This is the time of year when we look back at some of the monthly articles that found our attention during 2022. There seems to be less articles of amusement this year and more articles pointing a question at certain aspects of our society and those who shape it.
Jamadvice Travel | BCD Bulgaria
The WHO (World Health Organisation) was one of the prime voices in the introduction of “fear” across the globe when it got its chance for fame as a new flu virus appeared (Covid 19). Somewhat belatedly it tried to back track after the people who listened to its rather irrational reasoning became fanatics of the game:-
WHO tweaks the message
The World Health Organisation is trying to change the world now that it has the temporary ear of governments across the globe and has tweaked “Its” message to governments across the globe.
It has modified its recommendation on international traffic bans asking to lift or ease them saying “’they do not provide added value and continue to contribute to economic and social stresses””.
One can’t help but think that the WHO are one of the reasons the world is in the state it is in today thanks to its past (in) actions, so this statement is akin to shutting the stable door long after the horse has bolted. The added question also being will anyone in future go to the stable anyway!
It may have removed Covid from the news but the nutter from Russia is still playing his games and like any despot, its not sure how this game will end. Interesting that Russia could in theory be a main player in “Europe” but chooses to try go it alone. That’s all well and good except they have proven to be more inept than anyone could imagine.
A Bad Dream
Very few of our generation would ever think we would see another nutter determined to wreck the world yet sitting so close to our doorsteps. There are many people still alive with memories of World War 2, the end of which one assumed taught society a lesson to ensure such people should never ever be allowed to threaten the civilised world. The events of the past week border on the unbelievable; a bad dream that we will awake from. A new axis of evil is borne and just where it will end and who will become embroiled is a bit like an evolving game of chess where move after move sets the scene. There has been little to unite Europe or indeed (most) of the civilised world over the past years but this new world order should do just that. The move by Russia is, to those of us who read factual history, is almost a cut and paste of the start of World War 2; plan, prepare and lie. From this moment on, no normal person will ever have trust in Russia; at best it’s a new cold war and at worst, who knows.
How this impacts the world of travel is, to some respects, a secondary issue but it will impact us all for sure. Airspace will be closed, fuel costs and therefore the cost of travel will increase and for Bulgaria, the almost certain loss of the Russian market, a market it has become increasingly dependent upon. Just how that will be handled is anyones guess but coming so soon after the Coronavirus farce, it is yet another battle no-one wants.
Without sounding morbid, let us hope we are here next month to write another Newsletter, a rather sombre statement but many a true word is said in jest, especially when there is a despot with a finger on the button.
March 2022 was the month when “Revenge Travel” started. Revenge Travel is the result of people having had enough of being told what they can and can’t do when it comes to their travel habits. Pent up demand outweighed the green save the planet folk dancers and people started in earnest to do the things they were stopped from doing for two years: travel. Not even the autocratic capitalist seeking to rival Stalin and Hitler in our history books was going to stop people from travelling.
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.
The World Cup may or may not have been a success. Real Football fans were marginalised and many matches were played out to audiences not fans. Stadium attendances were announced that were in excess of their capacity and that despite masses of empty seats. Thus it’s hard to take seriously any claims about carbon emissions and worker deaths etc with anything connected to the World Cup. What is for sure is that the commercial interests of the dubious organisation that runs the event were swelled considerably and the host country will now become a football powerhouse (not):
World Cup Approaches
The Football World Cup starts in November and Qatar, the host country, has not been shy of attracting controversy with anything and everything associated with it. Speaking out about the related issues within the country appears to be treat with the same iron fist that Russia adopts to suppress freedom of expression within its borders.
For the less informed, human rights and the apparent abuse of migrant labour has been at the forefront of many media articles whilst the bizarre choice of the Country and how that choice came about (sic) by FIFA – the body that controls world football – has never gone away as upcoming court cases reveal. Whatever viewpoint you have or whatever angle you view life from, the “’event’’ throws up countless aspects of both discussion and contention.
The competition itself will see Qatar producing 3.6 million tonnes of carbon emissions, an increase from the 2.1 million tonnes Russia, the last host, produced in 2018. A miserly eight stadiums, separated by just over an hour’s drive or 69 kms from end to end will be home to the event. Of the eight, seven have been built from scratch and the other extensively re-developed. Six of the stadiums will have about half of their seats removed afterwards and sent to developing countries whilst a seventh stadium will be dismantled. Only one stadium will be a home for a football team afterwards.
As for the stadiums themselves, the initial budget (note the word “initial”) was around 5.5 billion Euro and all will be powered by a solar panel farm and have detailed cooling systems including outdoor air-conditioning in some.
The bottom line is that the project is a vanity project to show the world the size of their wallets. China used the Olympic games in 2008 to announce to the world that it had “arrived’ on the world stage and indeed truly it had. Brazil tried to do the same with the 2016 Olympic Games but seems to have failed miserably, whilst Russia used the Football World Cup in 2018 and before that, the drug laden Winter Olympics in Sochi as a part of its master plan to gain popularity at home as well as globally, especially to those it considered were key influencers, whilst at the same time preparing for its future military expansion and aggression on the democratic world. Cut and paste Nazi Germany and the 1936 Olympic Games.
It begs the rather cynical question as to whether this is the end game for Qatar or is it a mere step in the as yet unknown game?
This story has gone rather quiet of late but if it were to become a reality, the implications for all and sundry should not be underestimated:-
To Change or not to Change?
If we are to believe the reports coming out in the local media, the current Bulgarian government plans to steam ahead with the adoption of the Euro with 1st January 2024 being the latest date touted, although that might, in the real world, be wishful thinking. The benefits or otherwise of adopting the Euro as the national currency are open to debate either side of the fence but one would be hard pressed to argue that in countries who have followed the transition previously, prices go upwards and never come down.
It may also be true to say that salaries also increase and this can be a longer-term benefit for both the local and national economy as a whole, but if we look at the Bulgarian Tourism sector, the notion that “everything will go upwards” i.e. salaries and prices, what then is the potential longer term impact to the local tourism sector?
Apples are easily compared with apples but less easy to be compared with bananas. If the apple is a Euro then the banana is the Leva. When one looks at the price of apples in one country he/she can easily compare them with the price of apples in another country; in other words the price of a beer, a meal, a taxi ride and even a hotel are easy to price compare when the currency is the same. Its always been suggested that the Leva and its opaqueness has hidden the true cost of things in Bulgaria even though its still hard to argue against the fact that many things in Bulgaria are still cheap compared with the rest of Europe. Bulgaria still routinely is bottom of the “cost of a shopping basket” comparisons which tourists seem to take note of. The bottom line danger for local tourism being that the adoption of the Euro will mean that the historic trend of entrepreneurs in Euro adopting countries, use the opportunity to increase the cost of everything. History has seen this achieved bye “rounding up” or even worse, “using the same numbers but change the currency”. Will the 100 Leva meal be costed exactly to 51.28 Euro using the official rate of 1.95 or will it be made “easier” and rounded up to 55.00 Euro, itself a 7.25% price increase? It certainly won’t become 50 Euro. Will the 5 Leva beer on the Black Sea become 2.56 Euro or made simpler to pay by making it 3.00 Euro’ a 17% increase. Or, frighteningly will it become a 5 Euro beer in line with parts of Europe.
Just what will happen to the local tourism product with any change in currency remains to be seen. The only surety is that the adoption of the Euro will, as has occurred in every country adopting the Euro, see prices increased to a level not previously seen. Whether Bulgaria remains viewed as offering good value is another open question.
It’s sometimes hard to know if some of these stories are serious but mid year, a whole host of PR articles appeared regarding our neighbours desire to change its name. The challenge for most might be the pronunciation. By the way, the general consensus of the reason why the country wants to change its name is that it thinks others perceives the bird name as a bit of an insult:-
It’s in the name
Turkish Airlines intends to rebrand itself, or perhaps the correct grammatical term is that the Turkish President Erdogan wants to rebrand the airline. The plan is to re-brand it as “Turkiye Hava Yollari”. The re-brand is part of a global push which sees the country also applying to the UN for recognition of its new name.
As a part of the re-brand, all the airlines 318 fleet will be re-branded though that’s anyone’s guess as to how long this will take.
Just for the record, the official stance on the re-brand of the country is to help preserve its heritage, though the popular view is that it is being done disassociate itself from the bird of the same name.
July / August
The summer editorial highlighted not just the bizarre world the Ministry of Tourism lives in but also the growing sentiment that taking a summer holiday at home at home (Black Sea) is in fact becoming arguably more expensive than taking it in neighbouring countries. Allied to this is the ever increasing supply of new direct flights to holiday destinatuions that were oreviously difficult to access logistically:-
A sense of perspective required
There was almost a sense of resignation detected in the Bulgarian Ministry of Tourism’s press release in August that the Black Sea summer season will end up at around 80% of 2019 levels (the last “normal” year). Which then begs the question as to what on earth were the expecting the numbers to be? At the start of 2022 and even at the start of the summer season at the beginning of May, many people with vested financial interests in tourism on the coast would have snapped your hand off at a result of 80%. The absence of the Russian market alone could reasonably explain up to 10% of this shortfall and this, added with the chaos surrounding airports and airlines who have failed to manage a return to business, in reality means that 80% is not a bad performance at all considering. Just where and how the Ministry of Tourism expected to get back to the same figures as 2019 is slightly mystifying but as we know, politicians live in their own world.
At the same time, figures for passenger numbers using Sofia Airport were also announced to be 10% down on 2019 levels. Without taking a deep analytic study of the flights arriving and departing from the capital’s airport, any regular traveller knows that there has been a serious trimming in daily flights by airlines such as BA and the Lufthansa Group (Lufthansa, Austrian and Swiss) as well as several others means that immediately the number of seats available is significantly reduced when compared with 2019 even if all the flights operating are full: which often they are. The airport added that they have a negative outlook for the whole of 2022 with a 23% reduction predicted. Which, seeing that for the months of January and February, the world of travel had barely re-started and this accounts for 16% of the year then yes 23% would be a pretty obvious figure. A figure that can be blasted out of the water if only airports and airlines got to grips with their own operational performance. People want to travel but seem to have un-natural barriers placed before them, which after the Covid farce becomes slightly annoying to the public at large.
Whilst on the subject of both the summer tourism figures and the numbers using Sofia Airports, is there “devil in the detail” of what is being presented? It’s a fact that the largest number of visitors to the Black Sea are of course from Bulgaria. At the same time, for Sofia Airport, the loss of daily flights from traditional airlines has been partly compensated by an apparent increase in flights to leisure destinations, many for the first time and these are aimed purely at the Bulgarian market. Flights to the likes of Mykonos, Crete, Corfu, Majorca, Rhodes, Majorca, Zadar and others are now a part and parcel of the tourist offerings and this is excluding the well-established exodus of flights to the Turkish Coastline that actually give the feeling that there are nowadays more flights than ever before during the summer months. This then leads along another path and a path that seems to becoming more and more familiar; the understanding that it can be as cheap to take a holiday outside Bulgaria and that this holiday will certainly offer better standards.
In spring many people commented that for the price that 4-star hotels were charging on the Black Sea for a two-week holiday, it was in fact cheaper by as much as 50% to take a package holiday to Turkey which included flights and accommodation; the comments was far from being in isolation. Come the peak months of July and August and the regular traffic heading south to Greece noted that it was in fact cheaper to holiday there than at home in Bulgaria. Whilst its always difficult to compare apples with oranges, some simple comparisons do exist such as the cost of accommodation and food. For food particular the verdict is absolutely unanimous that not only is it cheaper to eat in Greece but the quality comparison doesn’t even get out of the starting blocks; no matter what the protectors of the Black Sea interests will try have you believe. Why pay for a Lada when you can get a Mercedes for the same price!
This latter point noting the perceived value for money one is getting for his/her tourist spend is something that should be borne in mind in the longer term. Fact: more local people now travel overseas for their holidays than ever before and they can form their own opinions on what they want, when they want it and whether this is value for money or not. When, as is being suggested, the Euro becomes the currency of the country, comparisons are even easier. If you go with X Euro in your pocket to buy a new Lada and the new Mercedes is the same price; which will you buy?
This story possibly didn’t get the exposure it deserved from a local level but it did put Sofia Airport on the map for a brief while:-
World Record starts and finishes in Sofia
Sofia Airport had a global audience recently as a 17-year-old British-Belgian pilot became the youngest in the world to circumnavigate the globe. Mack Rutheford’s global adventure spanned 52 countries and took five months having set off from Sofia on March 23rd before landing back in Sofia on August 24th.
The journey took him over Italy towards North Africa before heading over the Gulf region and onto India, Thailand, Vietnam, Philippines, Taiwan, South Korea and Japan, before heading across the Pacific towards the USA, Canada and Mexico. The final leg saw him head across the Atlantic and passing over the UK before landing back in Sofia.
On arrival Mack said one of his most “memorable’ legs was when he arrived just before nightfall on a deserted island with no lights on the runway. He slept in a small shed at the side of the runway before taking off again in the morning.
The Green Agenda and the use of it by politicians is becoming tedious. If people were presented with the facts a very different view might of politicians actions might be borne:-
Burning the Facts
In the less democratic parts of the world, to go against the narrative is hardly likely to boost your career prospects and it may well be said that it may also be life threatening. We live in a democratic world (supposedly) where each of us has a freedom of speech and the ability to asses the facts as we see them; as long as we do actually see them that is. To help us along, people make a living out of helping us shape our thinking to ensure we follow the clearly defined path set out in the narrative. The world is getting hotter – that’s a likely fact, we need to help our planet thrive – another fact, we need to restrict certain things that we currently do – we can agree with that. So, we are all on the same page more or less, but then comes the problem; as humans it is felt we need to be directed to make the right decisions, a bit like a vote in a dictatorial society where there is only one person standing.
Politicians are experts in obtaining maximum benefit from the theory that if you say something often enough and loudly enough, people will eventually confuse the message with the facts. The Covid experience might tick some of those boxes, but let’s not go down that path as the narrative there was clearly defined. Here we are taking about travel and tourism, climate change and sustainability, areas where there are lots of new media experts battling eagerly to have their voices heard and to hell with truth, facts and logic. As is often the case though, there are two sides to the coin.
A study by The Journal of Transport Geography has taken facts and data and presented these in a way that challenges the narrative. The data used is widely available and not some carefully crafted Market research undertaken to satisfy a hidden agenda. The study looked at all commercial flights from 31 European Countries and found that “’Short Haul’” flights of under 500kms (310 miles), accounted for 28% of all flights but just 5.9% of all fuel burned. Conversely, they found that 6.2% of departures are for Long Haul flights of over 4000 kms (2585 miles) which burns 47% of the total of aviation fuel burned. So translated that means that 28 flights in every 100 burn less fuel than the 16 Long Haul flights. Whilst this may to some extent be obvious because the long-haul flights travel further and so use more fuel, the message is that banning or restricting short haul flights contributes very little to reducing the impact that aviation has on the climate. Indeed, between 1996 – 2018, the growth in aviation emissions came about due to the provision of air services on both existing and new routes which are longer than 1,000 km( 621 miles). So why is the narrative from all and sundry on trying to stop people flying domestically or on short haul flights?
The answer to this is simple; its politics! Banning or sending out the right “message” by politicians and activist greens is simply the first step in a wider plan. That message is not going to admit that banning short haul flights will do nothing to reduce emissions and nor is the impact of long-haul travel ever brought to the political table in a serious manner. Taxes have to be collected and votes have to be won to maintain employment for the drivers of the narrative. Targeting short haul flights is a soft target that upsets very few.
The journal is not providing answers or aiming to dictate policy, it is merely pointing out the facts with the addendum that in the wider picture of travel and tourism, the only possible solutions to reduce the footprint of flying by any tangible amounts would appear to be through technical innovations improving aviation efficiency; something difficult in the short and medium term and even if it was possible, it will be via small margins. The real message they give though is that ultimately Long-Haul travel has to reduced in order for aviation carbon emissions to be reduced by any seriously measurable margin.
In this newsletter we also write about future predictions for the numbers of new aircraft. One wonders if those making the predications together with those supporting business and peoples jobs have the ear of lobbyists in governments across the world, to the detriment to those with a Environmental agenda.
Many people will not realise that this person really existed and as such became something of a legend:
Home no more
The passing away of Karimi Nasseri has been announced. He is the man who called Paris Charles De Gaulle Airport his home for 18 years and inspired the flim ‘’The Terminal’” which featured Tom Hanks and Catherina Zeta-Jones. He was born in 1945 in Iran but due to immigration issues effectively got stuck in the airport when he flew there in 1988 on a visit to try locate his mother. He had the option to leave the airport in 1999 when he was granted refugee status but refused to do so though he did eventually leave in 2006. Shortly before his death he returned again to live in the airport. He passed away at his home ie Charles De Gaulle Airport.