IN BRIEF: News from April 2019

CLOUDS brewing over Qantas Channel?

Murmurs of discontent are starting to emerge over the new Qantas Channel initiative (travelBulletin March 2019) as details of the terms and conditions which apply to agencies that sign up are becoming clearer. The pressure is now on for registrations, with Qantas warning it can’t guarantee that the $17.50 per sector “Channel Fee” from 1 August will not apply unless travel agents sign up prior to 30 June. Online registration for agencies with one IATA or TIDs number is now open — however it requires participants to enter into a new agreement with their GDS in order to enable the Qantas Channel.

And that’s where the controversy is swirling, with agents suddenly becoming aware that in many cases they will no longer be paid segment rebates by their GDS partners on Qantas bookings. Nobody would speak on the record to travelBulletin about the issue, but it’s understood that for some agents — particularly those with significant domestic and international corporate business — the impact on their bottom line will potentially require them to completely change their business model, with hundreds of thousands of dollars at stake. Qantas didn’t respond to requests for comment before travelBulletin’s deadline.

Game-changer for Outdoria

New zealand-listed Tourism Holdings Limited (THL) has emerged as the largest shareholder in “outdoor tourism marketplace” Outdoria, headed up by former Tourism Australia marketing chief Nick Baker. THL is a joint venture partner alongside recreational vehicle-maker Thor Industries in a firm called TH2, which has merged its CamperMate and Roadtrippers Australasia businesses into Outdoria and its stablemate GoSeeAustralia.

Other shareholders include Discovery Holiday Parks, as well as interests associated with Jayco Australia founder and MD, Gerry Ryan. “The combined businesses will be Australasia’s largest dedicated marketplace for outdoor tourism, positioned to offer a spectrum of products to satisfy all needs in the camping and outdoor tourism area,” the company said. Customers will be able to research, plan and book self-drive or camping holidays, as well as rent or buy equipment ranging from surfboards right through to RVs.

Campus Travel to become part of FCM

Flight Centre is continuing its brand consolidation strategy, last month confirming the disappearance of the long-standing Campus Travel operation which is being absorbed into a new academic-focused division of the company’s FCM Travel corporate operation. The change will see FCM able to service clients in the corporate government and now academic verticals, with GM Melissa Elf saying there were “many travel management synergies” as a result of the change.

“From an operational and servicing perspective, it makes sense that FCM, which is our flagship large market corporate travel brand, extend its service offering to the academic sector,” she said. Current clients in the educational sector would continue to work with the same travel teams they know and trust, but would be able to “leverage the benefits of FCM’s market-leading technology and tap into the products available through our global network,” she said.

Notre Dame burns

The tragic fire in Paris’ landmark Notre Dame cathedral has blighted what for centuries has been a highlight of any visit to the French capital. Major damage has been sustained to the Catholic church’s spire and roof, with the incident “potentially linked” to a massive renovation project. Atout France Regional Manager Australasia, Patrick Benhamou, told travelBulletin he was buoyed amid the news of the disaster by the support of the local travel and tourism sector.

“With so many messages received, Australians are standing in sorrow and friendship with Paris and the Parisians,” he said, with Notre Dame welcoming an estimated 12 million visitors each year, making it the city’s most frequented monument. As this issue of travelBulletin goes to print, French President Macron had vowed to rebuild the edifice — with the support of a 100 million pledge by Francois-Henri Pinault, the billionaire owner of Gucci.

Intrepid’s world-changing travel vision

Intrepid Travel Group continues to go from strength to strength, last month releasing its latest Integrated Annual Report detailing the company’s third consecutive year of record growth in revenue, profit and passenger numbers. In keeping with its commitment to transparency, the report provided more than just the raw numbers, detailing Intrepid’s impact on the environment, the communities where it works and the wider world.

CEO James Thornton forecast that Intrepid’s business would more than double over the next six years to a total of more than one million passengers, with the company vowing to use its position to keep leading and changing the industry for the better. “I believe we have as much potential for imact as any politician in the world,” he said, TTV for 2018 was $402 million, while pre-tax profit surged more than 30% to $14.4 million. The not-for-profit Intrepid Foundation disbursed $1.15 million to projects across the globe, and Thornton laid out a vision to become the world’s first climate-positive travel company. “I believe aligning our business with a higher purpose will actually boost our financial performance in the long run,” he added.

Cruise Office wind-down

The Australian cruise GSA landscape shifted significantly last month, with Cruise Office announcing plans to cease operations at the end of the 2019 cruise season. The change, which affects the business in both Australia and New Zealand, will see Cruise Traveller take over representation of American Queen Steamboat Company and Victory Cruise Lines, while in NZ the brands will now be represented by Cruise World. Previous Cruise Office partners have included Oceania Cruises and Swan Hellenic, while the company also represented Voyages to Antiquity which has chartered its only vessel to American educational tour operator Road Scholar for three years.

Cruise Office MD David Bunn expressed his thanks to the travel agency community for their “enthusiastic support over the years, in making it possible to introduce and successfully grow those cruise lines we have represented”.

Air NZ heading to Seoul

The bullish outcome of a wide-ranging business review comissioned by Air New Zealand CEO Christopher Luxon has seen the carrier announce a new route, in the form of non-stop services between Auckland and Seoul. Luxon outline a number of other network changes as the airline focuses on profitable routes and those with growth potential, boosting frequencies to Taipei and Chicago and adjusting the timing of Hong Kong flights.

The carrier has also deferred deliveries of several narrow-body Airbus aircraft and implemented a two-year cost reduction program which is targeting savings of over $60 million annually. Air New Zealand is battening down the hatches as it plans for slower network growth of 3-5%, versus a previous forecast of 5-7% reflecting a “slower demand growth environment”.

Two wide-bodied aircraft, intended as part of a fleet replacement program for NZ’s Boeing 777-200s, are also being deferred for at least four years, but the airline will still take delivery as planned of its 14th B787-9 in October. Product enhancements will continue unabated, however, including the progressive introduction of an enhanced Business Premier offering on the NZ long-haul fleet later this year along with a new Economy product from mid-2020, new lounges and free wi-fi on all international routes.

 

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