Weekly Wrap – 2nd December

Janie Medbury reflects on all things travel over the past week.

THIS past week in travel has ended on a high note with the Federal Government giving the green light for a second and final round of its Reviving International Tourism Grant program – a cash injection that’s set to benefit Australian travel and tourism businesses. In another win for the industry, the Government also announced the first National Sustainability Framework to support Australia in becoming a world leader in sustainable tourism. The new framework was accompanied by the launch of a Sustainability Toolkit, which tourism businesses can use as a guide to improve their green credentials.

The Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA) was among several industry bodies to welcome the framework, with Managing Director Joel Katz saying it aligns with the cruise industry’s own commitment to the principles established by the Global Sustainable Tourism Council. The CLIA chief also reminded agents to get their nominations in for the 2024 annual Cruise Industry Awards before the deadline, which came to pass on midnight Thursday, highlighting the “enormous career boost” that comes with being a CLIA Award winner.

CLIA appeared in the headlines again later this week, with Katz criticising a decision by the Victorian Government to hike taxes for ships arriving into Melbourne, which prompted Carnival’s Princess Cruises and Cunard brands to pull out of the state from 2025. Katz described the decision as a “major blow”, pointing out that Australia already has some of the highest operating costs in the world for cruise lines and that further fee increases “directly impact the viability of operations”. Tourism & Transport Forum CEO Margy Osmond voiced similar concerns, emphasising the value of cruising cannot be underestimated – indeed, the sector contributed nearly $380 million to Victoria’s economy in 2022-23.

Thankfully, there were some positive developments in the world of cruise to help offset the disappointing news out of the Garden State, not least being the highly anticipated debut of Virgin Voyages’ Resilient Lady, which sailed into Darwin on Monday to kick off its ‘MerMaiden voyage’ Down Under. Excitement levels were raised even more that morning, with Sir Richard Branson giving Aussie agents the rare opportunity to chat with him during an online Q&A session to discuss all things Virgin Voyages. Two other cruise lines also marked milestones this week, with Royal Caribbean International accepting delivery of its newest ship, Icon of the Seas, and Norwegian Cruise Line formally naming its new Norwegian Viva at a ceremony in Miami on Wednesday.

The final week of November also saw the launch of several major new training initiatives for agents, including Qatar Tourism’s new Qatar Specialist travel advisor training program featuring a dedicated Australia section, as well as a new mobile training app from Stephanie Myers Academy, which aims to make professional development easily accessible to travel agents around the world. Advisors would also have been pleased to hear that The Travel Corporation will host a Top Achievers famil next year, with the operator also revealing more details about its new Inner Circle agent incentive program.

Moving on now to aviation updates, of which there was plenty, Rex secured two FIFA deals in Western Australia for National Jet Express and also provided an upbeat outlook at its AGM on Wednesday, revealing that Group revenue is forecast to rise due to the addition of four Boeing 737-800NGs to its fleet. Speaking of fleet expansion, Virgin Australia signed up to receive six more Boeing 737 Max-8s, bringing its total number of the new-generation aircraft up to 14. The Aussie carrier also applied for interim authorisation on a proposed trans-Tasman codeshare deal with Air New Zealand, which its hoping to get the tick for by mid-February. The week came to a close with a good news day on Friday for Queensland’s tourism sector, with Bonza getting wheels up on the first-ever service between Darwin and the Sunshine Coast, and United Airlines taking off on its new direct service between Brisbane and Los Angeles.

Well I think that just about wraps it up…I’m off now to enjoy the last bit of sunshine before Sydney gets hit with another big downpour this weekend!

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