By Bruce Piper
Anyone who was looking forward to a quiet 2018-2019 summer break will have been somewhat disappointed, with the new year certainly starting off with a bang.
The appointment of Express Travel Group CEO Tom Manwaring as AFTA Chairman, the “voluntary withdrawal” of a major wholesaler from the ATAS accreditation scheme and a number of acquisitions by Helloworld and Flight Centre have provided plenty of industry news — not to mention the ongoing series of stunning revelations in connection with the collapse of Bestjet.
It’s tempting to believe that the flurry of activity over the last two months has been a unique indicator of the fast-paced technology-driven world we now live in — but the recent death of Jetset Travelworld Founder Bob Sparks has been a reminder that the roller-coaster we are riding has been running for some time.
70-year-old Sparks, who died after a long illness, was truly a pioneer of the current Australian travel distribution landscape, putting together a series of groundbreaking deals which amalgamated the former Traveland, Jetset and Travelworld groups in an early attempt to challenge the rising dominance of Flight Centre in the late 1990s.
Sparks also guided the organisation he created through the major ructions of 9/11, SARS and the Iraq war — before abruptly resigning as the company’s CEO in 2003 for family reasons.
He later re-emerged as Chairman of the Travel Services Group which acquired several former American Express Travel outlets before collapsing in 2007.
Sparks’ vision and insight into the Australian travel trade was a major contributor to the development of what is now Helloworld Travel.
travelBulletin has a close connection to another industry legend who died this month — the magazine’s Co-Founder Eddie Raggett (pictured) who along with Ian McMahon sold the publication to the Business Publishing Group in 2014.
Raggett was another visionary, whose irascible Irish humour, sparkling wit, intelligence and determination to “get the deal” was renowned across the industry.
As the inheritors of his legacy we would like to pay tribute to Eddie — may he rest in peace.