IN BRIEF: News from October

QANTAS Holidays returns

QANTAS Holidays returns

Qantas Airways, one of the major shareholders in Helloworld Travel Limited, has also now become a big competitor too, with the relaunch recently of the Qantas Holidays brand under the airline’s own in-house operations. The move is not unexpected, after Helloworld Executive Director Cinzia Burnes last year confirmed that the company would not be renewing its licence for the Qantas Holidays name, and instead would focus its travel packaging on the Viva Holidays brand.

The reborn Qantas Holidays is the outcome of 18 months work — indicating that the carrier was working on the project for some time before Burnes made her announcement. The new platform dynamically packages flights and accommodation, and as part of the Qantas Loyalty ecosystem also allows consumers to earn and burn Qantas Points.

As well as being able to select a particular destination — only domestic at this stage given border restrictions — the new Qantas Holidays site offers a range of “holiday styles” such as luxury, family, romance and more.

At this stage Qantas hasn’t advised whether it plans to join AFTA and ATAS, now that it is operating as a travel agent in its own right.

Helloworld opens up

Helloworld Travel last month issued one of its most frank trading updates for some time, detailing the impact of COVID-19 on its operations and even breaking out its year-on-year sales of touring, air and cruise products.

Intriguingly, the figures indicated that as far back as January Helloworld’s land product sales were down as much as 35% on the prior year — some months before the pandemic was making its presence felt. Of course since March TTV has plummeted, apart from a bright spot in September when the Princess 2020 World Cruise ex Sydney saw the group’s cruise sales more than double the same month last year.

CEO Andrew Burnes also confirmed expectations that long-haul travel to the US and UK/Europe is currently not likely to resume until late 2021 or early 2022, and warned that while so far Helloworld’s agency network numbers had remained “largely intact” with a net reduction of 75 across Australia and New Zealand, “the liquidity runway for agents is getting shorter”.

As far as head office is concerned, Burnes said cost cutting measures and cash reserves meant it could maintain operations “well into 2022 or longer”.

Agent voices heard

The national mobilisation of travel agents which has seen scores of meetings with local politicians has certainly raised the profile of the industry’s COVID-19 travails, with Federal Parliamentarians repeatedly mentioning agencies in speeches over recent weeks. One of the most noteworthy was from former Labor Prime Minister Bill Shorten, who managed to swallow his well-documented ill will towards Helloworld when he urged the Government to provide further support for the sector.

Progress in recent days also includes a hopeful statement from the Federal National Party backing an industry-specific support package — and there was even a somewhat balanced report from Channel 9’s A Current Affair about the plight of travel agents, a stark contrast to the program’s normally strident anti-industry stance.

AFTA continues to be hopeful that a package will be forthcoming, with Shorten and other speeches also noting a doubling of the Federation’s ask to $250m.

As well as engagement with MPs, there has been significant mainstream media coverage of local agents in News Corp publications, and a strong push supporting agents from Kate Carnell, the Small and Family Enterprise Ombudsman.

Borders to digitise

The Federal Government has announced a tender for a new “permissions capability” platform, in a wide-ranging project which will allow incoming passenger cards to be completed electronically.

First use-cases for the proposed system also include a Simple Visa product for travellers from overseas, with the aim of replacing existing ageing technology systems which underpin current visa processing.

It’s envisaged that the tender would be awarded by March 2021, with the new Digital Passenger Declaration to be delivered as soon as the third quarter of next year.

TA enlists star power

The latest iteration of Tourism Australia’s Holiday Here This Year campaign has seen media, comedy and skincare power couple Hamish Blake and Zoe Foster-Blake urging Aussies to open their wallets and really experience their own back yard.

Tourism Australia MD Phillipa Harrison told travelBulletin the aim was to “drive as much domestic demand as possible, particularly to those regions and operators that are typically popular with international visitors.

“Our goal is to try and get Australians travelling differently…urging them to start ticking off their holiday bucket list or heading interstate for the trip of a lifetime,” she said.

The iconic homegrown personalities appear in a new TVC and on social media, with the campaign initially unfortunately omitting travel agents as one of the calls to action.

Scurrah out at VA

Virgin Australia is set to be run by former Jetstar chief Jayne Hrdlicka, after a backflip by the carrier’s new owners Bain Capital saw incumbent Paul Scurrah announce his departure.

Scurrah has only been in the role for 18 months, and said he had decided to step down “after some long discussions with my family.

“The time feels right and I know the business will be in good hands,” he said.


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