Porter gets into package tour biz...2020 Olympic bids and trouble for TO 2024
We knew it was coming, but still a good item in today's Globe and Mail by reporter Brent Jang, outlining Porter Airlines' plans for a package tour biz.
It's been registered as Porter Escapes (good name for a company with a raccoon as its mascot, I think), and will offer all-inclusive holidays with flights, hotels, rental cars, insurance and other services. It's expected they'll focus on spots such as Myrtle Beach (golf), Vermont (skiing) and Tremblant (skiing), although Porter officials say they also will look at packages (probably theatre, maybe even TIFF, I guess) for folks coming to Toronto. Which is certainly good news for the local economy.
Of course, the packages also should help Porter boost its so-called load factor. Right now, Porter tends to fill roughly two-thirds of its seats or occasionally close to three-quarters, while folks like Air Canada and WestJet hover closer to 80 per cent. Porter CEO Robert Deluce says he doesn't need load factors that high as he has lower operating expenses with his fleet of smaller planes. Still, no business person in his right mind would settle for a score in the low 60's when he or she can bump it up to the mid-70's.
It'll be interesting to see how Porter markets the new business. It sounds like they'll be gearing things to shorter hauls, as most folks don't do Tremblant for one or two weeks the way they might do, say, Barbados. If I was a betting man I'd be looking for ski packages, theatre packages, golf and cultural packages versus sand-and-surf. I'm not expecting package tours for people flying from Toronto to Timmins (sorry, Timmins), but a weekend getaway package for Torontonians heading to Boston, Chicago or New York would be perfect, not to mention Quebec and Montreal. Those packages also would be a little different from the beach-sun packages offered by the likes of AirCanada Vacations, WestJet Vacations, Nolitours, etc...
2020 SUMMER OLYMPIC BIDS ARE IN, BUT I SEE TROUBLE FOR TORONTO 2024
And then there were five. The cities who are officially entered in the 2020 Summer Olympic sweepstakes are as follows: Madrid, Qatar, Tokyo, Istanbul and Bazu, Azerbaijan. Both Tokyo and Istanbul are multiple bridesmaids in the Olympic department. Istanbul has bid a few times for the Games, including a quest for the 1996 Summer Olympics in a fight with Toronto, Atlanta and other cities.
Qatar has made immense strides in international sports and will host the World Cup of Soccer in 2022. But I suspect the early sentimental favourite is Istanbul; as it's a perfect blend of east and west. Some events would probably be held on the European side of the city, and some in Asia. That's a nice symbol for the International Olympic Committee, which takes itself pretty seriously on these world-peace type issues, even if they are doing far too little to get Saudi Arabia to allow women athletes into the Olympics.
Rome was expected to do quite well in the race but, with Italy under such economic duress, pulled out a few days ago. Tokyo and Japan have been knocked around a bit, of course, so they'll certainly get some sympathy votes. And never underestimate the Euro-centricity of the IOC, which gives Madrid a solid shot. The city has fallen short of the podium a couple times lately, and the Spanish have some influence in the IOC, for sure. And, except for Istanbul, they have no Europe rival to deal with on the 2020 ballot. That's a big help.
The vote will take place in September, 2013.
Of course, there's something of an interest in this in Toronto, where some folks still are dreaming of a 2024 Summer Olympic bid. There's no North American city in the bidding for 2020 (as expected). Which means the door remains wide open for North America to get the Summer Games for the first time since 1996 in Atlanta, which seems like decades ago. (Wait a minute. It WAS decades ago).
The 2024 bids should be due in about four years. That gives a little time for the city of Toronto to prove itself with the 2015 Pan American Games.
Given the incredible costs of the Olympics, however, I can't see Ontario's finances - or those of the city - improving soon enough for a 2024 bid. I know Mayor Rob Ford likes these sort of things, and I see his point. The Olympics are great for city-building if done right and on budget. But a bid would have to start organizing in the next year or two to make it to the official 2024 bid stage, and the Ontario government almost certainly would have to backstop the thing. Given that massive warning shot fired across Queen's Park's bow yesterday about reduced growth and the need to slash spending, I don't think Ontario politicians are going to be too quick to embrace a Toronto Olympic bid. I could be wrong, but I think right now the optics would be just shy of terrible...
FRANKFURT AIRPORT CANCELLATION WOES
More than 1,000 flights could be disrupted today as workers strike at Frankfurt airport.
And trade union GdF is calling for another day of walkouts on Friday from the marshalling staff - airport workers who guide planes in and out, the website travelmole.com reported.
Quoting Reuters news reports, they said Lufthansa has cancelled nearly 100 flights including its London to Frankfurt service.
Its website said: "Lufthansa regrets any inconvenience to Lufthansa passengers caused by the threatened strike measures by the GdF union and will do its utmost to minimise impacts on passengers. Passenger support and service has paramount priority."
Let's hope this isn't a sign of things to come in Europe....
QANTAS MAKING OVERSEAS CUTS
Also from travelmole comes a report that Qantas is cutting 500 jobs, closing two international routes and reducing capacity on some domestic routes.
It follows the airline’s profits being hit by an industrial dispute and rising fuel costs. Qantas today reported an 83% fall in net profit to $42 million for the six months to the end of December, blaming a $194 million cost from industrial action and the grounding of its fleet, and a $444 million increase in fuel prices.
Qantas will withdraw from the loss-making Sydney-Mumbai and Auckland-Los Angeles routes, and reduce capacity on a range of routes including Sydney-Bangkok, Sydney-Perth and Melbourne-Perth by using smaller aircraft. The loss of the Qantas link from Los Angeles to Auckland is sure to be a blow to the tourism folks in New Zealand.....