Ethics in Tourism

There is quite a discussion in Germany these days about Tourisms and Ethics, ever since German politician (Klaus Brähmig of Merkel’s governing party CDU) called for a boycott of travel to Egypt and other “non-democratic” countries. It also comes up on Lufthansa’s latest move to not charge a “service fee” on their website.

Shift Happens NarratedAll in all, I am being questioned by many friends about topics, that make me wonder, how you could call Germany “social market economy” and not what it is: Capitalism! But that is not just in Germany, we talk about a global trend. If you believe in Capitalism, the world is good. The rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the middle class erodes one way or the other (likely “the other”).

There was this video in 2006, I referred to ever so often: Shift Happens Narrated. I did not yet find a good update with 2011 figures, but believe it, it get’s worse.

Is capitalism the right answer? Everything that makes money is good? Do we learn from Exxon Valdez, Deep Water Horizon or the recent gas leakage in the North Sea? Obviously not.

MonsantoRecent reports claim that the international hydra Monsanto intentionally spreaded gene-manipulated (GM) corn crops in Mexico – against the law and in attempted secrecy. This way, they try to get a hold on Mexican farmers, who will in return be charged the “license” fees for using GM corn of Monsanto origin! There is no way, the corn could have reached the fields in a natural way, where it was found. Is everything allowed if it brings money?

Lately (2010), a strong movement forced a political acknowledgement to the Human Right to Water! Do you see the little blue planet picture? But people starve to death, simply missing access to clear water! The consumption of bottled water in Germany exploded from 12.5 l in 1970 to about 130 l in 2006! Did you know that multinationals pump water in areas where the local people face a dry period? This happened even in Michigan, USA – it is not limited to third world countries. That is anti-social, unethical and simple capitalism of the worse kind.

And despite the growth of Solar Power and other alternative energy possibilities, our governments build atomic power plants where we don’t know how to get rid of the waste products, they support building of dirty coal power plants, emitting more Carbon-Dioxide than thousands of old cars could, simply dancing to the whistles of the energy lobbies. They let Greece go into a major crisis, simply to give the banks time, to move their foul papers to the state. Don’t believe it? There is extensive German coverage on Monitor, a bi-weekly report by public television channel ARD in it’s dossiers.

All that said… What about the travel industry?

wigMany years ago, there was a question about the difference of a Tourist to a Terrorist. With tourists, there are no bombs involved, but the results are even more devastating… Yes, this is exaggerating. But thousands of divers ruin the coral reefs around the world. Thousands of tourists skiing the alps (or Rocky Mountains) have a devastating effect to that natural preserve. Aircraft exhausts are in high altitude, having a worse effect than ground time. But even back in 2007/08, when I was involved in the feasibility study for a WIG, all development I hear about is “less kerosene”, bio-fuels replacing kerosene (with unknown new side-effects), but that project stalled with the world financial crisis and seems to be of a low priority. Coutries like the Maldives could replace their entire local aircraft fleet and replace by a clean alternative.

I hear a lot about the “reduced noice levels” of aircraft, but in the discussion about the night flight ban in Frankfurt, I asked publicly, where there are hard facts about this? How did the noise levels reduce and why are the airports then paying new millions every year in counter-noise-modifications in their neighborhood?

Many meetings could be replaced by professional video conferencing, but our managers keep the “need” to meet for their routine meetings “in person”. Trains focus on high speed route networks in competition to air (and that makes sense), at the same time neglecting the local traffic – how to commute from a small township to the bigger town for work?

Yes, I love aviation, I am an airliner by vocation. But yes, I have a soul and yes, I question the tendency to keep status quos without need. The feasibility study provided figures that such a solution would pay off within maximum three years, then it’s a cash cow. It could revive the old harbor cities (the ones on the seaside). But such revolutionary developments are opposed by the “old school”, all the investment going into the airport infrastructure.

Responsibility begins with each and everyone of us. We are supposed to be Christian’s, but Christian behavior would call for social behavior and I cannot see such. The question is: Where will we be in 100 years? Watch the “Shift Happens” video again:

flat-earthName this country

Richest in the World. Largest military. Center of world business and finance. Strongest education system. World center of innovation and invention. Currency the world standard of value. Highest standard of living.

… England … In 1900!

How did travel develop in the past 100 years. People traveled by ships, horse carriage and some railroad systems. Just a 100 years ago, Titanic sunk. Today it takes less than six hours to travel from Frankfurt to Boston. In the 60’s, American Airlines and IBM invented Sabre and revolutionized the distribution of airline seats. I was with American, when they started to provide Sabre terminals to the first travel agencies in Germany – which have already gained experience with the START-system, accessing the Lufthansa “Res”-system through a pre-windows environment! In 1996, as the “GDS Coordinator” I was primary element for the development of the first Internet Booking Engine for business travel (air, hotel, car). We had “e-Mail” (called “SITA-Telex”) in the late 80’s, no one spoke about “Internet” then. But I also introduced the “Internet” and the new “World Wide Web” to the Airline Sales Representatives Association back in 1994, recommending i.e. Continental Airlines to register their domain name for a few bucks quickly. They sure ignored my recommendation and for years used “www.flycontinental.com” instead.

GalileoCRSIs that “you”?

What is our business? Is it to manage a GDS? Many travel agents (seem to) believe so. Then we are database operators. AN20MAYFRAHKT18 – that is a database request. Is your business to issue tickets? Then you are no longer needed, as eTicket is the new standard.

What was “your business” 100 years ago? It was not to book the air ticket and the hotel. It was a complete consulting, how to get Grammy from her home in Middlesex to Aunt Cathy, who emigrated with her husband to this new colony Swaziland in the South of Africa. Could she use some of the new airplane-routes? Where could she use trains? Where were carriage routes? What vaccinations would she need, where would she stay overnight, what could she do on the multi-day-stops en-route?
Or you booked the summer seaside. If you lived in England, you were lucky, you could book one of the “packages” offered by some “Thomas Cook”. Else, you had to read a lot about the “common” spas, recommend and explain you client the advantages, book the trip, the hotel, the treatments.

And yes, it was expected from you to be knowledgeable about the countries, their political, cultural, economical and social systems. If you traveled to an Islamic country, what are the rules? Why to be careful and patient about cows in India. And to know that India was British colony. Sometimes I wonder, how many of the people selling “Seidenstraße” ever learned some detail about Marco Polo. Venice, Genoa have been the center of the world those days – the “seafaring nations”. Frankfurt, London, Atlanta, Peking are the centers today – of the “airfaring” world. What are “nations” in a globalizing world? But U.N. is a toothless tiger. Lybia, Tunesia and Egypt were (as Kuwait) some years ago immediately targets of military – for the sake of crude oil. But in Syria thousands are slaughtered, but they are not a capitalist necessity, so the world looks and doesn’t do.

Ethical DilemmaAn old saying says: Don’t talk about ethics to a hungry man!

Ethics begins with myself. Do I fly or drive – or do I take a train? Is the trip necessary? Can I achieve the same outcome with a video-conference and e-Mail? It is also about: Is this to the best of my employer – or do I justify the trip, simply because I want to see someone – or get somewhere. And it is about: Can I help to make this world a better place?

Yes, companies are about making money. But if only money rules, we adore the Golden Calf again. How un-Christian can we get? Talk to me about Ethics in Tourism. Yes, we got to survive. But at all cost?

The travel industry prospers, but for some reason, the employees do not participate. It’s all about money. Is it?

 

Food For Thought

And as usual, your comments – private or in the blog – are appreciated…

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German Word 2012: Stress Test

2011. Euro-crisis is my personally most disturbing issue of the year. “Stress test” has been selected “Word of the year” in Germany. And it covers more issues…

fukushimaStress test 1: Fukushima
We have just one planet. I personally was “pro atomic energy”, as we did not have many alternatives. Now we have them, solar energy solutions are getting better and solar parks in the worlds deserts could provide enough energy anywhere – given, we invest in the infrastructure. But Germans sue against overland power lines, as they go by in there neighborhood… How shall we install such across Europe or beyond?! German saying about the saint of the fire fighters: O holy dear Saint Florian, spare my house, take the neighbor’s one”…
But Fukushima also stands for a disastrous communication by “the government”. Not only in the beginning, but to date! Worse than Chernobyl? Not only the GAU, but also the communication!

stuttgart21Stress test 2: Stuttgart 21
Internationally likely irrelevant, German Rail tries to invest billions into a new – state of the art – railway station. They went through the bureaucratic processes, but simply kept it quiet. Once they started to build, suddenly “the people” learned about it. I do believe, the following outcry could have been neglected, if the communication would have taken them into the process from the beginning. But the mindset of the decision makers (world wide) is simply to ignore the public and do things. That backfired here and it shows that communication becomes public now – and people get organized quickly, using the new technologies (not just the “social networks”).

New monetary support. You can deposit it right here with us.
New monetary support. You can deposit it right here with us.

Stress test 3: Euro Crisis
How this crisis is handled, is an example on the same issue. Politicians simply ignoring the people. German public television ARD (“Das Erste”) in their program “Monitor” reported, how German government kept Greece from going bankrupt, not to the benefit of the people, but to the pure benefit of the banks! Meanwhile, the EU bailout funds, mainly “paid” by Germany exceeds any household – if Euro goes broke, we will go broke on the big scale! I therefore call our government (and Chancellor Angela Merkel) simply corrupt!
Need another proof? The recent elections in Russia. Everyone says, they were staged by “United Russia”, the party dominated (owned) by Putin and Medvedev. The people – a first in Russia – demonstrated against it. Published proof via mobile phones and Internet. Now Putin and Medvedev offer Europe to invest 20 Billion into the Euro… When? No information. But suddenly all political dissent ceases – you can’t argue against the corrupt government, if they offer you such bribe! Bribing I call it, bribing it is!

Other Stress Testing
In a recent report in the printed version of FVW about global aviation and Emirates vs. Lufthansa quoted Gerd Pontius of Prologis Hamburg: “While aviation in the Gulf Region is part of the [government’s] commerical strategy, Europe[an politicians] only see it as a milk cow.” (translated from German).

And while that is true, our experience now includes daycare in Germany does not allow for decent child care. Original from our experience in Erfurt, capital of the state of Thuringia: “If you want a kindergarten place for your child, to get it for a one-year-old, we have a waiting list until 2013.” So in fact, before you get pregnant, you have to secure the place for your child! And better don’t move here, because you won’t get daycare for your child either. From 2012, we shall have a right for daycare. But instead of making the daycare available, the politicians hope to delay it by another three years or pay the fees to the parents who end up without daycare, without ability to look for a job, because they have to do that on your own.
That is our government: Sit it out. Don’t move, don’t change, only if you have to. They call this conservative and are proud of it.

germanpartiesThere is a recent crisis in the governing party “FDP”, our foreign minister is member of that one. They would not even be elected if elections would be today. Yesterday, a question was asked, but not followed up upon: What are the differentiators between the parties?
In the good old days, CDU as “Christian-Democratic Union” was conservative, focusing on business, commerce and Christian values.
SPD was the party for the workers, a group that becomes increasingly large, but has no voice in politics today. They don’t have the lobby = political bribery! That history made them the best friends with the workers unions!
FDP was the party for the small and midsized companies and their owners. That made them a natural partner for the CDU, but they focused on the smaller businesses and they were not the friends of the workers, but of the managers.
The Greens came in the 80s to power and made environmental issues and responsibilities a topic for the political society. They lost their bite in my view, as they did not seek an environment-friendly political strategy, seeking solutions to the pressing problems within the social and commercial environment, but they ignored anything but environment – to their believe, streets, air traffic and commerce is hostile. If they would have answers that are more practical, with a strategy toward their goal, they could even become my friends. With their stubborn opposition on aviation, I’m sorry. Give me an alternative (such as my old WIG-idea) and finance that.

But the politicians now want to serve anyone and most of all, they want to be friends with the lobbies and they are afraid to oppose for the sake of “their” voters – that makes them gray, they loose their color. They all become alike: Corrupt!
Change. We need people like Obama in the U.S.! Who is struggling against his narrow-minded opposition, also called the “political establishment”. No, that “political establishment” does not want “change”. They do not want the “good for the people and the country”, they want their pockets filled.

Will that be be better when we go to England? I doubt! Though the political opposition by Cameron lately is to me a good sign. And I suggested to my friends on Facebook, that I welcome Croatia in the EU, but recommend them, not to change to Euro any time soon. Yes, despite their problems, England is better off without the Euro right now…

Lots of Food for Thought and lots of concerns and missed opportunities.

ATR42 livery optionSo to finish this one off, about the question, if it is a good idea to launch a Regional Airline Network in Europe in these days… There’s an opportunity! We will need to make flying easier, better available. And the concentration to the hubs leaves many regions without decent airline connections they need commercially. So they need flights. Not the politicians, not the airlines, but commerce and industry. And that is an opportunity. Yes, it is more difficult than we expected to secure the funding, but it looks good and we are very sure it will pay off. So yes, it is a good idea and if you know regions needing air services, we have some good ideas how to make that happen 😉 Refer them to me 😀

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St. Florian’s Principle²

Oh holy dear St. Florian
Don’t burn my house
Take the neighbors one

Four related cases in the past weeks triggered this Food For Thought:

helpdeskGerman Rail – remember Lufthansa…

The IT system of German Rail crashed, disabling not only the entire distribution for a day, but also the train guidance system EBULA causing major delays on train schedules, stranded passengers, the whole nine yards.

The German FVW titled its blog “That wouldn’t have happened in the past”. In m comment I referred to Lufthansa’s IT-crash in 2004 (German article). It is not impossible for IT to fail: A “99,9% up-time” is an +8 hour outage. Usually at the most busiest and inconvenient times.

Purely incidentally I was once at Frankfurt airport when the system failure disabled issuance of boarding passes. To date, I do not understand, why the staff just sat back and delayed boarding for “technical reasons” until I came, wrote the seat numbers on blank boarding passes and handed them out to the check-in agents. A wonder: NO single traveler sat on any middle seat, they either had a window or an aisle seat. I think that never happened ever since 😉 And that flight was about the only one that left that day “on schedule”…

But the believe in the invulnerability of the IT-systems is as unfounded at is is common. Contingency planning for any possible natural disaster, but none for the case of a computers black out! There were processes in place “b.c.” before computer. Have copy samples of “manual documents” dusting in a folder in the closet is not much of an investment, but it could be the difference to a cancelled operation. And for the case of a power outage just a box somewhere with enough copies for a 24 hour backup could not be that expensive either…

bahnAnd even if you rely on it, German rail sure saved a few hundred Euros not investing on a cache memory for the train guidance system that would have saved them from major train delays…

Don’t they ever learn? Bean counters…

Oh holy dear St. Florian…

Striiike…

Image courtesy -die Welt-, click for full image series
Image courtesy “die Welt”, click for full image series

It is simply a miracle how lightly the passengers of U.S. Airways got out of a potentially fatal situation that is not uncommon in the aviation industry: Bird strike. Yes, the pilot is a hero, but as usual that means he has been faced with an impossible situation and by tons of luck was able to avoid desaster by a hair. As safe as flying is, accidents happen.

Reports do question the efficiency of the New York authorities. It’s not far from the hudson to central Manhattan. And a bird strike can disable steering capabilities… Let’s say, they got another wake up call.

wigFriends called raising a discussion related to my WIG-idea. No, that one is also “stalled”. But yes, In case of a bird strike, a WIG would not crash but simply drop some meters and float. And despite the fact that I am sure, countries in the tropical belt, especially faced with global warming should have a vital interest to push that technology, Mauritian Air Taxi just ordered a fleet replacement using standard engines.

Oh holy dear St. Florian…

Nokia

nokiaYes, I know gloating is not nice. But a report last week on Nokia is a case that does make me smile. Nokia in 2007 shut down their plant in Bochum from one day to the other to replace it with a newly built plant in Romania. The result: Nokia’s reputation went through the floor (they became “the example” in Germany), their sales dropped, the Romanian plant only employs less than half of what they planned for. So the bean counters were miserably wrong with their previous assessments about the advantages for Nokia.

The closing of the report said something like: In the retrospect of the financial crisis, sure Nokia was just a little premature, but it shows how wrong it is to focus on numbers and short term profit only, underestimating social cohesion in crisis. It’s tough to calculate people’s reactions. And yes, more than 1.300 of the 2.500 former employees still have no new job… Them having the usual 50-100 friends and relatives in direct vicinity plus the usual 50-100 friends of these friends that are being aware of that, even on a conservative calculation that accounts easily up to some 5-10 million “lost customers”.

Oh holy dear St. Florian …

Uptime

99% uptime = +8 hours/year outage
99% uptime = +8 hours/year outage

Speaking with the IT-expert in a German tour operator about “dynamic packaging” he gave an example of his counterparts in other companies to target 70% uptime of their GDS-based functions. The issue we discussed being “time outs” on API-calls on the GDS causing vital systems to stall. We agreed. 70% is a farce! 99.x is the necessity. 99.9+ must be the goal. Having been pace makers on the IT-networking since back in the 60s (SITA, Sabre & Co), the travel industry has lost its drive.

Asking about why the tool they use does not have a function to check on API-calls for a time-out, I was told that the IT-company developing the tool did develop it for “agent use”, not for an “Automator” working unsupervised…

Oh holy dear St. Florian …

Do you have other such cases?

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Revolution arising?

Taxes are not levied for the benefit of the taxed [L. Long]

Richard Eastman lately forwarded a mail to me: What is a Billion

It started to trigger a thought. I started to discuss with friends. I got … frustrated.

Having started with “a clean account” after World War II, Germany is now Third globally in state indebtedness. Paying off 1 Billion a year and no interest on the debt, it would take Germany 130 years to pay off. It took the politicians only some 55 years to reach that point.

nationaldebtOkay. So our national debt is unmanagable (or so the politics tell us), but instead of consolidating our national household, we spend +12 billion for development aid in other countries? That is a +140% increase compared to 2003 and is more than 50% of what the (somewhat larger) U.S. spend. If we keep the pace, we surpass them in 3-4 years… Austria and Switzerland together spend about 3,5 billion. China or Russia do not even show up on the chart. So we have the luxury to further increase taxes (Germany”s tax rules exceed the tax rules of all other worldwide countries together), add on to bureaucracy – but we have no money to provide child day care centers?

With the WIG-project, I also learned that such development could not be financed in Germany. Sure, I did not believe it – all basic technology has been developed and brought to prototype, aside the know-how, there are funds available. What a shock to learn (from DLR!), that these funds are “meant for basic research, not for R&D to convert existing technologies to products”…

Germans emigrate. We become an emmigration country – while Ireland or Portugal, the former poorhouses in Europe convert to immigrant countries.
An “unword” in Germany is the “migrator”, people trying to come to Germany. No, they are not immigrants in the eyes of the politicians – they are neither integrated.

I saw a report lately on the Weimar Republic (the one that lead to the Third Reich). I don”t know, if I was the only one, striken by the similarities. Oscar Lafontaine is called a demagogue even by the respected press and he mentioned on TV lately he feels that to be a compliment (I compare to Weimar Republic!). People vote for extremist parties – because the Grand Coalition in power today fails to address any of the peoples needs. Polititicans wonder, why the voters get tired of voting? Extreme parties increase their influence. From what I hear on the streets:

We are sitting on a tinderbox … with a short and already burning fuse.

Footnotes:
¹ I am a fan of space travel, get this right. I doubt, NASA being very effective, so I love commercial projects, such as Mars Direct or SpaceShipTwo. I believe NASA has become a bureaucratic dinosaur needing commercial competition.
² Humantiarian Aid is not in question. What I question is “monetary aid”, known to end up anywhere but where it”s needed. And to increase the amount spent (by +140% in five years) when consolidating the national household is said to be a top priority.

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