From the man­ag­ing editor

Travel Bulletin - - CONTENTS - Bruce Piper

Flight Cen­tre’s launch last month of an un­branded “part­ner­ship ini­tia­tive,” un­der which non-af­fil­i­ated travel agents can have ac­cess to Flight Cen­tre prod­uct, could mark yet an­other seis­mic shift in the Aus­tralian travel in­dus­try. Com­ple­ment­ing the ex­ist­ing Es­cape Travel branded fran­chise of­fer­ing, the new move “will al­low agents from out­side the com­pany to take ad­van­tage of FLT’S buy­ing power and ac­cess prod­ucts and rates that haven’t pre­vi­ously been avail­able,” en­thused Flight Cen­tre Aus­tralia gen­eral man­ager Me­lanie Wa­ters-ryan. Clearly tar­get­ing the on­go­ing ruc­tions at Hel­loworld, Wa­ters-ryan said the new op­por­tu­nity to be­come part of an un­branded buy­ing group would “ap­peal to other chains, un­aligned agents and agents who are linked to other net­works but con­sid­er­ing their fu­ture op­tions”. The re­cruit­ment of for­mer Hel­loworld/jtg vet­eran Danny Roche to over­see the new pro­gram is a mas­ter stroke, given his strong re­la­tion­ships with many ex­ist­ing Hel­loworld mem­bers and fran­chisees. How­ever newly minted Hel­loworld ceo An­drew Burnes quickly re­sponded, point­ing out that the seem­ingly mag­nan­i­mous ges­ture by Flight Cen­tre to open up its range was a stark con­trast to its ef­forts to close out any­one else’s prod­ucts from their own retail dis­tri­bu­tion. “Not only has Flight Cen­tre de­lib­er­ately ex­cluded sev­eral Hel­loworld whole­sale busi­nesses from be­ing sold in their retail shops over the last few years, in­clud­ing Qan­tas Hol­i­days and Sunlover Hol­i­days, they ac­tu­ally fi­nan­cially pe­nalise their con­sul­tants for sell­ing th­ese prod­ucts,” Burnes fumed, adding: “I don’t be­lieve other agents are go­ing to be fooled into feed­ing the hand that bites them”. It should also be pointed out that this isn’t the first move by Flight Cen­tre to of­fer its prod­ucts to other groups, with Back-roads Tour­ing and Topdeck Tours both ma­jor­ity owned by the com­pany, but def­i­nitely tar­get­ing a wider dis­tri­bu­tion. And sim­i­larly Hel­loworld’s wholly-owned In­sider Jour­neys (for­merly Travel In­dochina) makes pains to dis­tance it­self from its par­ent com­pany as it seeks to ap­peal across the board. Given the con­tro­versy, it is very timely that this month we are pleased to fea­ture the first in-depth in­ter­view with An­drew Burnes since he and wife Cinzia took the reins at Hel­loworld. With 40% of the com­pany they have a huge vested in­ter­est in Hel­loworld’s suc­cess and we can’t wait to see what un­folds in the com­ing months.

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