ICYMI: top stories from Oct

AccorHotels acquires Mantra

Mantra Group has entered into a binding agreement with AccorHotels which will see the French company acquire all of Mantra’s shares at a price of $3.96 each. The company’s directors are recommending that shareholders accept the $1.18 billion takeover offer, which will see the Australian hospitality group become part of the global Accor network. AccorHotels ceo Sebastien Bazin said the deal would underpin the group’s long-term growth in the Asia Pacific region. “Mantra’s portfolio would offer AccorHotels additional accommodation formats and a strong customer base to implement our successful hotel portfolio in Australia,” he said.

Mantra chairman Peter Bush said the AccorHotels offer “recognises the strategic value of our business and our success in becoming a leading accommodation provider”. Shareholders will be given the opportunity to vote on the scheme at a meeting expected to be held in the first quarter of next year, with the deal scheduled to be finalised by 31 March 2018. Mantra’s portfolio includes 28 Peppers hotels, 75 Mantra properties and 24 operating under the BreakFree brand.

AICS gathers momentum

The Afta Insolvency Chargeback Scheme last month added a third key payments provide partnership, with ASX-listed Mint Payments Limited now part of the scheme which enables ATAS accredited travel agencies to handle payments while at the same time providing protection against consumer debit and credit card chargebacks in the event of supplier insolvency.

The expansion of AICS provides further options for ATAS agencies, with Mint already linked to a network of banking partners making it easy to transition to its platform. Mint also currently offers a “seamless integrated payment solution” via systems such as Tramada and TravelPartner, meaning agents can take payments directly from the mid-office, eliminating keying errors and improving reconciliation and efficiencies.

Mint joins First Data and TravelPay as AICS payment providers, with all three firms offering special arrangements and merchant rates for ATAS agencies. The AICS scheme is a non-profit organisation overseen by a board of directors which currently includes AFTA ceo Jayson Westbury, Mike Thompson from Helloworld, Charlie Gow-Gates of Gow-Gates Insurance Brokers, Contiki managing director Katrina Barry, and Kevin Forder from advisory firm Insevo who was appointed on 01 Sep.

Cruise industry continues growth

The value of Australia’s cruise industry has passed the $5b mark, reaching $5.3 billion in 2016/17, the latest report commissioned by Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) Australasia shows. Australia’s cruise industry’s national economic output surged 15.4% for the period, easing on the 27% growth recorded the previous year. Releasing the Cruise Tourism’s Contribution to the Australian Economy 2016-17 at an event in Sydney, CLIA Australasia chairman Steve Odell applauded the “impressive growth rate”.

The study revealed New South Wales remained the dominant state, accounting for 58% of the industry’s economic contribution, but its 6% growth last financial year means its share has dropped 10% in just two years. The managing director of CLIA Australasia, Joel Katz, highlighted the potential for the cruise industry to contribute “much more” to Australia’s economy.

“With the nation’s cruise gateway at crisis point, the challenge is to ensure strong economic growth for years to come and the only way to make that happen is to find a solution to Sydney’s capacity constraints,” he said.

Queensland was up 14% in 2016/17 on the prior year, to now represent 21% of the national economic contribution, and Victoria experienced a 12% increase to take a 7% share of the national contribution.

Daydream Island set for rebirth

Demolition has begun at Daydream Island Resort and Spa as part of its $65 million redevelopment, after Cyclone Debbie caused widespread damage to the island. The island is plotting its relaunch by relocating its sales and marketing operations from Brisbane to Sydney. The move has seen Jayson Heron named as Daydream’s new director of sales and marketing, joining from his previous role at The Star Sydney.

Demolition work will continue until mid-November when rebuilding beings, with the redevelopment of the Whitsundays resort scheduled for completion in October next year. Major works to be undertaken include redevelopment of the arrivals pavilion, reception, main atrium, bar and restaurants, plus the addition of a new Asian-inspired eatery, expansion of conference facilities and upgrades to all room types. In anticipation of the revival, the resort has opened bookings for stays from October 2018 onwards. “We are very pleased to be able to reopen bookings for the resort,” Heron said. “The interest level is high, and we look forward to unveiling final details of the redevelopment in the near future.”

Carlson Wagonlit Travel to avoid BA fees

Carlson Wagonlit Travel (CWT) has struck a distribution deal with British Airways and sister carrier Iberia Airlines to avoid the airlines’ proposed surcharge on bookings made via global distribution systems. The agreement became effective from the start of November and applies to Carlson Wagonlit’s business travel and leisure clients. CWT senior vp of global supplier management Brain Mogler said, “This agreement further strengthens our long-standing partnership with BA and IB and highlights our mutual commitment to the concept of new distribution capabilities (NDC) to drive improved product differentiation.”

British Airways head of distribution Ian Luck said the agreement between the two parties would provide long term benefits for both. “We are particularly pleased with the strong undertaking CWT has made to work collaboratively with us, GDSs and other technology partners in delivering NDC content and other benefits to our customers.”

British Airways and its parent company, IAG, plan to impose a US$10 “distribution technology charge” on fares booked via GDS from next month which they say will not apply to bookings via NDC or a yet-to-be-revealed online agent platform.

Viator travel agent platform

TripAdvisor offshoot Viator has launched a Travel Agent Platform (TAP) giving agents a new way to directly book tours and activities.The portal provides access to more than 70,000 commissionable tours and attractions including TripAdvisor and Viator’s VIP, Exclusive and Skip the Line products.

“While most platforms cater to the end-user or traveller, we’ve designed TAP specifically for travel agents and their businesses,” said Ben Drew, head of growth, Viator. “We’ll collect and incorporate feedback from early adopters as we continue to evolve the program and, ultimately, help agents around the world grow their businesses.”

Independent agents can join the program without any fees or restrictions to book as an individual, a host agency, or member of host agency and receive direct commission from Viator, without third-party payment distribution. TripAdvisor said TAP offered a “competitive” commission rate and allowed for multiple currencies, along with monthly reporting for performance analysis. Agents will also have access to a resource centre with tips and content, including agent training, product knowledge development and destination guides.

YOLO rebrands for 18-to-Thirtysomethings

G Adventures has taken any ambiguity out of its youth offering by rebranding the product from YOLO to “18-to-Thirtysomethings”. The travel company said the name change was enacted to make it clear to travellers what age bracket the tour style was designed for, as well as “to align with a growing segment within the business”. Owner and founder of G Adventures, Brice Poon Tip, said the new title would be “functional, simple and straightforward” and would seek meet a “growing demand for this style of tour”.

In line with the refresh, eight new 18-to-Thirtysomethings tours for 2018 covering Japan and Southeast Asia have been released, including the six-day Japan on a Shoestring, priced from $1,649pp, a 34-day Indonesia Adventure covering Sumatra, Bali and Java from $4,299pp and an eight-day ‘Full Moon Party’ trip to Thailand from $999pp. All tours offer locally-owned accommodation and G Adventures’ ‘chief experience officers’ who the company claims provides an important point of difference to its competitors.

Footloose Tours unveiled

Helloworld’s Insider Journeys has revealed a new touring concept called “Footloose Tours”, an additional offering that seeks to provide its clients with a more flexible and immersive travel experience. With a cap of 20 guests per group, FIT travellers are given the freedom to select from a range of day tours and dining options in each destination.

The company says further attention to detail is provided through the deployment of expert local English-speaking guides on the ground in each destination, enabling a more embedded understanding of each new environment. Guides take guests through their hometown and showcase all of the best spots that local knowledge can secure.

Departures will be guaranteed with a minimum of just two passengers, the company said. Destinations currently on offer through Footloose Tours include Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, China, India, Sri Lanka, Japan, Bhutan, Burma and Mongolia.

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