Friday, March 23, 2018

JW Marriott Houston, November 2017

First time I went to Houston, Texas, was in May 2010 to visit former officemates Glo and Ronald, stayed in their house. Short stay so they did not bring me to the city proper, to NASA instead and other interesting places in the suburbs.

Last November, I went back to Houston to attend the Heartland Institute's "America First Energy Conference" on November 10, I stayed at JW Marriott Houston, uptown Galleria of the city, the venue of the conference. I stayed there November 9-11, 2017.

Photos I took from my old and blurred phone camera. It was cold that time, the temperatures dropped to around 12-14 C.

Hotel lobby and aisle. The restaurant is on the right side after the check in/out area. One staff there is a Filipina, she's from Pampanga but has been living in Texas for more than a decade. Friendly to me, of course.

My bed. Big, wide, soft, comfortable.

Wall-mounted tv, beside my work area.

Also spacious toilet and bath.

Scenes from my window, left to right.

I like my stay in this hotel. Thank you Heartland for the travel grant.

See also:

Marriott NY Marquis Hotel, March 21, 2009 

Chicago’s Marriott Magnificant Mile, May 16, 2010 

Marriott Hotels: NY Marquis, Magnificent Mile Chicago, and Manila, December 12, 2016

Airport transfers and tourism

* This is my article in BusinessWorld last November 10, 2017.

Is there a connection between tourism and the travel time to and from the international airport and the city proper?

I asked myself this question while I was reading Eva Air’s inflight magazine en route to Houston, Texas.

I spent a total of 17 hours traveling — two hours from Manila to Taiwan, a layover of one hour, and another 14 hours from Taiwan to Houston.

The good news is that all three airports mentioned have free Wi-Fi, especially in Taiwan, which offers fast Internet connections without requiring registrations. The bad news is that free Wi-Fi does not reach some gates at the NAIA.

I paid a visit to Houston to attend the “America First Energy Conference,” set for Nov. 9 at JW Marriott Houston, sponsored by the Heartland Institute, which also provided me a travel scholarship.

The airline’s En Voyage inflight magazine has one table that shows the list of the global airports they serve, distance from airport to downtown, the estimated travel time by train, bus and car/taxi (C), and cost in local currencies. I reconstructed the table and chose only major cities in East Asia, computed the average speed by car/taxi travel, then added data on each country’s international tourist arrivals and tourism receipts in 2016 (see table).

From the above numbers, these preliminary analysis would show:

1. Economies that have quick and convenient transport systems between their airports and city centers have higher tourism arrivals, even if their airports are far away from the cities. These examples include: China, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Thailand, South Korea, and Singapore.

2. Airports near their city centers have fewer visitors, if transport systems between locations are slow. These examples include: Vietnam (especially Ho Chi Minh airport) and Philippines, both NAIA/Manila and Mactan-Cebu airports.

There are many factors of course why some countries have very high tourist arrivals while others have fewer visitors. These factors are convenience of the airport itself, overall peace and order situation of the country, dominance of the rule of law, proximity of that city/country to other important tourism areas in other cities and countries.

If one lands in Bangkok, one can go to Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam by land, without the need to take other flights.

Preliminary data show that yes, there seems to have a positive connection or correlation between fast airport transfer and tourism arrivals.

The data on Manila airport is a bit outdated because (1) there are now convenient and fast bus transportaion from NAIA/Manila airport to city centers of Makati City, Pasay City, and Manila and vice-versa, and (b) newly opened NAIA Expressway (PPP project by San Miguel) has significantly cut the travel time by car from the airport’s three terminals to city centers.

Some implications for the Philippines and its infrastructure and tourism policies.

One, NAIAEx tollway is doing good and should contribute to attracting more visitors into the country; thus, further extension of this tollway to BGC and other areas as planned by the project proponents and O&M operators should be facilitated by the government and not subjected to various cumbersome and costly regulations and permitting procedures.

Two, moving the Philippine international airport to a farther but bigger space (Clark in Pampanga, or Sangley Point in Cavite, or currently rice lands in Bulacan, etc.) complemented by fast train and/or buses to city centers will be a win-win situation.

Three, allow more integrated PPP (builders and O&M operation functions are assigned to only one winning bid player or consortium of players) for big, new airports, not hybrid PPP.

W Hotel Lexington New York, September 2017

After my trip in Kuala Lumpur last September, I went to New York for another meeting on IPR, thanks to my sponsor. I stayed at W Hotel at Lexington Ave., NYC, September 15-17, 2017. The first three photos I got from the web, the next three photos are from my old and blurred phone camera.

When I checked in, a Filipina-American lady attended to me. It is nice to meet a fellow Filipino in hotels like this. I don't remember her name but she's very friendly and she has been living in the US for two decades or more.

The resto-bar near the hotel lobby. Nice and beautiful.

Deluxe rooms are like this, small but good enough for 1-2 guests.

This was my room. As I said above, my phone camera produces blurred photos. My room was facing another building, not much to see outside. Like most US hotels, there are no complimentary coffee, unlike most if not all Asian hotels. But at least there is complimentary and fast internet.

Outside the hotel, going out on the left of Lexington Ave., a Marriott Hotel just across the street.

W Hotel side view, I took this from Marriott side.

Grand Central Station is about 15-20 minutes by foot from the hotel.

It was my 3rd visit to NYC. First time in 2004 after my Atlas Fellowship in Washington DC, I took the bus and visited the big city. Second time in 2009 when I attended the Heartland Institute's 2nd International Climate Change Conf (ICCC).

Hope to post more photos that NY trip in the coming days or weeks.

Intercontinental Kuala Lumpur, September 2017

Lasts September 10-12, 2017, I stayed at InterContinental Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. I attended the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia meeting and conference 2017. Grand hotel, I like it. Below, the hotel lobby.

My bed, wide and very comfy. I don't remember what floor I stayed.

My work area, I like it, big wide table. Flat embedded tv on the black wall in the middle. Internet is complimentary, fast.

Breakfast area. I boycotted the bread, veggies, salad area then I devoured the high fat, high cholesterol food. :-)

Outside the main resto, an artificial waterfalls. Cool.

EFN Asia meeting 2017, at one of the many meeting and function rooms.

EFN Conference on trade and US-China leadership. At one of the ballrooms.

I liked my stay there. Next month I will stay there again for another meeting and conference.

Monday, October 09, 2017

KL, Incheon, JFK airports and lessons for the Philippines

* Reposting my article in BusinessWorld last September 27, 2017.

“Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport (NAIA) is the worst airport in the world” is a cliché that we often hear and read. But how true is this statement based on quantitative and technical criteria?

I have not seen technical reports on this yet but for this piece, I will make some anecdotal data based on my two foreign trips last week.

First I went to Kuala Lumpur (KL), Malaysia to attend the Economic Freedom Network (EFN) Asia meeting and conference 2017. Then I went to New York City, USA to attend a meeting on intellectual property and trademarks protection partly organized by the Property Rights Alliance (PRA). My think tank, Minimal Government Thinkers, is a member of both EFN Asia and PRA and my plane fare and hotel accommodations were shouldered by several organizations.

These were my travel dates last week: (a) Manila-KL-Manila, September 10 to 12; (b) Manila-New York-Manila via Incheon-Seoul, September 13 to 18.

Below is a summary of my experience, items #3 to 8. In parenthesis are years the airports have become operational.

Sources, #1 and 2: Airports Council International (ACI), wikipedia.

ACI’s top 10 busiest airports in 2016 were: (1) Hartsfield-Jackson Atlantata, USA; (2) Beijing Capital, China; (3) Dubai, UAE; (4) Los Angeles, USA; (5) Haneda-Tokyo, Japan; (6) O’hare-Chicago, USA; (7) Heathrow-London, UK; (8) Hong Kong; (9) Pudong-Shanghai, China; (10) Charles De Gaulle-Paris, France.

I have almost no complaints about the KLIA. It is big, wide, and modern. Aside from airport taxis, uber and grab cars, passengers can take the express or high-speed train to KL Sentral station in the city center (fare about 35 ringgit, 30 minutes) then take the cab or MRT/subway from there. I took the airport coach, which charged only 10 ringgit, and the travel time was about 60 minutes. I then took the MRT/subway, with a fare only 2.70 ringgit to Ampang Park, which is near the hotel venue of EFN meeting.

I have several complaints about the JFK-NY airport, mainly on the various delays as summarized in the table above. In addition, there is road congestion at the JFK airport’s passengers pick up area. Lots of waiting cars, frequent double parking, and no airport personnel at that time to restrain motorists from blocking the road. I saw these around 10 pm while waiting for the airport bus.

There was no free internet at JFK arrival area. At the departure area, there is one but it is hijacked by boingo, charging about $5 an hour. Boingo has “free 30 minutes” internet but one must watch the sponsors’ ads, and it is very slow. In short, I was not able to check the web there.

But one advantage of JFK is its connection to cheap mass transportation systems.

On my arrival, I took the airport bus to Manhattan, Port Authority terminal at 42nd street, paid $18 for the more than one hour trip. I then paid $2.75 and took the subway to my destination. When I left, I took the subway from uptown to JFK airport then skytrain, which cost me only $7.75. A taxi from uptown to the airport would cost about $70-75 including toll fees and tip to the driver.

I am not a frequent traveler, I take an average of only three foreign trips per year (all sponsored) mostly in Asia, and so my perspective will be limited compared to other people who make more than ten trips a year. Nonetheless, these are some things that the government and NAIA management may consider.

One, finalize the alternative airport to NAIA and start the work soon via integrated PPP, not hybrid PPP. While there is overall recognition of this need due to existing and future congestions, there is continued delay in the final decision as to where that airport shall be – at Sangley Point in Cavite, or Bulacan or Clark-Pampanga, or somewhere else.

Two, keep the freebies like free internet, have free drinking water fountains (currently there is none), keep the immigration entry/exit fast. And avoid scandals like “laglag bala” (of the past administration) and robbery/extortion of rich passengers. Just kick out and file charges against airport or immigration personnel involved in those scandals.

Three, expand the airport bus in all four terminals to more destinations other than Pasay-Makati. With heavy daily traffic in Metro Manila, passengers from far away cities like QC, Navotas, or Antipolo, should avoid being driven to or from NAIA.

Government should allow and encourage the energy, financial resources, and technical expertise of the private sector in finding various solutions to airport and road congestion.

Tuesday, April 25, 2017

Novotel Airport Hotel Bangkok, Part 2

Continuing a belated post, Part 1, about my stay in Novotel at Bangkok airport in November 2015. My room, big and spacious.



Buffet meals, I had 3 buffet meals -- lunch, dinner and breakfast the next day -- in my short stay there. Lots and lots of food, delicious.


I feasted on lots of seafood. I finished these 3 plates + dessert of small cakes, some fruits.


Not sure if this is from my room or from the hallway, the airport can be seen.

Monday, April 24, 2017

Bonista Resort, Escalante, Negros Occidental

Last February, I brought my family to Bonista Resort, Brgy. Buenavista, Escalante City in Negros. They visited my father who was still in a hospital in Sagay City, just a few kilometers away.

This is the main attraction, a big pool lighted with different lights at night.

We stayed in one of the rooms here, overlooking the sea. P1,500/night, children below 10 years old are free, P300 extra per head for those above 10 years old.

The sea viewed from the building.


At the back of the building there is a wide, open space, good for team building or simply running/playing area.

I forgot to take photos of this area, got these from the web.

Nice white sands.
Our two girls enjoyed the pool a lot.

The sea itself is not good for swimming though, very shallow water even during high tide.


There is a protruding rock behind the open, grassland area shown above. Views on the left, and the right of the rock.


Late afternoon, low tide, one can walk far away from the pool area. High tide returns at night, then recedes again by morning.


The next day, 6-7am, low tide.

The place is about 17 kms. from Escalante city proper. 5 kms. on the highway, then 12 kms. going to the barrio, towards the beach. Cemented road but many parts are damaged and dilapidated.

See that tiny spot on the map above Bonista, that's Jomabo island, another attraction in Escalante.

No time to visit that island, we headed back to the hospital and visited my Papa again.