State of the industry: March 2016

Nominations have now closed for the 2016 National Travel Industry Awards, overseas visitation to Australia reached 7.4 million arrivals last year, and more, in this month's 'State of the Industry'.

Value World re-emerges?

Despite presiding over a collapse worth millions of dollars late last year, interests associated with the failed Value World Travel attempted to re-enter the travel industry last month under a new name. Branded as Yupp Travel, the fledgling venture was formed by renaming a sister company to Value World, and relocating its operations to a serviced office in the Sydney CBD. There were red faces at AFTA when the business gained ATAS accreditation – which was swiftly withdrawn when the murky background of the company emerged in a Travel Daily exclusive.

However AFTA shouldn’t be too embarrassed – it appears several major suppliers were also taken in, with sources advising travelBulletin that Yupp was about to finalise contracts for GDS and consolidation – and who knows what else. The swift action taken by AFTA at the very least shows some of the advantages of a nimble, industry-led system and the controversy is also likely to have seen procedures tightened up even further when it comes to new ATAS entrants. It is also interesting to note the importance that ATAS accreditation has assumed in the short time since the scheme was set up, with Yupp Travel’s backers clearly seeing it as a way of swiftly establishing a good reputation among the industry.

NTIA 2016 off and running

Nominations have now closed for the 2016 National Travel Industry Awards, Nominations have now closed for the 2016 National Travel Industry Awards, with the full list of nominees set to be published later this month. This year the awards have a total of 37 categories for suppliers and travel agents, most of which open for industry voting on Thursday 17th March. After the three week voting period the finalists will be revealed and then the judging process begins, culminating in the industry night of nights, the NTIA Gala Dinner in Sydney on Saturday 16th July.

Among several changes this year is the introduction of an ATAS accreditation requirement for the judged supplier categories. At least one major tour operator – winner of several categories in previous years – has not joined ATAS at this stage, and this change means its various brands are locked out of the process. That also applies to the company’s sales representatives who are unable to nominate in the best supplier categories – making several quite unhappy, travelBulletin is led to believe.

Vanuatu aviation crisis

Tourism is one of the major industries for Vanuatu, and the withdrawal of flights due to the poor condition of the country’s main airport runway in Port Vila is likely to hit very hard. Air New Zealand was the first carrier to flag the issue, early last month indicating it would cease operations over safety concerns. Qantas shortly thereafter terminated its codeshare on Air Vanuatu’s services, and two days later Virgin Australia canned its Brisbane-Port Vila services until early April at the earliest.

Air Vanuatu has deemed the runway safe, in the light of an independent expert’s report which recommended ongoing daily sweeping of the runway and the removal of excess water in periods of heavy rain until a “surface rejuvenation” can take place.

However while there is funding available for an urgent upgrade, a decision on the project was delayed due to a political crisis which saw 14 members of parliament convicted over a corruption scandal. A contract has now been let for the works, but until they are complete the local tourism industry, already devastated by Cyclone Pam last year, looks set for a further significant downturn as forward bookings disappear.

Hawaiian’s new team

Hawaiian Airlines appears to be very confident in the future of its Australian operations, having finalised the recruitment of a large team just over 12 months since Gai Tyrrell was appointed to the newly created role of regional director Australia/New Zealand for the carrier. Tyrrell has established a new standalone office in Clarence Street, Sydney and last month unveiled her new commercial team, including Kim Chapman as director of sales Australia, Keiryn Osborn as distribution manager, and Karen Macmillan in charge of partnerships and promotions.

Andrew Best and Jennifer Edmunds have been appointed as national account managers in Sydney and Brisbane respectively, while Hawaiian’s new business development managers include Joyce Wir and Gillian Hayward in Sydney and Janis McDonald in Brisbane. While Hawaiian Airlines already operates daily Sydney- Honolulu flights and four services weekly from Brisbane, Tyrrell hinted at future growth saying the team had been scaled up in line with its “expanded operating presence and future plans in Australia”.

Virgin’s new FIFO Alliance

A new ‘Charter Partnership’ between Virgin Australia and Alliance Aviation Services launched last month reflects the decline of the resources sector in Australia, which has put pressure on these formerly lucrative fly-in fly-out operations. When the mining construction boom was on thousands of workers were travelling long distances on a weekly basis, living in major centres but working remotely. There’s still plenty of FIFO business around, but as mines move into operational mode (or are mothballed due to low commodity prices) the staffing requirements are lower.

Both Virgin and Alliance have a hefty competitor in this sector in the form of Qantas, which operates a fleet of FIFO and charter aircraft under the Network Aviation banner which was integrated into the group some years ago. The new Virgin/Alliance agreement is effectively a joint venture in which all new fly-in fly-out contracts will be managed together. The carriers will also jointly procure aircraft, provide ground services for each other and maintain a common pool of spare parts.

Arrivals continue to set records

Overseas visitation to Australia reached 7.4 million arrivals last year, with the Australian Bureau of Statistics confirming the 2015 figure was up more than 8% on the previous corresponding period. As expected China was one of the top performing markets, with more than one million Chinese tourists heading down under, up 22%. However that still left China in second place, behind NZ which saw 1.3 million Kiwis cross the Tasman during the year.

Traditional markets continued to perform strongly, with the UK at 688,000 up 5.6% – a fact hailed by Tourism Australia managing director John O’Sullivan who said “the healthy state of our visitor economy is founded upon a balanced portfolio. It’s worth noting that all but one of Tourism Australia’s 17 key inbound markets enjoyed growth in 2015,” he said. Indicators are positive for a strong 2016 too, with the weaker Australian dollar making travel here much more affordable for many overseas tourists.

Agent-friendly Jetstar?

It may seem somewhat uncharacteristic for a low cost carrier, but Jetstar has overhauled its group booking procedures to make them easier for travel agents. The move is a response to significant growth in groups travel on the Qantas offshoot, with the development of the new site claimed to be the result of a six month development process which aims to provide faster and more competitive quotes.

The carrier is also innovating on the product side, recently introducing a ‘Groups Plus Bundle’ which includes a food and beverage voucher and Qantas frequent flyer points, which can be added to individual or group PNRs. Jetstar is also targeting group bookings by waiving booking and service fees, offering seat selection and unlimited name changes at no extra cost and allowing the pooling of luggage allowances for bookings of ten passengers or more.

Viator Sydney jobs go

The US$200m acquisition of Viator by TripAdvisor in 2014 was a great triumph for an Australian-founded business, with the tour and activity specialist having been establ

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