Deserted streets, cabin fever and worries over COVID-enabling commutes in Europe and America have sent demand for bikes into high gear — with factories in Taiwan racing to push out new units and scrambling to find parts.
The deadly virus has sparked a global recession and hammered many industries, but it is boom time in the bike world and a major bonus for Taiwan, which is a leading bicycle producer and has managed to avoid mass lockdowns by defeating the coronavirus early on.
At Giant, the world’s largest bike company, it has been a dizzying few months, according to CEO Bonnie Tu.
“We saw what happened and then we reacted quickly,” Tu told AFP in an interview last week at their new headquarters in the industrial city of Taichung.
“We mobilise our companies, including our factories and sales company… in order to meet the consumer demand.”
The orders have kept on coming, with reports of empty bike racks at dealers and long waits for resupply across Europe and North America.
In Britain, the Association of Cycle Traders said some 20,000 bikes awaiting manufacturing and delivery had already been sold or reserved.
“We’ve seen a mixture of everybody to be honest,” Lincoln Romain, director of Brixton Cycles, in London, told AFP last month.
“People that commute all the time, we’ve seen new cyclists, we’ve seen people that have to get in so they have bikes that have been in the shed a little while.”
Waiting for suppliers
Across the Atlantic, demand has also rocketed.
Year-on-year sales of commuter and fitness bikes increased 66 percent in March, leisure bikes leaped 121 percent and electric bikes rose 85 percent, according to market research firm The NPD Group.
Giant’s Tu said demand in both the US and Europe has centred on the more affordable “$1,000 and under” category of bikes.
While Giant’s factories in Taiwan kept rolling, many of their facilities on the Chinese mainland had to temporarily shut down when the virus first spread from the central city of Wuhan.
A return to full capacity has been slowed by struggles to get parts from suppliers as they refill factory floors and restock inventories.
“We have to wait for them,” Tu said. “So it is actually quite difficult, but we manage.”
For Europe, Giant will soon benefit from a large factory it has built in Hungary, part of a gradual shift many Taiwanese manufacturers are making to diversify away from China and be closer to consumer markets.
Gina Chang, secretary-general of the Taiwan Bicycle Association, said manufacturers initially suffered in the first quarter from cancelled or postponed orders when the virus first spread. But since then, demand has roared back.
“We are seeing rush orders or even panic buying,” she told AFP. “Taiwan’s top two bike makers have orders lined up till the end of this year.”
The coronavirus boom is the latest chapter in a renaissance for Taiwan’s bike industry.
The self-ruled island had for years been the world’s number-one bike producer until the 1990s, when mainland China’s economic reforms saw firms — including many Taiwanese manufacturers — take advantage of a vast, cheap labour force.
But while Chinese factories continue to play a dominant role in terms of sheer numbers, Taiwan production is bouncing back, especially when it comes to higher-quality models and in the rapidly growing electric bike market.
Last year, Taiwan exported $1.36 billion in non-electric bicycles, down from $1.5 billion the year before.
But electric bike production is soaring.
In 2019, electric bike exports totalled $863 million, up from $377 million in 2018, with most heading to Europe.
Export of electric bikes from January to April this year reached a record high of $301 million, up 23.6 percent from the same period last year.
And the bikes made in Taiwanese factories tend to be higher quality models that fetch a higher price.
Tu says she hopes the pandemic will help encourage people to adopt bikes as a form of transport long after the threat of the virus has receded, something many European governments are keen on.
“While riding bicycles, you can have fresh air… you cannot be too close otherwise you will crash,” she laughed. “So it is natural social distancing.”
Reporting and photos: AFP
Emirates undertakes largest known fleet retrofit project
Emirates has kick-started its plans to upgrade the entire interior cabins of 120 Airbus A380 and Boeing 777 aircraft – two of the largest commercial aircraft types in service today.
This ambitious project, representing a multi-billion dollar investment to ensure Emirates’ customers “fly better” for the coming years, officially commences in November and is managed entirely by Emirates’ Engineering team.
The target is to completely retrofit four Emirates aircraft from start to finish every month, continuously for over 2 years. Once the 67 earmarked A380s are refreshed and back in service, 53 777s will undergo their facelift. This will see nearly 4,000 brand new Premium Economy seats installed, 728 First Class suites refurbished and over 5,000 Business Class seats upgraded to a new style and design when the project is complete in April 2025.
In addition, carpets and stairs will be upgraded, and cabin interior panels refreshed with new tones and design motifs including the iconic ghaf trees which are native to the UAE.
No other airline has handled a retrofit of this magnitude in-house, and there’s no blueprint for such an undertaking. Therefore Emirates Engineering teams have been planning and testing extensively, to establish and streamline processes, and identify and address any possible snags.
Trials began on an A380 in July, where experienced engineers literally took each cabin apart piece-by-piece and logged every step. From removing seats and panelling to bolts and screws, every action was tested, timed and mapped out. Potential impediments to completing the installation of Emirates’ new Premium Economy Class or the retrofit of the remaining three cabins in just 16 days were flagged and documented for expert teams to review and address.
As part of the programme, new purpose-built workshops will be set up at Emirates Engineering to repaint, re-trim and re-upholster Business and Economy Class seats with new covers and cushioning. First Class suites will be carefully disassembled and sent to a specialised company to replace the leather, arm rests and other materials.
From the trials, Engineers discovered several unexpected solutions for instance: that existing food catering trucks could be easily repurposed to move parts destined for refurbishment from the aircraft to the workshop for their refresh, as these vehicles had doors of the right width and offer sufficient space.
Until the retrofit programme starts in earnest in November, a cross-disciplinary team has been assembled to regularly review the planning process, address any issues, and track updates on various aspects of the project such as procurement, staffing, and training.
Emirates’ new Premium Economy cabin class, which offers luxurious seats, more legroom, and a service to rival many airlines’ business offering, is currently available to Emirates customers travelling on popular A380 routes to London, Paris, Sydney. More customers will be able to experience the airline’s new Premium Economy cabins starting from year end, as the retrofit programme picks up momentum.
Eleanor helps over 30 Maldives hotels elevate guest services
Eleanor has been named as one of the top 10 concierge software providers globally.
Based on accurate, timely reviews from real users, the HotelTechAwards rank the world’s best hotel software firms and products and it also provides hoteliers direct access to a growing network of hotel technology professionals and decision-makers.
“The guest experience is the cornerstone of our platform. Our unified resort wide solution, Eleanor, has been built for resorts off the back of many years working in the industry and addresses the needs of both Sales and Marketing departments and perhaps just as importantly, the operational requirements of the team on the ground at the property. The days of resorts working with disjointed systems are now behind us,” says Darren Caple, co-founder and CEO.
“We are on a mission to make the guest’s resort experience as easy and as frictionless as possible. Whereas traditional providers in the market have come at this purely from a guest communication perspective, our background in resorts has allowed us to combine this basic requirement with the streamlining of operational processes. The result is truly a resort wide solution that removes the need for countless different systems to be deployed.
Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. More than 30 properties in the Maldives use our Eleanor platform to help butlers and guest services elevate the guest experience. These properties are seeing an increase in incremental revenue by over 30% and operational efficiencies of 600+ man hours per month. We are also beginning to roll out the platform in some Caribbean properties!”
Eleanor is making waves in the hospitality industry by pushing the conventional limits of what a resort guest app can achieve through its unique ability to facilitate direct bookings for services and activities. The traditional ‘request to book’ feature that is common amongst almost all other hotel apps is removed by a power booking and operational platform sitting at the heart of the solution that covers all the resorts’ departments. It’s this module which realises enormous operational benefits and insights for the resort.
“We, at Eleanor, are humbled and honoured that our clients have provided such positive reviews. Feedback from our clients, partners and hoteliers are incredibly valuable for us and we will continue to improve our offering and services”, said Caple.
To celebrate this success, Eleanor is currently offering resorts a free one month trial, together with free setup and training and discounted monthly fees.
Eleanor, founded in 2018 and has its headquarters in the United Kingdom. Created from over 15 years of hands-on expertise, Eleanor allows resorts to deliver consistent, superior service levels to its guests across all stages of their journey with contactless features helping to alleviate sensitive touch-points in the post pandemic period. Eleanor also helps to unlock operational efficiencies and boost incremental revenue and guest loyalty.
Hotel Tech Report’s Best Concierge Software 2022 Runner Up, reviewed as a preferred and reliable hotel software product by the global hotelier community.
For more information, visit www.eleanorapp.com.
Emirates’ recruiters scour the world for cabin crew talent with 30 city stops
Emirates, the world’s most global airline, is seeking talented people with a passion for service to join its award-winning cabin crew team.
As air travel returns with a vengeance, the airline’s recruiters are busy meeting and hiring candidates in 30 cities from now until the end of June. In this latest drive, Emirates’ teams will travel from Australia to the UK, and dozens of European cities in between, as well as Cairo, Algiers, Tunis and Bahrain.
Abdulaziz Al Ali, Emirates Group’s Executive Vice President for Human Resources said: “There’s no more exciting airline than Emirates for anyone interested in a flying career, and we’ve received tremendous interest since we began our recruitment drive for cabin crew in November.”
“While parts of the application process are done online, we always make the effort to meet our candidates in person whenever we can, and that is why our Talent Acquisition team is doing a whirlwind 30-city tour over the next 6 weeks to assess prospective candidates.”
Emirates’ truly global cabin crew team represent 160 nationalities, reflecting its customer mix and international operations in over 130 cities on six continents.
All Emirates crew are based in the exciting cosmopolitan city of Dubai, with company-provided accommodation, tax-free salary and more benefits.
Interested candidates can read more about the Emirates cabin crew role, and apply online at: https://www.emiratesgroupcareers.com/cabin-crew/
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