All posts by Martin Kelly

Susan Bonner, Quirin Schwaighofer Talk Next Big Thing at Travel IQ

Susan Bonner, VP & MD of Royal Caribbean Cruises, pictured, and Quirin Schwaighofer, co-founder of MadeComfy, are the latest speakers to confirm for the Travel IQ conference in Sydney on October 24. 

They feature in The Next Big Thing, a provocative session moderated by Tammy Marshall of The B Hive and join a star-studded line-up including Bob EastJamie PherousAnthony HayesDarrin GraftonRob SmithSue BadyariBrett MitchellRobert HalfpennyLes SzekelySimon Lenoir, Anthea and David Hammon, Rod Cuthbert and many more. More 

Anthony Hayes, Chief Operating Officer, SeaLink Travel Group

Anthony Hayes is the Chief Operating Officer of SeaLink Travel Group, one of Australia’s largest tourism and travel companies. 

With more than 1600 dedicated team members around Australia, SeaLink serves over 8.5 million customers annually across the maritime, guided holiday, day tour and accommodation sectors. 

In addition to the SeaLink brand, key businesses within the group include Captain Cook Cruises, SeaLink Fraser Island and Stradbroke Ferries.

Anthony was previously Managing Director of AAT Kings, Australia’s largest guided holiday company, and CEO of Fantasea Cruising.

Prior to joining AAT Kings, Anthony was the Chief Executive Officer of Tourism Queensland, where he was responsible for setting the overall strategic direction for tourism in Queensland. 

During this period, Tourism Queensland won over 130 national and international marketing and tourism awards, including a large number for “The Best Job in the World”, one of the most awarded marketing campaigns in Australian history.

Anthony also enjoyed a long career at Qantas holding numerous roles in sales, marketing and product development, including Assistant to Managing Director James Strong and regional head of Central Europe based in Frankfurt.

Anthony has sat on numerous tourism boards including the Australian Tourism Export Council, the Sydney Convention and Visitors Bureau, Events Queensland and the National Long Term Tourism Strategy committee.

Flights Centre Finds Digital Direction, Buys Unmapped

Flight Centre has bought Unmapped, a technology company that builds travel documentation, communication and itinerary management software for the travel industry. Unmapped products include the Trip Publisher itinerary builder and TripLinQ API services, which consolidates bookings, content and real-time location data into a single interface. The company’s products are already being used by Flight Centre in the US and will roll out globally.  No acquisition price was revealed.

Increase Your Travel Business Intelligence at Travel IQ


Shoulda Been There – Back in 2019

You should have been there. The first sold-out edition of Travel IQ was a fantastic day.

Make sure you don’t miss out in 2019 – register your interest here to get the latest updates.

Travel IQ is a one-day conference that celebrates the business of travel.

It’s designed for entrepreneurs, key executives, business owners, directors, analysts, investors and managers across all verticals.

The aim is to get people thinking – and also inspired – with case studies from some of Australia’s most renowned travel entrepreneurs and innovators.

This unique format resonated with the attendees at the first event, which was staged at the Langham, Sydney, on October 24, 2018.

As one high-profile speaker commented: “I met with many great people and the overwhelming comment was how much they got out of Travel IQ.

“Personally, I also enjoyed the event very much.

“It is always great getting the heads of companies in the same room, inspiring. So well done!”


Travel IQ 2018 Program –  Celebrating The Business of Travel

9.00am – 9.45am Travel – A Growth Story. Travel remains a growth story despite global uncertainty and is forecast to grow at more than 5% a year for the next decade. Our opening speakers crunch the data on key industry sectors. We also look at where the smart money has been heading with analysis of key industry investments over the past two years, both in Australia and overseas.

9.45am – 10.05am Founder’s Story. Jamie Pherous founded Corporate Travel Management (CTD) 24 years ago with a couple of staff in Brisbane and big dreams. Now the business he created is a publicly-listed global enterprise with offices in 70 countries, thousands of staff and a market capitalisation of more than $3 billion. Learn about Jamie’s journey in this presentation.

10.05am – 10.40am Trends, Issues, Challenges & Opportunities. Travel may be growing however progression is anything but linear. That’s because travel is a complex, occasionally volatile industry that’s ultimately all about people, who are anything but predictable. Strategies change, opportunities emerge, and growth is an ever-present challenge. Meanwhile globalisation looms large. Tightly moderated panel discussion involving travel business leaders.

10.40am 11.10am – Morning Tea

11.10am – 11.35am Investor Insight. Les Szekely has picked a few winners in his time: HotelClub, SiteMinder and Rezdy to name a few, so what he says is worth listening to. What is his philosophy on investing, what does he look for in a company and what does he think the future holds? Find out here.

11.35am – 11.55am Going Public: Serko is a story of dogged perseverance and bloody mindedness. After a rocky start on the NZSX, Serko staged a huge turnaround and became its top performing share last year while achieving a long-time goal of co-listing on the ASX in June.

11.55am – 12.40pm Attractive Proposition: Attractions are the invisible infrastructure underpinning Australian tourism. Session opens with focus on the rapid evolution of third-generation company Hammons Holdings, owner since 1945 of Scenic World Blue Mountains and now operator of commercial climbing on the Sydney Harbour Bridge. Followed by industry leader discussion covering everything from ski resorts and aquariums to water parks. Moderator Nigel Benton, Publisher, Australian Leisure Media.

12.40pm – 2.00pm Lunch. Sensational lunch in Bistro Remy, a great space and brilliant food. Delegates will get the chance to relax and catch up with fellow delegates in a beautiful environment. 

2.00pm – 2.30pm Engineering an Exit. Building a travel business is one thing, selling it or stepping back something else altogether. Here’s  how two quite different travel entrepreneurs managed their transition. One sold, the other stepped aside from day to day management. Presentation followed by discussion.

2.30pm – 2.40pm Owning the Moment: Why lease when you can build and own? Australian travel companies APT and Scenic have been at the forefront of investing in and building their own ships. Now Aurora Expeditions has joined the party, commissioning the ‘Greg Mortimer’ expedition ship. Case study on rewards and risks of building your own ship.

2.40pm – 2.50pm Focus On – Intrepid Group: It’s been a remarkable journey for the Intrepid Group, which is pushing ahead with an ambitious strategy to be the biggest player in the global adventure travel industry through a combination of acquisitions and organic growth

2.50pm – 3.10pm Adventure is Where You Find It: Discussion… Adventure, expedition and experiential travel is hot right now with consumers increasingly looking for culture, meaning and interaction when they take a break. Find out what’s driving this sector, where the opportunities lie and what the future holds

3.10pm – 3.30pm Working Locally, Growing Globally. The common wisdom is that you can’t build a global business from Australia. However, it can be done. Rod Cuthbert has used Australia as a launching pad for two global businesses, Viator, now owned by TripAdvisor, and Rome2rio, headquartered in Melbourne. What did he learn along the way? Interview format.

3.30pm – 4.00pm Afternoon Tea

4.00pm – 4.30pm The Next Big Thing… If only if it were that simple. Here is your chance to get ahead of the curve in our closing session featuring a panel of well-connected industry insiders with their take on how travel will evolve in the coming years and who will be best placed to take advantage of the ever-shifting tourism landscape.


Ascott Moves Beyond Apartments, Buys 70% of Tauzia Hotel Mgt

Yello Hotel Manggari Jakarta

Leading serviced apartment owner and operator, The Ascott Limited, has bought 70% of Tauzia Hotel Management, one of Indonesia’s top five hotel operators.

Tauzia has a portfolio of 122 hotels across Indonesia, Malaysia and Vietnam, half of which are under development. Most of Tauzia’s hotels target business travellers with about 30% leisure focused.

Its brands include Harris Hotels, Yello and Pop!

BridgeClimb Brand To Continue Under New Owners

Chris Zumwalt

The BridgeClimb brand will live on under new owners Hammons Holdings who won recently won commercial climbing and tourism rights for the Sydney Harbour Bridge.

BridgeClimb is the incumbent company and its contract expires at the end of September.

In mid-August Hammons Holding bought BridgeClimb’s assets and today confirmed the iconic brand would continue, appointing Scenic World’s Chief Operating Officer Chris Zumwalt CEO from 1 October. More 

Anthony Moulder, Head of Transport & Infrastructure Research, CLSA Australia

Anthony Moulder joined CLSA  Australia in 2017 as senior analyst covering the transport and infrastructure sector.

Anthony has covered the Transport sector for the last 16 years. Starting with Credit Suisse in 2002, and then moving to Citigroup in 2012, Anthony has consistently been a Top 3 ranked analyst in the Transport sector – covering airlines, airports, rail, logistics, ports and toll roads. 

Prior to joining equities research, Anthony worked in telecommunications finance for Telstra and Telecom New Zealand.

 Anthony grew up in Wellington, New Zealand and attended Victoria University.

Rachel Wiseman, Chief Investment Officer, NRMA Group

Rachel Wiseman was appointed Chief Investment Officer in November 2016. Rachel is responsible for the NRMA Group’s commercial interests, including corporate development, investments, partnerships and growth, public policy and research, community investment as well as the corporate legal and company secretariat functions.

Before joining the NRMA, Rachel held the role of General Manager Corporate Development at Tabcorp Holdings, during which time she was responsible for establishing Tabcorp’s UK operations in London. Before this, Rachel held a number of senior roles at Fox Sports including Director Business Affairs and Commercial & Strategy Manager.

Rachel started her career as an accountant with Ernst & Young in New Zealand before moving into corporate law with Phillips Fox. Since moving to Australia, she has held the role of Corporate Counsel with Telstra and General Counsel with Reverse Corp Limited.

Rachel holds a Bachelor of Law and Bachelor of Commerce degree from the University of Canterbury (New Zealand), an MBA from the Australian Graduate School of Management and completed the Advanced Management Program at Harvard Business School.

Darrin Grafton, Co-Founder & Chief Executive Officer, Serko Limited

Darren Grafton, who is speaking at Travel IQ 2018,  has 25+ years’ experience in the travel technology industry and is a highly experienced innovator.

He has been responsible for leading major changes in the corporate travel industry throughout his career and was recognized as one of the top 25 most influential executives in the travel industry by the BTN Group in 2014. In 2018 Skift also acknowledged Darrin as one of the top innovators in travel.

Darrin has held senior management positions with Gullivers Travel Group (listed on the Australian and New Zealand Stock Exchanges between 2004 and 2006) and Interactive Technologies. Darrin has previously been awarded the NZX Hi-Tech Entrepreneur Award and been a finalist for the NZ Hi-Tech Company Leader Award and the EY Entrepreneur of the Year Award. Darrin is a member of the Institute of IT Professionals NZ, the Institute of Directors NZ.

Sue Badyari, Chief Executive Officer, World Expeditions

Sue Badyari, who is speaking at Travel IQ 2018, is CEO of the World Expeditions Travel Group, operator of small group adventure tours all over the world. 

World Expeditions is Australia’s longest established adventure travel company and offers more than 500 stand-alone itineraries, escorted by expert leaders and meticulously designed for those travellers who want to take the ‘paths less travelled’.  

Under her leadership, the group has grown from a single brand company when she took up the helm in 1999 to a multi brand operator and distributor of travel products. She has been the driving force behind its many achievements, including:

  • Establishing Australia’s first Charity Challenge with the Fred Hollows Foundation
  • Acquiring Tasmanian Expeditions and the UK based Sherpa Expeditions and establishing the UTracks self-guided travel division
  • Conducting the negotiations and due diligence for purchasing Adventure South New Zealand (2010); Trail Journeys (2017) and the Blue Mountains Adventure Travel Company (2018)
  • Developing the World Expeditions’ domestic brand, Australian Walking Holidays and creating the award winning semi-permanent campsites on the Larapinta Trail
  • Becoming the first-ever commercial operator of the full Nepal 1700km traverse of the Great Himalaya Trail ( recognised worldwide as an outstanding operational achievement) and over-seeing the establishment a network of permanent campsites in the Everest and Annapurna regions
  • Developing the World Expeditions Community Project Travel program and establishing the World Expeditions Foundation, which became a pivotal fundraising portal in the wake of the devastating Nepal earthquakes in 2015.

In recognition of her pioneering work in adventure travel, Sue is a regular speaker at international tourism and travel events, including the IIPT World Symposium (Johannesburg, South Africa), NZ Adventure Travel Trade Association event (Auckland, NZ), Global Eco Tourism Conference Asia/Pacific (Sydney, Australia). 

Travel media regularly seek comment from Sue about issues pertaining to the adventure travel industry.

Sue travels extensively and believes that the most authentic travel experiences occur when travellers get off the beaten track. Her main priority is to develop tourism that goes hand in hand with the local community and protects the natural environment.

Responsible and sustainable travel is core to her philosophy and deeply imbedded in all aspects of the World Expeditions Travel Group’s activities.

Under Sue’s leadership, World Expeditions offers a flexible work environment to enable parents with children to continue to work and to progress with their careers.

Evidence of the long term retention, progression and satisfaction at World Expeditions can be seen by the proportion of employees who have reached 10+ years of service to the organisation.

Bob East, Chair Tourism Australia; Chair Experience Co

Bob East, who is speaking at Travel IQ 2018, has more than 20 years’ experience in the tourism industry, most recently as CEO of the Mantra Group.

Bob and a passionate group of private investors created the Mantra Group and over a period of 12 years shaped the group to be the largest Australian hotel and resort business operating 140 hotels predominantly under the Peppers and Mantra brands.

Bob listed the company on the ASX in June 2014 which culminated in its inclusion into the ASX 200 list in 2015. Bob then managed Mantra Group’s $1.3B acquisition by AccorHotels, one of the world’s largest hotel operators in 2018.

Bob was recently co-chair of the ASEAN summit for business and tourism and is currently on the federal government’s Brand Australia board.

Bob is the Chairman of Tourism Australia and prior to this was Chairman of Tourism Events Queensland. He is also Cahir-elect of Experience Co.

Bob holds an MBA and is Deputy Chair of the Gold Coast Suns Football Club.

Anthea Hammon, Managing Director, Scenic World; Director Hammons Holdings

Anthea Hammon, who is speaking at Travel IQ 2018, is the Managing Director of Scenic World, a third-generation family business which has been operating in the Blue Mountains for over 70 years.

As Australia’s most visited privately owned tourist attraction that welcomes over one million visitors annually, Anthea has led the company through a strong period of growth and played a leading role in the company’s evolution, including the $30 million redevelopment of the Scenic Railway.

Anthea is actively involved in the tourism sector as the Chairperson of the ME51 Amusement Rides and Devices Australian Standards Committee, Board Director of the Blue Mountains Economic Enterprise and Vice President of the Blue Mountains  Accommodation and Tourism Association.

She was also recently appointed to the Board of WSA Co which is delivering the Western Sydney Airport.

In her capacity as a Director of Hammons Holdings, Anthea’s proven experience in tourism and attractions will support the continued evolution of the Sydney Harbour Bridge Tourism experience when Hammons Holdings assumes operations from 1 October 2018.

David Hammon, CEO and Director, Hammons Holdings

David is currently CEO and a Director of Hammons Holdings, the company which owns Australia’s most visited privately owned tourism attraction, Scenic World.

Under David’s leadership, Hammons Holdings was recently appointed to operate tourism activities on the Sydney Harbour Bridge following a rigorous tender process driven by the NSW State

The appointment marks one of the greatest milestones in Hammons Holdings’ 73 year history and will see the company forge ahead with its vision to improve accessibility and bring the Bridge to life with new technology.

As Scenic World’s former Joint Managing Director, David has a strong business acumen, having worked alongside his sister Anthea Hammon to lead the business through a sustained period of growth and innovation, including a $30 million redevelopment of the iconic Scenic Railway.

With a solid background in commerce and economics, David currently leads the diversification strategy of Hammons Holdings.

The company is an investor in the URBNSURF Melbourne project and David sits on the Board of Sydney Zoo as part of Hammons Holdings’ cornerstone investment in the project.

David will play a leading role in the continued evolution of the Sydney Harbour Bridge tourism experience when Hammons Holdings assumes the 20-year contract on 1 October 2018.

Rob Smith, Divisional Director, Australia/New Zealand, Merlin Entertainments

Rob Smith is the Divisional Director of Merlin Entertainments Australia and New Zealand, the second-largest attraction operator in the world.

With over 17 years’ experience in the tourism and attraction industry across Europe, the US and Asia-Pacific, Rob leads the overall management, regional strategies and financial/non-financial responsibilities for Merlin’s 13 attractions in Australia & New Zealand.

This includes the iconic Sea Life Sydney Aquarium, Madame Tussauds Sydney, Wild Life Sydney Zoo, Sydney Tower Eye and Hotham and Falls Creek Ski Resorts.

Rob is also actively involved in Merlin’s Magic Wand, which assists disadvantaged children and Sea Life Trust ANZ which is dedicated to protecting marine life.

Rob has a long-standing history with Merlin Entertainments Group, beginning his career over 16 years ago in the Marketing department for the Tussauds Group and then LEGOLAND Discovery Centres in UK, USA & Europe.

After moving to Australia, he led the Sales and Marketing functions, and eventually the overall management of all attractions across Australia & New Zealand.

Whatever the role, Rob says there’s one recipe for success in the tourism industry: a passion for the guest.

See Rob Smith speak at Travel IQ 2018 in Sydney on October 24.

Travello Raises Another $5 million to Fund Expansion

Travel networking app Travello has raised a further $5 million from a consortium of investors to help fund international expansion. “To continue our rapid growth, we need a presence in our key markets, namely: the UK, Europe, South East Asia and the US, and this investment will kick-start that process,”  said co-founder, Ryan Hanly.

Travello is currently used in 180 countries by 350,000 travellers and enables users to browse and book more than 50,000 in-destination activities from a range of sources including Livn, Asia-Pacific’s super-aggregator of Tours and Activities. Travello has so far raised more than $6 million.

Near Death Experience Inspires Creation of TravelCard

Here’s a great founder’s story as told by Michael Tauber, the Australian CEO of TravelCard. Tauber recalls that the Israeli company founder Alon Ketzef was the in the US 30 years and “tragically found out he had a brain tumour.”

His travel insurer “effectively told him we are not doing anything, go away and die.”  Ketzeff spent a year in Massachusetts General Hospital before returning to Israel healthy but with a debt of USD450,0000. More 

Trivago Taken to Court by ACCC for Misleading Consumers

The credibility of Trivago – possibly the Australian travel industry’s largest broadcast advertiser – and its supposed mission to offer consumers the lowest possible hotel rates, has taken a heavy hit with the Australian competition watchdog taking the global meta-search site to the Federal Court for deceptive conduct that breaches Australian Consumer Law. More 

Costs Down, Profits Up at Helloworld Travel

Cost cutting continued to yield strong results at Helloworld Travel with net profit increasing 48% to $32 million in the year to June 30. Revenue was basically the same as 16/17 at $326.9 million however operating costs “lowered significantly”, hence the dramatically improved profit.

The announcement also revealed that the price of international airfares fell 6.6% through the year, driving volume but not margin. More 

Brett Mitchell, Regional Director Asia-Pacific, Intrepid Group

Originally from Zimbabwe, Brett has always felt a connection to Africa, which has seen him travel across the continent entirely on public transport from London to Cape Town, which took over 9 months.  

Brett is a Chartered Accountant and has a professional background in finance which included senior roles in the accounting profession, telecoms and manufacturing industries. Working in London for over five years, Brett successfully led a number of debt raisings, M&A activity and an initial public offering on the London Stock Exchange.  

Brett joined Intrepid Travel in June 2008 as the Group’s Financial Controller, before being appointed Group Finance Director of the Intrepid Group, and progressing to the Executive Group in September 2012.

In 2017, Brett was appointed the Regional Director of the Asia Pacific Region for the Intrepid Group.

Serving on the Audit & Risk committee, JV boards and as a Board Director of The Intrepid Foundation for over 4 years, Brett is committed to delivering on the businesses strategy around creating shared value and making a positive difference to all stakeholders.

It’s time for travel brands to rethink loyalty says Google

Loyalty ain’t what it used to be, says Google, and it’s time that travel marketers woke up to the new reality which, being Google, is all about businesses using technology to personalise messages and advertising. Loyalty was also a hot topic at the Australian Revenue Management Association conference in Melbourne last week, where the view was that loyalty can’t be bought but must be earned. See Google post.