From the publisher

BRUCE Piper

Those who are acquainted with veteran Adelaide travel agent Max Najar will agree that he is definitely one of the industry’s many interesting characters. A brief conversation reveals his wealth of knowledge and experience in travel — not to mention an abounding enthusiasm to offer full and frank, well-thought-out opinions.

Less well known — but certainly coming to the fore recently — is his remarkable tenacity, particularly when it has come to the pursuit of a former consultant within his Axis Travel business, who last month finally pleaded guilty to multiple offences of fraud against the agency and its clientele.

The incident saw Arthur Zacharias arrested three years ago in relation to an elaborate scheme involving the issuance of fake travel documents and fraudulently opened bank accounts. Some Axis customers were stranded overseas or with unpaid bookings for future holidays, and it’s my understanding Najar spent hundreds of thousands of dollars of his own money repatriating clients to protect his agency’s reputation.

As has been evident in allegations of impropriety around several recent travel industry collapses, white collar crime is very difficult to prosecute in Australia, and Najar must have been tempted many times to let the matter rest or reach some sort of compromise. However the Axis Travel chief has relentlessly pursued the matter, with the assistance of the South Australian Police and Gow-Gates Insurance Brokers. Najar’s efforts are an inspiration to all of us and a reminder matters of principle are worth standing up for, even when there is a significant cost involved.

MEANWHILE SeaLink Travel Group could be set for a significant metamorphosis, after announcing the massive $635 million acquisition of public transport operator Transit Systems. The biggest deal in SeaLink’s history looks more like a reverse takeover — given SeaLink’s $397 million market capitalisation prior to announcing the purchase — while Transit Systems CEO Clint Feuerherdt is set to replace long-time SeaLink chief Jeff Ellison as CEO.

Transit Systems is Australia’s largest private operator of metropolitan public bus services and also has operations in London and Singapore, with the deal touted as a “strategically compelling acquisition creating a leading Australian multi-modal transport provider”. Not much mention of travel and tourism there — despite the company’s full name actually including the word “Travel”.

SeaLink’s longstanding tourism operations in South Australia, plus its ownership of Kingfisher Bay Resort on Fraser Island, weren’t referenced at all in the announcement of the deal. Of course I’m just speculating, but it will be interesting to see where the priorities of the newly minted SeaLink CEO lie when it comes to these operations which suddenly are no longer “core” to the business.

 

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