IN BRIEF: news from September

Get a run down of the top stories from September.

Dream Cruises to come to Sydney

Australasia will welcome its first Dream Cruises ship in spring 2019, with the cruise line revealing it would bring sister brand Star Cruises’ ship, SuperStar Virgo, into the Dream fleet. To be renamed Explorer Dream, the ship will undergo a US$30 million dollar transformation in March 2019, and then from October next year the vessel will homeport out of Sydney and Auckland, operating a series of 21 week-long itineraries.

Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay, executive chairman of both cruise line’s parent company, Genting Hong Kong, said the move accelerated the company’s vision to “develop Dream Cruises into Asia’s Global Cruise Line” by sailing outside of Asian waters.

“With her strong heritage in the Asian cruise landscape and history in the region along with her world-renowned German engineering, SuperStar Virgo’s transformation into Explorer Dream will combine the best-in-class design and construction of her sister ships with acclaimed service that is Asian at heart and international in spirit,” he said.

Explorer Dream will be fitted with new facilities including The Palace, Dream Cruises’ luxury private enclave featuring 50 suites and butler service. The ship will also sport all new food and beverage options “combining the best of East meets West” and a new Crystal Life Spa.

Prior to her Australian season, the ship will homeport in Shanghai and Tianjin during the northern summer of 2019.

Explorer Dream will be followed by a Global Class ship “soon after,” with the line telling travelBulletin earlier this year it planned to bring a Global Class vessel to operate in Australasian waters in 2021.

Wollongong flight revival

REGIONAL carrier Fly Corporate will re-establish direct links from Wollongong to Melbourne and Brisbane after the recent failure of rival JetGo.

The airline announced it would launch new services from 12 November, with a 6.15am weekday departure from Wollongong to Melbourne’s Essendon Airport and a four times weekly 1.55pm departure to Brisbane.

Fly Corporate CEO Andrew Major said the new services would provide options for direct travel from the Illawarra region, as well as giving alternatives to Sydney for travellers heading onward to other domestic and international destinations.

Flights will be operated by Saab 340B Plus aircraft, with launch fares available from $199 one way.

“We have chosen to operate this service utilising Melbourne’s Essendon Airport given its close proximity to the Melbourne CBD, lack of airport congestion together with economical car parking and city transfer options,” Major said.

He noted that for passengers inbound to Melbourne wanting to connect on to other domestic and international destinations, there is a free shuttle bus connecting Essendon and Tullamarine airports.

FCTG launches “Savi”

Flight Centre has unveiled a new corporate travel technology platform called “Savi” powered by Artificial Intelligence (AI) and designed in collaboration with Serko.

Launched at Flight Centre Travel Group’s (FCTG) “Illuminate” corporate travel event at the Melbourne Cricket Ground last month, Savi will be available exclusively to customers of FCM Travel Solutions, Corporate Traveller, Stage and Screen and Campus Travel.

Flight Centre said Savi “sets a new benchmark in booking technology for business travellers” and incorporates functionality that would “generate significant time efficiencies for individual users and overall cost savings for businesses”.

FCTG corporate executive GM, James Kavanagh, told travelBulletin the company had been working with Serko for several years now.

“We are the largest investor in Serko’s development pipeline,” he said, with Savi incorporating the best elements of another Flight Centre platform called Rapidbook to create a unique offering.

He said corporate travellers were increasingly seeking a “leisure shopping experience” when booking, with Savi focused on providing better engagement between travel bookers and road warriors.

The Flight Centre offering includes exclusive modules such as Savi Select, Savi Voice and Savi Credits, which Kavanagh promised would deliver “significant efficiencies for business travellers, travel bookers and their companies”.

Insider moves to Calypso

Helloworld’s Insider Journeys is now on the Calypso wholesale reservations system, allowing agents to book its small group tours online.

The company said the move provides agents “access to a greater level of Insider Journeys product than ever before”, with sellers able to make land and air bookings online though Helloworld Wholesale’s Tango platform.

Insider Journeys MD Tony Mayell said “we know all agents using Calypso will welcome this news. Being able to book Insider Journeys product online in the same way you can book Qantas Holidays is an important step forward for the Insider Journeys brand”.

Agents who wish to book and hold air bookings for Galileo and Amadeus can now do so and have them ticketed by Insider Journeys.

The update is the latest investment in technology for the company, which has also installed Tour Plan in the Saigon office and is planning an “imminent review of its website”.

The move to Calypso also makes it easier for agents to earn rewards through the Insider Journeys “5, 10, 15 Incentive”, which gives agents who book five travellers on a Small Group Journey a 10-day trip to Vietnam, Cambodia or Laos, Mayell said.

Those who book 10 passengers can earn a 14-day tour to Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, China, Bhutan, India or Burma while bookings of 15 travellers can take a trip on any of the company’s Small Group Journeys.

SQ Hotelbeds pact

Singapore Airlines last month announced a major “holiday packaging partnership” with accommodation aggregator Hotelbeds, offering bundled flights and hotel solutions for the airline’s customers across the globe.

The move is said to allow travellers to curate their own holiday packages, with real-time selection of Singapore Ailrines flights alongside more than 170,000 hotels. Transfers and activities from the Hotelbeds platform will also be progressively added to the new offering. Hotelbeds Group will provided a dedicated team, mostly based in Singapore, who will be responsible for “customer service, pricing and product optimisation”.

The combination is being labelled as “Singapore Airlines Holidays,” and sees the relaunch of the brand after its wholesale operations were closed down in Australia more than two years ago after formerly being operated by the now defunct Pinpoint Holidays and then Wendy Wu Tours.

The move comes as Hotelbeds also confirmed a global consolidation of its retail businesses which will see legacy brands including GTA, TravelCube and TravelBound combined under the Bedsonline banner. Hotelbeds Group managing director Bedbank, Carlos Muonz, said “it makes strategic and practical sense for us to continue to develop our travel agent proposition under one integrated global platform and brand”.

Cruise role for Williams

STEWART Williams, formerly the long-time head of the Globus Family of Brands, has taken a new role as the Asia-Pacific Regional Manager for Cyprus-based Celestyal Cruises.

Williams, who left Globus in February this year for personal reasons after almost three decades with the organisation, will report to Celestyal’s director of sales and travel services, Marios Polydorou. “He has joined Celestyal Cruises to oversee and develop the company’s APAC business, and to enhance revenue streams and maximise business opportunities across the region by increasing the visibility of the Celestyal Cruises brand across all distribution channels,” the company said.

Williams told travelBulletin he was very happy to be working for the operator, saying “the Celestyal cruise experience and product is fabulous”. The cruise line’s Shanghai-based business development executive, Wan Wang, will also report to Williams.

“Adding Stewart Williams to our senior commercial team demonstrates our commitment to the Australasian market,” said Celestyal Cruises CEO Chris Theiophilides. “Stewart’s role is a core component of our global commercial strategy, which includes our expansion throughout the APAC region, where we expect to capture more opportunities to bring the Celestyal Cruises story to new passengers,” he added.

Currently Celestyal operates two mid-sized cruise ships in the Greek Islands and Eastern Mediterranean, focusing on “true cultural immersion”.


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