Friday 15 February 2013

Carnival Triumph limps home to cries of 'let me off'

Crippled Carnival Triumph finally arrived in port late last night four days after an engine room fire left the ship drifting without power in the Gulf of Mexico.
Carnival Cruise Lines warned that disembarkation of the 3,200 passengers could take up to five hours due to the lack of power as 12 more sailings by the ship were cancelled.
Passengers had reported sewage on the floors, poor sanitation and access to toilets, and lengthy queues for food.
Chants of "Let me off, let me off!" could be heard coming from the ship as they waited to disembark, the BBC reported.
The cruise line laid on warm food, drinks, blankets, mobile phones and chargers to passengers as they got off the ship in the port of Mobile in Alabama.
The company provided 100 coaches to transport passengers home.
Carnival has now cancelled a further 12 cruises by Carnival Triumph in addition to two previously announced. This means the ship will be out of action until April 13 at the earliest.
The company said: “On Friday, the plan is to move the ship from the cruise ship terminal to the Mobile shipyard for assessment of the repairs.”

Thursday 14 February 2013

Valentine’s Day and South Korea

Seoul, South Korea (CNN) -- Unlike most harried men in many other countries around this time each year, Korean men don't have to worry about shopping for jewelry or flowers or writing nice cards to give to their significant other on February 14.
Instead, for South Koreans Valentine's Day is when women shower men with chocolates.
It's also just one romantic day in a whole series of calendar-dictated romantic days.
Next up is March 14. Known as White Day, on this occasion men gift women with candy. Fact: Chupa Chups is the most sold candy.
Next is Black Day on April 14, when downbeat singles who didn't receive any goodies head to local Chinese restaurants to commiserate over their loneliness while eating jjajyangmyeon, or "black noodles."
Surprisingly, one of the most popular gift-giving days of the year is November 11, or Pepero Day, so named in honor of a favorite Korean stick-shaped snack. (Link in Korean only)
Catering to women
Buying handmade chocolate at Jubilee Chocolatier in Seoul.
Throughout the country, stores selling confectionery prepare for months leading up to February for one of their best-selling days of the year. As February 14 nears, visitors to the country will notice lines and lines of women at such stores. Naturally, retailers need to cater to the female shopper's eye.
"Valentine's Day is one of our top five days of the year," Chul-hyun Yoo, the public relations representative for CU convenience stores, told CNN. With 7,900 stores throughout the country, CU is the number one convenience store chain in South Korea, recording almost ₩3 trillion (US$2.8 billion) in total sales last year.
"You can tell what concerns women and men is different by comparing the sales of Valentine's Day and White Day," said Yoo. "Women tend to go for value for money, while men buy big, flashy baskets."
One translation: women are comparatively stingy, while men like to show off. Some of the best-selling items on Valentine's Day are the Ferrero Rocher chocolates sold in packets of three or five. Fellas, don't eat all at once.
Becoming unhealthy?
At the more upscale Jubilee Chocolatier dessert cafe in Seoul, women line up on the days up to Valentine's Day to buy handmade chocolates that can be customized with their loved one's initials.
"Our Valentine's Day sales make up 20 percent of our entire sales," said Gae-ra Lee, public relations representative for the cafe.
Although the series of romantic days used to cater more towards couples, or those wanting to confess their secret loves using a romantic day as an excuse, in recent years, goodie-gifting on Valentine's Day and White Day has expanded to include family, co-workers and pretty much anyone you come into contact with on those days.
"I'm buying chocolates for my father. I feel like Valentine's Day should about confessing romantic love," said Jin-hee Oh, 28, an office worker shopping at Lotte Department store.
"Nowadays, you don't give chocolates on Valentine's Day because you really like that person," said Chun Kyung-woo, a culture reporter for a local newspaper.
"The custom has evolved so that now you have to give small crappy candy that no one actually wants to all your friends and everyone at the office down to your security guard as a show of goodwill," said Chun. "It's unhealthy."
So what did I do? Along with the other female members of the Seoul office, we each gave the Turner Korea boss some chocolate. Not that he needs it.

Monday 11 February 2013

EU leaders agree 3% budget cut deal in Brussels

EU leaders have reached an agreement on the budget for 2014-20 after lengthy talks in Brussels.
European Council President Herman Van Rompuy announced the deal and said in a statement it was "worth working for".
The new budget ceiling amounts to 960bn euros (£812bn; $1.3tn). It is the first time the EU's multi-annual budget has been reduced.
UK Prime Minister David Cameron, who had been pressing for cuts, hailed it as a "good deal for Britain".
"I think the British public can be proud that we have cut the seven-year credit card limit for the EU for the first time ever," Mr Cameron said.
French President Francois Hollande, who had argued against big spending cuts, said it was a "good compromise".
German Chancellor Angela Merkel also welcomed the deal, which represents a 3.3% reduction from the previous seven-year budget.

Wednesday 6 February 2013

European Businesses are putting ‘critical only’ travel plans in place.

London  -- New figures show that tough trading conditions across Europe are forcing many firms to making even tougher financial decisions -- particularly when it comes to their travel budgets.
Paul Tilstone, the managing director of the Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) in Europe, says it's not surprising that companies are slashing spending on business trips.
"What we're seeing are companies putting in place critical-only travel plans and that has a knock on effect," he added.
"It's not about growth now for a lot of companies -- it's about survival. Unless something is considered critical to the running of the business, then it won't be authorized."
With travel expenditure often one of the biggest expenses within a business it becomes fundamental to reduce budgets. So where are the cuts being made?
Hotels that were once perceived as cheap are now viewed as adequate and comfortable. The days of expensive flights are also long gone.

Businesses want more bang for their buck.
"The standard now, is people travel in economy rather than business class," said Tilstone. "When trips are authorized, companies want more out of them. They want more bang for their buck."
Latest figures from the GBTA show varying levels of growth and decline across five critical markets in Western Europe in 2012: Germany, UK, France, Italy and Spain.
Together they make up nearly 70% of business travel across the continent -- but Germany is the only nation where an increase has been reported. Spending there will have grown by 1.6% by the end of the year.

Elsewhere, the picture isn't as rosy. In the UK spending has flat-lined, while in France it will have dropped by 2.2%. The situation in the south of Europe is worse still, with spending on business travel in Spain and Italy dramatically decreasing.
Overall it means a reduction in spending of 2.2% across Western Europe -- and paints an even bleaker picture than the projections issued by the GBTA during the spring.
"The spring 2012 outlook was formulated in May and since that time conditions in Italy, Spain, Greece, and France, among others, have worsened," said Tilstone.
"The debt crisis may have been moved to the media's and stock market's back burner at the moment, but the crisis is still problematic and has caused economic conditions to worsen."
For some companies, it's obvious that cutbacks are a necessary evil. But what kind of effect do they have on productivity?
"I take dozens of trips a year, and around 30 to 35 of those are international," added Tilstone. "If I had to travel in economy all the time it would take its toll on my well being. It's about finding a balance. You don't want your employees becoming less productive individuals."

Stewart Harvey says he's not surprised by downgrading of the figures by the GBTA. As the commercial director of British corporate services provider HRG he specializes in ensuring companies make the most of their travel arrangements. He says a growing number of firms are exercising caution around their travel budgets.
"Businesses are not out to stop traveling," he said. "But there's a lack of confidence and they're putting controls on what they are spending.
How on earth would we know that? We don't have a crystal ball with that assurance.

"They want to record the purpose of the trip. Why are their employees going and who are they going to see? Is it external or internal? Are they going after a customer or extracting more business?
"People are being conservative and cautious because they are thinking about their whole business and they don't know what's ahead."
Although the GBTA's projections for 2012 are bleak, particularly for southern European countries, its outlook for next year makes for slightly more pleasant reading.
The association predicts a 1.4% bounce back in 2013, which it links to job growth and any likely increase in GDP.
Is this a barometer for the region's wider economy?
"There is coloration," said Tilstone. "There are suggestions that there's a one quarter time lag between growth in business travel and growth in economies.
"But with lingering debt challenges and continued austerity measures, the European economy is likely to continue to be challenged for years to come. The GBTA's fall report therefore remains cautious."
But Harvey isn't convinced the projections for growth next year will come to fruition.
"How on earth would we know that? We don't have a crystal ball with that assurance," he said.
"In our experience, most companies aren't looking that far ahead. Planning for the long term is now viewed as three to four months in advance."