Check out the latest news from October.

McLachlan’s new brand

McLachlan Travel Group has debuted a new brand into the Australian market called McLachlan European Holidays, offering over 200 itineraries. Launched in partnership with UK tour operator Leger Holidays, the new brand provides group tours in Europe exploring 25 countries.

Described by McLachlan Tours general manager touring, Matt Masson, as providing a much wider, less niche range of products than the group had offered previously, the new brand’s itineraries range from short breaks to trips with week-long stays. There are also dedicated departures for single travellers and winter and festive tours.

McLachlan European Holidays offers travellers three standards of travel, with Masson declaring the top level provides the best coaches in the business. “Leger Holidays have custom-designed the most comfortable fleet of coaches in Europe,” he said. The premium Luxuria level is described as “the Business class coach seat”, offering a cafe, bar, lounge and 30 seats equipped with infotainment systems and USB chargers. The middle class, Silver Service, has 40 seats on each vehicle and the lead-in class, Executive coaches, has 50 seats. “While there are a lot of companies offering European tours…this particular product we felt was excellent value,” Masson said.

The partnership was formed after Leger was looking to expand and the two companies identified similarities between their passenger demographics. “We felt that we were able to be a good partner for Leger to sell those tours into Australia,” he said. McLachlan European Holidays is targeting the retiree traveller from 55-70 years of age, single travellers and families.

Helloworld owners sell-down

Helloworld Travel Limited CEO and executive director, Andrew and Cinzia Burnes sold a total of five million shares in the company last month, reducing their stake in the business in exchange for close to $14 million each. Another major shareholder, Qantas Airways Limited, also sold 2,000,000 shares for the same $5.50 price per share, equating to $11 million. The sale price was a significant discount to the company’s market valuation, which hit a high of $6.33 the previous day.

A company statement said that after full year results announcement, there had been a number of enquiries from investors seeking liquidity opportunities. Andrew Burnes said the sales has been undertaken in a series of block trades and had reduced the stake in Helloworld held by its top three shareholders from 70% to 64.5%. Interests associated with the Burnes’ hold just over 31% of the company while the Qantas stake has reduced to 15.4%. Burnes said the sale represented an opportunity to broaden the shareholder base in HLO, with improved liquidity said to “help the company gain inclusion on the ASX300 list in future”.

Alongside Qantas and the Burnes’, the third major shareholder in Helloworld Travel is Sintack Pty Ltd, owned by the Alysandratos family with just under 18% of the company.

Dave hits the (back)road

Long-time AAT Kings national sales manager, David Gendle, has taken a new role as the global sales general manager for Topdeck Travel and Back-Roads Touring Co, with the move seeing him leave The Travel Corporation after more than 27 years. The newly created dual-brand role will see Gendle operate as general manager of the Asia-Pacific businesses majority-owned by Flight Centre, as well as oversee the global sales of both brands.

AAT Kings managing director, Hans Belle, paid tribute to Gendle, thanking him for his “outstanding leadership and long-term achievements over the years”. Belle also announced the appointment of Jasna Stevanja as head of sales at the Australian and New Zealand specialist operator.

Other recent tour operator moves in have included the promotion of Chris Fundell to become director of marketing for the Globus Family of Brands. It’s been a see-sawing year for Globus and Fundell, who announced his resignation in February just prior to the surprise departure of managing director Stewart Williams, only to then agree to stay on for six months to support interim MD Peter Douglas. Gai Tyrrell was eventually appointed as local MD, and last month confirmed Fundell’s “new and diverse role with the Globus Family of Brands”.

italktravel LE agreement

Express Travel Group’s italktravel and cruise brand has signed an agreement with Luxury Escapes to be its exclusive Australian retail travel network partner. The pact, which became effective on 1 October, will see Luxury Escapes travel packages and promotions distributed through the growing italktravel and cruise agency network, giving members a key point of difference and the opportunity to capitalise on the huge promotion and media spend undertaken by Luxury Escapes.

Luxury Escapes also has an agreement with TravelManagers, while Travellers Choice pioneered this area with its TripADeal partnership (travelBulletin October 2017). Express Travel Group GM of Sales, Jonathan Nelson, said the agreement was “recognition of our like-minded approach to travel”. He said there was no doubt that Luxury Escapes products were in high demand from consumers, adding that italktravel and cruise looked forward to adding “the value and service of a travel consultant to customers choosing to book a Luxury Escapes experience”. He also noted the deal gave agency members the opportunity to offer flights, travel insurance and pre and post experiences to LE customers.

Darran Keil, head of strategic partnerships for Luxury Escapes, said “we see great growth opportunity in attracting new customers who prefer to purchase their travel face-to-face in a retail travel environment”.

Qantas Dutch courage

Qantas is rebuilding its networks into Europe alongside its longstanding partnership with Emirates, last month announcing a new codeshare agreement with Netherlands flag carrier KLM Royal Dutch Airlines. The strategic pact will see the QF code added to KLM’s daily Singapore-Amsterdam services, while KLM will codeshare on Qantas flights from Singapore to Sydney, Melbourne, Brisbane and Perth. Qantas International CEO Alison Webster said the pact would provide customers with more options for travel between Australia and Europe — as well as further opportunities to earn status credits and Qantas points.

Qantas will continue to codeshare on Emirates flights between Amsterdam and Dubai. The KLM agreement follows a similar pact with sister carrier Air France, which launched a renewed Qantas codeshare into Paris earlier this year.

Journey Beyond doubles The Ghan departures

The private equity owners of Great Southern Rail, Cruise Whitsundays and Rottnest Express have continued to invest in their portfolio, last month announcing significant enhancements to the iconic The Ghan rail journey between Adelaide and Alice Springs. A second weekly departure will be added in the 2019 peak season from June-August, which will also enable travellers the option to break the journey for a few days to experience Alice Springs. Six new Platinum Service carriages will also be added to The Ghan fleet “in response to high market demand”.

Parent company Journey Beyond said the expansion was part of celebrations of The Ghan’s 90th anniversary in 2019. In fact the story of The Ghan dates back as far as 1830, when Afghan cameleers opened up the outback to trade and transport. The advent of rail travel saw the first steam train travel to Stuart — later renamed Alice Springs — in 1929. That journey was dubbed “The Afghan Express” which was eventually shortened to “The Ghan”.

Departures on Saturdays from Darwin are being offered as “The Ghan Expedition” with packages including four nights in Darwin, a day at the Litchfield National Park and other experiences, and then three all-inclusive nights on board including off-train excursions in Katherine, Alice Springs and Coober Pedy. Guests travelling in peak season next year can “expect a few surprises” as part of the celebrations, while a special anniversary trip will depart in August.

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