COVID-19 makes Australian skiing even more expensive in 2020

Thredbo has become the first Australian ski resort to reveal its pricing for season 2020, increasing the cost of a daily lift ticket by 20 per cent to $159 a day.

Sounds outrageous at a time of hardship and unemployment for many, however the steep price hike is no doubt down to the fact that Thredbo, like all Australian ski resorts, will have to limit the number of guests it allows onto the mountain this year, although there’s no clarity on what that number will be.

There are also no discounts for multi-day passes or  seasonality.

“To enable the resort to open for skiing and snowboarding, we will be rolling out a revised operating model that has been developed under the advice provided by the NSW Health Department and the State and Federal Governments,” GM Stuart Diver said.

There’ll be a limit of two people per quad chair, one at a time on t-bar (nightmare), tip-to-tail queuing , 1.5m social distancing and no group lessons.  All bookings must be made in advance.

Thredbo will be open to skiing and boarding from June 22.

Meanwhile, a spokesperson at nearby Perisher said: “Our teams are busy updating the range of products and services that we will have available. Tickets, lessons and rentals will be available for purchase by June 15 with skiing and boarding to start on June 24.”

Hotel tech company ReZme launches $800,000 crowd funding capital raise

Hospitality tech startup ReZme has launched an $800,000 capital raise to build out its website design, management and online marketing platform, which the founders claim will help operators increase direct bookings.

reZme was founded by Matt Taylor, former GM of Marketing at Choice Hotels Asia-Pacific, and and digital marketer Luke Young late last year.

It’s aiming to sign up 1000 hoteliers and property operators over the next two years with subscriptions to the software as a service (SAAS) platform starting at $159 a month. 

Taylor claims reZme increases user productivity by enhancing online marketing and consolidating key performance metrics in an easy to understand dashboard.

For details on investing in ReZme, visit https://www.birchal.com/company/rezme.

Booking.com softens rate parity stance in Australia

Booking.com has made major concessions to its controversial rate parity policy in Australia following negotiations with the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission but will still not allow hoteliers to offer cheaper rates on their own websites.

In an email this week, Booking.com CEO Gillian Tans advised Australian hoteliers that from September 1 the world’s largest online travel agent (OTA) will allow hoteliers and accommodation operators to offer better deals they like through most other channels without retribution.

This includes arch-rival Expedia, which is locked in discussions with the ACCC, and other online travel agents. Update 29 Aug: Expedia has just advised it is making the same rate parity changes.

It’s an extension of the policy Booking.com has adopted in Europe, where the anti-competitive nature of rate parity – ie contractually obligating operators to charge the same room rates across all distribution channels – has been under pressure from government competition watchdogs, particularly in France and Germany.

In an email sent to Australian operators today, Booking.com CEO Gillian Tans provided details of the “recent agreement” between the ACCC and Booking.com.

” Booking.com has agreed to extend the commitments it has rolled out in the European Union to all accommodations in Australia.

“Here is a summary outlining of what changes for you:

“1. You may set different room rates and offer different conditions and availability on different OTAs

“This means you don’t have to offer the same room rates, conditions and availability on Booking.com as other OTAs.

“This gives you greater flexibility to manage your offering across distribution channels.

“2. You may offer lower rates or better conditions through offline channels (such as telephone bookings and walk-ins) provided you do not publish or market offline rates online.

“We have had feedback that our partners want the ability to discount through offline reservation channels without having to give us the same or better rates.

“From now on, we will not require the same or better rates in respect of rooms sold via offline channels, provided that you do not market those offline rates online (e.g. on your website or on meta-search sites).

“3. There is no restriction on the unpublished room rates or conditions you may offer, provided you do not market those rates online.

“We understand it may be important for you to offer special rates to your loyal customers through non-public channels (such as closed-user groups) or to negotiate special rates on a bilateral basis (e.g. a special private group discount).

“4. You are still contracted to give Booking.com parity in respect of room rates and conditions offered on your own website (which includes meta-search sites such as Trivago, Kayak, TripAdvisor or Google Hotel Finder when they redirect the consumer to your own website for booking).

“We no longer require you to give us the same availability as our competitors, but in order to give meaning to our relationship, we require at least some availability in respect of all rooms and room-rate types. The rest of the contract with you remains unchanged.”

Clement Wong, CEO, BeMyGuest

Clement has worked with the top travel companies in the world, airlines, hotels, online travel agencies, tour operators, car rental companies, helping them with their strategies and market research.

He has also advised blue chip banks and venture capital firms on their acquisitions in the travel space.

Before starting BeMyGuest, he was heading up research for Phocuswright in Europe.

Prior to that, he was the Lead Analyst for Non-Air Distribution at Travelport, and also headed up travel and tourism research for Euromonitor in the EMEA region.

Book with confidence at Wotif? No, it’s just ‘Puffery’ says Expedia

Lawyers are supposed to protect the reputations of their clients, not trash them. But it looks like someone forget to tell the highly-paid legal eagles representing Expedia in Australia, who’ve inadvertently done a hatchet job on the credibility of once-iconic Australian subsidiary Wotif.com.

They did this by arguing that Wotif should not have to refund the cost of Canberra man Hugh Selby’s horror Hawaiian holiday because its “Book with confidence” statement is “puffery” (exaggerated or false praise), while saying that if you’ve got a problem with that, please read the fine print, we’ve got you covered there.

But the questionable strategy backfired and Expedia was ordered to give Mr Selby, who took Expedia to the ACT Civil and Administrative Tribunal (ACAT), a full refund plus costs. Why? In simple terms, false advertising – the Haleiwa holiday home he arrived at looked nothing  like the images online.

Deceptive and misleading conduct

The pictures were great but the reality was a dump in Hugh’s opinion, and the Tribunal agreed, finding that “Expedia, acting as Wotif, engaged in misleading and deceptive conduct by claiming consumers could book with confidence because of the company’s ‘great local knowledge’ “, according to an ABC report.

Statements like that can be very damaging to a brand, especially galling when the issue could have been nipped in the bud for a few thousand dollars. 

Instead Expedia chose to fight the case because, just like Facebook and Google, it does not want to be held legally accountable for the content it publishes, which includes marketing and advertising.

Under this line of thinking, Expedia, Wotif, Booking.com, TripAdvisor and all the rest are just  friendly middlemen, seamlessly connecting you with the world’s greatest experiences curated by by travel experts but without any obligation to ensure the experience is what is promised.

Those days may be numbered. A crucial aspect of the ACAT judgement is that it found marketing claims by Wotif such as “Book with confidence” overrode the fine print designed to protect parent company Expedia from liability – ie what you say matters.

Jetstar also in the firing line

In some ways this ruling echoes a recent ACCC case involving Jetstar, which may be fined $1.95 million for making sweeping and legally unenforceable  statements in its terms and conditions (fine print) that the carrier and others point to when confronting irate customers. 

“No matter how cheap the fares are, airlines cannot make blanket statements to consumers that flights are non-refundable,” said Rod Sims, Chair of the Australian Competition and Consumer Commission (ACCC).

“Services such as flights come with automatic consumer guarantees, and these rights cannot be excluded, restricted or modified.

“If a flight is cancelled or significantly delayed, passengers may be entitled to a refund under the consumer guarantees, which give consumers a right to a remedy if services are not supplied within a reasonable time.

“It’s frustrating for travellers when they have difficulty getting a refund for flights when they are entitled to one.

“This case is important not only for holding Jetstar to account, but sending a wider message that businesses cannot exclude or limit consumers’ rights under the Australian Consumer Law,’ ” Mr Sims said.

Both cases show that times are changing.

Legal Error of Judgement

To state the obvious, fighting this case has proven to be the wrong move for Expedia and has I think rattled the image of Wotif, Australia’s original hotel OTA.  

Founded in 2000 and sold to Expedia in 2014, Wotif has as much credibility as any Aussie travel company, and deserves to be treated with more respect.

Meanwhile, life goes on and the famous green website is still promising consumers they can “book with confidence” – though it’s probably time to add the caveat that statement should be taken with a grain of salt.

That’s how the lawyers would like it, however you cannot have it both ways.

Big changes as Qantas restructures business and staff

In major news, the Qantas Group will split Qantas Airlines into separate domestic and international businesses from July 1, while there have been numerous staff changes, including the resignation of Jetstar boss Bruce Buchanan after nine years with the low cost carrier he helped create.

Qantas Group CEO Alan Joyce said: “Qantas Domestic is strong and profitable (but) Qantas International is loss-making and does not deliver sustainable returns. Formally separating the management will ensure that we can independently run each business according to its specific priorities and market conditions.”

Qantas Domestic and Qantas International will each have its own CEO, operational and commercial functions. Their financial results will be reported separately, as is already the case with Jetstar.

Mr Joyce also announced a major shakeup of staff. The new Qantas Group Executive Committee will be:

  • Simon Hickey, CEO Qantas International. Mr Hickey is currently CEO, Qantas Frequent Flyer.
  • Lyell Strambi, CEO, Qantas Domestic. Mr Strambi is currently Group Executive, Qantas Airlines Operations.
  • Jayne Hrdlicka, CEO, Jetstar Group. Ms Hrdlicka is currently Group Executive, Strategy and Technology. The Strategy and Technology function will move under Chief Financial Officer Gareth Evans.
  • Lesley Grant, CEO, Qantas Frequent Flyer. Ms Grant was formerly the Group Executive responsible for developing Qantas’ new international strategy.
  • Jon Scriven, Group Executive, People and Office of the CEO.
  • Olivia Wirth, Group Executive, Government and Corporate Affairs
  • Brett Johnson, General Counsel
  • Gareth Evans, Chief Financial Officer

“Jetstar Group CEO Bruce Buchanan, having successfully built Jetstar into the leading low fares carrier across Asia, will leave the Group. Mr Buchanan will remain with Jetstar for the next six months to assist with the transition. He will then provide consultancy services to the Group for an additional 18 months.

“As a consequence of the revised structure, Rob Gurney, Group Executive Commercial and Freight, Qantas Airlines, has decided that it is appropriate to leave the Group.”

Mr Joyce said the restructure would strengthen the Qantas Group’s portfolio and help deliver its strategic goals.

“Over the past 18 months we have established a clear path to building a better, more competitive Qantas,” he said. “Our foundations are strong, with the two most profitable airlines in the domestic market, one of the world’s best loyalty programs and Jetstar targeting the fast-growing Asian leisure travel market.

“We have begun the process of restoring Qantas International to a sustainable position. Yesterday we announced that we will consolidate our heavy maintenance operations in Australia to maximise the benefits of our next-generation fleet of aircraft. And other initiatives are underway across the Group to increase efficiency and productivity.

“The restructure I announce today advances this essential program of change. It recognises that the Qantas Group is a true portfolio business.

“Qantas Domestic and Qantas International face very different situations. Qantas Domestic is strong and profitable. We are seeing the most sustained levels of high customer satisfaction on domestic services since 2004, and we are the airline of choice for corporate Australia.

“But we cannot be complacent – we must continue to offer customers the best network, frequency and flying experience in the domestic market, and find new ways to earn and reward their loyalty.

“Qantas International, a great airline with a rich history, is loss-making and does not deliver sustainable returns. However, we are committed to turning it around through the five-year strategy we announced last year, based on flying to global gateways, deeper alliances, smart investment in product and disciplined capital management.

“Formally separating the management of Qantas International and Qantas Domestic will ensure that we can independently run each business according to its specific priorities and market conditions.

“These measures give us the right structure to address the challenges and opportunities we face – and the right people.

“Simon Hickey has achieved record profits at Qantas Frequent Flyer, which now has 8.5 million members and is now a powerful brand in its own right. Lyell Strambi is an outstanding aviation executive with experiencing running all aspects of Qantas’ operations, while Lesley Grant’s credentials as former Group Executive Customer and Marketing make her well-placed to manage Qantas Frequent Flyer.

“Jayne Hrdlicka has been vital to the development of the Group’s strategy and will have an important job managing the Jetstar business across multiple markets following a successful period of expansion under Bruce Buchanan.

“I would also like to express my appreciation for the significant contribution Rob Gurney has made to Qantas over the past 14 years, and I wish him well in his future endeavours.

“Operationally, it will continue to be business as usual for Qantas customers and employees. We will be carefully working through the details of the separation of Qantas International and Qantas Domestic over the next few months. Relevant stakeholders will be kept informed and consulted as required and further announcements made at the appropriate time.”

The press release also stated: “Mr Buchanan has decided after nine years with the Qantas Group it is time to leave the company and explore new opportunities. This will include working with other Australian companies seeking to expand into growth markets within Asia”, just as he has done with the Jetstar Group of airlines.

“I’m extremely proud of my time at Jetstar working with a team of very talented people who pioneered a way of setting up airlines across Asia,” Mr Buchanan said.

“If we can export airlines – a business where we have no natural advantages – there are no limits to where we can leverage our Australian ingenuity.

“I’m looking forward to continuing my work with Alan and the Qantas Group over the next couple of years, while helping other businesses expand across Asia.”

Back to the future for global hotel room rates

Hotel Price Index - 2004-2010

GLOBAL hotel room rates have slumped to their lowest levels in six years, according to latest Hotels.com Hotel Price Index. Asia-Pacific is the only exception with prices 17% of ahead of 2004 but still way short of the 2008 peak. The past 12 months have been generally flat on a regional level with only Sydney, of all the major AP cities, recording  a year on year Q2 rate increase (+4%). Sydney rooms are still relatively cheap, though, with an average rate of A$159 paid through Hotels.com. The regional price leader is Singapore at A$194 (0% increase) followed by Hong Kong A$168 (-2%).

Global hotel prices rise but are still lower than in 2004

  • Average global hotel room price rises 2% in second quarter of 2010 as Australians continue to derive excellent value for money for international travel

Sydney, 14 September 2010: The average price of a hotel room around the world rose two per cent in the second quarter (Q2) of 2010 compared to the same period a year earlier, according to the latest Hotels.com® Hotel Price Index™ (HPI®), launched today.

This was the first time that hotel prices rose year-on-year following seven consecutive quarters of price falls. However, prices fell so low during 2009 that, despite the modest increase, the average price of a room globally was still lower than it was in 2004.

With a few isolated exceptions, worldwide hotel prices dropped markedly for Australian travellers during Q2 2010 compared to Q2 2009. Indeed, of the tens of major city destinations analysed by Hotels.com, only six cities (Cape Town, Toronto, Sydney, Shanghai, Cairns and Christchurch) experienced price rises in Q2 2010 compared to the same period last year. Cape Town in South Africa experienced the biggest price increase, with prices skyrocketing 71 per cent, most likely due to increased demand from international travellers as host of the FIFA World Cup in June.

Weak or at best uncertain demand together with the strengthening Australian Dollar, has meant Australians have continued to receive excellent value for their international travel. Notable price falls in major cities include: Abu Dhabi (-38%); Athens (-22%); Beijing (-20%); Chicago (-20%); Dublin (-16%) and Los Angeles (-16%).

For Australians, the most expensive international destinations were dominated by major US and European cities. New York was the world’s most expensive city for hotel accommodation for Australians in Q2 2010, with an average price per room per night of $268, followed by Venice at $251. Other popular European destinations such as London, Paris and Rome were also among the world’s most expensive cities.

Despite hotel prices falling 12% there in the past year, France remained the most expensive country for Australian visitors, while prices in India fell the most of any country (down 20%) between 2009 and 2010. Hotel prices across the United States were down by 10% year-on-year for Australian travellers, while they paid on average 5% less in Q2 2010 for hotels in the United Kingdom than they did the previous year.

Apart from Sydney and Cairns, where hotel prices rose four and eight per cent respectively, overall, average room prices for hotels in the major Australian cities decreased between 2009 and 2010 by an average of two per cent. Gold Coast hotel prices fell the most – by eight per cent – making it the least expensive Australian city for hotel accommodation at just $123 per night per room. Melbourne and Perth hotel room prices both fell three per cent in the same period to $155 and $144 respectively. Sydney’s price rise meant that Perth lost its title as Australia’s most expensive city for hotel accommodation in the last HPI.

David Roche,President, Hotels.com Worldwide,says: “Hotel pricing trends, up to the end of Q2 of 2010, confirm that stabilization has indeed been under way in the hotel industry, and that there are hints of a recovery.  However, while the Hotel Price Index has shown a rise of 2%, consumers should remember that hotel affordability across the world has not been this good since 2004, offering terrific opportunities to extend stays or trade up the star class.”

Johan Svanstrom, Managing Director, Asia Pacific for Hotels.com, comments: “For Australian travellers, there is an abundance of international and domestic destinations that offer value for money and will continue to do so for some time and as the Australian Dollar continues to perform well, many international destinations will continue to be favourably priced for Australian travellers.”

The greatest hotel price rises among the world’s top cities

The biggest price rises (ranked by % change year-on-year) in Q2 2010, compared to Q2 2009 (in AU$):

CityAverage price per room per night Q2 2010Average price per room per night Q2 2009% change year-on-year
Cape Town$197$11571%
Toronto$168$1558%
Cairns$128$1198%
Sydney$159$1534%
Shanghai$147$1433%
Christchurch$100$972%

The greatest hotel price falls among the world’s top cities

The biggest price falls (ranked by % change year-on-year) in Q2 2010, compared to Q2 2009 (in AU$):

CityAverage price per room per night Q2 2010Average price per room per night Q2 2009% change year-on-year
Abu Dhabi$173$278-38%
Budapest$126$164-23%
Athens$175$225-22%
Chicago$166$208-20%
Beijing$108$135-20%

The world’s most expensive cities (ranked by price) in Q2 2010, compared to Q2 2009:

The world’s most expensive cities (ranked by price) in Q2 2010, compared to Q2 2009 (in AU$):

CityAverage price per room per night Q2 2010Average price per room per night Q2 2009% change year-on-year
New York$268$2670%
Venice$251$279-10%
London$223$2220%
Washington$222$234-5%
Paris$222$244-9%

Anton Stanish, Regional Director Australia and NZ, HomeAway

Anton is HomeAway’s Director for Australia and NZ, responsible for all of their businesses in the region, which include the Stayz, Bookabach, YesBookit and HomeAway brands.

He led the Stayz team through the sale of the business by Fairfax Media to HomeAway in 2013, and is excited to now be part of the leading online vacation rental marketplace worldwide.

Anton joined Fairfax in 2006, and enjoyed successful stints in a number of senior strategy and digital product management roles.

Before stepping into the Stayz General Manager role in 2011, other notable highlights within Fairfax included the start-up of the BrisbaneTimes and BusinessDay websites, as well as the acquisition of InvestSmart, an online managed funds business.

Prior to joining Fairfax, Anton’s career spanned corporate development, product development and consulting roles in New Zealand, the UK and Australia, including time at Hoyts Cinemas and Fletcher Challenge.

Anton brings over 12 years of experience in growing online businesses. Anton holds a Bachelor of Engineering from the University of Cantebury (NZ), and an MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management and London Business School.

Born in New Zealand, Anton has lived in Sydney for the past 15 years.

Outside of work, Anton hopes to be spotted on a golf course or cheering on the All Blacks as they win another Rugby World Cup, but he is more likely to be spending time with his three young children.

Turochas Fuad, CEO and Co-Founder, Travelmob

Turochas “T” Fuad is the CEO and co-founder of travelmob – an online social stay marketplace that connects global travellers with hosts in Asia Pacific who have unique accommodations and experiences to offer. 
A seasoned entrepreneur, T’s background has spanned across various industries, which include enterprise software, mobile, and consumer Internet services

T most recently served as the Managing Director for Skype Asia, responsible for its business expansion and partnerships across the Asia Pacific region. During his time there, T led and launched a mobile partnership with KDDI to make Skype available to the second largest mobile network in Japan. T also led the team that broadened key partnerships in China, Australia, Taiwan and Korea.

Prior to joining Skype Asia’s headquarters in Singapore, T was responsible for all business aspects of Yahoo!’s Mobile business unit across the Southeast Asia market. T grew Yahoo!’s mobile operator partnerships in Southeast Asia from 3 to 12 within the first year and orchestrated the deployment and distribution of Yahoo! Mobile services and mobile advertising across the region.

T started his career at Yahoo! running its global Mobile Music business and partnerships.

Prior to joining Yahoo!, T served as the President and co-founder of WUF Networks, a convergence software company in the U.S. which Yahoo! acquired in 2005.

T is a graduate of the University of Texas at Austin.

Tourism Australia Marketing goes walkabout

By Julian Lee, Media and Marketing Editor, Sydney Morning Herald

IMAGINE if Baz Luhrmann had cast Paul Hogan in the Come Walkabout tourism campaign. If the stressed-out executive played by Sybilla Budd was depicted cavorting in a billabong as Crocodile Dundee looked on.

As she emerges, transformed by the calming experience of the cool waters, there’s Hoges sinking a cold one, the embers of a barbecue adding a warm glow to the scence. “Where the bloody hell have you been,” she asks as he casually tosses another shrimp on the barbie. “Sometimes in order to find yourself you have to get lost.Sometimes you have to go to the pub,” is his reply.

You may laugh but Tourism Australia and its advertising agency, DDB, are planning the “next big ad”, into which just about every cliche of Australia might be shoehorned. Due in June, it is likely to continue the theme of transformation that was at the heart of the film Australia and on which the current campaign is based.

TA’s “strategic review” of Come Walkabout continues, but it has already claimed the ad a success, without citing any evidence other than visitors to its website. (Three years on we have still not been told why its predecessor, Where The Bloody Hell Are You, was a flop.)

With the global tourism market in the doldrums – overseas visitors are forecast to drop by 4 per cent – do we really need to have a one-size-fits-all ad for Australia? Unlike a Mars Bar or McDonald’s, which delivers the same experience the world over, people come to Australia for different reasons. Yes, Luhrmann and TA made two Walkabout ads – one for Westerners and one for Asians – but they deliver the same message that Australia offers a transformative experience.

This week TA said it had lost almost a third of its marketing budget due to a fall in the Aussie dollar. International travellers are looking for shorter breaks and their budgets are unlikely to run to expensive trips to the bush. Now is not the time to have another stab at creating a brand for Australia as a tourist destination. It is the time for getting more bums on seats.

But TA is ploughing on so that Australia “remains top of mind for when consumer confidence to travel returns”, the managing director, Geoff Buckley, said by email after declining an interview.

It has no plans to divert its $40 million media spend to those countries that are holding up better than others, but will push ahead with the scattergun approach of targeting 20 countries, even as airlines like Qantas pull out of markets.

New Zealand, our biggest market, for example, gets just 4 per cent of its ad budget. The United States, where travellers are benefiting from a price war between Qantas, Virgin and United Airlines, 12 per cent.

The tourism body appears to have all but given up on Japan, where a meagre $1 million has been allocated for the Walkabout campaign. Nearly 10 per cent of its ad budget has been allocated for Australia, reinforcing the view that the industry is looking to Australians to pick up the slack during the recession. The “rest of the world” eats up 22 per cent, or $8.6 million, of that budget.

“Our role is to drive demand for Australia, and in challenging times you go back to basics – the emotional truth about your product,” says Buckley. But it’s a country, Geoff, not a Mars Bar.

Travel Trends, courtesy Sydney Morning Herald, February 19, 2009

http://business.smh.com.au/business/tourism-body-needs-to-get-lost-20090218-8bii.html