Weekly Wrap – 7th October

Janie Medbury reflects on the week that was in the world of travel.

THINGS have been ramping up for the Aussie cruise sector, with last week bringing plenty of positive developments, including the launch of Virgin Voyage’s dedicated booking channel for Aussie agents, in time for its imminent debut Down Under.

Richard Branon’s luxury cruise line has enlisted local Virgin Voyages experts to assist the travel trade via a free phone line, and at the same time, announced its Match and Sea More program, through which cruisers can match their current loyalty status through Virgin Voyages’ loyalty program, The Sailing Club.

Excitement is also mounting for Murray River Paddlesteamers’ newbuild, Australian Star, with construction well underway and the operator already fielding plenty of enquires from both travellers and the trade. The luxury $6.75m vessel will set sail on the Murray River in April 2025, with fares to be released later this month.

Another new ship on the scene, MSC Cruises’ MSC Euribia, is also sure to be a hit among Aussies. Our very own Bruce Piper has been onboard the huge Meraviglia-class vessel this week, which is currently sailing its debut season in Northern Europe, and has noted its many impressive sustainability features, as well as its diverse appeal.

There have been some promising developments surrounding Australia’s cruise infrastructure, with the Northern Territory Government releasing a draft Maritime Industry Development Plan, which highlights key opportunities for the region’s cruising sector, including the upgrade of one of its ports. And in New South Wales, the transformation of Eden Breakwater Wharf on Sydney’s South Coast is looming closer on the horizon, with a series of proposed changes that will see it cater to more cruise ships.

There have also been some notable staff shuffles within the Australia’s cruise sector, including the Australia Cruise Association’s newly elected executive team, while The House of Travel has revealed the team tasked with bringing its new cruise strategy to life.

Things have by no means been slow in the world of air travel either, with Rex Airlines getting its long-awaited loyalty program off the ground. The introduction of the Rex Flyer program, which for a limited time is offering 5,000 bonus points upon sign-up, is a move that just may see the underdog carrier become Australia’s third major domestic airline.

Things were quiet for its rival, Qantas, this week, although the Flying Kangaroo did reiterate its view that the decision to block Qatar Airways’ bid for extra capacity was a good call, penning a plea to the government to stand its ground on the controversial call.

Meanwhile, Qatar’s Qsuite Business class offering has been given a resounding thumbs up from travelBulletin‘s Jenny Piper, who got to experience the comfortable, spacious seats, ample storage space and huge array of entertainment options first-hand on a recent flight from Brisbane to Doha.

In other noteworthy aviation news, Air New Zealand has taken a leaf out of Qantas’ and Virgin Australia’s book by announcing the extension of COVID credits, giving its customers a total six-year period to use their credits, and VietJet has announced its debut into South Australia as the next phase of its expansion plan Down Under.

The Australian Travel Industry Association (ATIA) made headlines twice this week, after naming the Business category finalists for the upcoming National Travel Industry Awards (NTIA). It also called out the Federal Government for not including State Governments in its review into Australia’s response to the COVID pandemic, with CEO Dean Long highlighting the wide-ranging impacts that lengthy border closures and lockdowns had on the travel industry.

Signing off to take advantage of the last rays of sunshine. Have a fantastic weekend everyone,


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