Weekly wrap – 21st September 2023

BRUCE PIPER wraps up the week that was...

GOOD morning everyone, well as usual this week there was plenty of Qantas news, but in a departure from normality we’ll cover it a little further down in this update because there has just been so much big cruise news over the last few days that probably deserves a bit more prominence.

I was enlisted to help launch the 2023/24 international cruise season, which mainstream media latched onto with the arrival of Celebrity Solstice into Sydney Harbour yesterday (see the clip from Channel 7’s Sunrise HERE). The segment was recorded live just before Cruise Lines International Association and the Australian Cruise Association released new figures indicating the last year saw a record economic contribution of more than $5.6 billion, supporting thousands of jobs and businesses right across the country.

It was exceptionally heartening to see these figures acknowledged by all of the states, indicating the strong position that cruising now holds in the consciousness of our politicians – a far cry from the situation a few years ago. NSW Transport Minister Jo Haylen, who helped announce the results, was then put on the spot about what the Government plans to do to help cruise grow further in Sydney, and interestingly she categorically ruled out the Garden Island Navy base as an option, saying she didn’t want to waste time or taxpayer money pursuing something that had previously been comprehensively rejected. When pressed as to what other alternatives are being considered she wasn’t able to elaborate, only confirming that the Port Authority of NSW had been tasked to find another port and would report in due course. The industry’s not holding its breath.

Other big cruise news this week included the departure of Karen Deveson from her role heading up Helloworld Travel Limited’s cruise businesses, taking up a new position which was late yesterday revealed to be as MD of Collette Australia. Having previously headed up The Travel Corporation’s Insight Vacations and Luxury Gold in Australia, the move will see her return to the world of touring in early January 2024. Helloworld veteran Steve Brady is taking over all things cruise at the company as Group General Manager Cruise, with Executive Director Cinzia Burnes noting that Cruiseco and recent acquisition Creative Cruising will continue as separate brands under the new structure.

There was also the formal naming ceremony of Explora I in New York, attended by several Aussie travel agents; the deployment of Royal Caribbean’s Rhapsody of the Seas to exfiltrate American citizens from the Israel crisis; while yesterday Silversea Cruises significantly ramped up its plans for Australia revealing that Silver Moon and Silver Nova, two of its newest ships, will cruise Down Under in 2025/26 including the line’s first ever circumnavigation, plus a Grand Voyage across the Pacific starting in Perth and ending in Valparaiso, Chile.

And now to the Qantas news. The week started with the surprise departure of Olivia Wirth from her role as CEO, Qantas Loyalty. Wirth steps down shortly after the abrupt retirement of former CEO Alan Joyce, having long been considered as a possible contender for the top job which was ultimately given to Vanessa Hudson, who also this week announced the appointment of PwC staffer Catherine Walsh as QF Chief People Officer.

Then early on Thursday, Qantas finally pulled the life support from its long-delayed deal to acquire Alliance Aviation Services. Having originally announced the 100% takeover deal 18 months ago, the pact was strenuously opposed by other players and in April this year was also the subject of a decidedly negative assessment by the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission. Qantas and Alliance finally conceded there was “no reasonable path forward” for the deal to proceed, with QF to retain its 19.99% shareholding in the company and continue its long-term E190 wet lease agreement with the charter operator.

And in fascinating Qantas-adjacent news, TripADeal introduced a new Hotel Stays product in partnership with Expedia – intriguing because TripADeal is 50% owned by Qantas, which has its own Qantas Hotels in-house accommodation operation.

Elsewhere, the Austrian National Tourist Office announced the departure of Kathrina Denk who is returning to her homeland, and will be replaced by Lilly Freudmayer. Qatar Airways, Emirates and Qantas all assisted with the repatriation of Australians from the war zone in the Middle East. Transport Minister Catherine King walked back a previous decision to cease ACCC monitoring of the domestic aviation sector, in response to the recent Senate inquiry led by her shadow counterpart Bridget McKenzie, who coincidentally opened the Australian Travel Agents Cooperative (ATAC) annual conference in Canberra today. Flight Centre Independent announced that it will run a global conference next year in Santiago, Chile, while fledgling domestic carrier Bonza launched a new group bookings division targeting event planners with 10 or more travellers, in response to demand from people wanting to fly to regional locations for meetings and conferences.

And finally in late-breaking news, it appears that Vietnam’s Bamboo Airways may be in a bit of strife, with all flights removed from its website and no longer displaying in GDS. Watch this space… and have a good weekend.


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