story’s hotel managers tell of what also goes missing from their establishments.
A recent survey, without commercial intent, of 1157 hotels fairly evenly split between four and five star rated, threw forth some amazing findings. It also confirmed that the bigger and more expensive the hotel, the bigger the prize!
For example, TV sets were nine times more likely to be stolen from a 5 star hotel than a 4 star one. Works of art were another favourite of 5 star guests and their disappearance rate was 5 times more common in 5 star hotels compared with 4 star. Tablet computers were also a frequent absentee from a 5 star hotel room after the guests had left and even the odd mattress joined them on occasions.
So just which nationality appears to have the lightest fingers? Well actually, that depends on what is being stolen. The Germans may be renowned for taking towels, particularly to the sun loungers at dawn, but they also seem to have a generic habit of ensuring the towels leave with then infinitely. Austrians by comparison leave the towels but go for coffee machines. The Italians like to collect (remove) wine glasses whilst the Swiss have a longing for hotel hairdryers. The French though are not just interested in TV remote controls; they like to take the TV as well. However, the conclusion from the survey was that the Dutch are by far the most practical, they like to remove light bulbs and toilet paper.
For the record, the most impressive losses a hotel manager admitted to was one from Berlin that lost a rain shower head, a hydro-massage shower, a toilet seat, a drainpipe and an entire sink unit. Impressive to say the least.
Of course, hotel managers do get praised for the level of amenities their facilities provide, one guest proudly thanking the manager for his stay and complimenting him on the hotels quality bathroom amenities, the towels being so fluffy he could hardly get them into his suitcase.
It’s in the numbers
Isn’t it strange that numbers which were once perceived as being eye catching in respect of their relevance towards profits and loss, are now laughed at when today’s world numbers start to appear. Such an example would be the loss announced by US airlines such as Delta and United. The former of these two, who without blushing announced that in 2019 it lost 12.4 Billion USD. Such a disclosure in years gone by would be headline news in every channel available: not these days. The good news in the same press release for Delta was that “” cash burn” (loss) is down to a mere 12 m USD per day in Q4 2019, whereas it was 24m USD per year in Q3.
Meanwhile United are hardly faring much better. They lost 7.07 Billion USD in 2020 and still have a “’Cash burn” (loss) of 19 m USD per day!
Great financial news indeed. No doubt their share prices will sky rocket on such good news.
It’s not April yet but reading a story from Nigeria made it feel that way. In Lagos, a court has ruled that Emirates Airline should pay a passenger 1.63m USD in compensation for losing his luggage which contained that value of cash inside.
The case dates back to 2007 when a passenger checked in for a flight from Lagos to China via Dubai. In his hand luggage was 1.63m USD in cash when the airline insisted on him checking in the bag. Despite extensive (!) searches the bag never arrived at its destination. Indeed, a police investigation says the bag never left Lagos.
Really, such a discovery would be a surprise wouldn’t it! Not.
Green to a point
One of Europe’s iconic landmarks, the Champs-Elysees, is to become a green-pedestrian friendly space thanks to a 250m Euro makeover.
Roads will be transformed into green areas for pedestrians and tunnels of trees will be created to improve the air quality of the area. The project is due for fruition in, wait for it, 2030.
Interestingly enough, the press release showing the “’artists impression’” still looked to have the same volume of cars travelling up and down the famous avenue; so perhaps not so green after all.
Lost in transit
In what must have seemed like déjà vu taken from a Hollywood film, the authorities in Chicago’s O’Hare Airport have just discovered a man has been living “air side”” for three months before finally being rumbled.
However, perhaps just as astonishing is the reaction and “’thinking”’ (sic) of the local judge, who, despite being equally baffled as to how an “’un-authorised, non-employee could live undetected for three months in a secure area”” deemed the 36-year-old Indian man a danger to the community.
If such a person was a danger to the community then one questions how many others would be deemed a threat to society in Chicago? Logic does not always appear in some thinking and neither does security; think Capitol Hill.
Just in case this story prompts recollections of recent films, the one you are no doubt thinking about is “’The Terminal’” which is based on the real-life story of Mehran Nasser, an Iranian refugee who lived in Paris Charles De Gaulle Terminal 1 between 1988 – 2006. Our friend in Chicago had some way to go to challenge that record.
Max is back
The much-maligned Boeing 737 Max will, by the time you read this, have returned to European skies. The ban on the aircraft will be lifted week commencing 25th January. The planes were grounded in March 2019 following two fatal crashes involving the aircraft which in effect were then deemed to be unfit to fly.
The question remains however is whether the travelling public will be happy flying on such aircraft and will there be a new question when a traveller is booking a flight i.e. is it a 737 Max aircraft?
No doubt we shall soon start to see the attitude of the travelling public towards the plane.
Amazon taking to the skies
Whilst everyone will no doubt know of Amazon, even if only recently have you stated to use the company for home shopping due to the fact that everything else is closed. However, it may come as a surprise that Amazon Air now has over 70 planes in its fleet.
This number is well below the fleet size of companies like DHL and Fedex (275 and 465 planes respectively), but the rapid growth in Amazon will likely see them racing to catch up size wise with the aforementioned companies.
So next time you are at an airport and idling the time away by plane spotting, it may be case of Lufthansa, BA, Ryanair, Amazon.
Bulgarian Air Traffic down
Continuing on the doom and gloom trend as is the trend journalists the world over are encouraged to follow, the release of figures from IATA showing the travel numbers from Bulgaria for 2020 don’t make great reading, though they are very much on a par with other countries in the region.
The value of air bookings made was down 75.72% year on year which follows in line with figures from other countries e.g. Czech Republic down 81%, Hungary down 85% and Poland down 79%. So, in some small respect, we are out performing the neighbours!
Another interesting trend – of sorts – is that credit card use – as opposed to cash payments – to book travel is up from 10.6% in 2019 to 18.55% in 2020.
Please note that the IATA figures however do not include the figures for Low Cost Airlines such as Wizz, Ryanair and EasyJet.
The role of tourism in the economies of many countries across the globe can never be downplayed. Put simply: it keeps hundreds of millions employed and forms a significant chuck of many country’s total GDP. All this is despite the attempts of a noisy few whose attempts to discourage tourism has fallen largely on deaf ears, but who perversely, have now been handed an ace card with the current pandemic, reigning in the desire for people to travel. The latest data shows that global tourism is now back to 1990 levels with some 900 million fewer tourists in the first ten months of 2020, or put in another way, tourism figures globally are down 79%. Many would have indeed expected an even higher percentage.
As far as regions are concerned, Asia has seen the largest decline in foreign arrivals with a 82% decrease, the Middle East is down 73%, Africa and Europe 69% and the America’s 68%.
Financially, the decrease is reckoned to have cost 935 Billion USD in lost global tourism income, which thus far is 10 times more than the loss from the 2009 global financial crisis. By the time the figures for the entire year of 2020 are calculated, there will have been 1 billion fewer journey’s and a cash shortfall of 1.1 trillion USD from lost tourism.
The positive – if there is such a thing – is that it is expected that the rebound in international travel will commence in the second half of 2021 but it will not be until the end of 2023 that 2019 levels are regained.
Another Airline disappears
Montenegro Airlines is the latest airline in our region to meet an untimely death. The airline, founded in 1994, ceased operations from December 26th 2020 due to a massive fall off in demand.
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 – 100,000 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.
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