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LATest e-bulletin May '23

In this issue: ① The Pandemic is over ② Will airfares ever come down? ③ Sabah Danum Valley ④ So Many Good Reasons to Work with LAT ⑤ The Invisibles ⑥ Air Asia new maintenance facility ⑦ Singapore Property Tax ⑧ Indonesia lost way on corruption and freedom

Pandemic is over, will airfares now come down?

The sky-high costs of flights in 2023 is in many ways a perfect storm of factors, including current economic conditions, that have all culminated this year to put upward pricing pressure on airfares. These are at least four main reasons flights are so expensive right now starting with inflation, of course.

Travel isn’t the only expense that is rising. Inflation is pushing the prices of most basic items higher in 2023. This is putting pressure on the airlines costs, affecting everything from the pilots salaries to the price of the snacks and meals they hand out on the flights.

All told, airfares are actually rising at a higher rate than inflation. According to a recent report from the U.S. Bureau of Labour Statistics, which tracks airfares and other costs, air fares are significantly outpacing the rate of inflation. The agency noted that the average airfare in the rose 28.5 percent in 2022 over the previous year, while the Consumer Price Index, the most common measure of inflation, rose by 6.5 percent for the same period.

The price of jet fuel, typically airlines’ biggest expenditure after labour, is also up significantly, in part due to the war in Ukraine; oil that cost around $65 a barrel in 2021 has been well over $100 a barrel during the past year.

Insufficient capacity adds on to the problem, with an insufficient number of new aircraft coming off the assembly line as fast as expected. Most airlines retired older planes during the pandemic, expecting to eventually replace them with the more fuel-efficient models they had on order. But Boeing and Airbus have both faced delays in manufacturing and delivering aircraft due to ongoing supply chain problems. And like all of us operators of the travel and hospitality industry civil aviation is experiencing an acute shortage of personnel especially pilots.

Lastly airlines are still building back their route networks, and while they’re close to 2019 capacity in many markets, they may not have enough crew to manage more capacity. While the supply side of the equation remains tight, the demand side is off the charts, with many airlines reporting record booking volume since the beginning of the year.

Airlines charge what the market will bear, as long as they can get away with it. Two factors, however, might ease the situation. One is the looming possibility of a recession, which would dampen demand and bring down airfares and another is that Boeing and Airbus are stepping up the pace of new aircraft deliveries. There is a very long backlog of planes on order and airlines are eager to put planes they’ve ordered into service.

The World Health Organisation has declared an end to the Covid-19 emergency, signalling that one of the deadliest and economically devastating pandemics in modern history is receding as the disease that caused it becomes a routine illness. Hooray!

Sabah, Danum Valley

About 80km from Lahad Datu city is the Danum Valley Conservation Area, considered as one of the world’s most complex ecosystem and classified as Class 1 (Protection) Forest Reserve under the Sabah Forestry Enactment 1968. The enchanted forest serves as a natural home for the unimaginable number of plants and wildlife species such as banteng, clouded leopard, orangutan, slow loris, proboscis monkey including the endangered Bornean pygmy elephant. The world’s tallest tropical tree of Yellow Meranti tree species (Shorea faguetiana) is also found in Danum Valley, Sabah. At a recorded height of 100.8m or 330.7ft this giant tree, known as ‘Menara’ (Malay for Tower) is only 21.2m lower than the iconic Tun Mustapha Tower in Kota Kinabalu.

Guided trails, bird watching, and night drives are among the activities offered to visitors seeking to experience the wonders of this area. Visitors have recorded so many incredible sights just by being around the area and lodges. Among the famous previous visitors include the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge Prince William and his wife Catherine Middleton, natural historian Sir David Attenborough, Dame Judi Dench and Martha Stewart.

Visitors also get the chance to visit an ancient burial site, complete with belian coffins and ceramic spirit jars. Three burial sites have been discovered in Danum Valley—two near the field centre and one below the cliff, overlooking Borneo Rainforest Lodge.

The Borneo Rainforest Lodge that sets along the flowing Danum River is a multiple award-winning eco-lodge with international standards. Their premium villas and chalets offer visitors of all ages an extraordinary experience and comfort being well-rested in the middle of the jungle with a touch of luxury. Among the attractions offers is the chance to experience the lodge’s canopy walkway with its viewing platforms that offer views from 27m above the forest floor.

Meanwhile, the Danum Valley Field Centre (DVFC) is among the top tropical biodiversity research centre in the world. DVFC is a testament for the long-standing partnership established since 1984, between The Royal Society of United Kingdom’s Southeast Asia Rainforest Research Programme (SEARRP) and Danum Valley Management Committee. Previously reserved for researchers only, the facilities are now extended to visitors looking for a basic stay while exploring Danum Valley.

Also, within the vicinity is the Kawag Nature Lodge. The accommodation is located in buffer zone II of Danum Valley Conservation Area, and offers a similar chance to jungle trek, wildlife sighting, bird watching, river exploration, river tubing and more.

A visit to Danum Valley must be pre-arranged in order to obtain permits and secure transportation. Tour packages range from 3 days 2 nights up to 5 days 4 nights and can be easily coordinated directly with the product owners or with tour operators that are selling these packages.

Visit Danum Valley with our tours in combination with other Borneo adventures. Click here for more information.

So Many Good Reasons to Work with LAT

Established in 1991

Independently owned and operated

Purely B2B with travel industry partners

Online booking engine with immediate

confirmation of hotels, tours and transfers

Skilful Contents Provider and Technology user

Knowledgeable and efficient reservations personnel

Long and proud association with the MICE industry in all Lotus destinations

Fully committed to Sustainability and CSR; ‘Travelife’ partner

Carbon Neutrality for all packages and services on offer

Extensive selection of scheduled group departures and innovative product lines

Direct access to a vast pool of local professional contributors

Owns small boutique island hotels strategically located

LAT Indochina subsidiary operating in Thailand and Vietnam

Multilingual guides in all destinations

Operations offices throughout its destinations

Centralised bookings and payments for multi destination tours

Assistance in language


The Visible Invisibles: Stories of Migrant Workers in Asia

When I was a foreign student in Malaysia in the early 2010s, I bonded over fried stingray with a Bengali cook whom I will call Mohammad. He had a cheerful smile and came from a small village near Cumilla, Bangladesh. Mohammad had paid an agent to help him travel to Malaysia and secure a work visa. Small in stature, he had been very lucky to get a job as a cook rather than a construction worker. He flipped fish on a grill six days a week and waited tables at a Chinese-owned seafood stall in one of George Town's popular food courts.

Mohammad bonded with me because, unlike the many Malaysians who considered him "third rate" and treated him as if "he did not exist," I engaged in conversation with him. We quickly became friends. For the next three years, I entered Mohammad's world. He was working, and I was studying. Although nationality, education and circumstances meant that we were on opposite ends of a privilege scale where race and skin color prevail over everything, we were both pendatang -- the Malay term for "migrants." Our common trait was being "temporary."

In the end, like most of those who toil at the lower depths of the Malaysian and Singaporean economic engine rooms to keep them going, Mohammad reached his "expiry date." His agent failed to get his work visa renewed, and we sadly parted ways as he reluctantly returned to Bangladesh.

Mohammad's story resembles the first-person accounts that Shivaji Das and Yolanda Yu have included in their revealing new book, "The Visible Invisibles: Stories of Migrant Workers in Asia," a collection of 34 powerful and often poignant tales about Asia's mobile workforce. Migrant workers are ubiquitous in Asia. Most embark on solitary adventures away from their homes where wages are better, and certain sectors of the economy -- particularly construction, domestic help, and sex work -- rely heavily on migrant labor. Preferred destinations are the United Arab Emirates, Malaysia and Singapore.

According to Statista, a German data company, there were 3.8 million migrant workers in Malaysia in 2020. That equates to about 10% of the country's population and is a 39% increase from the 1.9 million foreign workers reported there in 2005. In 2021, despite COVID-19 entry restrictions, Singapore registered 246,300 foreign workers. Illegal and undocumented migrants account for significant numbers in both nations. During the pandemic lockdown between November 2020 and the end of 2021, Malaysia repatriated about 90,000 undocumented migrants and collected $12.3 million from them under amnesty programs to legalise their status or send them home.

The majority of these workers come from developing, densely populated neighbouring Asian countries such as Bangladesh, India, Indonesia, Myanmar and the Philippines. A minority come from the poorest and most overpopulated provinces of China. Many undergo harsh working and living conditions, discrimination, health risks and dangerous work environments -- like 27-year-old Ataur Rahman from Bangladesh, who, in a section of the book called "Now I live with an 'alien' face," tells of surviving an explosion at his workplace in Singapore that left him with burns over 70% of his body.

Although the problem is enormous, relatively few books have been written on the issues facing migrant workers. Most notable are two ethnographies, "Politics of the Temporary" (2015) and "Ghost Lives of the Pendatang" (2021), written by New York-based Malaysian sociologist Parthiban Muniandy.

Marco Ferrarese


Air Asia new maintenance facility

Malaysian Capital A, the parent company of low cost carrier Air Asia is sinking USD 100 million into a new maintenance facility at its KL hub. The investment is made in view of the fast pace building of additional capacity in face of the strong air transport demand.

Singapore property tax

Singapore announced the increase the taxes on purchase of residential property up to 60% as the real estate market in the city state remains hot, fuelled in part by interest from perspective buyers overseas.

Indonesia lost way on corruption and freedom

25 years after the fall of Suharto, Indonesians find themselves in the worst of times. Incumbent President Joko Widodo, his cabinet and the House of Representatives have together delivered devastating blows to the country's democracy, methodically undermining its institutions and norms to the point where Indonesia more closely resembles a semi-authoritarian state than a democratic one.


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