Weekly Wrap – 16th December

BRUCE PIPER wraps up the week that was.

Good morning everyone, and welcome to our final weekly wrap for the year. The travel and cruise news just kept on coming this week, despite 2023 rapidly drawing to a close – meaning we’ve hardly had enough time to decorate the tree.

The festive season activity has also included event after event, with our team spread across the globe this week. We were honoured to be part of the christening ceremony for Regent Seven Seas Grandeur in Miami, where my colleague Anna Piper was thrilled to sit within metres of country music legend Shania Twain. Meanwhile Jenny and I cruised to New Zealand aboard Celebrity Edge in the company of an esteemed group of travel agents along with a collection of reality TV influencers; and Damian Francis headed to Melbourne for his first ever experience of Christmas Traveleague.

Amid all that, just like the rest of the year, the presses kept rolling, with the rest of the team holding the fort to bring you all the big stories. As usual, Qantas was in the news, most interestingly with the planned February 2024 launch of a new NDC portal which effectively allows travel agents to bypass the GDS and book flights directly with the carrier. Targeting travel advisors who are not able to access Qantas NDC content via an Approved Technology Partner, the airline said the new QF NDC Portal is tailored for simple customer bookings and will enable agents to shop, book and service flights using the capabilities of the Qantas Distribution Platform. Today the carrier was also on the front page with its submission to the Government’s Aviation Green Paper enquiry, which predictably suggested any mandatory compensation scheme for air travelles would be a “backward step” and also called for further regulation of airports, rather than airlines.

There was also big news in hospitality yesterday with the departure of Accor Asia Pacific CEO, Sarah Derry, who is stepping down after less than two years in the role amid a major restructure which has seen separate regional Chief Operating Officers appointed for Accor’s Premium, Midscale and Economy divisions. Also in the world of hotels, Choice lobbed a hostile takeover bid for its long-term target Wyndham, Marriott expanded its loyalty partnership with Singapore Airlines, and a new management option for hotel owners emerged in the form of Trilogy Hotels, headed up by recent Accor departee Scott Boyes. Hotel workers will also hopefully be easier to source under a major project secured by Accommodation Australia, which will see the Federal Government provide $10 million for a new “tourism industry digital hub”. The hospitality peak body will scale up and promote its existing The Hub online platform, which it promises will become “the premier national online skills and employment platform for connecting workers with jobs”.

Cruise news this week saw Royal Caribbean continue to build anticipation of next month’s debut of Icon of the Seas by announcing football legend Lionel Messi as officiating at the event. Amawaterways’s new local chief Steve Richards confirmed the fledgling Australasian business would exclusively focus on the trade as activity ramps up, while the down under debut of Celebrity Edge fulfilled a long-held dream for the local Celebrity Cruises team. And during the Seven Seas Grandeur christening, Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings CEO Harry Sommer confirmed he wasn’t worried at all about the rise of new competitors to the group’s luxury flagship Regent Seven Seas Cruises, saying he expected the overall luxury cruise pie to grow as a result.

But probably the biggest story for the overall travel, cruise and tourism sector this week was the 11th-hour renewal of an exemption for cruise ships from Australia’s Coastal Shipping Act – which in its unmodified form bars vessels from carrying passengers between domestic ports. Federal Infrastructure Minister, Catherine King, only had until 31 December to renew the declaration, which had previously been in place for five years from 2018. It’s something that is vital to allow the Australian tourism industry to continue to reap the opportunity from cruise ship visits – and so the fact that King has only renewed the ruling for 12 months hardly gives the industry any breathing space at all, particularly since cruise lines will next month start planning their 2027 deployments. Let’s hope CLIA and the Australian Cruise Association can continue to work with the Government to provide some longer term certainty.

With that, I’m going to wrap it up so I can continue putting up our customary extensive Christmas light display, which should shortly be visible from high altitude to anyone flying out of Sydney. Our team will continue to bring you all the news in issues of Travel Daily and Cruise Weekly until Christmas Eve, and then after a short break will be back on deck straight after New Year’s Day.

On a personal note, as our team expands I’m stepping back a little from the day-to-day, and will become Editor at Large for our group of publications from the start of 2024. I’ll still be around, but looking forward to the opportunity to slow down slightly. With that, I’d like to thank the amazing Business Publishing team for all your hard work during a very eventful 2023 for the company, and wish everyone including our readers from across the country and the world all the best for a great Christmas and New Year.


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