Weekly wrap – 17 June 2023

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

THERE was a lot of big news for Australian travel companies this week, including yesterday’s announcement by Helloworld that former Crown Hotels CEO Peter Crinis, one of the most experienced hospitality executives in Australia, has accepted the position of Chief Commercial Officer.

In addition to his former responsibility for some of Australia’s most significant tourism infrastructure assets at Crown, Crinis also sits on Visit Victoria’s board, and was a Melbourne Convention Bureau board member for eight years. He will commence with Helloworld from next month, effectively taking on the responsibilities previously held by former Group GM Retail & Commercial Nic Cola, who departed around three months ago.

Helloworld was not the only Australian company making big moves this week, with Rail Online confirming its previously flagged expansion into North America. The tech-focused train ticket platform is now offering bookings in USD and CAD for Amtrak in the United States, Canada’s VIA Rail, SNCF in France, and the United Kingdom’s National Rail. Italy’s Trenitalia network will be introduced to the platform in coming weeks as well, while Rail Online also offers Eurail passes. Founder James Dunne said Dunne said the North America launch was “just the beginning of a bigger, long-term and exciting travel tech offering that we will be working towards over the coming two to three years”.

Perhaps the biggest winner locally this week was Rezdy, and its founder Simon Lenoir, who cashed out following the $100 million-plus sale of the tour & activity platform to a private equity firm. Although Lenoir sold some of his stake in Rezdy after stepping down as Chief Executive Officer in 2018, he is one of a number of backers of the business whose efforts are believed to have paid off in spades after following the sale.

This week also saw plenty of Qantas news, including the launch of one-stop flights to New York from Sydney via Los Angeles, and the unveiling of the economy and premium economy cabins planned for the ultra-long-haul Airbus A350s which will operate the route non-stop under Project Sunrise in future years.

There was also the release of preliminary findings from research which aimed to “reshape the inflight travel experience” and significantly reduce the impact of jet lag. A specially designed menu, as well as tailored cabin lighting, sleep, and movement sequences, can all meaningfully decrease the impact of long-haul flights, according to researchers from the University of Sydney who fitted volunteer passengers with wearable devices during the 20-hour sectors on several ultra long-haul testing flights in support of the QF plan.

Internationally, Air New Zealand and the NZ Government announced they will invest more than NZD$2 million in the next stage of a project looking at the feasibility of producing sustainable aviation fuel (SAF) in New Zealand, with domestic SAF recently emerging as key to this rising sector’s future. The announcement follows an earlier year-long process which invited innovators to demonstrate the viability of operating a SAF plant at a commercial scale in the country. Moving into phase two, the working group is progressing two proposals from US-based companies: one with LanzaJet and another with Fulcrum BioEnergy, with both to be evaluated on their technical, economic, supply chain, and environmental feasibility.

Also in aviation we saw Turkish Airlines once again hint at long-haul flights from Istanbul to Australia, which have been on the carrier’s radar for more than 12 years now. This time it’s a plan for three weekly flights to Melbourne, with a technical stop in Singapore for refuelling and crew changes. Previously mooted TK flights here have involved tag-on sectors from Bali to Sydney as well as one-stops via a range of other intermediate ports, so after so many false dawns it will be interesting to see if this one comes to fruition.

Meanwhile, this week in the cruise industry, Disney Cruise Line officially announced its second season of “magical” sailings in Australia, with Disney Wonder to return in October 2024. The season will sail from Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane through to February 2025, and will include a new seven-night itinerary, as well as sailings as short as two nights. The season will make select calls at Hobart, Eden, Auckland, and Noumea, and will open for booking from 27 June.

Elsewhere, the receivers of the collapsed Island Escape Cruises have confirmed the sale of the line’s 32-passenger Island Escape newbuild for just US$5.5 million to the Paspaley Group, while MSC Cruises has expanded its shorepower plan, working with at least 15 new ports in Europe offering connections to about two thirds of the MSC fleet as well as its Explora newbuilds.

We’re expecting next week to be even busier with news, as some of the team attend the Travel Associates Conference in Singapore followed by International Luxury Travel Market, while the imminent approach of the end of the financial year may also precipitate some big announcements – you never know…

In the light of all that, rest up and have a great weekend!


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