In brief: top stories from Jun 2021

TRAVELPAY, CATO replace eNett

THE travel industry was rocked early last month when the new owners of longstanding B2B payments platform eNett announced it would close down its Electronic Funds Transfer remittance system. eNett, which was acquired by WEX last year, had undergone a business review, which found that after 15 years “the technology has become outdated and requires significant investment”.

A three month deadline was imposed, leaving the industry scrambling — but a lightning quick response by TravelPay has seen an alternative launch in double-time. The Council of Australian Tour Operators (CATO) has also been involved in the project, with its members having a keen interest in ensuring its success. No details have been provided on the financials of the CATO connection, but it’s assumed the organisation will take a minuscule clip from the transactions which will in turn help underpin its long-term viability, making it a very clever deal indeed.

EK, Sabre stalemate

SABRE-CONNECTED travel agents can no longer sell, book or service Emirates flights, after the 30 June expiry of the distribution agreement between the carrier and the GDS provider.

After more than a year of talks, Emirates last month told its agent partners: “due to Sabre’s lack of progress in these discussions we would like to inform you that Emirates is now operating on the basis that no distribution agreement will be in place between Emirates and Sabre effective 1 July 2021”.

EK, which in October last year launched its new NDC-based Emirates Partners Portal and subsequently imposed fees of up to US$25 per sector for traditional travel agent GDS bookings, said it “remains open to constructive and solution-oriented discussions” to find a path forward with Sabre.

CATO comes of age

AN Extraordinary General Meeting convened by the Council of Australian Tour Operators last month saw the organisation unanimously support the adoption of a new national structure as a “not for profit company limited by guarantee,” along with a new constitution which will see CATO launch its own accreditation program and explore solutions around consumer protection.

The changes “better reflect CATO’s status as a national body and enable it to move forward with progressive initiatives,” said MD Brett Jardine, with a subsequent Annual General Meeting confirming the re-appointment of incumbent Chairman Dennis Bunnik for a further two years as well as a contested election for Board positions resulting in Brett Mitchell from Intrepid, Julie King of Julie King & Associates and The Travel Corporation CFO James O’Donnell taking up positions as CATO directors.

The new constitution includes a CATO Member Code of Conduct and “removes the requirement for members to be ATAS accredited,” Jardine added.

Three more months…

Health Minister Greg Hunt last month predictably extended the Federal Government’s Human Biosecurity Emergency period through until 17 September, meaning existing restrictions on outbound international and cruise ships in Australian waters will have been in place for a full 18 months.

Hunt cited “specialist medical and epidemiological advice” for the move, with the Chief Health Officers from Australia’s states and territories concluding that the international COVID-19 situation “continues to pose an unacceptable risk to public health”.

AFTA said the decision once again reinforced the need for wider, ongoing support for travel agents and businesses, with Chairman Tom Manwaring also urging the adoption of “commonsense positive measures to get Australians travelling again…we need greater clarity on the decision triggers for Government on re-opening our international border”.

With no accompanying road map for a return to normality, CLIA Australasia MD Joel Katz expressed his utter frustration. “Our industry needs some certainty, but after months of discussions with government, the suspension has been extended again without any clear route towards a careful and responsible resumption of cruising,” he fumed.

AA follows QF down

American Airlines has confirmed that, like its alliance partner Qantas, it will reduce base commission for Australian travel agents.

The move is effective 1 July 2022, with AA telling travelBulletin that reducing base commission would “enable American to continue operating services to connect countries and those customers eligible to travel in these challenging market conditions”.

Just last March American Airlines and Qantas were re-authorised by the ACCC to cooperate on trans-Pacific routes for a further five years, with the pact explicitly permitting them to “collaborate on distribution strategies, including travel agency arrangements”.

End of an A&K era

Abercrombie & Kent (A&K) last month confirmed the departure of its long-time Regional Managing Director Australia Asia Pacific, Sujata Raman, after more than 30 years with the business.

Raman has “resigned to pursue other interests,” the company said, paying tribute to her contribution which has seen A&K Australasia “now recognised as the leading luxury travel business in Australia”. Raman’s three-decade tenure also saw the company’s DMC inbound and domestic business grow significantly, while A&K has become one of the region’s largest cruise ship handlers.

 

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