Editorial This is the time of year when we look back at some of the…
The current trend in travel is most definitely the desire “to travel”, in defiance of the combined treble frontal attack to restrict people’s ability to move around through state encouraged re-branding of the common flu virus, the personal aims of a nutter from Russia who seems determined to create Cold War 2 as his historical legacy, plus the added baggage of ever increasing peer pressure of people who want to restrict the experiences we all gain from seeing planet earth and who pass themselves off as the nut eating green brigade.
To be fair, all sensible human beings want to protect planet earth in the best way we can, the options presented to people are often a fait accompli which interestingly enough usually come together with more taxes that end up in the state coffers rather than being used for the purpose which they were claimed to be collected for. The journey of the green tax then seems to evaporate in an opaque nothing ness which government seem reluctant to be overly forthcoming about. Eat nuts, don’t breed animals for food and don’t drive a car or travel outside your own area. The world is saved. Simple. Except people don’t like being told what they can and cant do and people like to have choices in their lives; wasn’t this one of the reasons why communism died?
Taking of communism, some would still assume that Russia is a communist country when the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. It’s actually hard to accurately describe what category one would tag it as; but communist it is not. It’s a quasi-state-controlled capitalist system with an autocratic management infrastructure manged by a dictator. You read its new definition here first. The challenge for it now is not so much for it to take back control of its Senior Management’s super yachts and penthouse apartments, the system will easily replace those for its key servants, but in convincing the masses that the body bags returning don’t exist and that increasingly less available choice and inflation are the fault of the evil west, not theirs. That’s also aside of ensuring that victory’ is theirs despite not quite being able to do what they boasted they could do at the click of their fingers and now the world once again sees the true Russia of ineptness and smoke and mirrors. If Russia wished to flex its muscles its perhaps turned up at the wrong show, sadly they will likely keep the lights at the show burning for a long time yet.
What has been interesting so far at least is the fact that the going’s on in Ukraine have thus far not deterred people from wanting to travel. Certainly, the pent up demand is there after two years of having their ability to travel stifled by respective governments. The desire is probably more applicable to leisure-based travel and visiting friends and family than it is for business travel where companies still have some reticence in allowing their staff to travel. This may be down to fears employers have surrounding Duty of Care to its employees or it may be down to the Chief Accountant having the ear of the Board and promising continued dividend payments facilitated by halting staff travel. Which also brings about the debate as to whether travel will ever be the same again? The same issues and questions have arisen on numerous occasions after 9/11, after global economic meltdowns and even after erupting volcanoes; the world would never be the same: but it was.
The difference this time is that the bounce will take longer to arrive, but when it does, the bounce will be a big one and something not even the Green Brigade can stop. The only person that can stop the bounce back to a normality in the near term is the nutter from Russia, especially if he realises a failure to succeed in historical notoriety will cost him his place in the dark side of history.
Jamadvice Travel | BCD Bulgaria
It has to be 5 – Star
It seems like there is a splurge of activity on the hotels front close to home with at least three significant newsworthy items. Two of them revolve (at least partly) around golf.
Firstly, the ever-popular Pravets Hotel is closed for a significant make over, which word has it will see it become part of the Hyatt family. This should not be so surprising as the Pravets Hotel and the new Hyatt in Sofia both have the same owners. The Pravets Hotel is one of the most popular locations in the country for events and the hotel is also a popular choice with touring golfers.
Whilst on the theme of golf, a brand-new development at Gorni Okol, situated between Sofia and Samokov, will see another golf course built together with a flagship hotel which will be part of the Accor Group. For those not in the know, the Accor brands include Ibis, Novotel, Mercure as well as the flagship Sofitel which apparently is the brand destined for the new facility.
In Sofia itself, the (in)famous Rodina Hotel which has been closed for some time. is close to a re-opening after a big refurbishment and will be re-named Astor.
The one thing in common with all these hotels is that they will be five star rated. Their social status just wouldn’t be there without the five stars tag regardless of whether they can merit five star prices or offer real five star service.
Austrian back in the groove
Austrian Airlines have long played an important role in providing connectivity between Bulgaria and Europe and in particularly, Central, Eastern and Southern Europe. The popular airline is once again ramping up its services and this summer season is offering 24 flights per week to Sofia. This is in addition to its flights to Varna.
Interestingly, like other airlines who have realised there is business in operating to popular leisure destinations, they will also fly to 19 holiday destinations in Greece. A prospect not dreamed of not so very long ago.
Whilst on the theme of Austrian, they will also offer new flights from Vienna to Los Angeles which compliments the other North American destinations of Washington, Chicago and New York.
On the right track
As rail becomes the bureaucrats and green leaning preferred mode of transport, its interesting to hear that competition may be afoot under the English Channel. Eurostar, which has maintained a monopoly since the Channel Tunnels opening in 1994 could be facing its first serious competition as tunnel owner Getlink (formerly Eurotunel) plans to buy ten new trains and lease them to new operators.
One potential player may be Spanish rail operator Renfe who already competes with French State railway operator SNCF who is the main shareholder in Eurostar.
It is worth noting though that Germany’s Deutsche Bahn also made a lot of noise about competing via the Channel Tunnel back in 2010, but its plans came to nothing, mainly because they also wanted to circumvent all the existing rules of operation.
Dubai has for some time now been a mainstream destination for travellers across Europe and beyond and that includes travellers from Bulgaria. Just as a note to anyone planning a visit there between May 9th and June 22nd this year, the main airport of Dubai International (DXB) will close one of its runways for maintenance, with some flights diverted to the new Dubai World Central Airport (DWC).
PS any spare concrete from the re-furb will be gratefully accepted by Sofia Airport and used in the “new terminal” car park before it collapses.
Bleeding awful service again
If anyone were to mention “delayed baggage and airport chaos” many regular travellers would immediately assign the issue to London Heathrow Airport which has righty earned a reputation for regular ineptness. The opening of the new Terminal 5 back in 2008 was tarnished by an almost total failure of the terminals operating systems and it seems the “lessons learned” were very few.
Earlier this month the airport again had to tell waiting passengers that it was unable to get their bags off the planes and onto the carousel and even the planes themselves could not get to their arrival gates due to staff shortages. Prior to that, BA also had a massive IT outage (at the start of the Russian invasion of Ukraine!) that paralyzed its operations. Co-incidentally.
Despite the scenario of the airlines technical systems being hacked, BA and Heathrow’s reputation for chaos is not co-incidental and a part of this reason, like with many other facets of the travel industry, is the shortage of suitable labour. Labour was the accountants easiest target during the past two years but reducing an “asset” like labour is akin to preparing to fail as opposed to failing to prepare.
The Swiss are back with the re-introduction of Swiss Air flights between Sofia and Zurich. The flights will operate Saturdays and Monday’s and will be operated using the new Airbus A220 aircraft.
Up to the ceiling
The world’s tallest hotel tower has reached its half way point. The Ciel, in where else but Dubai, is already at the 52nd level and will reach 365 metres in height when complete at the end of 2023.
The Ciel will house more than 1000 rooms as well as a guest observatory and lounge on the 81st floor and a signature rooftop Sky Terrace featuring an infinity pool and bar. A luxury spa will be located on the 61st floor. Why 61st and not 62nd is another question, I guess.
Potential employees with vertigo need not apply.
It’s true that in life many things are cyclical; one has only to look at the fashion industry to support this theory. The move to anything and everything online has grown at a rate of knots not witnessed before, but its not all plain sailing and certainly not in the sphere of travel. Part of this is due to SCA (Strong Customer Authentication) which requires “two-factor” authentication for online sales.
Many companies use credit cards for payment of their staff’s travel, but if bookings are being done via an online booking tool the card being used for payment may not be present at the time of the booking, or the person with the phone whose number is connected to the card may not be around and therefore any transaction cannot be approved.
The solution is actually a simple one for companies and organisations and that is to adopt virtual cards which operate like a credit card but are tailored for the travel industry. Many international companies have used these cards for years, but they were always considered the tool of the big player and not for SME’s. This theory may be about to change and speaking as a TMC who sees the benefit of travellers using a Corporate Virtual Card, the adoption of such a payment system will, like as is often the case, lead people to ask why they didn’t adopt them previously.
Restrictions surrounding dropping off and meeting people at Sofia Airports two terminals have been relaxed with immediate effect and friends and relatives can now enter the two terminal buildings. People are still encouraged to wear a mask for the time being until the absurdity of the rules we are encouraged to adhere to resonate in our minds.
Get the planes back
Russia’s attack on Ukraine is likely to have a direct impact on the Russian aviation industry as under EU Laws, aircraft that are leased to Russia from EU countries must be recalled and the largest aviation leasing companies in Europe and indeed the world are located in Ireland.
It is estimated that some 777 of Russia’s 980 passenger planes are used on lease, of which 555 come from overseas aviation firms. AerCap, the world’s largest lessor who are also based in Dublin have 149 planes in Russia whilst SMBC have 34.
Additionally, the Russian airlines rely on credit to buy spare parts etc for its planes and the withdrawal of credit generally to Russian banks and the reluctance of European companies who provide aviation spare parts to deal with Russia because of potential litigation, may well give Aeroflot the tag it took many years to shake off: un-safe to fly.
In this ever-changing world its good to note that some things don’t change: Bulgaria has maintained second spot in road fatalities across the EU for the fourth year running. In 2021 road fatalities in the country were 81 per million inhabitants, second only to Romania who have 93 per million inhabitants. The best performing is Sweden with 18 per million.
Compared with 2021, the Bulgarian figure is a decrease of 11% and a 12% reduction compared with the average across 2018-2019. When the country first joined the EU it had the worst driving figures.
The overall target of the EU is to halve the numbers of deaths on the road by 2030, the previous devade showing a healthy 36% reduction. Across the EU the average deaths on the road is 44 per million inhabitants.