Fast and free in-flight Wi-Fi
Last year Emirates trialled a free Wi-Fi service onboard its aircraft and president Sir Tim Clark expressed a desire to roll it out permanently. Thailand’s Nok Air has also started offering a free service. As we have seen with the hotel industry, if one major company starts offering free Wi-Fi, others will follow suit. And with aircraft Wi-Fi providers like Gogo rolling out faster in-flight connections, it might not be too long before air passengers are offered fast and free Wi-Fi, whichever airline they choose to fly with.
Lower airfares, higher hotel rates
The recent slump in global oil prices may not be great news for Russia, but it’s excellent for air travellers. IATA predicts that global average air fares will fall about 5% this year, as the hated fuel surcharges are reduced. Any savings travellers make however, will likely go towards their hotel bills. Across the world, rising demand for hotel rooms is outpacing the addition of new supply, driving up global occupancy and rates. And what impact will short-term rental sites like AirBnB have on the long-term future of the hotel sector?
With a series of major hotel groups, including Marriott and Starwood, having launched online check-in and mobile room key technology, could we be experiencing the beginning of the end of the hotel reception desk? Hilton even launched a new tool that allows guests to choose their exact rooms from digital floor plans, like aircraft seat selection grids. We believe such innovations could be popular with modern budget brands, who want to reduce staff costs. It will be interesting to see what further innovations are launched in 2015.
Easier ASEAN travel
The ASEAN Economic Community comes into force this year, potentially revolutionising travel in Southeast Asia. But what will really change? The launch of the long-discussed single ASEAN tourist visa seems as far away as ever, although several countries are making bi- and trilateral deals. Progress on the ASEAN Open Skies agreement appears to be similarly sluggish, but that is not stopping several airlines expanding, and even establishing overseas bases with local partners. Perhaps it won’t be a revolution, but 2015 will still be a watershed year for ASEAN.
Who’s next for Etihad?
Etihad Airways’ bid for global domination gathered pace this year, with the acquisition of a 49% stake in Alitalia and the launch of its new alliance, Etihad Partners. So who’s next on the airline’s radar? Speculation that Etihad could be ready to make a bid for Malaysia Airlines was rebuffed earlier this year, but a move into Southeast Asia would mark a logical step. Africa could also be a potential area of interest.
Ultra low-cost carriers
First it was low-cost carriers, then hybrid airlines. And 2015 will see the launch of Jetlines, a new Canadian airline that is marketing itself as an “ultra low-cost carrier”. With no-frills flights on routes that are not served by rival airlines, the carrier believes it can carve a unique space for itself. Travel Daily’s belief however, is that with more airlines trying to maximise ancillary revenues, the distinction between full-service, hybrid, low-cost, and even ultra low-cost carriers, will become increasingly murky in future.
It’s fair to say that 2014 was a pretty miserable year for Thailand’s tourism industry, with protests, a coup, nationwide curfew and martial law hitting visitor numbers. So what will this year bring? We predict that Thailand’s famous ability to rebound will be demonstrated once again, with a continued surge in Chinese arrivals driving the recovery. But the TAT’s efforts to spread visitors to more far-flung corners of the country will likely fall on deaf ears, with new visitors likely to cluster in popular tourist areas like Bangkok, Phuket, Krabi and Chiang Mai.
Aman about town
Luxury resort operator Aman recently launched its first ever city hotel in Tokyo, and plans to continue its urban expansion in the months and years ahead. Russian tycoon and self-confessed “Aman junkie” Vladislav Doronin bought the brand recently and has big plans for his new toy. Doronin said he is already in “active discussions” for new Aman city hotels in New York, London, Paris and Singapore. Guests can expect the same stylish luxury Aman has become famous for, but in trendy urban boutique-style properties.
Cheap Chinese getaways
The emergence of Chinese outbound tourism is not a new thing (100 million and counting), but we could be about to experience a new wave of ex-mainland traveller. Easing of regulations governing the creation of new airlines led to a slew of new Chinese passenger carriers in 2014, including new low-cost options (Guangzhou’s 9 Air, pictured, is promoting fares from just CNY9, or US$1.50). Destinations in Northeast and Southeast Asia, plus Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau, can expect an even bigger Chinese influx in 2015.
Will we ever find flight MH370?
The disappearance of flight MH370 in March 2014 has become one of the aviation industry’s – if not the world’s – great mysteries. And while it is no longer making headlines, the search for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet continues in the Indian Ocean, where Australian, Malaysian, Chinese and Dutch teams are scanning and scouring the seabed for evidence. Unfortunately, having been lost for so long it seems unlikely that we will ever truly know what happened to the ill-fated flight.