AGENTS given a lifeline
Almost two months after the Federal Budget was handed down, with no mention of travel industry-specific support, the sector has been thrown a lifeline with the Government offering $128 million in funding.
The support package will consistent of one-off payments to eligible travel agencies with an annual turnover of between $50,000 and $20 million, scaled based on TTV, with the cash grants ranging between $1,500 and $100,000.
Minister for Finance, Tourism, Trade and Investment, Simon Birmingham said “This one-off payment recognises that travel agents are operating in an exceptional set of circumstances where most are having to refund last year’s income, while continuing to work with no additional income”.
The package comes after months of grass-roots lobbying from the industry.
APH core partnership focus
The investment portfolio of Australian Pacific Holdings (APH) underwent a makeover last month, with the APT parent company confirming the sale of its stakes in the Cruiseco consortium and online tour operator Inspiring Vacations. APH MD Chris Hall told travelBulletin that the divestments were “not considered to be core assets,” with the company’s Board and management making the tough choice to focus on investments that feed the group’s overall product ecosystem, such as its partnership with European river cruise operator AmaWaterways.
The “resilience strategy” also includes expanding the overall portfolio of Australian and New Zealand holidays, such as the introduction of Private Air Tours, Walking Tours and Luxury Short Breaks for APT, additional premium private jet journeys under the Captain’s Choice brand, and new products from Travelmarvel and Travel Glo.
Director Lou Tandy said the Australian family-owned business had weathered many disruptions in the travel landscape over the last 90 years.”Scaling back in some areas has allowed us to invest in the core drivers of our business, and to innovate in areas where we see significant opportunity,” Tandy said.
Agent data collection
THE Federal Government has ordered travel agents to ensure more customer information is included in bookings for airline tickets, as part of ongoing efforts to support COVID-19 contact tracing. Effective immediately any booking must include client mobile phone numbers, email addresses and postcodes of residence, with the an IATA update noting the Government’s recognition that “a significant portion of flight bookings occur through third party booking agents rather than directly through airlines”.
New Special Service Request (SSR) fields must be included in bookings, with several airlines now sending automated messages via GDS to advise agents if the required details are missing.
“Health authorities have advised that collecting these details for every passenger, as a matter of routine, will help mitigate COVID-19 community transmission from airline passenger movements across domestic borders and aid recovery for the domestic aviation sector and the economy more broadly,” said the Department of Infrastructure, Transport, Regional Development and Communications.
THERE was some good news from Helloworld Travel last month, with CEO Andrew Burnes delivering an optimistic address during the company’s Annual General Meeting. As well as promising that all currently stood-down staff were now expected to gradually return to work in 2021, he said about 85% of the group’s members in Australia and NZ were still in business, and were “starting to see green shoots with a recovery in domestic travel, trans-Tasman travel and importantly international enquiries for travel in the latter part of 2021 and into 2022.”
Burnes was also positive about the important role agents would play in a post-COVID world because of the new complexities of travel, and noted that with rival Flight Centre having closed many stores, competition for Helloworld agents had been “dramatically reduced”. He forecast a return to break-even for Helloworld as early as the April-June 2021 quarter, citing a “renewed degree of optimism about the travel industry and about our business”.
STA refund mess
THE complexities of the travel world were highlighted last month in a report from the Deloitte Administrators of the collapsed STA Travel, which detailed complex legal advice effectively meaning clients who had lodged refund requests prior to the company’s shutdown were unlikely to receive a payout — even if the refunds are yet to be processed by suppliers.
By contrast, those who had not taken action over cancelled travel have been deemed to have an ongoing relationship with the suppliers in question, meaning they may be able to access credits or refunds outside of the STA administration.
Thousands of impacted customers have been asked to lodge proofs of debt as unsecured creditors, with ongoing court action meaning any claims will “take some time to resolve”.
QF seeks loyalty
Qantas is making a concerted effort to capitalise on its current strong position, with a range of measures aimed at grabbing market share by fast-tracking the flying status of top tier members from rival airline loyalty programs.
QF has also announced a major new pact with Accor effectively offering double points for any flight or accommodation booking, as well as giving complimentary Qantas Club access to frequent flyers from other carriers and extending the existing status of its own members for 12 months as long as they book a single domestic flight.