Travel News Asia This Week

HONG KONG – Next week is Chinese New Year and marks the start of the new lunar calendar for the Year of the Horse, or Year 4699 by the Chinese calendar. The first day of the new year is Tuesday, February 12 and various airlines have added extra flights to cope with demand in the region. Business travellers should be aware that offices are likely to be closed from next Monday until the third day of Chinese New Year next Thursday. However, official public holidays are likely to vary from country to country, with some declared as early as this week, and travellers should check with authorities at the particular destination.

HONG KONG – Finnair has introduced new flights from Helsinki to Hong Kong, which start tomorrow, February 7, in time for Chinese New Year. Finnair's first flight to its new destination departs at 11.30pm in honour of the Chinese New Year. The first Finnair touchdown in Hong Kong is scheduled to take place on Friday, February 8 at 7.35pm. However, the airline says scheduled flights officially begin on February 15 and will operate three times a week via Bangkok. The departure days from Helsinki are Monday, Wednesday and Friday at 11.30pm, with flights arriving in Hong Kong at 7.35pm the next day. Flights from Hong Kong to Helsinki depart at 9.50pm on Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays, arriving in Helsinki at 7am the next morning. Finnair says the timetable allows easy connections to South Asia and the rest of the world. China Airlines has also added hundreds of extra flights for Chinese New Year, lasting until February 28.

GENEVA – International air traffic in 2001 fell for the first time in 10 years, with the number of passengers slumping four per cent compared to 2000, the International Air Transport Association has reported. According to newly-released IATA Monthly International Statistics, the number of passengers taking international flights dropped nearly 12 per cent in December 2001 alone, the IATA said in a statement. The volume of passengers and freight fell by nearly six per cent over 2001 as a whole, marking the first year-on-year decline since 1991, according to the Geneva-based IATA. In addition, the World Trade Organisation (WTO) has reported that the last four months of 2001 suffered a drop of 11 per cent in arrivals worldwide and substantial decreases in every region, including a drop of 24 per cent in South Asia. On a bright note, international arrivals to East Asia and the Pacific grew by 4 per cent in 2001, although the pre-September 11 growth rate was more than twice that much. The best performing destinations included China (+6 per cent), Hong Kong (+5 per cent), Malaysia (+23 per cent), and Thailand (+4 per cent). Several destinations were affected by economic problems in Japan, which accounts for 17 per cent of the region's tourism. Japanese outbound tourism fell by an estimated 4-6 per cent in 2001. WTO Secretary-General Francesco Frangialli says: September, October and November were a disaster for international travel. But we have indications that December was not as bad and these statistics do not reflect the dramatic changes in travel habits in the fourth quarter of 2001, as many tourists substituted domestic trips for international travel.

SINGAPORE – United Airlines has announced it will restore in April about 120 flights which were cancelled after the travel downturn last year. In Asia, the following changes apply. Daily service will be resumed between Hong Kong and Singapore from April 7 this year, served by United's B747-400 aircraft. The service will depart Hong Kong at 8.15pm from April 7, arriving in Singapore at 11.50pm. The first Singapore departure will be on April 8 at 6.45am, arriving in Hong Kong at 10.30am. In addition, United will add new nonstop service from Tokyo to Taipei (from April 18) and reinstate service on several routes, including Chicago-Beijing and Hong Kong-Singapore. Several other routes will see extra frequencies, including a second Chicago-Tokyo route and a third Tokyo-Seoul route. Singapore Airlines (SIA) has also added seat capacity on the Singapore-Kuala Lumpur and Singapore-Penang routes, until February 17, to cater to demand over Chinese New Year.

TOKYO – All Nippon Airways has introduced a new class of seating – Premium Economy – on international flights, which has business class features. The new service starts from April 2 on its daily Tokyo-London service, with the product extended to other European and North American flights. Reservations for the service start on February 12. ANA says Premium Economy will offer a higher degree of comfort in an entirely independent section. Seat pitch and width have been increased by about 20 per cent over normal economy class and each seat will come equipped with portable computer power ports, audio and video on demand, a large footrest and priority check-in service at Narita airport.

SYDNEY – A new website booking service has been launched by the budget Accor motel group Formule 1. Guests will be able to book their accommodation online and receive instant confirmation of their booking via email, view information about all Formule 1 hotels in Australia and access Accor's other hotels in Australia, New Zealand and New Caledonia via a link to Accor's Australian website. All rooms feature a queen bed, single bunk, remote control television, alarm clock radio and en-suite bathroom. Rates start from as low as $A45 ($US22) per night for up to three people and $59 in city areas. There are currently 12 Formule 1 hotels around Australia.

SINGAPORE – Singapore Airlines (SIA) has announced more changes to its international routes, following improvements in the travel sector. In Asia, from March 31 this year, SIA will add two B777 services a week from Singapore to Shanghai, making a total of 12 B777 services a week to the Chinese destination. Services between Singapore and Osaka via Bangkok, which were earlier reduced from daily to five times a week, will also be reinstated to daily from March 31 this year. In addition, a third weekly service to Hiroshima will be reintroduced from April 28 this year. Meanwhile, the Singapore-Amsterdam-New York (Newark Airport) service which late last year was reduced to three weekly from four a week will have a fourth weekly service (every Tuesday) reinstated from March 19 this year. The Singapore-Taipei-LA service which was reduced from daily to five times a week, has reverted to daily operation from February 1, 2002. Also, the Singapore-Tokyo-LA service which was reduced from a daily to five a week, will revert to a daily operation from March 31, 2002.

KUALA LUMPUR – The Pan Pacific Hotel KLIA, located at KL International Airport, has announced meetings and seminar packages for business travellers. For RM68 (US$17) per person, travellers can enjoy a full day meeting and seminar package from 9am to 5pm. The package includes complimentary use of a meeting room, lunch, morning and afternoon coffee and tea, discounted accommodation rates and meetings equipment. For RM56 per person, travellers can also take advantage of a half day meetings and seminar package from 9am to 12 noon or 2pm to 5pm. The package includes complimentary use of a meeting room, lunch, morning or afternoon coffee and tea, discounted accommodation rates and meetings equipment.