IN BRIEF: July 2019 issue

FLIGHT Centre’s Universal Traveller

Flight Centre is aggressively targeting the youth market, with a rebranding of its longstanding Student Flights shops as Universal Traveller. All of Flight Centre’s 52 current Student Flights stores will have a makeover in the coming months, with Universal Traveler continuing to aim at travellers aged 18-35, MD Graham Turner said Student Flights, founded in the mid-1990s, had traditionally focused on air but in recent years had broadened its offering to include touring, adventure, cruising and FIT products.

“This evolution into a full service agency, with world class offerings for younger travellers across a number of key product ranges, was not reflected in the brand name,” Turner said. He confirmed Flight Centre plans to expand the Universal Traveller shop network in the future, predominantly within the youth precincts of major shopping areas. The bricks and mortar expansion of Universal Traveller will be complemented by the Australian launch of the new online StudentUniverse OTA brand, he added.

Helloworld to drop Qantas Holidays

Helloworld has confirmed that it will cease to operate the Qantas Holidays brand from March next year, after a decision not to renew its longstanding licence agreement with Qantas. HLO Executive Director, Cinzia Burnes, told travelBulletin the change would see the company instead focus on the Viva! Holidays brand, which will offer all product currently available under the Qantas Holidays banner.

While Burnes downplayed the impact, the change is a significant shift for Helloworld, which seems to be edging away from Qantas, the majority shareholder in HLO’s predecessor, Jetset Travelworld, when it merged with Qantas Holidays in 2008. Then Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon said the deal would “bring together two of the strongest brands in travel,” with Qantas Holidays at the time described as Australia’s largest travel wholesaler.

It’s unclear at this stage what QF’s intentions are for Qantas Holidays, but a website at packages.qantas.com indicates an ongoing commitment to the brand, with terms and conditions giving it flexibility to deal through a “Third Party Travel Provider”.

Helloworld emphasised that nothing within its operations would change, with all staff servicing, product range and loyalty offerings to remain unchanged under Viva! “The important thing for the industry is it’s business as usual,” Burnes emphasised.

Luxury Escapes adds air

Travel industry disruptor Luxury Escapes last month continued its evolution with the launch of a fully integrated flights offering. The enhancement to the company’s previous land-only offering allows customers to easily view package pricing, including air, up to 330 days in advance — along with an indication of the cheapest travel periods.

CEO Cameron Holland said the new offering was the outcome of customer research which indicated three key points of frustration when booking a travel experience: transparency on final price, easy comparison between costs, and quick response time.

“Adding flights is our next step in providing a more convenient one-stop shopping experience, making it easier than ever for customers to book a complete holiday,” he said.

“Our forecasting shows there to be a significant increase in the purchase of accommodation and touring offers now that flights can be bought in the same transaction,” he said, adding that Luxury Escapes anticipates “more potential bookings for hotel partners” as a result of the initiative.

DriveAway buys long-time rival

Consolidation in the self-drive holiday sector continues, with the acquisition of the assets of wholesaler globalCARS by DriveAway. GlobalCARS founders Tim Oliver and Andrew Morgan, who established the business in 1999, said they were proud of the longevity of the operation in this “incredibly competitive industry.

“This represents a new and exciting chapter in the GlobalCARS story and guarantees huge potential for our loyal clients over so many years,” they said.

DriveAway MD Chris Hamill noted that the deal provided a “niche opportunity to further improve the company’s position as the leading self-drive operator in Australia and New Zealand.

“We continue to look for competitive advantages and opportunities, and I am delighted with the purchase and the opportunity for our business,” he added.

Other DriveAway acquisitions in past years have included Renault Eurodrive in 2015 as well as World Cars in 2008.

Strong year for AFTA

The 2018/19 year was a financially successful one for the Australian Federation of Travel Agents, which recorded a whopping $401,971 surplus due to a significant gain on the sale of its Sydney premises. The Federation invested the money in additional TV and radio advertising, and was also able to place $5 million in an investment portfolio which is already generating a significant return to further assist in consumer engagement activities going forward.

CEO Jayson Westbury hailed a “ripper year” in the AFTA annual report, noting that awareness for the AFTA Travel Accreditation Scheme (ATAS) was at an all-time high, while the ACS Chargeback Scheme had also boosted its membership to over 430 agencies across the country who are now protected from credit card chargebacks if suppliers default.

Westbury said that after taking into account the additional consumer marketing, a modest adjusted profit of $7,000 was recorded in the accounts. “AFTA is in a very strong financial position, with significant equity and capacity to invest in a sustained program of consumer engagement…something that members have been asking for over many years,” he said.

ETG settles FTG deal

Express Travel Group has expanded its presence across the Tasman, after finalising its 65% acquisition of NZ agency network First Travel Group. Existing members of the group and management hold the rest of the business which also includes the YOU Travel retail group along with a number of independent members. ETG CEO Tom Manwaring said the combination of the businesses “allows the benefits of scale to be realised,” flagging benefits in a range of areas such as corporate travel technologies, cruising, global events and online leisure solutions.

Meanwhile Helloworld made the most of those agencies which chose not to stay in the First Travel Group, announcing the 100% acquisition of former FTG member Williment Travel alongside the earlier additions of Gilpin Travel, Barlow Travel and Atlas Corporate. Also switching to HLO was the NZ Travel Brokers network, with Helloworld CEO Andrew Burnes claiming the additions comprised turnover of about NZ$300 million, representing over 65% of the former First Travel Group’s TTV. “The team in NZ has done an outstanding job of building a strong value proposition which in turn has attracted these new agencies to our networks,” he said.

However Burnes’ figures didn’t line up with those of Manwaring, who noted that the “new” First Travel Group had maintained 85% of the original agencies and 75% of the TTV. Of a total of 63 original members, 55 had remained, all of them IATA-accredited, he pointed out. During the month ETG also appointed long-time Air Tickets executive Vlado Ristevski to the newly created role of GM Air Sales & Operations, after 30 years at Helloworld and its predecessors.

 

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