Weekly wrap – 10 June 2023

BRUCE PIPER wraps up some of the big stories in travel and cruise over the last seven days.

Hi everyone, well as usual lots of news around this week, and in a sure sign of industry recovery lots of it was around new travel and tourism jobs. We reported the return of Judith Crompton to travel, in a new role with Gow-Gates Insurance Brokers which is ramping up its B2B travel insurance offering. With her former employer. Cover-More, one of the dominant players in the local travel agent insurance market, the appointment is certainly getting some speculation going about the prospects of more competition.

Other big jobs filled this week included Hawaiian Airlines’ Theo Panagiotoulias being named as the new global CEO of the Star Alliance, putting an Aussie at the helm for the first time ever. Globus appointed Brett Simon to the newly created role of Head of Commercial, with the position following the abrupt departure late last month of long-time Head of Sales, Peter Douglas, while Crooked Compass named Josh Grocke as General Manager and Strategic Partnerships. Evolution Travel Collective continued its growth with the appointment of the well-known Chris le Roux as a Queensland-based National BDM, and on the international stage Ponant saw a changing of the guard with the appointment of Belinda Hindmarsh to replace sales chief Herve Bellaiche.

In accommodation came the shock news of the closure of Emirates One & Only Wolgan Valley Resort, with the luxury lodge one of Australia’s premier properties and previously lauded as a flagship in the Emirates portfolio. A curiously worded update said the resort was “temporarily closing until further notice” due to ongoing access issues following a landslide in November last year. One & Only really must be thinking Australia is jinxed, with the Dubai-based hospitality group also previously pulling out of Hayman Island after Cyclone Debbie destroyed that resort in 2017. And you really have to feel for Wolgan Valley’s consummately professional and long-suffering GM Tim Stanhope, who since taking the role in late 2019 has endured fires, floods, mouse plagues, COVID and now this!

It was a busy week in aviation, with parts of the industry somewhat rocked with the release of a new report from the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission demonstrating a significantly tougher approach to regulation may be in the offing. With Qantas and Virgin Australia making bumper profits, the ACCC suggested the current regime of slot allocation may be anti-competitive, while ACCC Chair Gina Cass-Gottlieb also rattled the sabre about potentially mandating consumer compensation for delays.

We also saw Qantas and Air New Zealand up in arms (and crying poor!) about increased aeronautical charges imposed by Auckland Airport. Rex Airlines announced a new Hobart-Melbourne route, adding another capital city to its network. And Western Sydney Airport CEO Simon Hickey touted the completely unsurprising news that his former employer, Qantas Group, had agreed it will operate flights from Nancy-Bird Walton when it opens in the coming years.

Virgin Australia announced several changes to its Velocity loyalty program – including a stunt this morning which will see a pop-up shop in Melbourne’s Chapel Street where Dyson hair dryers, among other hotly coveted items, can be redeemed for just one Velocity point. However there’s also some devil in the detail of the revamp, which for the first time moves away from fixed numbers of points for particular sectors – signalling a move into yield management of points redemptions. While touted by Velocity chief Nick Rorhlach as a move that will require less points on some sectors and help people struggling with the cost of living, the move gives VA the flexibility to make points seats more expensive on popular routes, rather than just having a fixed rate.

There was big news in cruise too, notably the rejigging of several itineraries for Virgin Voyages’ Resilient Lady when she heads down under next year. Four trans-Tasman departures have been switched out for shorter sampler voyages, much to the chagrin of travel advisors who by all accounts have experienced some frustrations in booking clients on this innovative product which has the potential to attract lots of new-to-cruise customers. Hurtigruten Norway revealed plans for its innovative Sea Zero solar/wind/electric ship, Regent Seven Seas Cruises launched itineraries out to 2026, while Viking Cruises continued its relentless growth with visionary founder Torstein Hagen confirming orders for up to 10 more newbuild ocean ships – all to be delivered by 2030 – because he believes there is going to be a huge shortage of cruise capacity in the coming years. And Scenic went from highs to lows, with a triumphant naming ceremony for its long-awaited Scenic Eclipse II in Malaga, Spain followed later in the week with a class action settlement agreement which could see the company pay up to $26 million to passengers who were disrupted by European river flooding in 2013.

It was also a big week for Virtuoso, which hosted a highly professional two-day “on tour” event in Sydney giving the opportunity for key partners to educate travel advisors – followed by the previously announced launch of a recruitment program aiming to help advisors transition into the Virtuoso family and at the same time help agency members of the organisation address the ongoing industry workforce shortages.

But after all that, for me probably one of the most intriguing news items this week was confirmation that supermarket Aldi is looking at launching a travel division, meaning that when I head in to buy a litre of milk I’m likely to head home with a holiday booking – along with a welder, trombone and some gardening gloves.

Have a great weekend with those special buys!


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