27 January 2011
Each week Luke McCormick, Wexas Channel Editor, provides an inside look at the latest headlines and gives his independent, expert comment.
This week: Skiing in Japan, travel to suit you and airline consolidations.
Japan is often overlooked as a winter ski destination in favour of more familiar resorts in Europe and North America, but for those in the know it provides some of the best powder in the world: all freshly blown in off the back of storms from Siberia.
The slopes are refreshingly free of crowds and the natural onsen spas only add to the experience. The area around Niseko on the northern island of Hakkaido is also benefiting from huge investment with the aim of creating an ’Aspen of the East’.
"There is already plenty of world-class accommodation close to the slopes in Niseko, so when the full project is completed expect Japan’s pure powder to be firmly on the global ski radar."
Plus, there is the opportunity to combine a ski break with a cultural tour to any part of Japan, particularly the capital Tokyo.
Experience 7 nights of Niseko’s incredible powder and the amazing luxury of the Niseko Hilton until the end of March 2011 from £1649 per person with flights. Saving £250.
All Wexas Japan specialists can put together tailor-made tours throughout the land of the rising sun, so do call for a quote.
Accepted wisdom suggests people travel to learn, gather experience or simply escape. But how about travelling to improve your wardrobe?
Naples, Italy is a capital of fine tailoring, famed for the shirts produced in the city. Why not combine a sartorial sojourn in Naples with a seaside break in Sorrento?
Milan may be the face of Italy’s much-hyped fashion industry, but Naples is its heart and soul. The city’s bespoke tailors are legendary and once drew Italian kings to their studios, or camicerias.
Their success is based on traditional, handmade production, great fabrics and acute attention to detail and form. The classic Neapolitan shirt is likely to feature fine Italian, Swiss or Irish cottons, hand-stitched collar, yoke and sleeve and hand-sewn buttonholes.
"Sure, you could easily stop off on London’s Savile Row for a bespoke shirt, but surely the appeal of great tailoring is the story attached to an outfit, no? The source of the material, where it was measured and cut, the tailor involved - all weave together to become the true fabric of the outfit."
If you do decide to extend your wardrobe in Naples, try Anna Matuozzo, Finamore, Mariano Rubinacci or Marinella.
In the Far East, Hong Kong is a great place to pick up a bespoke suit, as Wexas Honorary President Michael Palin found out during filming for his BBC series, Around the World in 80 Days.
Sam’s Tailor in Tsim Sha Tsui, Kowloon can produce a bespoke suit in 24 hours. The suit maker is known and loved by the rich, famous and powerful crowd throughout the world.
As Palin said, ‘Sam’s shop is no Savile Row salon. It’s a cramped narrow unit in a featureless arcade, but its fame is worldwide.’
"It’s full of westerners who’ve maybe heard about the place from Henry Kissinger or Cyrus Vance or Bob Hawke or Prince Charles or David Bowie or Derek Nimmo or George Michael or any of the illustrious names who appear in photos displayed around the mirror at which you have your fitting."
In the Austrian capital Vienna, renowned shoemaker Ludwig Reiter has been hand stitching leather and Goodyear-welted shoes in classic Viennese style since 1885. The company, whose production, storage and office space is now located in the historic castle Schloss Süßenbrunn, even produced pieces for King Ottokar and the Prince of Homburg.
The fourth generation family-run enterprise has developed a wide range of high-grade casual shoes, fine leather goods and other accessories. The shoes are carefully made by hand and most of the styles can be produced as an individual private order.
Could a pair of Ludwig Reiter suede espadrilles or Salesian’s with side buckle be the most stylish answer to the challenge of passing through rigorous airport security in a breeze?
This week saw the floating of a new airline on the London Stock Exchange.
International Airlines Group (IAG) was created as a result of the recent British Airways/Iberia merger and is, according to accountancy giant KPMG, a ‘historic event’ marking the start of a ‘new era in airline consolidation’.
Dr. Ashley Steel, KPMG’s global chair for transport, ahead of IAG’s first day of trading of shares, said: "For the newly created airline group IAG it [the merger] provides the platform for mergers and acquisitions of other carriers thereby creating the world’s first truly global airline."
"Consolidation in the global airline industry will undoubtedly increase as the pressures on costs and revenues in the present economic climate continue. Despite the regulatory constraints placed on the industry many airlines are already working together to a degree they have never done before, simply because they have to," he said.
"Airline cooperation can be thought of as a continuum, with stand alone airlines at one end serving only their own routes on their own metal, ranging to a full airline merger at the other. In between there exists a range of levels of cooperation between carriers, all with the aim of either increasing revenue opportunities, or sharing costs."
One thing that is certain is Willie Walsh, famed British Airways CEO has now become the new IAG chief executive and will move to Madrid to head up the new the group, which is firmly on the lookout for more airlines to join the group.
"British Airways and Iberia are the first two airlines in IAG but they won’t be the last," Walsh said. "Our goal is for more airlines but, importantly, the right airlines to join the group."
Walsh has previously indicated around 12 airlines he is interested in acquiring. These are mostly European carriers rather than North American airlines because of the tight ownership rules governing carriers in the United States.
These airlines are thought to include Finnair, TAP Portugal, SAS, Air Berlin and surprisingly perhaps even EasyJet. Even Kingfisher of India and Qantas of Australia are two names thrown into the mix by some industry commentators.
Already, BA/Iberia have announced a joint business venture with American Airlines to allow customers access to cheaper fares, bigger choice of flight times and easier connecting journeys for customers on transatlantic flights.
Otherwise, BA and Iberia will continue to function as separate brands, but IAG hopes the merger will enable it to squeeze out savings of £345m per year within five years.
So what will this mean for customers? The combined group will operate 419 aircraft flying to 205 destinations and will be Europe’s second biggest airline by market value after Lufthansa. Most of the group’s growth is expected through spare slots at Madrid as Heathrow is at full capacity.
For British Airways customers, this means more options for travel to Latin America, where Iberia is the market leader and flies from Madrid to 19 destinations, while for Iberia customers, it means more facilities for travel to Asia, where British Airways is well established.
Passengers will also enjoy better connections and timetables, since the two airlines will coordinate their services. In coming weeks and months the flights operated by each airline will progressively become available on the other’s website and telephone reservations lines.
Elsewhere, Middle Eastern carrier Etihad has made it known it is interested in acquiring a large stake in Virgin Atlantic, it was revealed this weekend
The carrier, which is backed by the ruling family of Abu Dhabi, wrote to Virgin Atlantic’s advisers Deutsche Bank to make known its ‘top level interest’ as Virgin finds itself increasingly isolated and vulnerable in the face of industry consolidation.
Neither party has commented on the claim, but Sir Richard Branson has made it clear he is looking at the possibility of an alliance and would look to sell his 51% controlling stake in Virgin if the right bidder came along. Incidentally Singapore Airlines already owns 49% of Virgin.
At the end of last year American carriers United and Continental merged to create the world’s biggest airline, which will dwarf rivals on both sides of the Atlantic.
The combined airline will adopt United’s name and is forecast to have $30bn of annual revenue, carrying 144m passengers a year to 59 countries. It will be larger than Europe’s top carrier, Air France-KLM, and will overtake its US rival, the newly merged combination of Delta Air Lines and Northwest.
By Luke McCormick