In brief – August 2018 issue

AFTA record Sydney property play

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents has sold its Sydney head office, achieving a record price for strata property in the NSW capital’s CBD. The decision to sell followed 36 years of occupancy in the Pitt Street premises, with the whopping sale price of $3.8 million + GST to be invested in a fund for the benefit of members, according to AFTA CEO Jayson Westbury.

The AFTA office has now relocated to a rented space at Suite 3, Level 31, 31 Market Street Sydney, with the Federation’s (02) 9287 9900 phone number and email addresses remaining unchanged.

The deal was confirmed during the 2018 AFTA annual general meeting, which saw the re-election of Helloworld Travel’s Mike Thompson as AFTA chairman for the tenth year, along with Graham Turner of Flight Centre and Travellers Choice chief executive officer Christian Hunter as the organisation’s vice-chairs. Westbury said it was “very pleasing to confirm that AFTA remains in a strong position to deliver on policies and services for the benefit of our members and more broadly many travel industry stakeholders”.

AFTA’s board of directors now comprises Thompson, Turner and Hunter along with Jo Sully of American Express Global Business Travel, Jamie Pherous from Corporate Travel Management, David Smith from Flight Centre, Spiros Alysandratos of Consolidated Travel, Tom Manwaring, Express Travel Group, and Julie Primmer & Andrew Macfarlane of Helloworld Travel.Australian Securities and Investment Commission records confirm that Helloworld Travel CEO Andrew Burnes resigned as an AFTA director in late June, with the board now having a casual vacancy.

Entire Group adds Maldives portfolio

Entire Travel Group last month confirmed the addition of a new destination to its burgeoning portfolio, with the launch of the new Maldives Travel Connection division. The expansion complements other businesses under the Entire banner including French Travel Connection, Tahiti Travel Connection, New Caledonia Travel Connection, Spain & Portugal Travel Connection, Canada & Alaska Specialist Holidays and the recently merged CIT Holidays.

CEO Brad McDonnell said the addition was a natural extension of the company’s product range. “We have extensive experience in selling island destinations, but what really distinguishes our brands is the depth of knowledge and level of expert support they provide our travel agent partners”.

The addition follows the recent appointment of industry veteran Greg McCallum as Entire Travel Group’s sales & marketing director. It also comes amid unprecedented growth in demand for travel to the Maldives, where a hotel building boom is currently under way with more than 60 new properties expected to come on stream in the next 12 months.

Flight Centre wows the crowds in Berlin

The Flight Centre Travel Group brought the star power to its 2018 Global Gathering in Berlin, Germany last month, with the annual event featuring an array of celebrities including Aussie Hollywood super-hunk Chris Hemsworth along with British comedians Jimmy Car and Michael McIntyre.

Flight Centre Global 2018 continued the event’s reputation for generosity, with the company bringing its top selling staff on flights from across the globe — including aboard a chartered Etihad Airways A380 superjumbo — to enjoy an all expenses-paid weekend as a reward for their performance in the last year.

The “Flight Klub”-themed event hosted more than 3,000 of the company’s achievers, with the aim of providing “informative and entertaining educational sessions for employees” as well as celebrating achievement, professionalism and innovation within the company. The gathering culminated in a gala ball and awards ceremony on the Saturday night presented by CEO Graham Turner, which also featured a performance by Australian pop princess Kylie Minogue. Other headliners during the weekend included performer Aloe Blacc, DJs Jonas Blue and Duke Dumont, and Australian comedienne Claudia O’Doherty. Next year’s Flight Centre Travel Group Global Gathering will take place in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Intrepid closing Geckos

Intrepid Travel last month revealed a restructure of its brand portfolio which will see its youth-focused Geckos brand absorbed into “big sister” Intrepid. The move, effective from 01 October, will see all existing Geckos Adventures trips become part of a new small group range within Intrepid, targeting 18- to 29-year old travellers.

Intrepid Group CEO James Thornton said the move “means we can have better conversations with 18 to 29s about the things that matter. He noted that Intrepid had almost four times the number of passengers in that age bracket as Geckos and is a global brand, while Geckos is almost entirely sold within Australia.

“The name will change, but our style will remain the same: authentic experiences shared in small groups, with local leaders,” said Thornton.

“While we’ve had great feedback from our 18 to 29s customers, in 2018 and beyond we’re investing more in our purpose through Intrepid Travel.”

The CEO said the move was recognition that 18 to 29s are the socially responsible travellers of the future. “It no longer makes sense to have two brands. Our 18 to 29s need the global reach that Intrepid Travel has, so that we can do more…[it] means we can have better conversations with 18 to 29s about the things that matter,” he concluded.

Industry high flyers make their moves

THE last month has seen several major industry appointments, including the shock resignation of Gai Tyrrell from Hawaiian Airlines who confirmed days later that she would take the helm of the Globus Family of Brands. Globus was previously headed up by Stewart Williams, who stepped down abruptly in February for personal reasons after 30 years with the company.

Tyrrell’s appointment follows an extensive search for a “qualified, passionate and professional leader,” according to Globus Family of Brands president and CEO Scott Nisbet.

Tyrrell was appointed Hawaiian Airlines’ regional director for Australia and New Zealand in late 2014, with her extensive industry career also including a stint as chief executive officer of Sabre Pacific, chief operating officer at Jetset Travelworld Group, executive general manager at Flight Centre’s FCM Travel Solutions and general manager of industry sales at Qantas Airways.

Another big move this month was the resignation of long-time Trafalgar national sales manager Rachael Harding, who is taking up a new role as general manager of Club Med in Australia and New Zealand. The widely respected Harding had been with The Travel Corporation for more than 15 years. Trafalgar is now recruiting for a replacement who will manage the company’s national sales team of nine direct reports, and in conjunction with MD Matthew Cameron-Smith will “own and manage many of the key strategic trade relationships across the industry”.

ACCC targets credit card surcharges

The travel sector has been firmly in the sights of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission when it comes to the new credit card surcharging rules, with the ACCC looking to make an example of several key players caught charging more than it cost them to process client cards.

Campervan operator Cruisin’ Motorhomes was hit with a $12,600 fine over allegations it charged its Visa and MasterCard customers a 2% surcharge, despite the cost of processing the payment ranging from 0.41% to 1.48%.

Further action was foreshadowed against car rental firm Europcar, which is the subject of the first litigation to be conducted under the regulations which became effective last year for small businesses, and twelve months earlier for bigger organisations.

“Europcar did not reduce its surcharges despite being notified by its bank in July 2017 of the actual cost to accept payments by these cards. Instead, it is alleged Europcar continued to charge customers in excess of this amount, in breach of the law,” the ACCC said.

Europcar said it was disappointed at the ACCC legal action, saying it had fully cooperated with the Commission since an investigation commenced in October 2017.

“At every step we have sought to not only do the right thing by our customer but to also work openly, cooperatively and transparently with the ACCC to identify and correct this issue and to ensure the best possible outcome for all our customers,” the company said. A total of 22,602 customers were impacted, with the amount overcharged being just over $20,000 in total.