All posts by Martin Kelly

Booking Holdings Moves Into Tours & Activities, Buys Fare Harbour

In further confirmation that the tours and activities sector is hot, hot, hot, industry giant Booking Holdings is buying the sector’s largest online booking and reservation management platform, FareHarbor, which has more than 5000 clients and 200 employees.  “We see an immense opportunity to leverage this technology to bring more local experiences online,” said Gillian Tans, CEO of, adding that FareHarbor will operate as an “independent business”. 

Plunging Returns for Gold Coast Theme Parks As Guest Stay Away

Tourists continue to steer clear of the Gold Coast theme parks with Village Roadshow reporting a slump in business, saying it may lose up to $10 million for the financial year.

Just a couple of months ago Village had forecast an underlying profit of between $12 million to $17 million.

How could things go so wrong, so quickly?

Village says tourists have stayed away due to bad weather and competition from the Commonwealth Games. More 

Traditional Retail Still Lead The Pack for Overseas Travel Bookings

New research claims that 42.5% of Australian adults still book international holidays through their local travel agents, vastly in excess of the reputed 15.5% who head to the web to do the deed with an online travel agent. But what of the other 42%? Regrettably, the Roy Morgan Travel Agent Report media release does not say. You have to assume these are the people who are booking direct, no doubt using the web.

Left Field Travel Tech Investment from SeaLink Travel Group

Andrew McEvoy, SLK Chair and UWAI Co-Founder

SeaLink Travel Group, which recently diversified from shipping into accommodation, has further spread its wings by investing $3.2 million in UWAI, a new Chinese travel marketing app part-owned by Chairman Andrew McEvoy while also becoming its largest customer.

UWAI markets local travel businesses to Chinese tourists. Its name translates as “travel overseas” in Mandarin and has been successfully trialled in South Australia, where 1500 businesses have signed up. 

“We believe it will appeal to the fast-growing Chinese free independent traveller segment which is an increasingly important More 

Up For A Challenge? Manus Island Needs Tourism Marketing

It’s an unfortunate fact that Manus Island north of Papua New Guinea has a horrible reputation defined by an exceptionally controversial offshore detention centre for refugees.

Commissioned and paid for by the Australian Government, four asylum seekers have died while there’s been endless negative news stories based around alleged abuse of human rights.

But the island itself is, according to reports, a tropical paradise, part of the remote Admiralty Islands group, with fantastic beaches, diving and surfing. More 

Mendis to Lead Sales and Operations at Sabre Travel Network

Roshan Mendis has been appointed chief commercial officer of Sabre Travel Network, responsible for leading global sales, sales operations and business development initiatives. Mendis has worked with Sabre companies for the past 20 years, and was most recently served as senior vice president of Travel Network for the Europe, Middle East and Africa (EMEA) and Asia Pacific (APAC) regions. He will continue to be based in London.

Apollo Targets Europe Expansion With Camperco Buy

Apollo Tourism & Leisure has continued its aggressive global growth, acquiring  Camperco, one of UK and Ireland’s largest independent motorhome operators, saying it will provide a “beachhead” for further European expansion.

Apollo paid £4.5m in cash and shares for the business, the major asset of which is the Bunk Campers brand, with a fleet of approximately 200 recreational vehicles, and offices throughout the UK/Ireland. More 

Website and Tech Buy for Helloworld, Acquires Flight Systems

Well-known Sydney online travel entrepreneur Mirza Juddani has sold his company Flight Systems, which operates, to listed retailer Helloworld. Technology was a major reason for the acquisition, providing  a low risk and low cost entry to some sophisticated distribution technologies, said Helloworld CEO Andrew Burnes. Flight Systems is expected to have turnover of $80m this financial year and the purchase amount was not disclosed. Juddani will be staying on and joining the HLO team.

The Bicycle Thief – Ovolo Ball Snatched By Bike Share Bandit

“We’ve been hit right in the balls!” exclaimed Stephen Howard, the new Marketing Director of Ovolo Hotels. “A mysterious individual decided to take one of our beloved Ovolo Balls from our hotel late last week, they didn’t even buy us dinner first! ???? We’ve got $1000, a nights accommodation and a dining voucher for Alibi Woolloomooloo up for grabs for whoever reunites us with our steely beloved sculpture.” Get on it!

Meet Tourism’s ‘Long Tail’ at WIT Indie in Penang

In an era of consolidation and monster billion-dollar online travel companies, WIT is throwing the focus on the little guy with a new one-day event. The first edition of WIT Indie will be held in Penang, Malaysia, on April 13. “WIT Indie aims to gather independents and creatives around the idea that not only can they compete in the digital age, but can thrive,” says WIT founder Yeoh Siew Hoon. “The idea is to offer a platform on which they can learn, network, collaborate and share best practices – when you are small, scale can come from thinking outside your business and collaborating with other like-minded people in a creative environment.” See website for details.

Viator Smashes It – Big Profit After Years of Losses

Dermot Halpin, President of Attractions & Vacation Rentals, TripAdvisor

No pain no gain. That could be the mantra at tours and activities business Viator, which has staged an incredible turnaround over the past 12 months due primarily to the hard-headed vision of Dermot Halpin, who has shaken the company up and made it profitable – literally tens of million of dollars in the black – after years of spending money in the name of growth.

No-one saw this coming when Halpin, who had been running TripAdvisor’s vacation rentals business, was given additional responsibilities by TripAdvisor founder Steve Kaufer, replacing long-term CEO Barrie Seidenberg, who resigned in late 2016. More