Tuesday, 27 September 2011

Countdown to the launch of Disney Fantasy

Countdown to the launch of Disney Fantasy

By Donna Tunney
The six-month countdown to the launch of Disney Cruise Line’s Disney Fantasy is about to begin. The 4,000-passenger ship sails its inaugural cruise March 31 roundtrip from Port Canaveral, with port calls at Grand Cayman, Cozumel, Costa Maya and Castaway Cay.

The final piece of Disney’s fourth ship was put into place a few weeks ago at the Meyer Werft shipyard in Germany, when builders added a 265-ton portion of the vessel’s bow.

Designed to reflect the glamour of the golden age of cruising during the 1930s, the Disney Fantasy is seen as a “thematic extension of the Disney Cruise Line fleet,” said the line. The ship, it added, will feature “the same attention to detail Disney is known for, while introducing new and immersive, one-of-a-kind venues and experiences.”

The atmosphere will be decidedly art nouveau, Disney said, “where elegance and sophistication mingle with Disney storytelling and whimsy.”

The Fantasy, of course, sports the line’s signature bronze statue in the atrium lobby. On this ship, it’s Mademoiselle Minnie Mouse, dressed in 1920s fashion and with steamer luggage at her side.

On the Disney Dream, it’s Admiral Donald who welcomes passengers in the lobby. On the Disney Magic, it’s Helmsman Mickey, and on the Disney Wonder it’s Ariel, from the classic animated Disney film “The Little Mermaid.”

Minnie Mouse statue on the Disney FantasyFollowing its launch cruise, the Disney Fantasy will be based at Port Canaveral, along with the Disney Dream, and operate seven-night Caribbean itineraries. The Dream will sail three-, four- and five-night cruises to the Bahamas.

In a much-publicized deployment, Disney set its sights on New York in 2012. Beginning May 25, the Disney Magic will sail a total of 20 cruises from New York, including eight-night cruises to the Bahamas, five-night cruises to New England and Canada and two-night weekend getaways.

The Bahamas cruises will include a day at Disney’s private island, Castaway Cay; Nassau, Bahamas; and Port Canaveral, with an opportunity to visit the nearby Walt Disney World Resort.

Nine five-night cruises up the New England coast will call at Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Saint John, New Brunswick.

Other new homeport destinations for Disney in 2012 include Galveston and Seattle.

From May 28 through early September, the Disney Wonder will sail 14 seven-night cruises from Seattle to Tracy Arm, Skagway, Juneau and Ketchikan, Alaska; and Victoria, British Columbia.

And from Galveston, the Disney Magic will sail 12 seven-night cruises to the Western Caribbean starting Sept. 22. Calls will be made to Grand Cayman and Mexico’s Costa Maya and Cozumel.

The Mexican Riviera and the Pacific coast also are on Disney Cruise Line’s schedule next year.

The Disney Wonder will operate seven-night Mexican Riviera cruises from Los Angeles throughout winter, spring and fall. It also will sail four seven-night Pacific Coast cruises from Los Angeles, in September and October, calling at San Francisco, San Diego and Ensenada, Mexico.

Hawaii is proving to be a winning destination for Disney. The line last week announced that demand for its one scheduled Hawaii cruise, from Los Angeles, has been so great that it added a second itinerary.

The original 15-night Hawaiian itinerary, which includes nine days at sea, departs April 29. The additional sailing, 14 nights with eight days at sea, departs Oct. 14.

Cook and Cosmos to turn up heat on Greece

Cook and Cosmos to turn up heat on Greece

Greece looks set to become a key battleground in 2012 with both Thomas Cook and Cosmos promising to ramp up their activities in the destination.
Thomas Cook head of mainstream Ian Ailles told TTA Worldchoice delegates at this weekend’s overseas conference that Manos was a brand that had been “under developed” in recent years.
And addressing the conference via video Monarch Group business development director Stuart Jackson said it was expanding its Greece portfolio. At the turn of the year Monarch ended a flights deal with Olympic Holidays for what was believed to be 250,000 peak season seats, bringing them in-house to support the Cosmos tour operation.
Jackson said Cosmos was trading well ahead of the market for summer 2012 at 20% up, against the overall market that was down 1%. He said TTA Worldchoice agents were 37% up for Cosmos.
He told agents Cosmos currently sold around 20% through independent agents but that the Monarch group did not put a cap on this and it was limited only “by the desire of agents to sell it”.
Cosmos believes it is gaining ground on rivals as agents look for an alternative to selling holidays provided by the big two and want the reassurance of a well known brand.  Despite the good start to 2012 trading he warned: “The industry has gone through a difficult period and that will continue. 2012 will be an even tougher year.
“During tough times it’s key that we select our partners correctly and work with people we know are going to around for the long term.” Ailles also reported that 2012 had got off to a good start although he too warned the economic backdrop meant that the next 12 months would be tough.
He praised rival Tui for its performance, saying it was benefitting from some of the changes made by its former management team. “It’s not easy to turn a tour operator around quickly. They have had the benefit of a couple of years [of doing this] and that’s helped them this year.
“I anticipate that some other tour operators as we get to the end of the season and the end of the cashflow cycle will fail. The good news is summer 2012 has got off to a great start. We are significantly ahead of where we were for Summer 2011. It’s about having the right product in the right market at the right time."

Police arrest man in connection with fraud against Bookable

UPDATED: Police arrest man in connection with fraud against Bookable

Police have arrested a 39-year-old man from Manchester in connection with an alleged fraud against online travel agent Bookable Holidays.
The man was arrested on Friday after attending Newbury police station for interview. He was not charged and has been released on bail to appear on October 28.
Thames Valley police confirmed the arrest as part of a fraud investigation involving Bookable.
Asked to comment on the arrest, Bookable Holidays managing director Jason Dwyer stated that the individual in question had been employed by the company for only a very short period of time, that there was no suggestion that clients had been defrauded, and that there was no suggestion or implication that Bookable Holidays was implicated in any wrongdoing.
Dwyer said the company would continue to co-operate fully with the police, and re-iterated that so far as it was aware no charges had been brought against the person arrested.

Ailles admits Thomas Cook has 'made errors'

Ailles admits Thomas Cook has 'made errors'

Ailles admits Thomas Cook has 'made errors'
Thomas Cook head of mainstream Ian Ailles struck a conciliatory tone when accused by agents of poor standards of service at this weekend’s TTA Worldchoice in conference.
Conceding that the operator had not lived up to the standards it ought to aspire to he promised agents that they would be very much part of its distribution mix in the future and that it would sort out its problems.
Agents confronted him with complaints about product and accusations that Thomas Cook is increasingly impossible to deal with and undercutting them online. Chris Bailey, of Bailey’s travel, challenged Ailles to promise "an end to two-and-a-half hours waiting times to get through on the phone costing 10p a minute".
Ailles said "yes", adding Cook had to get to the root cause of the problems that were generating such calls from agents, and to make sure that phones were answered. “We are on a journey and we are trying to turn things round,” he said. “We know we have made errors in the past.” 
Speaking to Travel Weekly after his presentation Ailles admitted that Thomas Cook “has lost touch with some of its core fundamentals”. “It is about getting back to doing some sensible things sensibly,” he added.
“It pains me to get some customer letters [of complaint]. We need to live up to our brand values. We have such a large number of areas to look at. I take the view no idea is a bad idea.”
During questioning Ailles was challenged by a delegate to trial offering agent partners rates to allow them to compete with Cook’s online pricing to see if that increased third party sales. Ailles did not rule that out.
He said although he had not seen the figures for the new Co-operative Travel joint-venture he envisaged Cook would be looking at achieving around 20% distribution through third parties.
For some non-mainstream product he said that figure would be “considerably more”. “We are very much open for business,” he told delegates. Cooks’s current level of controlled in-house distribution is thought to well below the 80% rival Tui Travel claims to be achieving.
Ailles said despite the three profit warnings Cook has been forced to issue which, prompted the departure of Chief Executive Manny Fontenla-Novoa, the firm would still make £320 million profit this year. He said divisions in other parts of the world like Scandinavia were trading well and it was the UK arm that needed turning around.
“We have worked pretty hard restructuring the management team after Manny and Ian (Derbyshire) left. There is no silver bullet. What we have got to do as an organisation is step up to the plate across a whole range of activities and that’s what you will see us doing in the next few months.
“We continue to have a strong commitment to the high street and see this as allowing us to have an interaction with the customer in a way you can never do online. We believe, and are very keen, to strengthen the knowledge and experience of the agent in interfacing with the customer.
“We have just done a joint venture with the Co-op that endorses all that I have said; we will stay in the high street, we have had a strong commercial relationship with the Co-op and we will continue to utilise the Co-op name on the high street. But it’s important you understand that our relationship is as important as it ever was.”
Asked about Cook’s low share price, which at one point during the last month valued it at below the profit level forecast for this year, he said: “It’s ridiculous, but we are in a strange market and have a hugely volatile stock market.”

Monday, 26 September 2011

Disney Wonder to sail second Hawaii cruise in 2012

By Donna Tunney
Disney WonderDue to "overwhelming response" to its first Hawaiian itinerary, Disney Cruise Line is adding a second Hawaii cruise aboard the Disney Wonder to its 2012 schedule.

Both cruises depart from Los Angeles. The original 15-night Hawaiian itinerary, which includes nine days at sea, departs April 29. The newly added 14-night Hawaiian itinerary, with eight days at sea, departs Oct. 14.

Port calls include Maui; Kauai; Oahu; Hilo, on the Big Island; and Ensenada, Mexico.

"We listen to our guests, and shortly after we announced our first Hawaiian voyage it was clear our guests wanted more options to visit Hawaii," said Disney Cruise Line President Karl Holz.

Stelios to launch rival to easyJet

Stelios to launch rival to easyJet

EasyJet founder Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou has revealed he is to set up a rival airline called FastJet.
The website fastjet.com has already been established, but only says: "By Stelios. Coming soon."
In a statement on its website, easyJet said any new airline controlled by Stelios would infringe its rights and promised to protect its shareholders.
EasyJet's statement said: "EasyJet plc announces that it has received notice from Sir Stelios Haji-Ioannou  that he intends to set up an airline branded FastJet and that a website, www.fastjet.com, has already been established.
"EasyJet has a number of rights under its agreements with Sir Stelios and easyGroup IP Licensing Ltd (a subsidiary of easyGroup Holdings Limited) as described in the Circular to shareholders dated November 16 2010.
"To the extent that any activity of FastJet, Sir Stelios or any company controlled by him infringes or would infringe those rights, easyJet will take necessary action to protect the rights of easyJet and the interests of its shareholders.
"Sir Stelios also alleges that easyJet has breached the terms of the binding comfort letter between him and easyJet of 10 October 2010 and that that letter is no longer in force, claims which easyJet emphatically rejects.
"EasyJet continues to seek constructive dialogue with easyGroup and Sir Stelios."

Saturday, 24 September 2011

British Airways swoops for BMI Heathrow slots

British Airways swoops for BMI Heathrow slots

British Airways has swooped to buy take off and landing slots at Heathrow from loss-making rival BMI British Midland.
Six daily slot pairs at the capacity-squeezed London hub have been acquired by BA for an undisclosed sum.
The deal comes amid speculation over the future of BMI after owner Lufthansa hired Morgan Stanley as adviser for a potential sale.
The main attraction of BMI is that it holds about 11% of the available slots at Heathrow.
Slots at the airport are the most sought-after in the industry but rarely become available and are expensive.
BA parent company International Airlines Group said today: “IAG has approved the acquisition by British Airways of six daily slot pairs at London Heathrow from BMI British Midland International.
“The slots will be used by British Airways from late October 2011 with the airline looking to expand both its long-haul and short-haul network at the airport.”
BMI made a loss of £106 million in the first six months of this year, with BA seen as a potential suitor for the airline.

Tourism body hits out at Cameron campaign

Tourism body hits out at Cameron campaign

Prime Minister David Cameron’s ‘GREAT’ tourism marketing campaign has been lambasted for falling “far short” of the efforts needed to encourage inbound tourism into the UK.
Inbound operators gave a lukewarm reception to the initiative and called for more action and less words from politicians.
UKinbound chief executive Mary Rance said: “Once again, the government has come up with a great slogan, but no tangible measures to offset the negative perceptions potential tourists have of the UK.
“One month after the riots, foreign markets still have concerns and it is imperative to restore faith in the UK as a safe and secure destination and even more importantly, to ease the barriers to travel that incoming tourists still face.”
She added: “Our industry would rather see politicians’ take actions to address the barriers tourists face when trying to travel to the UK and come up with workable solutions, rather than spend so much time and effort papering over the cracks with slogans and catchphrases.
“It is vital that the government and industry as a whole work together to address some of the key factors which continue to deter potential visitors from visiting the UK, namely punishing airport departure taxes, crippling rates of VAT on accommodation and other services, and cumbersome visa application processes in key emerging markets.”

Almost half of UKinbound members reported that the riots had an immediate impact within the first few days of the disturbances occurring, albeit to a limited extent in most cases.
Examples cited in a survey included cancellations of confirmed bookings from clients overseas, particularly from the Middle East, China and Germany. The student market was also more concerned than other parties.

But the vast majority of members surveyed feel that riots will have minimal impact on their business long term, provided there is not a reoccurrence.
Instead, more than two thirds of those surveyed think the London 2012 Olympics will have a more detrimental effect on their businesses over the next 12 months, according to the poll conducted by Qa Research

Norwegian ships to undergo refurbishments

2 Norwegian ships to undergo refurbishments

By Donna Tunney
Norwegian Cruise Line said that its Norwegian Spirit and Norwegian Jade will enter drydocks this fall for multimillion dollar enhancements.

The Norwegian Spirit enters a 13-day drydock on Sept. 25 in Mobile, Ala. The 2,018-passenger ship will be fitted for WiFi and will receive new carpeting, flat-screen televisions and upgrades to the Stardust Theater and the Raffles restaurant.

When the ship returns to service Oct. 9 it will sail a series of seven-day western Caribbean itineraries from New Orleans, calling on Costa Maya and Cozumel, Mexico; Roatan, Honduras; and Belize City, Belize, through April 8. The ship will then operate a 13-day transatlantic cruise, arriving in Barcelona on April 28, before beginning 12-day Mediterranean cruises alternating from Barcelona and Venice through Oct. 13, 2012. Beginning on Nov. 6, 2012, the ship will sail nine-day Canary Islands cruises from Barcelona, through April 8, 2013.

The Norwegian Jade will undergo its upgrades in Marseille, France, from Nov. 26 to Dec. 8. A Brazilian steakhouse, Moderno Churrascaria, will be added and new carpeting and tile will be installed throughout the ship. The ship will also receive technical enhancements, the line said.

After emerging from drydock, the 2,402-passenger Norwegian Jade, which sails year-round from Europe, will cruise a nine-day itinerary departing Barcelona calling on Funchal, Portugal; Tenerife and Arrecife in the Canary Islands; and Malaga, Spain.

Thursday, 22 September 2011

Disney signs deal to bring Avatar to parks

Disney signs deal to bring Avatar to parks

By Michelle Baran
James Cameron talks about AvatarWalt Disney Parks and Resorts Worldwide has entered into an exclusive agreement with filmmaker James Cameron and Fox Filmed Entertainment to create attractions in its theme parks based on the hit film "Avatar."

Disney said on Tuesday that it will partner with Cameron and producing partner Jon Landau to create "Avatar" themed lands, with the construction of the first such land expected to begin by 2013 within the Animal Kingdom park at Walt Disney World in Florida.

"Avatar is a uniquely powerful franchise that has global appeal with audiences of all ages," Tom Staggs, chairman of Walt Disney Parks and Resorts, said in a statement. "Its spectacular settings, intriguing characters, imaginative creatures and strong themes of family and loyalty make it a perfect fit for Disney."

The agreement gives Disney exclusive global theme park rights to the "Avatar" franchise and allows Disney to build additional "Avatar" themed lands at the other Disney parks.

Cameron, Landau and the Lightstorm Entertainment group will serve as creative consultants on the projects, partnering with the Walt Disney Imagineering team in the design and development of the "Avatar" themed lands.

"Avatar created a world which audiences can discover again and again and now, through this incredible partnership with Disney, we'll be able to bring Pandora to life like never before," Cameron said in a statement. "With two new Avatar films currently in development, we'll have even more locations, characters and stories to explore. Our goal is to go beyond current boundaries of technical innovation and experiential storytelling, and give park goers the chance to see, hear and touch the world of Avatar with an unprecedented sense of reality."

"Avatar," a sci-fi/action film that incorporated advanced motion capture and 3-D digital projection technologies, generated $2.8 billion at the worldwide box office when it was released in 2009. The film's two sequels will bow in 2014 and 2015.

"This new venture complements Walt Disney Parks and Resorts' strategic efforts to continue to invest in its core theme park businesses around the world while simultaneously expanding into other parts of the family vacation business," Disney said in a statement.

Summer lates boost keeps Tui Travel on course

Summer lates boost keeps Tui Travel on course

Summer lates boost keeps Tui Travel on course
strong performance in this summer’s lates market has helped Tui Travel keep on course to meet its full year expectations.
Improved margins for late sales in the UK and Germany have helped boost Europe’s largest travel group. Winter 2011/12 trading to date is described as “satisfactory” overall with differentiated holidays performing well, particularly in the UK and Nordic regions.
Winter capacity has been cut by 7% from the UK to Egypt and Tunisia following political upheaval in North Africa. This has helped push the average selling price up by 6%, also reflecting higher fuel and accommodation costs.
Differentiated holiday sales are up by 7% year on year while the percentage of online sales has grown by three percentage points to 37%. The group has sold 10% of it summer 2012 programme from the UK, described as being broadly in line with last year.
Bookings are currently 11% down, partly reflecting a 4% drop in capacity, while average selling prices are up by 10%.
“Margin performance is a key driver for the group. We anticipate that in the UK, cost inflation will be just over 5% for summer 2012 and our prices are designed to recover these input costs in this competitive market,” the company said in a trading update today.
Chief executive Peter Long said: “We are pleased with our performance in the lates market for summer 2011, and most of our programmes are now almost fully sold.
“We remain confident that the full year results will be in line with our expectations. Trading for winter 2011/12 is satisfactory overall, but we are anticipating a slow recovery in trading to Egypt and Tunisia, and have managed our capacity accordingly.”
He added: “Our focus remains on differentiated product, maintaining margins, prudent capacity management, and delivering our turnaround and cost savings programme. The flexibility of our business model means that we are well placed to achieve this.”