October 2006 issue

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China - US visitor exchange on the up

Tourism between the USA and China is booming according to the latest tourist figures. China is now the most popular destination in Asia for Americans while the USA’s position as favourite destination for Chinese tourists was strengthened by an increase in Chinese arrivals of 20 per cent last year.

Over 1.5 million Americans visited mainland China last year, a growth of 19 per cent on the previous year, and they represented the fourth-largest tourist nationality in the country. “Frequent talks between leaders, and more bilateral exchange of visits in trade, science and technology, culture and education has boosted tourism,” said Zhu Shanzhong from China’s national tourism office in New York, adding, “There are more direct flights between the two countries to help speed up the flow of tourism.”

Air links between the USA and China are also due to be increased in the future, since American Airlines sought permission from the US Department of Transport to begin a direct service between Dallas Fort Worth International Airport in Texas and Beijing. If approved, the flight will be the second direct route between China and the USA after Chicago to Shanghai and is estimated to bring more than US$120 million into the North Texas economy.

Overall, 46.8 million foreign tourists visited China last year, a growth of 12 per cent over the previous year.

Low-cost boom in Asia

A number of high profile low-cost airport terminals are being developed throughout Asia in order to satisfy demand for competitive air services. Currently, low-cost flights make up 10 per cent of total traffic in many Asian markets.

Dedicated low-cost carrier facilities have recently been opened in Singapore and Malaysia, while a proposal to build a 15 million passenger capacity low-cost carrier terminal at New Bangkok International Airport has also been announced. Peter Harbison, Executive Chairman of the Centre for Asia Pacific Aviation, said that such developments would put pressure on other airports in the region to enhance their low-cost carrier facilities.

“The provision of dedicated terminal infrastructure at airports in Asia is a natural response in the revolution taking place in short-haul markets in this region,” he added.

UK to introduce biometric visas

The UK has announced plans to introduce biometric visas in the future in a measure to help curb illegal immigration.

Mark Sedwill, Director of UKvisas in the UK, said, “We are working on better ways of deterring fraudulent applications, which are a major problem in some countries. Biometric visas, to be rolled out worldwide over the next 18 months, will make a big difference.”

The new biometric visas are likely to contain fingerprint information as well as information and data produced from facial measurements.

Funding for the new visas, as well as other measures introduced to combat illegal immigration, is to come from the doubling of the annual immigration enforcement budget to £280 million (US$529 million) by 2010.

Munich airport goes green

Munich airport in Germany is to substantially increase its use of renewable energy sources by using biodiesel as part of the fuel mix for its ground services fleet. The airport already has a hydrogen fuelling station and the world’s largest photoelectric generating facility on an airport terminal roof.

The airport plans to convert one third of its vehicles from diesel to biodiesel, replacing one third of the six million litres of diesel fuel used each year with canola oil. Canola oil is CO² neutral, sulphur free and non-toxic and also costs a third less than conventional diesel.

Munich Airport Chief Executive, Michael Kerkloh, said, “By making biodiesel an important fuel for our airport equipment, we are clearly signalling our belief in regenerative energies. Munich Airport, which welcomes a large international audience every day, is the perfect setting for showcasing convincing concepts for a sustainable energy supply.”

Travel Update

Brazilian carrier Varig, which was on the verge of bankruptcy, has been bought by Volo do Brasil group, which plans to expand the airline’s fleet from 12 to 45 by the end of the year. Marco Antonio Audi, one of the partners in the group, said that Varig would focus its operations initially on Brazil’s major cities and internationally on the Buenos Aires, Caracas and Frankfurt routes, although routes to Milan and London are planned soon.

Low-cost airline Easyjet is considering plans to allow Saudi Arabian airline National Air Services (NAS) to use its branding in the Middle East. NAS has applied for a licence to operate domestic flights in Saudi Arabia and hopes to operate low-cost flights to other areas in the Arabian Gulf in the future.

The independent franchise partner of British Airways, Bmed, has announced plans to introduce direct routes to Freetown, Sierra Leone and Dakar, Senegal in West Africa this winter. The new routes come after the introduction of a service between London and Ankara in Turkey earlier this year. “The introduction of services to West Africa is the latest phase in our current programme of progressive business expansion,” said David Richardson, Bmed Chief Executive.

United Airlines has announced expected profits for the second quarter of this year to reach US$141 million, months after emerging from bankruptcy protection. The profits are double those predicted after the airline was subjected to a multi-year cost reduction programme.

Chinese authorities are rushing to remove poor English translations from bilingual signs in Beijing in time for the Olympic Games in 2008 so that visitors do not become confused. One particular mistranslation welcomed visitors to ‘Racist Park’, instead of its more accurate translation ‘Park of Ethnic Minorities’, while other examples include hotels misusing the word scatter for evacuate and tobacco shops selling smoke instead of cigarettes.

European low-cost airline, Ryanair, has announced new routes between Stansted in the UK and Deauville, France and Pula, Croatia to start on October 31. The carrier has also recently cut services to Sweden in protest at plans by the Swedish government to introduce a UK£6 (US$11.3) ticket tax.

The merger between Air France and KLM Royal Dutch Airlines in 2004 has made e350 million (US$448 million) worth of savings, according to the group. Air France-KLM experienced a 10 per cent rise in annual revenue to e22 billion (US$28.1 billion). KLM and Delta Airlines in the USA also recently announced a codeshare agreement for flights beyond their hubs in Europe and the USA.

India has overtaken China to become the world’s fastest-growing region for scheduled flights.

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