Weekly Wrap – Saturday 15 Apr 2023

ADAM BISHOP wraps up the week that was.

WE start this week’s wrap with a warm goodbye to one of the industry’s hardest working icons, with news that the local chief of the French Tourist Bureau (Atout France), Patrick Benhamou, has called it a day after a 44-year run with the association. Over the years, Patrick has been the backbone of all things French in the Aussie market, developing a rapport with all quarters of the travel sector as he showcased destinations across France through countless special events and promotions. From everyone here at travelBulletin, we bid you au revoir and the best of luck in your next venture.

Sticking with people news and there was a big change in the cruise sector, with Celebrity Cruises President and CEO Lisa Lutoff-Perlo retiring from the cruise line, making way for Laura Hodges Bethge who has been named as her replacement. Lutoff-Perlo began her career with the Royal Caribbean Group in 1985, and in 2014 became the first woman in the company to hold a position of President or CEO. More movement in the ranks was seen at Flight Centre’s Luxury and Independent division. Nikki Glading has been named as the new General Manager – Independent Luxury Collection, arriving in the role following a short stint with Virtuoso Australia and NZ as Account Director of Partner Relations. And also in the luxury space former long-time Travel Corporation staffer Cherie Bowman has finally been revealed as the head of itravel’s new LUXE by itravel division.

The week also saw big moves in the B2B travel space, with Corporate Travel Management (CTM) awarded a British Government contract worth an eye-watering $3 billion in TTV over the course of the next two years. CTM’s successful tender for the UK Home Office’s Bridging Accommodation and Travel Services Contract, which includes a possible 12-month extension, involves highly complex services support that will be delivered by an already established team within CTM.

Meanwhile on the association front, AFTA issued a call for nominations for an election of six directors, as part of its AGM protocols. Incumbents for 2023 include: Vice Chair Christian Hunter from Travellers Choice, Corporate Travel Management’s Laura Ruffles, Shelley Beasley of Webjet, and Helloworld Travel’s Executive Director Cinzia Burnes. Also up for election is Danielle Russom from American Express Global Business Travel who last month took over the board position held by Jo Sully. A sixth currently vacant position on the Board is also available as part of this year’s process. The nominations opened during the same week that AFTA CEO Dean Long took aim at murmurs of a hike of the Passenger Movement Charge (PMC) as part of the upcoming Federal Budget. Long cautioned against any move to raise the levy, suggesting it could be very damaging to the recovery of travel and tourism and create unwarranted barriers to movement.

Over at CATO, the group’s new Accreditation Scheme was branded with its own logo, branding that seeks to represent the strength of the CATO brand and membership, whilst also allowing CATO tour operators and wholesalers to clearly communicate that they are CATO Accredited. CATO MD Brett Jardine said the new logo will allow members to “proudly display their CATO accreditation when dealing with the trade and or consumers”, with membership renewal rates up significantly on this time last year.

To the world of aviation now and there were 50 great reasons to celebrate the debut of Vietjet’s service between Sydney and Ho Chi Minh City, with Sydney Airport now boasting more carriers than any other time in its history. The arrival of the low-cost airline from Vietnam means Sydney Airport now has two more carriers calling Sydney a hub than it did before the pandemic struck. Vietjet joins a throng of interest in the Australian market from Vietnam, with Vietnam Airlines also revealing plans to launch a new service between Hanoi and Melbourne from June, operating twice a week. The positive milestone follows confirmation this week that Canberra has finally landed a highly sought-after international carrier after a disappointing on-and-off with Qatar Airways. Fiji Airways will start flying between Canberra and Nadi from July, operating twice-weekly until late September, when the airline will ramp things up even more by shifting to three times a week after that.

But it wasn’t all bright and sunny skies for airlines, with Qantas copping even more heat about its proposed alliance extension with Emirates. A submission to the ACCC from Adelaide-based Axis Travel Centre argued the mooted deal extension between the two carriers should be edited to ensure it will not detract from the choices and availability of fares, routes, and quality services available for travellers. “Having such strong market share allows QF/EK to also control the market prices that consumers pay – as we discover that, coincidentally, other carriers increase their airfares also, usually in the same week… consumers lose, airlines win,” the agency’s MD Max Najar fumed.

And to finish off, it was a bittersweet week for Rex Airlines, which bid farewell to one of its founding fathers while also announcing an interesting acquisition that will seek to accelerate its path towards zero emissions flying. Starting with the positive news, Rex has purchased a 20% stake in Dovetail Electric Aviation. The Australian start-up is leading the way when it comes to converting turbine-powered aircraft to electric propulsion, with Rex last year revealing a pilot scheme to convert one of its planes to test how a fleet-wide conversion would work at scale. The good news was tempered however, by the loss of legendary aviation pioneer Max Hazelton, who passed away at the age of 96. “Max was a much-loved member of the Rex family who will be forever remembered as a remarkable trailblazer who built an airline from scratch, was a catalyst for change and left an indelible mark on the Australian aviation industry,” Rex Executive Chairman Lim Kim Hai said.

Have a great weekend everyone.


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