Reunion Island: When highway construction becomes a tourist stop

Reunion Island has been affected for years every time heavy rains are hit the mid-ocean tropical island.

A notice recently said: RN1 Road of the littoral following the heavy rains fell this night on the North of the island and the Corniche (more than 50 mm) the circulation will be done in mode tilted on the way sea side of the Potences to the Possession until Friday morning. Around 5:30 this morning the traffic will be with 1 lane to West 2 towards the capital.

These disruptions are so common, and this is what has pushed President Didier Robert, the Regional of Reunion, to launch the new highway project. The construction is a feat in itself, with the construction site being visited by Reunionais and visitors wanting to appreciate the works.

Though the works are moving fast, it is estimated that Reunion Island has another year of road closures when it rains before the new roadway opens.

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Thai aerospace industry is ready for take-off

Aviation and aerospace industry is growing rapidly worldwide. Thailand takes the advantage from this trend as well as its aviation market leadership to bring its aerospace and aviation industry to new heights.

According to its Commercial Market Outlook 2018, Boeing forecasted that in the next 20 years, Asia Pacific will become a major market where fleet of aircraft would be increased 2.8 times from current fleet of 6,139 aircraft to 16,977 aircraft in 2036. This trend will boost demand for commercial aviation services, ranging from supply chain support (parts and parts logistics) to maintenance and engineering services, aircraft modifications and airline operation services. The center of such business, which is now in North America and Europe, will shift to Asia Pacific in the next 20 years.

Huge opportunity is presented to Thailand

Thailand, with its strategic location in the heart of Southeast Asia, is already an aviation hub of the region. The continuous growth in the tourism industry and national economy has driven the country’s air traffic to increase three times faster than the global market. In 2017, the number of aircraft movements at the main airports operated by Airports Authority of Thailand Plc (AOT) grew by 5.41% to 833,084 flights. Considering passenger movements, the number of passengers handled at the AOT’s airports grew by 9.37% while freight and postal parcel volume increased by 9.68%.

Together with the increasing aircraft and passenger movement, the country’s 38 commercial airports, diverse international and local airlines operating in the country make Thailand one of the fast-growing maintenance, repair, and overhaul — MRO — services industry and several companies involved in the manufacturing business.

Considering such high potential, the Thai government has included aerospace in the targeted industries that will promote national competitiveness and Thai economic transformation. Thailand’s Board of Investment (BOI) also promotes the industry by offering investment incentives to aviation-related activities, namely manufacture and repair of aircraft or aircraft parts, manufacture of aerospace devices and equipment, aerospace operating systems, air transportation services, etc. Investment projects in this category are granted 8-year maximum corporate income tax exemption.

With all supports already in place, 51 projects from 26 companies have been promoted under aircraft part manufacturing activity while 16 projects have been promoted under aircraft and part maintenance and repair activity.

EEC Aerotropolis — the catalyst

Thailand’s aerospace industry is ready to take off and fly high as the development of the Aerotropolis, or an Airport City, in the Eastern Economic Corridor (EEC) is on the fast lane. A comprehensive roadmap of U-Tapao Airport and other facility development is clearly laid out. Once completed, the face of Thailand’s aerospace industry will be changed.

The comprehensive Aerotropolis development plan includes U-Tapao Airport expansion plan, under which its total capacity will be increased from 5 million passengers per annum today to 54 million passengers in the next 30 years. New passenger terminal and runways will be built to support this expansion. Other facilities to support the aerospace and aviation industry include a custom free zone, the train system linking Suvarnabhumi, Don Mueang and U-Tapao airports, the development of an ICD in Chachoengsao, Laem Chabang Port Phase 3, Map Ta Phut Port Phase 3 and dual track train projects.

In support of EEC Aerotropolis development, BOI offers additional 2-4 years corporate income tax exemption for investment projects in targeted activities that have cooperation with an educational institution to develop human resources.


At the heart of the Aerotropolis, the 10-billion-baht Thai Airways International’s MRO Campus, a cooperation between THAI and Airbus, will be built. Located on an area of 83 acres on the east of runway 2 at U-Tapao Airport, the facility will have the capacity to provide comprehensive services from traditional to predictive and prescriptive maintenance of a wide variety of aircraft from all makers. The MRO will have the capacity to provide maintenance service to 80-100 aircraft per year in the first 20 years.

The TG MRO Campus, when complete in 2023 will become one of the most advanced, state-of-the-art facility in Asia. It will use advanced technology like Big Data & Analytics, Maintenance Information System, Aircobot (computer + robot) for aircraft inspection, 3D printing, etc. Of course, this indirectly means more technology transfer and people development activities.

With state-of-the-art facilities and technology, the MRO will become another MRO hub for Asia, mainly serving airlines in Thailand and the Asia-Pacific. It is hoped that the project will in the future capture 4% market share in this industry in Asia.

The supply chain

Seeing Aerotropolis taking shape, local related industries are enjoying opportunity to lift their capability from local suppliers to advanced aerospace part suppliers.

The aerospace industry will enormously benefit from the country’s huge pool of more than 2,000 tier 2 and 3 local automotive and electronics manufacturers and suppliers. These companies have high potential, experienced workers with good knowledge, and skills. By applying some advanced technology and knowledge, they can upgrade their skill and capability to transform themselves into aerospace part suppliers.

Mr. Remy Maitam, President, Triumph Aviation Services Asia, Ltd., a repair and overhaul service provider based in Thailand, said, “We see tremendous growth in the size of aviation fleet in Southeast Asia, which in turn raises demand for aviation services. Thailand has world-class infrastructure, quality workforce with excellent craftsmanship as well as efficient government, which makes perfect ecosystem for our business. Attractive tax incentive, easy process for work permit application for our expats, business friendly environment, and healthy lifestyle, all make investing in Thailand a pleasant experience for us in doing business in the heart of the fastest growing economic region in the world.”

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United Airlines welcomes Boeing 787-10 to its fleet

Today, at Boeing’s 787 Dreamliner delivery center in Charleston, S.C., United Airlines took delivery of its first Boeing 787-10. United is the first North American airline to take delivery of the 787-10, and the first airline in the world to have the entire family of 787-8, 787-9 and 787-10 Dreamliners in its fleet.

“The 787-10 is an excellent addition to United’s fleet. It offers superior fuel efficiency while providing a more comfortable customer experience onboard that allows passengers to arrive at their destinations feeling more refreshed,” said Gerry Laderman, chief financial officer at United, who was at the Boeing facility for the delivery celebrations.

Boeing’s latest Dreamliner model is 18 feet longer than the 787-9, and can carry more passengers and cargo than previous 787 aircraft and uses 20 percent less fuel than older generation airplanes. United’s 787-10 will feature 44 United Polaris® business class seats, 21 United® Premium Plus seats, 54 Economy Plus seats and 199 standard Economy seats.

“The United Airlines team is raising the bar again. With the new 787-10, United will fly the most fuel efficient widebody jet in commercial aviation today. The larger airplane comes with more seats, more cargo capacity, and the same Dreamliner comforts that passengers prefer,” said Ihssane Mounir, senior vice president of Commercial Sales and Marketing for The Boeing Company. “We are honored that United, a leading global carrier, has placed its trust in the 787 family, carefully optimizing their network with all three Dreamliner models.”

United is investing in advancements onboard the new Dreamliner. The 787-10 is the first aircraft to be delivered with United’s signature all aisle access Polaris business class and United® Premium Plus seats already installed. Updated lighting patterns that mimic sunrise and sunset colors will help customers in each cabin fall asleep and wake up more adjusted to new time zones. The airline is also installing a brand new seatback entertainment system that features:

• Split screen capabilities that allow customers to watch a movie and view the flight map simultaneously.

• A relax mode that lets customers customize a selection of soothing videos and relaxing audio playlists.

• The world’s most extensive suite of accessibility features on a seatback entertainment system, which accommodates any level of vision, as well as provides support for customers with hearing and mobility issues.

• Movie and television recommendations based on remaining flight time, previously watched content and movies and shows that have been added to a customer’s favorites list.

The aircraft is expected to enter service between United’s Los Angeles and Newark/New York hubs on January 7. The airline expects to take delivery of 14 787-10 aircraft.

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Travel tech driving consumer change

Travel technology is not only responding to some of the changes in traveller behaviour but also driving some of those changes, according to experts speaking on the opening day of Travel Forward.

Travel Forward is the exciting new event co-located with WTM London, launched to inspire the travel and hospitality industry with the next generation of technology

Mike Croucher, Head of Technical Strategy and Chief Architect for Travelport, opened the event with a presentation explaining how the travel industry was forcing consumers to behave in a way which suits travel industry systems, rather than reflecting how and what they want to buy.

He argued that the backbone of the industry has traditionally been “systems of record”, and that today’s consumers expect be serviced by “systems of intelligence and systems of engagement”.

“Systems of intelligence” are new ways to connect supply and demand, and have artificial intelligence capabilities integrated in the platform. He referenced Hopper, the US-based recent recipient of a $100 million funding round. Hopper has developed algorithms which track historic flights pricing data and advices cost-conscious travellers on “the best time to buy”.

“It is reverse engineering the revenue management systems of airlines,” he said.

“Systems of engagement” is about channels. Instagram was the point of reference, with Croucher saying “70% of the content on Instagram is travel-related”. Travelport and easyJet have jointly developed a way to connect images on Instagram with easyJet’s booking engine.

“Why come out of the channel you are in?” he suggested.

Croucher’s angle that the industry is “designed around silo-ed processes and not the customer” was repeated later in the day by Olaf Slater, Senior Director International Strategy & Innovation, Sabre Hospitality. He talked about “history…hindering a great customer experience”.

He plotted the order of the hotel industry’s engagement with guests as “rates, room, amenities, destination and experience”. He believes that, Millennials in particular, would expect the conversation to begin with the experience that the hotel can offer.

Millennials were a recurring theme throughout the day. Dr. Kris Naudts, founder & CEO of Culture Trip, talked about the dominance of that generation within its 300-or-so staff members. He said that Millennials were a positive force and their presence was creating a positive workspace for all staff, irrespective of age.

But a more prevalent theme was artificial intelligence and machine learning, two phrases which are rapidly becoming interchangeable. Finnbar Cornwall, Industry Head – Travel, Google, kicked off his presentation with a quotation from Google CEO Sundar Pichai:

“Machine learning is a core, transformative way by which we’re rethinking how we’re doing everything. We are thoughtfully applying it across all our products.”

Cornwall’s presentation explained how the search giant was embedding AI at the production level into a number of Google products and services, and that many of the automated features of its Ad product portfolio were powered by AI.

His session referenced Google’s AI business Deep Mind, which learnt how to play the world’s most complicated game – Go – and ended up beating the world champion. Cornwall said that the number of possible moves within a game of Go was comparable with “the number of atoms in the universe.”

In a travel context, he argued that the permutations – moments, messages, feeds, formats and bids – was relatively modest and “AI and ML could get us closer to every marketers dream of achieving relevance at scale”.

Elsewhere, blockchain was explained to the audience by Dave Montali, CIO, Winding Tree

a not-for-profit Swiss organisation developing a blockchain-powered decentralized travel ecosystem. Blockchain, he said, is a database which can do the work of a GDS or bedbank but without the costs, although there are different costs when running a blockchain.

He also talked about the ability of blockchain to integrate with legacy systems or other technologies.

The integratability of blockchain tapped into another recurring theme of the day – partnerships. Tim Hentschel, CEO of group booking technology specialist HotelPlanner, said that any business with a strong technology or supply proposition would find similar businesses willing to work with them. “The idea is to make inventory as consumable by as many people as possible,” he said.

Virtual, artificial and mixed reality were also present throughout the day. Dr Ashok Maharaj, XR Lab, Tata Consultancy Services, shared some insights into how this part of the tech landscape is evolving. He admitted that the technology is currently “clunky” but is confident this will change. “The first mobile phones to have GPS needed an antenna. Now it is built in,” he said.

One trend which Expedia is particularly attuned to is the impatience of the modern-day traveller. Hari Nair, Global Senior Vice President at Expedia Group Media Solutions, said that the business was “pivoting to an infrastructure” which loads a page within two seconds. The reason, quite simply, is that if a web page takes longer to load, conversion rates drop immediately.

Jon Collins, Programme and Content Director, Travel Forward said; “The very first day of the very first Travel Forward captured exactly what we wanted – intelligent business-critical conversations from travel brands and suppliers, presented to an engaged audience. We are confident that every attendee came away with actionable insights to help drive their travel business forward.

eTN is a media partner for WTM.

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“WeChat, we share and we want real experiences” say Chinese travelers

Get a WeChat account, enable mobile payments and make Chinese visitors feel welcome – just some of the ways European businesses and travel companies can attract more Chinese travellers according to speakers at the Asia Inspiration Zone on the first day of WTM in London, 2018.

Chinese travellers are still travelling in groups, however more are choosing to travel independently, looking to research their own trips, hire cars and stay longer in one place, rather than tick big city icons off their list, panellists said. Businesses should also think about becoming Chinese-friendly, adopting and ‘owning’ a Chinese name for their brand or destination and help Chinese visitors by offering mobile payment facilities, such as UnionPay, WeChat Pay and AliPay.

Research commissioned by the World Tourism Cities Federation and research company Ipsos (Market Research Report on Chinese Outbound Tourist Consumption 2017-2018) found that in the five years from 2010 to 2014 the number of China’s outbound tourists increased rapidly at an average annual rate of 18%. In 2014 the number of China’s outbound tourists exceeded 100 million for the first time and the growth rate started to level off after 2015. In 2017, China’s outbound tourists reached 130.51 million, a year-on-year growth of 7%.

Professor Dr. Wolfgang Arlt, from COTRI China Outbound Tourism and Research Institute, said tourism from China was booming however the demands and travel habits of the Chinese were changing.

“There’s ongoing segmentation and an increase in age group diversity, more kids and more older people travelling.” He said the creation in March 2018 of China’s own Ministry of Culture and Tourism signified more emphasis on tourism, travellers were looking for quality over quantity and were looking for more locally sourced products and authentic experiences.

According to Arlt, it’s becoming easier for Chinese to travel, with less visa restrictions (27 destinations offer visa-free entry to Chinese, improved connectivity with flights to second tier cities in China and far better information through the use of social media and mobile payment options.

The audience also heard how China is virtually a cashless society, with more and more people using their mobile phones to pay for items as small as a bottle of milk, to flights.

Sienna Parulis-Cook, Communications Manager at Dragon Trail Interactive, said Chinese travellers will look to social media for inspiration. WeChat and Weibo are the largest social media networking platforms in China and the only way to reach Chinese travellers and influencers.

“Get a WeChat account,” urged Parulis-Cook. “Personal accounts are free and it’s China’s number one social media platform with 1bn monthly active users. It’s known as the Swiss Army Knife of social media because it offers users so many platforms, including messaging, WeChat Moments, newsletters, WeChat mini-programs (offering services such as e-commerce and coupons).”

Jennifer McCormack, from Windermere Lake Cruises, uses WeChat and created the Lake District China Forum – a group of tourism attraction together in Cumbria – to actively target the Chinese traveller. She said her website was translated into Chinese, social media activity for the Chinese market was outsourced to a professional and even used a Chinese name for her email signature.

“Making Chinese visitors feel welcome is a really important aspect as well. If you’ve made an effort to translate your website, your marketing materials and your timetables, then Chinese visitors will feel like you’ve made an effort,” added McCormack.

According to Gary Grieve, Managing Director of training and consulting firm Capela China, the challenge for businesses in attracting the Chinese tourist is to take advantage of the trend in sharing photos and using social media and make WiFi instantly available to guests. He also said companies should get a Chinese name for their business, so Chinese travellers can correctly tag it and share it.

Julie Chappell, Managing Director, International Markets, London & Partners, said inbound tourism from China was booming.

“The numbers have doubled in the first half of 2016 to 2018. The Chinese market is hugely important for London. The trends we are seeing is that it’s all about experience over geography. Simplification for Chinese authentic creation and mobile payments. I feel left out that I can’t use WeChat Pay.”

Chappell said social media marketing was hugely important to promote London to China, using the royal family, London’s history and Shakespeare all helping raise awareness of London. However she said she wanted to show the modern side of London to appeal to the younger travellers using WeChat and Weibo who see themselves as influencers and trend setters.

Closing the day’s sessions tourism officials talked up the untapped potential of Sanya for European travellers, citing its great climate, quality hotels, free-visa policy with Hong Kong and new direct flights from the UK.

Also known as the Hawaii of the East, Sanya on China’s southern tip, has long been a holiday destination for Chinese travellers, but the challenge was raising its awareness among Europeans and other international visitors.

Thomas Cook opened its first office in Sanya today (Monday 5th November) becoming the first European company to do so, with a pledge to bring 3% of European tourists to Sanya.

Kris Van Goethem, director of Inbound & MICE for Thomas Cook Group China, said: “The biggest challenge is how to add Sanya into the mix.”

Rudolf A Gimmi, General Manager of Shangri-la Sanya Resort & Spa, Hainan, said there was also a negative perception of China as a controlled destination.

“As Europeans we do have this privacy thing; yes it’s there but you work with it and you don’t have to worry about your personal safety.”

eTN is a media partner for WTM.

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