By Daisy Melwani
December 29th, 2009
When I look back at 2009, I reckon when we all launched ourselves full of whatever we drink into the New Year, it would have been hard to guess what, we shall call an “interesting“ year it was going to be in travel and tourism, in Australia and throughout the world, with a good range of good, bad and the ugly emerging as the year wore on!
Let’s have a look at some good ones first!
With the Global Economic Crisis kicking the year off, it has to be said that Australia was and is riding it better than any country in the world and we have to be proud of that, with Australia never formally entering recession, our $A rocketing, the first G20 country in the world to raise interest rates and we have three or four of the G20’s AAA rated banks in the world in Australia! And that is the little Aussie battler, the butt of many a joke around the world related to our larrikin approach, remoteness and lack of population and so forth – well we taught the world a lesson! Go Aussie, Go!
The rocketing Aussie dollar from .60 and less to the US dollar last year and at the beginning of the year, leaping to $.90 and recently even higher, resulting in outbound tourism boomed, with Aussies using their “bugger it, let’s just do it” approach to life, taking overseas holidays to cheap as chips international destinations like Bali and Fiji by the bucket load and the USA also doing incredibly well because it is so cheap, with Aussies shopping until they drop when on holiday.
On the contrary, domestic and inbound tourism has suffered as a result of the strength of the Aussie dollars with Australia seen as comparatively expensive by Aussies and inbound tourists, although domestic, at least Queensland appears to have begun a turn around in recent weeks.
In the world of business travel it has also been a tough year, with corporations and governments slashing travel costs and little light appearing on the horizon with companies now enjoying their lower overheads and video conferencing really coming into its own!
In the ugly stakes, Geoff Dixon sailed off into the sunset at Qantas with his pockets bulging with cash, while Alan Joyce took up the hot set at the flying kangaroo on a lot less cash and a machete in his hand to slash costs at a strike, with Jetstar doing what he and Dixon said would never happen, taking over heaps of QF’s domestic routes and competing directly with QF on others. Without Jetstar, QF’s result announced in their middle of the year would have been a whopping loss, so I expect to see QF slide into the background and JQ becoming QF’s key business.
It has been a very tough year at Virgin Blue, with massive cost cutting and the newly launched V Australia haemorrhaging cash like CEO Brett Godfrey could never have imagined, with Brett in an unusual approach, announcing his retirement in 2010, causing some jitters of confidence, while the JV with Delta could be their saving grace on the Pacific. Congratulations to Brett though on a great job.
One of Australia’s closest international destinations, Fiji has had a tough trot, with the Aussie and Kiwi Government sticking their bureaucratic noses in where they were not required, but with increased capacity to the island with Jetstar and V Australia going on the route from Australia and Continental from the US and even Air Pacific announcing new routes from Asia, perhaps things in Fiji are looking much rosier than they did at this time last year.
On a more serious and appropriate note around this time of the year when we should really think of others, Miles Clark, fellow travel writer and journalist who had dealt with depression for some time, ultimately committing suicide, was posthumously awarded the NTIA Travel Industry Special Recognition Award.
In the UK, things are a really ugly mess with BA having managed put off the cabin crew strike at least for now, with bankruptcy clearly on the agenda if it goes ahead with a strike of that nature destined to lose up to £20m a day, more than BA lost in the last six months, with the formerly the “worlds favourite airline” already having to merger with Spanish airline Iberia – how the mighty have fallen.
In more ugly news from the UK, leisure carrier FlyGlobespan collapsed last week stranding thousands of holiday makers overseas and wrecking the Christmas travel plans of many more with other travel companies also hitting the wall over the end of lat week, reflecting the current rather dire situation in the UK, which appears to be still clearly in recession.
Over at Tourism Australia, popular MD Geoff Buckley refused to take another three year contract and who would blame him with Andrew McEvoy a former TA Director and currently CEO of Tourism South Australia, taking over the reins in the New Year. In the bad category, Federal Magical Minister Martin Ferguson, continuing to try to pull the wool over the eyes of the Aussie tourism industry, wave his magic wand claiming that additional funds are being allocated to tourism, when eTB’s enquiries showed that in one instance, the claimed extra funds were not that at all and were drawn from next year’s budget and another that the funds were grant funds already allocated!
On the oceans, the good news is that 2009 saw cruising continue to boom out of and in Australia with P&O announcing ongoing massive growth, with CEO Ann Sherry’s hand firmly on the helm, moving company forward at a steady pace, although the release of a report on the near catastrophic disaster involving the Pacific Sun in 2008 caused some waves.
In rating the good, the bad and the ugly, I thought that I would create my own “Toscars” – the tourism and travel industry Oscars, according to Industry Insider – there is no voting here, just my sometimes jaundiced view of life and some of our industry leaders.