IN BRIEF: February 2020 issue

CORONAVIRUS sparks alarm

Those in the travel industry with long memories will recall the downturn precipitated by the 2002 outbreak of Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS) in southern China, which resulted in about 800 deaths. Given the impact of SARS, there’s little surprise authorities have reacted swiftly over the last month, following the emergence of another similar virus, which has been initially linked to a large live animal market in Wuhan City, in China’s Hubei Province.

The novel coronavirus (2019-nCoV) is a new strain not previously identified in humans. So far 18 have died, and authorities in China have put Wuhan into lock-down, suspending all flights and train travel in and out of the city in an attempt to contain the disease.

Passengers aboard China Eastern Airlines flights from Wuhan to Sydney are being evaluated on arrival, while cases of coronavirus have also been confirmed in Japan, Thiland and South Korea. The Smartraveller alert level for Wuhan has been increased, with DFAT now advising Australians to “reconsider their need to travel” to the city.

AAT Kings offers recovery tours

The team at AAT Kings pulled out all stops in the wake of the bushfire crisis last month, pulling together a new specially curated Empty Esky day tour to the NSW South Coast. Expected to be the first of several bushfire support itineraries, the trip departs Sydney daily and journeys to Kangaroo Valley and Nowra, including a private buffet lunch at Bangalay Dining in Shoalhaven Heads.

Guests are encouraged to bring an empty Esky (with under-vehicle storage provided) which they can fill with local produce purchased during the trip, as a way of supporting the recovery of the local economy. AAT Kings MD Matt Cameron-Smith told travelBulletin he was “super proud of how fast we have been able to build and get to market new product that will get much needed tourism dollars directly into the hands of those in real need”.

NTIA nominations open

This year’s National Travel Industry Awards are expected to be more highly prized than ever, with the importance of a rigorous judging regime and enforcement of high standards brought into sharp focus by the collapse of Excite Holidays just six weeks after the failed business was named Wholesaler of the Year in another awards program.

The 2020 NTIA Nomination period runs until Friday 14 February, with travel agents able to nominate suppliers in a range of categories. Suppliers can also nominate agents, and AFTA is accepting self-nominations for the Emirates Travel Consultant Scholarship. All 2020 NTIA nominees will be announced next month along with the opening of the formal voting period. The process culminates in the NTIA Gala Dinner on Saturday 18 July 2020.

Virgin seals ANA pact

Virgin Australia’s upcoming new Brisbane-Tokyo Haneda flights will now be part of a wider partnership with Star Alliance member All Nippon Airways, which was finalised in Japan last month by VA Chief Commercial Officer, John MacLeod.

An initial code-sharing deal which will see ANA passengers able to fly on six Virgin Australia routes within Australia is set to expand in the coming months to also encompass reciprocal frequent flyer benefits, Japanese domestic codeshares and also codesharing on both airlines’ services between Australia and Japan.

MacLeod noted that over 500,000 Australians had travelled to Japan in 2018, with the expansion of capacity set to see this figure soar. “It’s important to us to provide travellers with better choice and convenience with our new flights from Brisbane, and the ability to travel onward in Japan with ANA”.

ANA is also set to add a second daily Haneda-Sydney service under an expanded aviation bilateral, while Qantas is also boosting Japanese seat numbers with a new Melbourne-Tokyo Haneda flight.

Experience Co sells

Former Tourism Australia MD John O’Sullivan is now putting his stamp on Experience Co, the ASX-listed adventure tourism company where he has been CEO since the middle of 2019. The firm has been working hard to diversify its earnings away from its core focus on skydiving, but some of its acquisitions in recent years have clearly not been performing. O’Sullivan has undertaken a strategic review which has identified some “non-core” parts of the business which are now in the process of being sold.

These include Great Barrier Reef Helicopters, Raging Thunder Adventures and RnR White Water Rafting, hot air ballooning operations in Cairns, Byron Bay and the Hunter Valley, and Experience Co’s canyoning business.

O’Sullivan said the “business simplification process” would give the company flexibility to pursue growth opportunities “better aligned to our core business, expertise and with a focus on return on invested capital”.

Reho fraudster sentence

Melbourne corporate travel specialist Reho Travel unfortunately acquired more than just a business in mid-2015 when it took over corporate conference and incentive specialist NGT Travel. As revealed during a court case finalised last month, one of NGT’s staff had her fingers in the till, and stole about $100,000 to fuel a gambling and methamphetamine habit.

It’s understood the fraud was confirmed by Reho Travel CEO Karsten Horne, who conducted an investigation in late 2017 after receving a tip-off.

Enzo Testa ultimately pleaded guilty to obtaining financial advantage by deception, with the scheme involving funnelling payments to accounts held by a “friend or associate” which had been masked as false invoices to the company’s corporate clients. Testa was given a three year community corrections order.

Tim Clark to retire

Emirates confirmed the end of an aviation era just before Christmas, announcing the upcoming retirement of the airline’s President, Sir Tim Clark, who will formally step down on 30 June this year. Clark was instrumental in the creation of Emirates, having worked with the carrier since its inception in 1985.

Emirates CEO, Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, hailed Clark’s achievemtns in growing EK into the world’s largest international airline.

“His brilliance as an airline manager and planner, as well as his dedication to quality and innovation has been fundamental to the success of Emirates, as well as to the success of Dubai as a global aviation hub and destination,” Al Maktoum said.

Intrepid Imperium deal

INTREPID Travel is simplifying its operational structure in Australia, with the divestment of Adventure Tours Australia to Imperium Capital Group. The touring business will become part of Imperium’s Fraser Island-based Discovery Adventure Group, which will expand into Central and Western Australia through the deal.

Although Intrepid is offloading its interest in the business, the sale will see Intrepid take a stake in Discovery Adventure Group, with co-founder Darrell Wade to join the board. Other recent moves by Intrepid include the launch of a partnership with Lonely Planet offering curated tours for the iconic guide book publisher; and a new subscription service allowing travellers to carbon offset their trips in partnership with Offset Earth.

 

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