Weekly Wrap – 3rd September 2022

Helloworld results, Qantas fare discounts for agents, new Carnival role for Kathryn Robertson and big news for modern cruisers were among the biggest travel and tourism stories this week.

Hello from Amsterdam, where we’ve just arrived after a fabulous week aboard Norwegian Prima‘s christening cruise. While we’ve been on the high seas, it’s been another huge few days for travel and tourism industry news, not least the announcement of Helloworld Travel Limited’s highly anticipated 2021/22 financial results.

Helloworld would have to be almost unique in terms of major travel businesses across the globe this year, because it actually reported a significant profit. The $90 million result was primarily due to the decision made to sell its corporate division to Corporate Travel Management for $175 million – $100 million in cash, which has helped repay all of the company’s debt, and $75 million in CTM shares. Those shares are now worth $85 million, boosting the HLO bottom line, while the profit from the sale more than offset the $36 million in losses from the group’s retail and wholesale businesses.

Shareholders will receive a healthy 10c per share dividend – incidentally seeing CEO Andrew Burnes and Executive Director Cinzia Burnes pocket just over $2 million each – while other major shareholders including the Alysandratos family’s Sintack Pty Ltd and Qantas Airways will also receive payouts of about $2 million. And the timing of that sale to CTM may have been just perfect because the key Whole of Australian Government contracts held by QBT and AOT Hotels are being reviewed, with a new tender set to be awarded from June 2023.

A busy week for Helloworld also included the relaunch of its longstanding Global Stars and Cruise Stars incentive programs, as well as last week’s inaugural joint Corporate Forum combining the Magellan Travel Group and Helloworld Business Travel conferences for the first time ever. However there would have been some familiar faces missing – including Barbara Whitten and Nik Young from Anywhere Travel, which this week announced it was switching from Magellan to CT Partners. Other agency moves this week saw Travellers Choice pick up WA’s Midland Travel – formerly Helloworld Midland – as well as How We Travel in Port Macquarie, NSW.

In an intriguing development this week, Qantas announced it will offer lower domestic fare levels for agents making booking via the Qantas Distribution Platform (QDP). How much lower is yet to become apparent, but Executive Manager of Global Sales and Distribution Igor Kwiatkowski said the move is due to increased efficiencies available via the QDP which are now being shared with trade partners, with the initiative aiming to drive further adoption of the platform.

Meanwhile the restructure of Carnival Australia’s operations, which has seen some high profile departures in recent months, continued with the appointment of the highly respected Kathryn Robertson to the newly created role of Chief Commercial Officer. Robertson is well known to the industry through her longstanding aviation roles with Air NZ, and it’s going to be fascinating to see her switch her considerable talents to the cruise space.

Other big news in cruise – particularly relevant for those like me who have been working aboard this week – was confirmation that Royal Caribbean Group is teaming up with Elon Musk’s Starlink to roll out high speed internet connectivity via the SpaceX and Tesla chief’s global network of low-earth orbit satellites. The insatiable desire of passengers (and crew) for connectivity is a key issue for cruise lines, and being able to be online at sea with fast, stable connections is likely to play into the cruise purchase decision process for younger passengers particularly.

Speaking of young (at heart) cruisers, I’m going to make the most of my last few hours on board Norwegian Prima to take yet another high speed spin around the onboard racetrack. See you on the starting grid!

Have a great weekend

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