ICYMI: Travel Daily’s top stories from September
United links Sydney to Houston hub
United Airlines will go head-to-head with Qantas in steering Australian traffic through Texas from January, having announced direct flights between Sydney and its key hub in Houston. The daily services will be operated by the carrier’s flagship Boeing 787-9 Dreamliner and are aimed at bypassing America’s West Coast gateways to provide a swifter and wider range of connections to other US cities.
The new route will join United’s existing 787 services from Sydney to Los Angeles, Sydney to San Francisco and Melbourne to Los Angeles, boosting the airline’s all-Dreamliner operation out of Australia. United says the new service will shave more than three hours off flight times to Houston and speed connections to eastern points like New York, Washington and Boston. It will also reduce the number of points requiring two stops to access on United, such as Atlanta and Memphis, and will open up easier connections to points in Florida and across the Caribbean. The strategy mirrors that of Qantas with its Airbus A380 flights from Sydney to Dallas-Fort Worth, where oneworld partner American Airlines operates a major hub for onward connections across the US.
Creditors named in collapse
The full extent of the Reed Holidays collapse has become apparent, with unpaid debts of more than $5 million outlined at a recent creditors’ meeting. More than 1,500 companies and individuals are owed by Reed, including 981 consumers who booked tours with the company’s Australian Air Holidays, Seniors Coach Tours and Young at Heart brands. Among those owed the biggest sums are Voyages Indigenous Tourism which is short $120,000, Bayside Coaches ($138,000) and accommodation providers like Strahan Village ($61,922) and Ibis Styles Kununurra ($30,933).
Travel agents are also listed among the unsecured creditors including NRMA Travel (owed $27,495), RACQ ($52,865), RACV Hobart ($12,172), Travel Partners ($1,255) and Zeppelin Travel ($1,045).
Liquidators Cor Cordis have said it is still unclear whether creditors will receive any payments. “We are working to understand exactly what has happened, and that includes investigating the conduct of the director and the companies,” said Cor Cordis partner Glenn Spooner. AFTA CEO Jayson Westbury has vowed to “push for the truth on what really happened” in the collapse of the formerly ATAS accredited agency.
Qantas plans Boeing 787 base for Brisbane
Brisbane is set to host the second wave of Qantas Boeing 787-9 Dreamliners when the aircraft are delivered in mid-2018, creating potential for new international routes out of the Queensland capital. Qantas has confirmed it will create a base for the 787s in Brisbane, creating 470 new jobs. “The 787 offers a step-change for customers in terms of comfort and efficiency and we are pleased Queenslanders will be able to experience them direct from Brisbane,” said Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said. Although destinations haven’t been confirmed, Joyce said the 787-9 could operate non-stop to cities like Seattle, Chicago, San Francisco and Vancouver, as well as major points in Asia.
Meanwhile, Qantas has announced an executive reshuffle affecting a string of senior positions from next month. Qantas International CEO Gareth Evans will become CEO of Jetstar Group, replacing Jayne Hrdlicka who becomes CEO of Qantas Loyalty. Former head of freight, catering and airports Alison Webster will become CEO of Qantas International. The role of Qantas Domestic CEO Andrew David will be expanded to include freight, catering and airports. Joyce said the reshuffle was “about making the best use of the considerable leadership talent at the top level of our organisation”.
Tourism Australia names its new board
The board of Tourism Australia has a new chair in Mantra Group CEO Bob East, who was appointed last month along with deputy chair Anna Guillan, the regional director of sales and marketing for Kerzner International. The pair have been joined on the board by new members David Seargeant, the CEO and managing director of Event Hospitality & Entertainment, and Bradley Woods, the CEO of the Australian Hotels Association. Former chairman Tony South has stepped down from the board, along with deputy chair Andrew Fairley.
Tourism Australia managing director John O’Sullivan told travelBulletin East and Guillan were already “very familiar with our organisation and the industry and so will hit the ground running”. “Their elevation is great news for Tourism Australia and clear recognition of the outstanding contribution they have made to date as existing board members,” he said. O’Sullivan paid tribute to outgoing chair South and deputy chair Fairley, acknowledging their “significant contributions” to tourism.
Virgin expands HK links
Just months after launching its first direct flights to Asia, Virgin Australia has announced it will increase its frequencies between Melbourne and Hong Kong, boosting the service from five per week to daily from next month. The carrier had hoped to offer daily flights from the time of the route’s launch in July, but had faced difficulty gaining landing slots in Hong Kong. The route is a key plank in Virgin’s Asia strategy and provides a connection to its alliance partners among China’s HNA group of airlines, which owns a one fifth stake in the Australian carrier.
Virgin Australia has also confirmed plans for flights to Samoa from Sydney, Brisbane and Auckland starting next month. The services take the place of its joint venture operations with the Samoan Government which end on 12 November, and will operate twice weekly from the Australian gateways and five times a week from Auckland. Virgin general manager network & revenue management Russell Shaw said since 2005, under the Virgin Samoa brand, the airline had carried over 1.4m passengers between Australia, NZ and Samoa. “We want to continue to support Samoa and provide valuable tourism opportunities to the Samoan economy,” Shaw said. Government-run Polynesian Airways is also planning to establish services to Auckland and Sydney from next month, under a new brand Samoa Airways.
US reverses tourism decline
After months of declining visitor numbers from most of its major markets, the US has revealed a sudden reversal of fortune in its latest figures which show 8.4% growth in April over the same month last year. Most of America’s top 20 markets provided increases, with the notable exceptions of Argentina, India and Brazil which were down 19%, 17% and 13% respectively. The China market was also soft, slipping 1.6%.
Despite the overall rosier picture, the Australian market continued its run of weakness, slipping 1% to 111,151 visitors during the month of April. The fall followed a year-on-year decline of 8.4% in the first quarter when 246,273 Aussies ventured to the US. America’s declining tourism figures have at times been blamed on Donald Trump and the impact of his travel bans, with critics citing a perception of American hostility to foreign visitors. Though several Gulf carriers have conceded an impact on their passenger numbers as a result of Trump policies, the slide in overall arrival figures had begun well before the new President took office.
Webjet makes a record profit
Webjet has had another record year, revealing an increase in net profit of almost 150% to $31.2 million last financial year. The online juggernaut announced a total transaction value (TTV) of just over $2 billion in the year to 30 June, up 25.3% over the previous 12 months. The company highlighted its Webjet online travel agency (OTA) business among the key drivers of its performance, saying its flight bookings grew at over six times the underlying market. During the year Webjet completed its integration of NZ-based Online Republic and expanded its WebBeds B2B hotel wholesaling business via its strategic sourcing agreement with Thomas Cook. It also launched FIT Ruums in Asia and acquired JacTravel.
“I am delighted with the outstanding performance from both our B2C and WebBeds B2B divisions during the year,” said CEO John Guscic. “The continual market share that the Webjet OTA continues to deliver is a credit to the team in its ability to be agile and responsive to market needs”. Looking forward, he said the company aimed to grow market share and would focus on bookings growth rather than TTV as a key metric.
World Travel Alliance unveiled in China
China has instigated the creation of a new international tourism body, launched in Chengdu last month at the 22nd General Assembly of the United Nations World Tourism Organisation. Called the World Tourism Alliance, the non-government body will be based in Beijing and will aim to push the global tourism industry forward while further facilitating cooperation around the globe. It is comprised of 89 initial members spanning tourism associations, enterprises, research institutions and other fields, with more than half coming from outside China.
The body was founded by the chairman of the China National Tourism Administration Li Jinzao and will be headed by chairman Duan Qiang.
“Following the vision of ‘better tourism, better world’, and the objective of promoting development and poverty alleviation, the alliance aims to enhance international exchanges and cooperation in the global tourism community,” Duan said. The organisation’s Australian connection comes via AFTA CEO Jayson Westbury who has been appointed its first vice chairman.