08 October 2010

UK Retail Downsizing Continues

It has been more than 15 years since the effective start of the Online Travel era. Arguably that started in late 2005 with the launch of Preview Travel and Travelocity's businesses.

Today we see a significant move in the UK which cements the decline of the retail high street market. UK Adoption of the web for travel purchases already among the highest in Europe has been accelerating in recent years.

In the mid 1990s we (collectively) predicted that Europe would follow the US by about 5 years in online adoption. Two things have actually happened.

1. The profile of web usage in Europe is vastly different
2. The adoption curve has been slower and longer

Today the Coop Travelcare group and Thomas Cook's retail operations are being combined into a single entity. Coop has the largest independent travel group after the big two. Thomas Cook is the smaller of the big players that used to number 4 which is now two.

In the past 15 years we have seen some spectacular failures in travel at all levels of the distribution chain from the supply side (think XL Airways which went bust in September 2008) to Tour Operators (Think Goldtrail which went out of business this year) to retail (Think Harvey World UK which went into Administration in June of 2009).

The pace of the closing of retail stores is reflected somewhat in the UK ABTA numbers

30/9/10 Travel Agent members 986 with 3806 branches = 4792 outlets
30/9/05 Travel Agent members 1397 with 4727 branches = 6124 outlets
30/9/00 Travel Agent members 1826 with 5222 branches = 7048 outlets
30/9/95 Travel Agent members 2263 with 4705 branches = 6968 outlets
30/9/90 Travel Agent members 2940 with 4265 branches = 7205 outlets

However this is masked by a change in the rules a few years ago when the category of small agent was opened to allow more people to join. but as can be seen in 20 years a drop to one third of the number of members. The definition of outlet has also changed over time.

We can now expect another wave of consolidation and shutting of storefronts in the UK at the same level as the USA experienced about 10 years ago. This can only mean that the same will apply to other markets' retail location based businesses. So if you run a retail business - beware. The change is coming.

Its sad but its progress. Perhaps this will finally kill off Viewdata!

06 October 2010

DoT Caves to Big Airline

Continuing its policy of serving the industry - the US DoT has approved a broad brush of alliance requests. In doing so it has set the standard for a world of an oligopoly of airlines.

I have long argued that while alliances are very positive from a business perspective for the airlines they are distinctly un-consumer friendly and will ultimately result in higher cost of travel to the customer.

The evidence of this can be found in viewing the average fare revenue cents per mile. Over the last year in 12 months the revenue has shot up for the US airlines by an average of 18%. By any measure that is astounding. And that was with the loss of only one player.

With now CO and UA merging we are going to see more. So the oligopoly is in effect here. What used to be the big 10 is now the fab five.

And if no one else is listening I hope the DoJ and the DoC are.


Are Passengers Happy?

I travel a lot... regular readers know that about me. I therefore get to enjoy the best and the worst of travel. I have one rule for travel. The destination is the goal not the journey.

So its often interesting to overhear people who are griping about travel and its problems. I think Americans complain more than other nationalities. I have always attributed it to the time squeeze of the US passenger.

Just lately I have noticed an increase in unhappy people. More people griping more shouting at desks. I think this is in part due to the reduction in the number of customer service people and their replacement by machines. Its rather hard to shout at a machine. So what do you do? With the significant reduction in manpower over the last year the human has to go somewhere. Well since the US DOT who overseas the services of the US carriers made it a little easier to file a complaint - indeed they are up a lot.

However the Wall Street Journal could not quite fathom the answer. In my view its obvious. Less people to resolve, More machines and more avenues to complain results in more complaints.

Check out the WSJ article.


Vote NOW. Best Road Warrior Selections

OK chaps time to get your votes out.

Vote for your fave airline and experience as a road warrior.

The Flyertalk awards can be accessed here.


04 October 2010

Public Mea Culpas. How Not To Do It

I love baseball. For no other reason that going to a game and just hanging out. This season I didn't attend one single game. And with good reason. My local team - the Seattle Mariners sucked badly.

Yesterday they ended the season with a record breaking loss. 105 games. But don't worry folks there is always next year.

Except to rub the noses of the fans in it the organization pushed out a kind of apologia. I reprint it here so you can see what is probably not the right way to do that.

This is the point where the more noble of people would have fallen on their swords. Not these guys.

Oh yes and the final score yesterday in Seattle? Yup they lost again 4-3.


The Professor

October 4, 2010
A Message from Mariners Chairman Howard Lincoln and Executive Vice President-General Manager Jack Zduriencik

I've been a naval officer, an attorney and a business executive in my life. But before any of these, I was a baseball fan.

I was born and raised in Oakland, California. As a kid, I sat in the bleachers and rooted for the Pacific Coast League Oakland Oaks. Casey Stengel was the manager and a young Billy Martin played second base. When the Giants came to the Bay Area, I spent a lot of sunny days and foggy nights at Seals Stadium and then Candlestick Park watching the Willies - Mays and McCovey.

I'm still a baseball fan and, like you, I was very disappointed with the performance of the 2010 Seattle Mariners. It was a frustrating season and, yes, we made some mistakes on and off the field. Good organizations learn from setbacks and make themselves better - that's the mindset we're taking into 2011.

I have asked GM Jack Zduriencik to give you an end-of-the-season report on our baseball operations. You'll see that despite our struggles at the Major League level, Jack's plan to build through scouting and player development is working well at the minor league level. I trust Jack. I believe in his plan and I see progress. He has the full support of our ownership group, Chuck Armstrong and me, along with the resources to be successful.

Will it take some time? Yes. Do you have the patience to see this through with us? I hope so. Our number one goal remains to bring championship baseball to Safeco Field. I'm sure we'll get there.

Before you hear from Jack, I want to say something straight from the heart, from one fan to another: Thanks for sticking with this team, thanks for caring as much as you do, thanks for wearing the Mariners "S."


October 4, 2010
Jack's Report to the Fans

Some of you may remember an old-time player named Rocky Bridges, a colorful middle infielder who went on to manage in the minor leagues for many years. Rocky once said, "Well, there are three things that the average person thinks he can do better than anybody else. Build a fire, run a hotel and run a baseball team."

After the 2010 season, I'm sure a lot of you are ready to step up and tell me how to run our ballclub. And I'm always willing to listen.

But despite our poor performance at the Major League level in 2010, there are plenty of reasons to believe that our long-term plan is working. In fact, looking at the big picture, our organization actually took a step forward last year.

Before you click away from this e-mail, give me a chance to explain.

Let's start with the cornerstone strategy established when I came to Seattle in October, 2008: We will build a winning franchise through talent that we draft, acquire and develop in our farm system. This is the key to long-term, sustained success in baseball.

The good news is, you gotta like what you see down on the farm.

• Eight of our nine minor league teams made it to post-season play in 2010.
• The AAA Rainiers, Class A Lumber Kings and Northwest League AquaSox all played in their leagues' championship series.
Two won league titles.
• As a group, Mariners minor league hitters ranked #1 in home runs, runs, slugging percentage and on-base percentage.
• The cumulative won-loss record of our minor league teams was 489-410, a .544 winning percentage. Only one organization
did better - the Cardinals at .549.

Does this mean that we should start printing 2011 World Series tickets? Unfortunately, no, not yet. But it does mean that we've got talent at every level of the organization - talent that's developing, scoring runs and learning how to win.

Let's talk about some of these kids.

We've got a flock of top-rated prospects on their way to the big club. These include position players Dustin Ackley, Justin Smoak, Carlos Peguero, Nick Franklin, Kyle Seager, Johermyn Chavez, Greg Halman and Matt Mangini, along with hard-throwing pitchers like Michael Pineda, Blake Beavan, Dan Cortes, Mauricio Robles, Maikel Cleto and Anthony Varvaro. Many of our best prospects are headed for winter ball and the fall instructional league - they're driven to improve and play at the next level.

Some of these youngsters will develop faster than others, but we've got a rich pipeline of talent. Impressive, considering how thin our minor league system was just a couple of years ago. Plus there are more top prospects coming: We have the #2 pick in the 2011 June draft and we continue to scout and sign top international players.

At the big league level, Mariners pitchers tied for the third best ERA in the American League in 2010. Felix Hernandez has fulfilled his potential as a perennial Cy Young candidate. Jason Vargas, Doug Fister and Luke French made major strides in 2010. We like our pitching; our staff is young, developing and hungry.

Two young players, catcher Adam Moore and outfielder Michael Saunders, got valuable playing time and impressed scouts around the league. Meanwhile, our four core players - Ichiro, Felix, Guti and Chone Figgins - are signed to long-term deals.

I'm a baseball man. I'm not trying to sell you on the idea that we're at the top of the baseball world. We still have work to do, lots of it. My first job is to hire our field manager - and I'm already hard at work identifying and reviewing candidates. Obviously, we need to score more runs by adding to the middle of our lineup. And, for much of the past season, our team didn't play the fundamentally sound baseball that I want to see. I'm addressing all our team's needs and I'll keep you posted throughout the winter.

But there's one thing you need to know about the Seattle Mariners organization:

Everybody wants to win - from Howard Lincoln and Chuck Armstrong to the clubhouse attendant in Everett. We have a plan in place and we're working days, nights and weekends to make it successful.

But as a fan, you want results, not promises. We know that. So we're doing everything we can to make it happen sooner rather than later.

I love the people of this city and this region. I love the energy you bring to the ballpark and the loyalty you've shown to the organization. We owe you a winner. It's coming. Stick with us, there's a bright light at the end of the tunnel. Thank you.


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Blondes Are More Fun?

OK this is one of the few times when I can honestly say this story deserves much better coverage than I can ever hope to give it.

The Lithuanian company Olialia Group have come up with an idea to show how Blonds are better than other people.

As part of their brugeoning empire - they want to enter the travel space with a resort in the Indian Ocean Island Paradise of the Maldives.

I got this story from TTG. by Sofie Griffiths - herself a blond it would appear from another story in TTG - click here for her picture (she is the one in the middle).

I was very tempted to put in a few of the pictures from the company's website but I think this is a family oriented blog and the only potty mouth or potty brained ideas we really follow usually come from Michael O'Leary.

Anyway - enjoy this story... I did.


03 October 2010

is Blogging Important?

I have been pondering Blogging as a subject recently and even posted on the subject of late. Where I have some issues is the amount of junk out there. Last week I posed a question and thanks to all of you who gave me encouraging responses, privately.

It does seem that many people do not like to post comments on blogs. Given the ease with which this can be done I find that surprising. However then I looked at the amount of re-tweets.

Taking a sample of TNooz - and using Tweetdeck to follow a few stories, I found that Tweets and re-tweets amounted to an average of several hundred times the number of comments. I took stories by one poster on TNooz and then counted the number of Tweets appearing on the story vs the number of comments.

But this is just my little counting in an unscientific way.

Interestingly when we look at larger scale - our friends over at eMarketer did some more in depth study entitled: “The Blogosphere: Colliding with Social and Mainstream Media.”

It seems that on average about half the web users in the USA will read at least one blog each month. I suspect that the numbers are far greater.

Blogging has become a media form and an outlet for commentary - both quality and frankly crap.

But there is no qualitative measurement. The social blogsphere applies its own rules based largely on popularity rather than quality as there is little to provide a qualitative measurement in the Social Sphere.

That bother's me. There are clearly a lot of people who are upright citizens who blog and blog responsively. There are those who don't care. Journalists - particularly traditional players in a broad generalization turn up their noses at bloggers. In many cases that is understandable. Given the growth and the impact of blogging - particularly to the detriment of the traditional media outlets for journalism - perhaps we need to set standards for blogging.

I hope that we can do that and self regulate rather than have all blogging classified as junk by such esteemed bodies as the US Supreme Court.

With Special Thanks to the Phillipines Blogging Idol Contest for the image.