From the publisher: October

By Bruce Piper

This month I have been travelling in America’s New England region and the trip has reminded me of how fortunate we are to work in this industry. This is a beautiful part of the world and Jenny and I have been privileged to experience it during the spectacular “fall foliage” season.

Travel and tourism continues to be a key part of the US economy, but interestingly the “Trump effect” is definitely having an impact. The most recent figures for Australian travel to the USA show a slight dip, but on the ground in America I can tell you operators are extremely concerned. In the US north-east there are thousands of tourism businesses, almost all of them highly seasonal operations. In summer domestic visitation is huge, while many hotels close completely for the extreme winter months.

Rather than being worried about dampening demand due to perceptions of President Trump, the key issue for operators here is that of getting staff to work in their businesses. Hoteliers and attractions across Nantucket, Martha’s Vineyard, Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont rely heavily on imported workers from the Caribbean, who return to their native lands to work in tourism there during the winter months.

The focus on immigration policy by the new administration in Washington means visa arrangements for these seasonal workers are very much under threat. Operators are lobbying furiously to maintain the status quo, with possible changes under Trump having the potential to cripple the sector.

MEANWHILE in the wake of last month’s collapse of Reed Holidays, AFTA CEO Jayson Westbury highlighted new legislation regarding the so-called practice of “phoenixing” — where unethical company directors place their businesses into administration and then later recommence operations under a new name, leaving creditors out in the cold.

While Westbury stressed that he was not making specific allegations about the Reed collapse, he noted that the company’s ATAS accreditation was not based on full information, with Reed trading through multiple companies which didn’t reveal the total picture of its operations. It is the first collapse of an ATAS accredited agency in some time and the scheme will be closely following developments as the administration proceeds.

In my time in the travel industry I can recall at least two instances where it appears failed companies have been magically “reborn from the ashes” and continued operating despite leaving creditors owed millions of dollars — so any move to clamp down on the practice is welcome.

Businesses do fail. What’s to be hoped is that if they do collapse it is due to misfortune or mismanagement — not malfeasance.