International Travel News

Biofuel jumbo completes successful flight
The quest to make aviation more eco-friendly took a major step forward recently after the successful completion of the world’s first flight powered by second-generation biofuel.

The Air New Zealand Boeing 747 took off from Auckland at midnight for a two-hour test flight, powered with a 50-50 mix of jet fuel and jatropha tree oil in one of its four engines. No modifications to the engine were needed.

Air New Zealand’s chief pilot, David Morgan, who was on the test flight told The Guardian: “We achieved everything we wanted to achieve and it as a significant milestone for the aviation industry, doing the very first jatropha-fuelled flight. We’re thrilled.” The airline plans to source 10 per cent of its fuel from sustainable sources by 2013. Elsewhere in the industry plans are also gathering apace to test the second generation of biofuels. Continental plans to run a test flight over the Gulf of Mexico with fuel derived form algae.

Airlines can not use first-generation biofuels because these would freeze at high altitude. In addition, second-generation biofuels are made from plants that do not compete with food crops.
Air New Zealand’s jatropha nut biofuel was pre-tested to show that it was suitable for airplanes, freezing at -47C and burning at 38C.

Companies teamed up to offset carbon emissions

Europcar and easyJet teamed up in January for an initiative to raise customer awareness of the benefits of carbon offsetting. Customers who booked vehicle rental through and in January had their emissions offset by the two partner companies.

For each rental reserved during that period, Europcar and easyJet made a financial contribution to projects of ClimateCare, a leading global carbon offset provider.

The financial support will be used to fund activities to combat climate change and reduce emissions. With experts in stretching from Sydney and New York to Mauritius and Santiago, the UK-based ClimateCare has over 50 projects across the developing world, funding low-carbon technologies with social and environmental benefits. Both Europcar and easyJet already have carbon calculators and offset programmes available on their respective websites for reservations. Coming during the peak reservation period, this new action is designed to make consumers even more aware of the role they can play in protecting the environment.

Europcar is a pioneer of addressing sustainability in car rental. Ten years ago it opened an “environmental station” in Paris. It was also the first car rental company in Europe to offer hybrid and electric cars, and constantly updates its fleet with new, cleaner-energy models.

In June, it become the first European company to have its Environmental Charter Certified by Bureau Veritas Certification, which is regarded a crucial benchmark for developing a sustainable business. The company has also launched an electronic rental contract system which substantially reduces paper consumption. Europcar was also voted “World’s Leading Green Transport Solution Company” at the World Travel Awards.

easyJet is launching 14 new routes across Europe for summer 2009. Nine of the services will operate from UK regional airports, including Newcastle-Malta, Liverpool-Naples and Bristol-Bastia. As part of the expansion, easyJet will base an additional aircraft at Liverpool from 1 June 2009 and at Manchester from 4 August 2009.

Hotel chains across Europe feel the pinch
Chain hotels across Europe’s major cities are suffering the fall-out from companies cutting back on employee travel. Occupancy, revenue and profit per available room in November 2007 fell in all of the ten cities surveyed by TRI Hospitality Consulting compared to the same month a year earlier.

The global economic slowdown and consequent decrease in international travel caused substantial falls in operating profit, also known as income before fixed charges (IBFC).
Jonathan Langston, Managing Director, TRI Hospitality Consulting said: “November was the first month that many companies implemented new restrictions on travel for their employees. For hoteliers, in addition to the trips not made, this also meant short-notice cancellations.”

The HotStats sample of branded hotels in Amsterdam reported the greatest decrease in profit – a 37.6 per cent fall in IBFC to €58.72 per available room. Average occupancy in the Dutch capital fell by 15.8 percentage points to 69.1 per cent and average room rate was down by 6.3 per cent to €165.71. The leisure market also took a hit, with destinations such as Amsterdam, Prague and Vienna hosting fewer hen and stag or cultural overnights. Hoteliers reported that tour groups from the US were getting cancelled due to lack of participants.

In absolute terms, Paris reported the highest daily room sales of €157.86 per available room and London was in second place with a daily figure of €150.13. Regarding profit, the reverse was true, London was the most profitable hotel market with daily IBFC of €120.06 per available room compared to Paris in second place with a daily figure of €81.10 per available room.

Abu Dhabi to open tourism body for UAE
The Emirate of Abu Dhabi is launching a federal tourism body to promote and further tourism on a national level.

President, His Highness Shaikh Khalifa bin Zayed Al Nahyan, has established the new agency, which will focus on enhancing all aspects of tourism across the seven emirates.
Bilal Bodour, Undersecretary at the Ministry of Culture, said: “A federal decree has been issued. Our next step is to chalk out the details of how this department would work.”
He added: “Since this is going to be a national tourism authority, we will probably have representatives from each of the seven emirates’ tourism entities working with us”.