Weekly wrap – 14th January 2023

BRUCE PIPER recounts some of the biggest stories in travel and tourism over the last week.

Greetings and happy new year to everyone – by all indications 2023 is going to be great as we look forward to more big things in travel and tourism!

The new year has started off with a bang, with lots of news over the past couple of weeks, despite the normal quietness of the silly season. This week started with confirmation that Explore Worldwide is establishing its own local office, confirming the resilience of the Australian adventure travel sector – and perhaps the evolution of the market which has seen some former big players such as STA Travel disappear during the pandemic, meaning it’s more important than ever for brands to have a closer direct relationship with their customers. Ben Ittensohn has returned to Brisbane to lead the new business, which will change Explore’s relationship with current GSA Adventure World Travel. Ironically, when it picked up the Explore GSA in October 2018, Adventure World dropped some of its other representation agreements to focus on Explore Worldwide – providing an opportunity for the at-the-time fledgling Evolution Travel Group to bring a new model to the market looking after other brands such as Exodus and TrekAmerica. Things have gone full circle now, with Pete Rawley and Ingrid Berthelsen from Evolution to now provide in-market support for Explore alongside the rest of their ever-growing portfolio.

Also in the touring market this week we saw the entirely predictable launch of Qantas Tours – a branded version of the highly successful product range offered by TripADeal, in which Qantas Loyalty took a 51% stake last year. The move confirms Qantas’ ongoing quest to own the whole travel market (and compete with all and sundry other parts of the distribution chain), with the company also this week expanding Qantas Holidays via the addition of a deals-based Qantas Luxury Holidays brand, appearing to directly target Luxury Escapes which has seen stellar growth during the last few years. It’s going to be fascinating to see how long Luxury Escapes continues to remain in the Qantas Points universe, with clients still able to earn Qantas Points on its product range despite the aggressive moves by Qantas Loyalty to eat its lunch.

Bonza finally received its Air Operators Certificate this week, meaning the innovative startup is likely to put fares on sale in the next few days. The carrier has three Boeing 737s in the country, with plans for up to eight in the first 12 months of operation and while the strategy to focus on unserved routes with fares as cheap as $50 one way (and only available via the Bonza app and travel agents) is eminently appealing, aviation onlookers are keenly watching to see whether it will work. Also in the aviation space, last week we exclusively revealed Virgin Australia’s plans to reboot Samoa and Vanuatu flights in the coming months.

Foreign exchange was in the news this week too, with confirmation that the Travelex is well and truly back in the Australian market, and a planned rollout of multiple new stores by Flight Centre’s Travel Money brand in NSW, Queensland, Victoria and Western Australia.

Cruise headlines since Christmas have been dominated by yet more angst for the sector, in the form of seemingly much stricter biosecurity arrangements for ships visiting New Zealand. So far at least four cruise brands have been impacted, with last minute itinerary changes imposed as inspectors mandate the cleaning of hulls by accredited divers. It’s great to see so many ships once again plying local waters, but the uncertainty around trans-Tasman itineraries is likely to have a long term impact on the beleaguered NZ cruise industry if the issues cannot be quickly resolved.

And also in cruise we saw Accor announce the construction of two superyacht-style passenger vessels – the latest hotel company to move into the space alongside Ritz-Carlton and Four Seasons.

There’s been lots more juicy news, including free wi-fi plans for Delta Air Lines, the long-awaited reopening of China and stellar results for TravelManagers  – but I’d better wrap it up there because a Sydney summer’s day is not something to be wasted!

Have a great weekend everyone, and we look forward to bringing you all the big industry news next week too.


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