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Vol. XV No. 12
Friday March 23 - March 29, 2007


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HEADLINES [click on headline to view story]: 

Skål Asia to meet in Macau

New airports - teething or biting problems

Skål Asia to meet in Macau

by Andrew Wood,
Skål Int’l Councillor-Thailand

“It is absolutely unprecedented “, said Earl Wieman, Skål International Asia President when he started to describe the development of Macau’s tourism infrastructure.
“Tiny Macau with a population of just 500,000 will attract over 22 million tourists in 2007. It is therefore not surprising that the world’s major hotel developers are lining up to invest in Macau’s bright future”, he added.

Despite recent heavy development, Macau still retains much of it classic colonial architecture.

During our visit, with other members of the 36th Skål Asian Area organising committee, it was very evident that Macau is expanding its tourism potential in many ways and not just gambling. With an average length of stay of just over 1 day, the former Portuguese colony is keen to expand its MICE and cultural potential and to increase the average stay to 3.5 days within 3 years. And if all the development and new convention space is anything to go by, they may well exceed this goal in record time.
The Skål International Macau President Nuno Jorges and HE Joao Manuel Costa Antunes, Director of the Macau Government Tourist Office (MGTO) were enthusiastic in their promotion of Macau. “Twenty-two million visitors represent almost three times the number of visitors before the handover in 1999”, Jorges commented.
The numbers of newly increased direct flights from AirAsia, Tiger and VIVA Macau have all helped boost accessibility.
The ever-changing skyline of Macau is gathering speed. Wynn, Sands, the Venetian, Galaxy Star World, Stanley Ho’s new 47 storeys Grand Lisboa and Richard Branson’s US$3.75 billion casino join Macau Studio City, Asia’s first leisure resort combining theatre, TV and film facilities with gaming and entertainment. The complex also includes 2,000 world-class rooms from Ritz Carlton, and Marriott including the Tang Hotel by designer David Tang.
“We want to also establish cultural tourism, promoting Macau as a multi-faceted destination,” says Mr. Antunes. The Macau Grand Prix, the International Music festival and the International Fireworks Competition are all well established in the annual line-up of non-gaming activities. With hordes of MICE visitors soon expected to descend on the tiny former Portuguese colony, arrivals are expected to continue to soar. Revenues have already reputedly exceeded those in Las Vegas.
During 25-28th May 2007, senior travel industry professionals are set to gather for the Skal Asian Area Assembly. The MGTO is pushing out all the stops to make sure this top industry event receives the red carpet roll out.
The headquarters hotel has been specifically chosen with this in mind. The Star World hotel was turning heads even before it opened. With its high tech colorful exterior and unusual design by architect Rocco Yim, it looks unlike anything else in Macau and at 38 floors is the territory’s tallest hotel. The lobby is truly magnificent and owners Galaxy of Hong Kong have ensured that the bedrooms and corridors have a high tech feel also with black wall tiles with “starry” lights built-in. The rooms themselves also make the most of natural light with massive windows that due to the full-length glass walls, lets light flood the entire bedroom and bathroom space.
For anyone requiring further details on the 36th Skål Asian Area Congress please go to Web Site

The stunning Star World Hotel will play host to the 36th Skal Asian Area Congress in May.

New airports - teething or biting problems

By Sue K
Six months into full operations, Suvarnabhumi Airport still captures daily headlines in national newspapers with plaguing problems of runway cracks and infrastructure breakdowns. Some wonder if this is the only airport in the world that harvests so many mishaps and scandals.

Pattaya Mail and PMTV’s roving reporter Sue K chats with Hans Joachim Klohs, Vice President of Operational Planning at Munich Airport

Pattaya Mail’s roving reporter in Munich met with Mr. Hans Joachim Klohs, the Vice President Central Infrastructure Traffic and Operational Planning of Munich Airport, who was part of the team helping to organize the transfer of operations from Don Muang to Suvarnabhumi (ORAT)
The visit also included a tour of the behind the scenes operations at Munich Airport, kindly provided by Mr. Werner Hoesler, Senior Operational Planner.
Munich Airport, Franz Josef Strauss began its official operations on May 17, 1992, twelve years after the construction first began in 1980, and almost 30 years after the final agreement in 1963 to build and move to a new airport from the old one called Munich - Riem.

The main reasons for a new airport are overloaded capacity, the proximity to the center risks, and growing aircraft noise problems.
The new Munich Airport construction did not altogether lie on a bed of roses. Among the many obstacles it faced, the major one was the order from the Bavaria’s regional administrative court to terminate construction work, citing excessive land requirements as the primary reason for its ruling.
Thus, many compromises had to be made, including making amendments to the original planning and settling for a substantial reduction in the land requirement, which resulted in two runways instead of three.
The amended planning documents were then made available for public comment in the district communities around the airport site.
The construction ban was lifted and the work resumed in 1985. In the meantime, the higher Bavaria court in Munich rejected 14 appeals, declaring in the third and final instances that the plans for the new Munich airport were lawful.
Then came the trial operations at the end of 1991, six months before the opening.
How did Munich’s development compare to Suvarnabhumi airport?
Mr. Klohs explained in his interview earlier last year: “In Munich, we worked for the capacity of 16 million passengers (in 2006, it reached 30 million for two terminals), while for Suvarnabhumi, it was for 45 million. But the obstacles are similar everywhere. We were always running against time to make it for the opening while construction was still going on and other issues had to be dealt with.
In Munich airport, 8 weeks before the opening, construction completion did not even look as good as Suvarnabhumi during the same period.
“For a period of around six months after the official opening, there was constant work on what we call ‘teething problems’. A tweak here, adjustments there, and even some repairs had to be made, but in the end it works,” said Mr. Klohs humbly.
“It works” is understated and modest.
On October 26, 1995, Deutsche Lufthansa announced plans to develop Munich Airport as its second hub, and in 2001, for the first time, Munich and Frankfurt ranked as functionally equivalent airports in a parallel ‘hub’ system.
In 2003, Terminal 2 opened.
Slow but steady has developed into fast and solid, as future projects take shape and are already on the 2007 table: By 2012 a third runway construction will be finished, by 2011 the first satellite expansion of Terminal 2 (25 aircraft stands linked with Terminal 2 by underground people mover) will also be complete, and by 2012 an advanced Maglev train will connect the airport with the main railway station downtown
And if you are still not convinced about their success, read on:
Skytrax World Airport Awards 2006 ranks Munich as “Best Quality of Service” in Europe, and number 3 in the world.
First on the list was Singapore and second came Hong Kong. Suvarnabhumi was not listed, but rated as a three star airport.
The awards are based on the annual Airport Survey conducted by Skytrax, an independent air transport research body. Passengers were asked to measure more than 40 aspects of customer satisfaction for airport product and service standards at more than 165 airports around the world, ranging from ease of catching connecting flights to the cleanliness of restrooms and security checks.
Munich Airport is at number one for: “Overall service efficiency, the ease of the transit process, variety of facilities and ground transportation options.”
“We will keep improving to make the airport experience here more friendly and efficient,” said Mr. Klohs.
Coming back to our own “Air Hub of Asia” dream. What is it that other great airports have that we don’t? If we argue that as Munich is in Europe, so the budget and standards are different then what about Singapore and Hong Kong? Did they invest more money in their airports than us, and did they never face glitches and problems? Hardly. Maybe, just maybe, it is only that these aforementioned countries take their issues seriously and strive to become successful, advanced and recognized in a positive way.
We cannot expect to receive recognition because we project ourselves to be the biggest, the best, or the first (or even have the tallest tower). Recognition has to be earned, and one can only earn it through action not words.
Regardless of whether Suvarnabhumi airport is going through its teething or biting problems - stemming from a lack of proper planning (over 40 years), corruption or ignorance - we still cannot deny that it is a national issue that has to be dealt with, and urgently so. A lot is at stake: image, economy, trust, and most of all safety.
And it is no use to point the finger of blame at one another. It’s time to get the real experts’ brains out on the table, nationally or internationally and to come up with a solution.
Only then can the Thai people be really proud of their new airport. Not just because of its great towers of glass and steel, but also because of the solidarity and sincerity of those people responsible for taking whatever action is needed. Action to make sure that Suvarnabhumi airport not only stays, but most importantly that it actually works.

The superstructure of Bangkok’s Suvarnabhumi International Airport.

Munich Airport was voted “Best Quality of Service” airport in Europe, and number 3 in the world at the Skytrax World Airport Awards 2006.

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