Miscellaneous Ramblings by Tony Clegg-Butt

Posted on June 4th, 2012
Categories: News

A well known travel mandarin was wringing his hands the other day over the decision by Virgin Atlantic to cease flying to Kenya from the end of September. ‘It’s massively negative and sends out all the wrong signals to our source markets’ he said.

‘Hang on a minute’ I said. There is an excess of capacity on routes to and from Kenya and for that matter East Africa. Virgin in a good week, they had advertised daily flights but in recent times only operated five a week, offered a paltry 2,460 weekly round-trip seats.

This is a drop in the bucket when you look at all the new airlines serving this marketplace such as Etihad, Gulf, Qatar and Turkish. Added to the mix are additional flight frequencies and larger aircraft from the likes of Brussels Airlines, Swiss and KLM, which cumulatively amount to more than 8,354 round-trip seats per week. If you then factor in Kenya Airways now with eleven non-stop flights a week to London, plus daily flights to Amsterdam and service to both Paris and Rome, British Airways if rumour is to be believed who will upgrade equipment from a 777 to a 747 to cash in on Virgin’s exit both in cargo and passenger traffic. Not forgetting Emirates with double-daily wide-body flights to Dubai and the world.

Plenty of seats, perhaps a premium to be paid for non-stop service, who knows, market forces will dictate what we pay. Although these days the actual fare is usually much less than the total price you pay, taxes, surcharges and fees now make up the bulk of any airfare anywhere.

But for how long is the question? Global economic uncertainties indicate that we might see up to a 40% drop in tourist arrivals for the remainder of 2012. A fact born out by Suresh Sofat the founder of Somak Travel, who in a recent UK travel media interview revealed that after bringing 12,000 tourists to Kenya in 2011, he expected that number to drop to 7,000 for 2012 which equates to the aforementioned 40% drop.

People have asked me why Virgin couldn’t make a ‘go’ of it on their flights to and from Kenya. I’d hazard a guess that the primary reason is that they have no connectivity at either end of the route and rely heavily on what is termed origin and destination traffic.  Whereas KLM, BA, Swiss, KQ, Brussels and all the Middle Eastern airlines offer massive connectivity over their hub cities.

On a recent trip on KLM, I was one of about twenty people whose destination was Amsterdam, the rest of the fully loaded 747 were destined elsewhere.

I was there on a business trip (honest) and had to arrive a day early due to flights being full, which gave me a free day to explore the city which I last visited as a wide-eyed twenty something year old. A canal cruise was obligatory, museums and art galleries received cursory visits, a beer at the Dam Square and lots of wandering aimlessly around taking in the sights and sounds of this vibrant city.

I happened upon the city’s world famous red light district, which seemed less enthralling than the last time I visited. Perhaps it’s an age thing.

What really fascinated me were the many coffee shops that do a roaring trade in cannabis. So trying to be an objective journalist, I went into full investigative mode when I sheepishly visited one such establishment. Aladdin’s den comes to mind, the air pungent with the many different aromas of cannabis, dark with little light, seedy, lots of very happy people and believe it or not a decent cup of coffee. Weed from around the world, but all I’m assured grown under supervised conditions in Holland. From Africa why not try Ethiopian Gold, Malawi Red or Senegal Skunk. There is even a star rating from super mild stuff to numb bombers. Folk sip their coffee and smoke their joints all in the open and no one takes any notice.

The Dutch government is trying to limit the sale of cannabis in these cafes to residents only. However those opposed to this point out that Holland was the first western country to legalise prostitution by bringing it out into the open many years ago .They reason why drive the cannabis culture underground, fair argument you’d have to say. But the real truth is that government collects many many millions of Euros in taxes from both these endeavours. Therefore you can rest assured that change is not expected anytime soon.

Finally, here is a NEW internet word which describes so many things across a broad swath of our world. Soon to be in Websters.

Ineptocracy (in-ep-toc ‘-ra-cy) – A system of government where the least capable to lead are elected by the least capable of producing, and where the members of society least likely to sustain themselves or succeed, are rewarded with goods and services paid for by the confiscated wealth of a diminishing number of producers.

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