AIR TRAVEL REBOUNDS; CARRIERS HIKE FARES



Asia-Pacific airlines are raising ticket prices as travelers return in droves after holding back on their travel plans last year because of the global recession.

A strong economic rebound, led by China, resulted in carriers filling more seats during the summer holidays, and demand should remain robust despite slower expansion in the second half, industry analysts say.

The International Air Transport Association said in a recent report that it expected global passenger traffic to expand 7.1 percent this year.

Regional airlines carried a record 17.2 million international passengers in July, up 20.4 percent from the same month last year.

Hong Kong-based Cathay Pacific and its subsidiary Dragonair posted mid-summer passenger traffic figures that were 19.5 percent higher than in 2009, with the pair carrying 2.48 million passengers combined.

Singapore Airlines said it will raise fares on certain routes from October 1, while Korean Air bumped up ticket prices for international passengers by up to 10 percent in August, its second increase since June. Australian flag-carrier Qantas increased its international and domestic fares by 3 percent.

“Average one-way economy fares are 15 percent higher compared to the 2009 low, but still 5 percent below the early 2008 peaks,” said an IATA spokesman.

More than 1 million travelers visited Singapore in July, crossing the seven-figure mark for the first time ever in a single month, thanks in part to the lure of two new casino resorts in the city-state.



AUSTRALIA'S CROWN RETURNS TO PROFIT


Australian casino giant Crown Ltd. posted a 129 percent increase in annual profit.

Comprehensive income for the year ended June 30 was A$255.1million, up from a net loss of $893.8 million in 2008/09. Net profit from continuing operations was up 124 percent to $292.3 million. Normalized net profit was $288.4 million, up 2.7 percent on last year.

Revenue was up 1.9 percent to $2.34 billion.

Crown characterized its results as “reasonable” and said business at both its casinos, Crown in Melbourne and Burswood in Perth, had lifted in the early part of the new year.

The company declared a final dividend of 19 cents, 11.4 cents franked, about even with 2008/09.



GALAXY AND MACAU: PERFECT TOGETHER


Galaxy Entertainment Group reported a 91 percent increase in EBITDA for the first half of the year, to HK$990 million (US$126.7 million), on record revenue of HK$8.57 billion (US$1.09 billion).

Net profit was $475 million, including a one-time charge of $133 million.

The company’s flagship StarWorld casino posted a record 140 percent increase in EBITDA in the second quarter to $515 million on $3.9 billion in revenues. VIP volume hit $129 billion, up 139 percent over the second quarter of 2009. First-half EBITDA was $884 million, a 111 percent increase, on revenues of $7.27 billion.

City Clubs, the company’s third-party promoted casinos, reported EBITDA of HK$71million in the first half, down 15.5 percent, on revenues of HK$702 million, roughly flat with 2009.

The company said it is investing an additional HK $800 million to accelerate construction of its Galaxy Macau megaresort on Cotai to take advantage of “very strong market conditions”. The new commitment will bring the total investment to HK$14.9 billion. The resort is on track to open in early 2011.

At 550,000 square meters, Galaxy Macau will feature approximately 2,200 rooms, suites and villas (1,400 in Phase I) in three luxury hotels. The interior will include five themed gambling areas, more than 50 food and beverage venues and an “oasis resort” of 52,000 square meters, incorporating a sky wave pool, a sand beach, gardens and outdoor dining.

Visitation from mainland China to Macau, the only city in the nation where casinos are legal, is surging, driving gambling revenues to a 63 percent increase through the first eight months of the year to US$15.1 billion, according to official figures. Total tourist arrivals increased 18 percent in the first half, with visitor numbers from China up 27 percent.



NEW ANALYSIS SEES CASINOS AS INTEGRAL TO SINGAPORE BOOM



Revenues from Singapore’s two new resort casinos could contribute as much as S$2 billion annually (US$1.47 billion) to the city-state’s economy, which is expected by the government to grow by up to 15 percent this year.

DBS Bank issued the projection, going on to say the casinos had already contributed S$470 million to the economy, the equivalent or 0.3 percentage points of gross domestic product.

In July, at least 1 million people visited Singapore, the highest number the city-state ever saw in a month, after seven consecutive months of record monthly visitor arrivals.