Weekly Wrap – 17th Februray

Associate Editor MYLES STEDMAN wraps the week in the travel industry.

It’s perhaps not quite the first shot in a war, but this week saw Bayview Travel shine a light on one of the key issues in the corner of agent remuneration, as more travel advisors move toward charging a fee for their services.

In an exclusive report from Travel Daily, Bayview made claims Onyx CentreSource is withholding commission from it, alleging it is being coerced into signing up for the b2b accommodation payment platform’s Sure Pay payment service.

The Melbourne-based travel agency’s Operations Manager Tracey Williams told TD 6% of Bayview’s hotel booking commission is being withheld, as it is not a member of Sure Pay, and Onyx stopped offering deposit options in AUD in November.

The claim was categorically denied by Onyx, which said it is working closely with the Australian trade to offer AUD commission via WEX virtual credit cards, in addition to Sure Pay.

“We’ve never indicated to them that’s the only way they can receive their funds,” Onyx Chief Commercial Officer Tony Wagner insisted to TD.

Bayview is in a supposed minority of agents which are not a member of Sure Pay, long ago making the decision to have funds deposited by cheque instead.

Onyx said it put a temporary hold on cheques so it could begin moving customers away from them due to the uncertainty of banks being able to accept them.

My colleague, Editor-at-Large Bruce Piper, deftly analysed this issue in the way only he can – please head to his op-ed for a fuller picture of this crucial matter.

While agent remuneration is one of the central flashpoints in today’s travel industry, arguably nothing grabs more attention than air passenger rights.

A new bill is being brought forward by National Party Senators Bridget McKenzie, which seeks to provide fliers with greater protection.

The bill proposes a new compensation scheme, which would see consumers recompensed for cancelled and delayed flights through a plan dubbed “pay on delay”.

McKenzie said the proposed legal change would make clear that a passenger’s ticket is for a specific flight at a specific time.

It lands as a direct rebuke of Qantas Airways’ “bundle of rights” defence tabled last year in the face of legal action undertaken by the Australian Competition & Consumer Commission.

Both Qantas and Virgin Australia made it clear in their Aviation Green Paper submissions a compensation scheme, similar to what has been introduced by the European Union, would not be a positive move for local aviation, and would instead lead to increased fares.

The proposed bill is one of the clearest legal challenges thus far to the airline industry’s current proposition for passengers, which as Qantas bluntly suggested last year, entitles fliers to little more than a promise to deliver them from A to B at some point in the future.

This week also saw Tourism Western Australia unveil a new 10-year plan to grow the state’s visitor economy to $25 billion annually by 2033.

The WA Visitor Economy Strategy 2033 (WAVES 2033) road map aims to position Western Australia as “a world-class destination that immerses people in its unique cultures, communities and environment”.

Tourism WA Managing Director Carolyn Turnbull believes the state’s “dream decade” is off to a great start, with visitor spend reaching a record high of $16.8 billion in 2022-23.

“WAVES 2033 sets out the future of the Western Australian visitor economy as we move on from the post-pandemic recovery phase and set our sights on new levels of success,” she said.

Meanwhile, Oceania Cruises Senior Vice President Global Sales Nikki Upshaw was in town this week from head office in Miami, and proudly told Cruise Weekly the line’s passengers are continuing the post-pandemic trend of booking higher stateroom categories and sailing for longer.

Upshaw said Oceania is performing “extremely well” globally, saying “our concierge level, verandah categories and up, are really where we see the demand come in, as opposed to the lower categories on our ships, so that’s a sustained trend.”

“The other phenomenon, especially as you see here in Australia, is sailing for a bit longer…back-to-back [sailings] and our Grand Voyages are continuing to be something which really resonate.”

Elsewhere in the travel industry this week, former Magellan Travel Group Chief Executive Officer Andrew Macfarlane joined Intrepid Travel as its ‘Purpose Specialist‘; Korean Air moved closer to a merger with competitor Asiana Airlines; and Event Hospitality is set to introduce its LyLo budget accommodation brand to Australia in April – all in another week on the battleground which is the Australian travel industry!

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