Of all the ski resorts in the world, why has Qantas started flying to
Sapporo, near the Niseko Hanazono ski resort, in Japan?

Qantas starts flying to Sapporo – a coincidence?

Crikey email – 30 November

An observant skier writes:

Is it simply a coincidence that
Qantas have re-introduced flights, twice weekly I believe, to Sapporo
in Hokkaido, Japan? A couple of Australian chaps, Melbourne Minter
Ellison lawyer, Roger Donazzan and Australian Alpine Enterprises
managing director Colin Hackworth have purchased a defunct ski-resort
(Niseko Hanazono) and are promoting it here in Australia.

Fortunately for them Qantas have started flights out of Cairns
using Australian Airlines. Roger Donazzan is, of course, married to
Margaret Jackson, Chairman of Qantas. Having the flights recommence
certainly won’t hurt the chances of the lads making a buck.

Indeed, Qantas is advertising a 7 night
package, complete with accommodation to ski Sapporo on their website,
with flights leaving from almost ever major city in Australia flying to
Sapporo, via Cairns with Australian Airlines.

The
flights are seasonal and only run twice a week during the Northern
hemisphere’s ski season from November to March, but it’s certainly a
very convenient set up for Donazzan and Hackworth’s new business
venture.

However, we know Margaret Jackson is very aware of conflicts of
interest so the decision was most likely taken by AA management
independent of their chairman. It would, however, be interesting to
know what Donazzan new at the time of his purchase.

Read more about the Niseko Hanazono purchase here.

Is Hanazono a lame destination for Qantas?

Crikey email – 1 December

Another observant, and curious, skier writes:

The question you pose at the end of your piece on the Australian
purchase of the Hanazono ski area and flights by Australian Airlines is
interesting, but there are some other intriguing aspects of the whole
story that could do with some elucidation too.

Niseko is undoubtedly a beautiful ski area with terrific snow and
an easy, laid-back rural Japanese atmosphere, and it is not at all
surprising that large numbers of Australians, as well as skiers from
many other countries, are now enjoying it.

On a recent visit there, I discovered two buildings had been
purchased by Australians as private ski chalets – one by Margaret
Jackson and the other by Colin Hackworth. What was interesting was that
both buildings are right in the middle of the ski lodge zone of
downtown Hirafu, and nowhere near the Hanazono development that
Australian Alpine Enterprises (AAE) appears to have bought into, and
will try to sell to Australian investors.

In practical terms, these purchases make sense, as Hirafu is the
most developed part of the Niseko ski areas, with hotels, restaurants,
bars, easy access to the warm, sunny side of the slopes and with
spectacular views across the picturesque Niseko valley to Mt Yotei.

But why – if Hanazono is the key investment property, and its
future development appears to hinge on sales of real estate around the
foot of the ski slope – did Jackson and Hackworth not buy there, where
their purchases might have given a lead to the investors AAE would
appear to be hoping to attract?

Part of the answer at least is provided by the locals, who simply
raise an eyebrow and ask who would WANT to go to Hanazono? Obviously
they don’t. Hanazono is on the wrong side of the mountain, exposed to
cold Siberian winds and lacking the full-frontal view of the glorious
Mt Yotei.

Even the local tourist literature makes a distinction between
Niseko and Hanazono, most of it listing the three main ski areas
Annupuri, Higashiyama and Hirafu in large, bold type, with Alpen Kogen
Hanazono appearing as an appendage in smaller, lighter type.

No doubt the very cash-strapped Tokyu – like all of Japan’s other
“bubble era” developers – would love to see an influx of new Australian
buyers to lighten the shade of red ink its dilapidated Hanazono
development. Maybe this is what the AAE-Tokyu deal is all about, and if
so, you would have to ask who has the better end of it?

You could also ask what the Jackson and Hackworth purchases in the
picturesque and centrally located Hirafu say about their own confidence
in the future of Hanazono, which is being spoken of in hushed tones as
a very major investment by an Australian company in Japan.

Choosing Cathay Pacific over Qantas

A Hokkaido resident writes:

My experiences with Qantas flying back and forth between Australia
and Japan over a long period of time are too horrible to inflict upon
your sensitive readers – not to mention my inability to ever book a
return flight anywhere using mileage points.

Suffice to say that I now go out of my way to fly via Hong Kong on
Cathay Pacific, even though that entails a lot of extra time and one
overnight stopover per return trip. The difference in levels of service
and attitude is stunning.

Ironically, after all Qantas’ stinginess with FF issues, my Cathay
Pacific miles appear to have kicked in at Qantas, because they have
just awarded me Silver FF status when I haven’t flown with them for
yonks!! A shame, as I have no inclination to ever use it.