IN BRIEF: March 2020 issue

CHANGES at the top for TTC

Fiona Dalton has been named as the new Chief Executive Officer of The Travel Corporation (TTC) in Australia, after incumbent John Veitch announced he would depart the company next month to take up a new role outside of the travel industry. Dalton, well-respected through a range of senior roles at Macquarie Bank, Helloworld Travel and most recently as Managing Director of TTC’s Uniworld Boutique River Cruises, will take up her new role in October after a sabbatical which is seeing her spend time with her family and complete a Masters of Business Administration.

After Veitch departs in April, TTC veteran Lorraine Sharp will return as Acting CEO prior to Dalton taking the reins. Dalton’s appointment was announced by TTC global chief, Brett Tollman, who said “her capability covers a wide range of areas including strategic, general and financial management, coupled with strong communication, negotiation and commercial acumen.

“Teamed with Fiona’s strength and passion about the impact of effective leadership on businesses and leading people…this will be instrumental in her successful leadership, our relationships with agent partners, and to take Australia to new heights,” he added.

It was a busy month for recruitment within The Travel Corporation, which also confirmed the appointment of local Silversea Cruises MD Adam Armstrong as the new Global CEO of Contiki Holidays. Armstrong, who has led Silversea since July 2018, will relocate to Switzerland later this year to take up his new role. In the meantime a recruitment process for his replacement at Silversea is understood to be “well advanced”.

Helloworld buys Excite software

THE technology platform behind the collapsed Excite Holidays is set to live again, as the driver of Helloworld’s “new, improved ReadyRooms”. Helloworld Travel Executive Director, Cinzia Burnes, confirmed the company was the successful bidder for the platform which was put on the auction block in an urgent sales process by Excite’s KPMG Administrators after their appointment in early January.

At this stage the price paid by Helloworld for the system has not been disclosed, but Burnes told travelBulletin it was not considered material to HLO’s results. She spoke to us from Athens where she was establishing premises for a new company called Helloworld Travel Services Greece, which has employed key technical staff who previously worked for Excite. “When things went pear-shaped at Excite, we thought it was a good opportunity to buy the system and provide agents with a platform they really seem to like,” she said.

Although the return of the easy-to-use system has been hailed by agents, Burnes warned that other elements of the Excite business model would not prevail.

“For one thing, we won’t be spending $1 to make 99c — we’re not going to go backwards commercially, so some of those crazy rates won’t be delivered,” she said.

The HLO Director also noted processes in the platform which she considered to be unethical, such as “scamming suppliers” by automatically cancelling and rebooking existing reservations when rates drop.

It’s anticipated the new Helloworld platform will go live before the company’s Owners and Managers Conference and Business Summit, scheduled for mid-May in Perth.

AFTA highlights ATAS, ACS importance

The Australian Federation of Travel Agents has come out strongly on the front foot following recent industry collapses, reminding the industry that it does not make cancellations from the ATAS and ACS schemes without good reason. “In the last six months, two large-scale, non-accredited wholesalers have become insolvent. It is a stark reminder to all industry that if a business is NOT accredited, ask why not?,” AFTA said in a formal Industry Notice released last month.

It’s understood the organisation has attracted some criticism following the collapses of Tempo Holidays/Bentours and Excite Holidays, with some agents blaming AFTA for not providing more explicit warnings. However AFTA has called out its critics, highlighting repeated misleading and deceptive statements as a “clear demonstration of the lack of integrity of these companies”. The Federation noted it was not to blame for the wholesalers’ demises, adding “poor financial management is the only cause of a company becoming insolvent” and strongly recommending that travel agency owners only work with reputable, accredited wholesalers and tour operators.

This month AFTA will further engage with members through a national roadshow to discuss key issues affecting the travel sector, including new Advertising Guidelines which specifically address the controversial “typically priced at” claims for holiday packages offered by some online operators.

Qantas holds the line

Qantas has significantly reduced its capacity into Asia this month, as it continues to grapple with a downturn in travel demand due to the COVID-19 crisis. But despite the difficulties of the last few months, the airline’s underlying profit for the half year to 31 December was only down $4 million to a still respectable $771 million.

CEO Alan Joyce said “headwinds” had increased costs by about $170 million, with a record result in the Loyalty division complemented by strong performances in International and Domestic.

Later this month Qantas will also make a final decision on its Project Sunrise ultra-long-haul routes from Sydney to London and New York, with Joyce confirming Airbus as a preferred aircraft supplier while the carrier continues to negotiate with pilots regarding a pay deal in connection with the services.

itravel cuts through

Travel agency franchise group itravel unveiled a new internal wholesale platform for its members last month, with CEO Steve Labroski saying the system enabled the company to “cut out a lot of our middlemen”. Showcasing the new HQ by itravel system at the network’s annual conference in Sydney, Labroski told travelBulletin “it’s the beginning of our future where we actually vertically integrate everything that we do in one platform”.

Initially featuring hotel content, he foreshadowed the addition of preferred product from tour operators, transfers, car hire and more to create a “one-stop shop” for members.

Labroski also highlighted itravel’s growth over the last 12 months, citing double-digit increases in TTV across its 64 mobile and 19 franchise offices, totalling more than 150 consultants.

Webjet books Cooked

Webjet’s financial results for the six months to 31 December 2019 confirmed the company’s exposure to the Thomas Cook collapse last year, which saw it write off a whopping $44 million in bad debts. That cut the company’s profit by 14% to a still healthy $46.4 million for the half, with growth driven by a strong performance in the WebBeds wholesale accommodation division.

The results announcement also highlighted the stagnation of Webjet’s B2C online travel agency business, with bookings up just 1% and TTV climbing 3% to $708 million. CEO John Gucsic said the local market “continues to be challenging with reduced capacity, weaker consumer sentiment and the recent bushfires all impacting demand for travel”.

 

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