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China’s ‘Golden Week’ Kicks Off in Boost to Battered Tourism Industry



Along the Great Wall, extra security guards have been deployed to deter rowdy tourists. Hotel bookings in Lhasa, the capital of Tibet, have risen 600 percent from the same period last year. In Wuhan, where the coronavirus outbreak began late last year, visitor demand for the city’s Yellow Crane Tower has been so high that the landmark sits atop a major travel agency’s list of the “Country’s Hottest Scenic Spots.”

China has kicked off Golden Week, the annual spree of shopping and travel built around the Oct. 1 National Day celebrations, and the first major holiday since the country brought its epidemic more or less under control.

In any year, the outlay of the weeklong holiday is a closely watched barometer of the country’s economic health. This year it may be especially so, offering the clearest measure yet of China’s recovery from the pandemic as people squeeze into train cars, crowd into ancient temples, and do everything else that people in many other countries can still only dream of.

The early signs seem to confirm two trends. First: China has returned to near normalcy with remarkable speed. And second: Even so, the ripple effects of the pandemic are hard to shake off.

The week will also reflect how the pandemic has reshaped travel, turning China’s increasingly global tourists back inward. Most years, millions of Chinese go overseas during the holiday, but this year, they have little option but to stay closer to home.

China’s official tourism research institute has predicted that 550 million domestic trips will be made during the eight-day holiday, which this year coincides with the Mid-Autumn Festival. Though impressive, that is still only about 70 percent of the number in the same period last year, reflecting the sizable number of people being kept home by economic insecurity or lingering fear of infection.

Official restrictions, though loosened, also remain. Tickets for Beijing’s Forbidden City are sold out, but capacity is limited to 75 percent. And even as the authorities encouraged people to get on the road, some schools said they would grant only half the week off, or required students to obtain advance permission to leave campus.

Still, the tourism industry was bracing for an onslaught.

“The energy has been pent-up for too long,” said Lisa Li, a manager at a Shanghai travel agency. “So we can predict that this National Day will not be relaxing at all.”

While the rest of the world still struggles to tame the virus, China has not reported any locally transmitted symptomatic cases since Aug. 15. Most foreigners are not allowed to enter the country unless they have valid residence permits, but inside, factories, shopping malls and even luxury auto shows have whirred back to life. Beijing recently stopped requiring people to wear face masks at all times; in Wuhan, a massive elbow-to-elbow pool party grabbed international attention.

The recovery has been enabled in part by the same strenuous, top-down tactics that Chinese officials used to control the virus. The authorities were already urging companies to get back to work in February and March, though the virus was still spreading domestically. Factories dutifully fired back up, though few consumers were buying.

Gradually, though, people’s confidence revived, and officials turned their attention toward restarting the retail and tourism sectors. Over the summer, several airlines advertised passes that would grant passengers unlimited flights within a fixed time period. Tourist attractions, especially in Wuhan, offered free admission.

The central government declared the period from Sept. 9 to Oct. 8 “National Consumer Promotion Month,” with the slogan, “Enjoy consumption for a beautiful life.”

As the holiday begins, those efforts seem to be paying off. While many lower-income people, especially migrant workers, are still struggling to find work, the middle-class and affluent Chinese who drive the country’s economy are eager to let loose.

Last year, more than seven million people left the country during Golden Week, according to the Ministry of Culture and Tourism. This year, demand for hotels in remote locations like Lhasa has soared, reflecting a desire to still find “faraway places,” according to a report by Ctrip, an online travel agency.

Moran Li and her family have not left their home city of Hangzhou, in eastern China, this year. So as Golden Week neared, Ms. Li, who works in the hotel industry, had hoped to finally make an outing. She set her sights on Sanya, a palm-tree-laden city in China’s tropical island province of Hainan.

But every hotel she checked was sold out for the holiday as well as the two weekends after. She eventually booked a room for the weekend of Oct. 30. This week, she, her husband and her 22-month-old son plan to visit her husband’s hometown not far from Hangzhou instead.

Ms. Li said she did worry about her son catching the coronavirus, but that the situation within China felt manageable. “In the end, we have to take him out eventually,” she said.

Others like Liu Zihan, 23, didn’t wait for Golden Week to set out. After graduating from college this year, Ms. Liu spent two months crisscrossing the country, taking advantage of the unlimited flights package.

She visited 17 cities, flitting from the industrial metropolis of Shenzhen in the southeast to the walled old town of Dali in the southwest, from humid Hangzhou to the arid Tibetan plateau. She recently finished her trip in Hainan, where she took advantage of duty-free policies to load up on Kiehl’s face masks and Armani lip gloss.

For the holiday, though, she planned to visit her boyfriend in the eastern city of Changzhou and stay put for the week. “There are too many people on National Day to go anywhere,” she said.

Still, the frenzy to get out belies some less rosy realities. Though the number of domestic flight passengers during Golden Week is expected to increase 10 percent from the same period last year, the average price of tickets on many routes was lower than in previous years, according to Chinese news reports citing Qunar, an online travel company.

While five hotels in the semiautonomous Chinese city of Macau were sold out for Golden Week in the beginning of September, a week later only three still were, reflecting a high volume of cancellations, according to a survey by Morgan Stanley analysts. The drop may have reflected overly optimistic projections by tour groups, the analysts said.

Ms. Li, the Shanghai travel agency employee, said that even when tour groups do go out, many are made up of older travelers, who tend to spend less money and often qualify for reduced admission prices.

Full recovery for the travel industry is still far off, she said. “Every company is desperately trying to think of how to survive, not about how to make money.”

Compounding difficulties has been many schools’ reluctance to let their students travel. Nearly 200 million Chinese students have returned to in-person learning.

Gon Hong, a Hangzhou resident, had planned to take his 10-year-old son to either Guangzhou or Chengdu for the holiday, especially because he had a coupon for a Chengdu hotel that would have included cheaper room rates and in-room dining.

But word soon circulated in a chat group for parents at his son’s school that they would need to seek permission from the school in order to take their children out of the city. Mr. Hong decided to take his son roller-skating closer to home instead.

Universities also introduced measures to limit students’ movement, sometimes at the last minute. China West Normal University, in Sichuan Province, announced on Monday that the eight-day holiday would be reduced to five nonconsecutive days for public health reasons. The first of those days, the announcement said, was Sept. 27 — the day before.

“I don’t know if I’ve been time traveling or lost my memory — how did I not know on the 27th that I was already on vacation?” one student wrote in response on Weibo, a Twitter-like platform.

Still, China’s experience suggests that consumption can bounce back fairly quickly once the virus is under control, said Zhang Tianbing, who leads the Asia-Pacific consumer products and retail team at Deloitte, the global consulting firm. “That probably gives you a bit of hope and optimism for other countries,” he said.

For his part, Mr. Zhang, who lives in Shanghai, said he had no plans to travel during the holiday. He had spent much of the year stuck in Britain because of the pandemic and returned to China only recently.

He planned to spend the next few days, he said, trying to revive his garden.

Coral Yang contributed research.

By: Vivian Wang
Title: China’s ‘Golden Week’ Kicks Off in Boost to Battered Tourism Industry
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Published Date: Thu, 01 Oct 2020 11:38:06 +0000

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What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?




People have always liked to drink on board flights, especially people from Australia. Therefore, it should be no surprise to anyone that there was an inflight bar offering in the 1970s.

Ansett Airlines were a major player in the Australian domestic market up until their demise in September 2001. For many years, there were two domestic airlines, Trans-Australia Airlines (TAA) and Ansett.

Ansett’s Inflight Bar

At the time, Ansett operated Boeing 727s, Douglas DC-9s and Fokker F27 Friendships on domestic routes in the country. Airline tickets were quite expensive, with tariffs agreed upon by both airlines thanks to Australia’s weird two-airline policy at the time.

While tickets were expensive and food complimentary, you still had to pay for a drink at the bar. Here is an inflight bar menu from the era, showing the drinks available and their prices.

Clearly the pricing is astounding by today’s standards – 30 cents for a beer? I’ll have thirty-three please! I like how Australian gin is 35c while the imported gin is just 5c more. Which would you choose?

You can tell it is from another era as you can buy cigarettes on board. These price up at 45c, a far cry from the extortionate prices people in the west pay these days for a smoke!

Overall Thoughts

The on board offering is pretty comprehensive for internal flights, and I imagine you’d be hard pressed not to find something you might like. In those times, all payments would have been by cash as well, which would have meant a lot of coinage being handled on board.

Of course, things haven’t changed too much over the years. On many airlines you pay for your drinks just as they did back in the 1970s. Shame the prices aren’t the same of course!

Did you ever buy drinks on board flights from the inflight bar back in the day? Do you still? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by Daniel Tanner on via Wikimedia Commons.
Menu image by Ikara on Australian Frequent Flyer.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: What could you order from Ansett Airlines’ inflight bar in the early 1970s?
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Published Date: Thu, 19 Nov 2020 15:03:14 +0000

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These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?




The shrimp stop swimming at dusk and gather near the river’s edge. After sunset, they begin to climb out of the water. Then they march. All night long, the inch-long crustaceans parade along the rocks.

The parading shrimp of northeastern Thailand have inspired legends, dances and even a statue. (Locals also eat them.) During the rainy season, between late August and early October, tourists crowd the riverbanks with flashlights to watch the shrimp walk.

Watcharapong Hongjamrassilp first learned about the parading shrimp, and the hundred thousand or more tourists who come each year to see them, about 20 years ago. When he started studying biology, he returned to the topic. “I realized that we know nothing about this,” he said: What species are they? Why and how do they leave the safety of the water to walk upstream on dry land? Where are they going?

Mr. Hongjamrassilp, a graduate student at the University of California, Los Angeles, decided to answer those questions himself. His findings appeared this month in the Journal of Zoology.

Working with wildlife center staff members, Mr. Hongjamrassilp staked out nine sites along a river in Thailand’s Ubon Ratchathani province. They found shrimp parading at two of the sites — a stretch of rapids, and a low dam.

The videos they recorded revealed that the shrimp paraded from sundown to sunup. They traveled up to 65 feet upstream. Some individual shrimp stayed out of the water for 10 minutes or more.

“I was so surprised,” Mr. Hongjamrassilp said, “because I never thought that a shrimp can walk that long.” Staying in the river’s splash zone may help them keep their gills wet, so they can keep taking in oxygen. He also observed that the shells of the shrimp seem to trap a little water around their gills, like a reverse dive helmet.

DNA analysis from captured shrimp showed that nearly all belonged to the species Macrobrachium dienbienphuense, part of a genus of shrimp that live mostly or fully in freshwater. Many Macrobrachiumspecies spend part of their lives migrating upstream to their preferred habitats.

Most parading shrimp that Mr. Hongjamrassilp captured were young. Observations and lab experiments showed that these shrimp probably leave the water when the flow becomes too strong for them. Larger adult shrimp can handle a stronger current without washing away, so they’re less likely to leave the water.

Walking on land is dangerous for the little shrimp, even under cover of darkness. Predators including frogs, snakes and large spiders lurk nearby, Mr. Hongjamrassilp says. “Literally, they wait to eat them along the river.”

And the shrimp can survive on land for only so long. If the parading crustaceans lose their way, they may dry out and die before they get back to the river. A few times, Mr. Hongjamrassilp came across groups of lost shrimp dead on the rocks, their once-translucent bodies baked pink.

Yet most navigate upstream successfully, and scientists have spotted other freshwater shrimp around the world performing similar feats, scaling dams and even climbing waterfalls.

Leaving the water when the swimming gets tough may have helped these animals spread to new habitats over their evolutionary history, Mr. Hongjamrassilp said. Today, the number of parading shrimp in Thailand seems to be declining. He thinks tourist activity may be a factor, and learning more about the shrimp might help protect them.

The study’s authors made “some really excellent observations,” said Alan Covich, an ecologist at the University of Georgia who was not involved in the research. But understanding why the Ubon Ratchathani shrimp move upstream, and how far they travel, will require more research, he said.

“The most surprising thing to me was that it attracted so many tourists,” Dr. Covich said. He doesn’t know of any other example of people gathering to appreciate a crustacean in quite the same way.

“We have crayfish festivals, we have all kinds of things,” Dr. Covich said, “but generally it’s people eating them, not watching them move.”

By: Elizabeth Preston
Title: These Shrimp Leave the Safety of Water and Walk on Land. But Why?
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Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 17:02:07 +0000

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Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?




There are reports that Aer Lingus have applied for 1,500 slots at Manchester Airport for the Summer 2021 season. This will allow the airline to base four aircraft there and service flights to the United States.

At present, there have been no press releases from the airline stating what is going on. Even so, it probably makes sense for the Irish airline to do this in the current market.

Aer Lingus And Manchester

From what is known, there will be three Airbus A321LRs and an A330 based at Manchester. These will operate non-stop services to New York JFK, Boston, Chicago and Orlando, and the season starts on 28 March 2021.

With Thomas Cook having gone out of business, there is likely space for another competitor. New York and Orlando will see competition from Virgin Atlantic, while the other two routes have no airline flying at the moment.

Aer Lingus has been connecting passengers over Dublin very successfully from the UK regions for a while now. Due to this, they will have visibility on traffic patterns, potential yields and more, making this an informed decision.

I imagine they also hope to cream off some of the connecting traffic that routes through London Heathrow on British Airways and Amsterdam on KLM among others. It would prove to be quite successful.

Transatlantic Joint Venture Approval

The US Department of Transport has tentatively given its approval for Aer Lingus to join the oneworld transatlantic joint business. This is operated by American Airlines, British Airways, Iberia and Finnair.

These airlines coordinate schedules and pricing, share revenues and expenses. For the consumer, it means more choice – those making a booking on British Airways across the Atlantic will also see options on American Airlines on the BA web site as one example.

Theoretically, it would allow people seeking flights on the British Airways web site to automatically be given options to fly non-stop with Aer Lingus, along with the Manchester-London Heathrow-US city connecting itinerary.

Whether Aer Lingus will join the oneworld alliance, even in a oneworld connect capacity remains to be seen. Frequent flyers would welcome it, especially those in Ireland.

Overall Thoughts

No doubt the boffins have been working behind the scenes to see if the business case for transatlantic flights from Manchester stack up. As things have proceeded as far as a slot application, I would guess chances are good that it will go ahead.

Either way, let’s see if this happens and if it does, whether Aer Lingus will stay for the long haul. If they can make more money elsewhere, they’ll up sticks and leave. Regardless, it is an interesting development in European aviation.

What do you think of Aer Lingus starting transatlantic services from Manchester? Thank you for reading and if you have any comments or questions, please leave them below.

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Featured image by N509FZ via Wikimedia Commons.
Aer Lingus A321neo LR by Pitmanaaron via Wikimedia Commons.
Business class cabin via One Mile At A Time.

By: The Flight Detective
Title: Will Aer Lingus launch transatlantic flights from Manchester?
Sourced From:
Published Date: Wed, 18 Nov 2020 18:03:48 +0000

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