mardi, septembre 12, 2006

A Day in the Life of Malta's Travel Industry

Today's Times is a goldmine of quotes that in different ways form one, strong argument: the government's handling of travel & tourism is going nowhere. I'll let the quotes do their work:

1. Brand Failure
MTA, new chairman - old stories. Sam Mifsud wants to withhold money from the payments to the international brand consultant who came up with this scam.

The new chairman of the Malta Tourism Authority, Sam Mifsud, believes the first stage of the Brand Malta campaign designed to boost tourism is a "relative failure". (...) Mr Mifsud proposed withholding €15,000 from the next 30-day contract of the MTA's international brand consultant Christian Sinding, as a "sort of penalty" for the campaign's false start.

2. Ryanair Sales off to a Flying Start
Sales of the 0.01c tickets on Ryanair Flights from Luton are selling like freshly baked pastizzi. The sad part of the story was as predictable as ryanair's success. 85% of those tickets are being bought by "foreigners" - the Maltese make up a meagre 15% of the gold-rush. Guess why?

No less than 6,000 advance bookings have been made for Ryanair's Malta routes in just four days - which works out at a booking a minute, airline communications head Peter Sherrard has told The Times. The airline seats were snapped up between September 7 and September 10, the majority of which were for the Luton route. Around 85 per cent of all bookings were made by foreigners.

3. Brussels Nihil Obstat Necessary
The news item about the Brussels review of the Malta - Ryanair agreement may have raised a few eyebrows. Why is it necessary to get the EU go ahead? Well, in case you did not know, these routes are being sold as "underserved" routes. The government is therefore subsidising the carriers offering to fly the routes. hence the need to have the agreement scrutinised under EU State Aid rules. We get a clue of the scheme offered by the wise, crafty and foxy Maltese government here:

The scheme is offering financial aid for start-up costs, specific route marketing and promotion of the route but will not finance recurring operating costs such as aircraft rental or depreciation, fuel, ground handling expenses, crew salaries or catering service costs. The amount granted to an airline shall be calculated per passenger embarking from the non-Malta airport and landing directly in Malta.

4. MTA in favour of Airline Competition
... so long as it is not Air Malta. Easy Jet expressed their surprise that the government had allowed both Ryanair and EasyJet to fly the Luton route. So we have an "underserved" route - probably being framed as a Service of General Economic Interest / Public Service route that can suddenly sustain two bidders... in open competition. Listen to Sam Mifsud (new guy at MTA):

"Since EasyJet were planning to start operating in spring they still have some leeway to plan things accordingly. We're still discussing matters and they haven't told us they're not operating," Mr Mifsud said after the meeting. Of course they questioned why we gave the green light to both EasyJet and Ryanair to start operating to Luton and we made it clear that we prefer to have more than one airline serving that destination."

The mind continues to boggle. We pay €30,000 a month to a consultant to come up with something as Brand Malta. We kick the possibility of getting more toourists here on the simple basis of cheap flights in the foot. To do what? To protect Air Malta from airline competition. The same competition that MTA seems to be all in favour of when it comes to let the two low-cost providers fight it out tooth and nail.

Can I be the next consultant? €30,000 a month would suit me fine. Pretty please.

4 commentaires:

Justin Borg Barthet a dit…

Ryanair's 85% figure depends entirely on how you define 'foreigner'. They can only be working on the basis of addresses of ticket buyers. As a UK resident, I form part of the 85% as do so many other Maltese UK residents returning home for Christmas. Ryanair are trying to show off the boost they are giving Malta's tourism; this may be true in the long run but the statistics themslves are bollocks...a huge chunk of those tickets are surely happy consumers who'd be going to Malta anyway.

Arcibald a dit…

"Around 85 per cent of all bookings were made by foreigners."

Dawk l-85% ghall-ministru huma KOLLHA turisti... kemm qal li ried izid turisti xi sena ilu? 20,000? 30,000?

Naqta rasi barra li sal-ahhar tas-sena d-diehla Francis sa jkun qed jiftahar (jekk ikun ghadu hemm) kemm zdiedu t-turisti minn mindu bdew il-low cost airlines. In-numri sa jghogbuh u sa jdawwarhom politikament. Xej gdid wara kollox.

U dwar dawk il-15% nista nifhem ghalfejn... l-argument li ghamiltlek il-gimgha l-ohra ghadu jghodd. Bit-taxxi li ghandna ghalxejn ituna t-tickets b'2c return ghax xorta gholjin infern it-taxxi wahedhom ghal min jibda l-flight minn Malta.

david a dit…

I love low-cost airlines. But it's fair to give people the other side of the story. Here's Michael O'Leary on what he thinks about rival airlines. If you were Air Malta I think you'd be pissing yourself. On the other hand, maybe what you mean is 'f*** Air Malta, who gives a toss about those cannibals anyway'. I think the government is attempting a tricky balancing act between the two.

(O'Leary) on co-existence with British Airways: "There is too much: 'we really admire our competitors'. All bollocks. Everyone wants to kick the shit out of everyone else. We want to beat the crap out of BA. They mean to kick the crap out of us."

Jacques René Zammit a dit…

Neebother: Still does not change the fact that it is the 15% that we need to go up. If you are a UK/France /whatever resident then that means you have broken the duck of going abroad already. So I would not call them foreigners but regular-travellers.

Arcibald: What you say is true. But it is also true that the 15% is also due to other factors. Don't forget that ryanair sells only on the net. now we may be a well wired up nation (wth fibre optic cables and all) but I do not think that the average person whose travel habits we are wanting to change is fully up to step with the internet market. It's another drawback we have to overcome.

David: What other side? I never said there should be no competition or rivalry. What pisses ME off is that Air Malta are saved the competition with one measure while the cut-throat rivalry is allowed with another. No unfair argument there is there?