Moments That Mattered – Australian Travel Industry 1999-2009

Ten years is a long time in travel. I realised this when recently forced to review the past decade for TRAVELtech’s 10th Anniversary. So much has happened: Boom, Bust, Globalisation, Disease, Celebritisation, Terrorism, Disintermediation, China, India, Greed, Lust, Uber-Consumption, Despair… You know, the usual. Anyway, I’ve ended up with a list of the highs and lows of world history for travel industry tragics for each and every year from 1999 – 2000. Check it out and add your own.

 1999:  

  • Optimism abounds; the Internet is in full swing, it’s the answer to everything
  •  The Australian Financial Review reports: “For traditional travel agents, 1999 marks the crossroads to their future: the point at which they either commit to the new technology or stand in the departure lounge waving goodbye to their former clientele.”
  • Expedia raises $US72m in an IPO.
  •  Travel and the Internet is declared a perfect match.
  • Webjet celebrates its first birthday.
  • TRAVELtech is launched.

 2000:

  •  Pioneering Low Cost Carrier Ryanair launches its first website with no great expectations. Within 12 months 75% of all the airline’s bookings are coming direct. Now it’s close to 100%.
  • Dot com becomes dot bomb as the tech bubble bursts. The NASDAQ index peaks in March before shedding 40% of its value over the next six months and companies with an ‘e’ prefix go broke left right and centre.
  •  Air New Zealand, which already owns 50% of Ansett, buys other half from partner News Ltd for $580m.
  • Ansett’s CEO is sacked and middle management decimated.
  • Sydney Olympics still wild with optimism – the high tide market for Australian tourism.
  • Virgin Blue launches on 31 August with two aircraft. The carrier now has a fleet of 78 mainly Boeing aircraft flying to more than 30 domestic and international destinations.

 2001:

  •  Wotif founded by Graeme Wood in Brisbane
  •  Terrorists fly into World Trade Centre
  •  Travel takes a massive hit, Ansett collapses
  • Enron files for bankruptcy in December

 2002:

  •  Travel industry begins to recover from shocks of previous year
  • In November, Severe Acute Respitory Syndrome (SARS) was first identified in Guandong Province, China

 2003:

  •  SARS spreads like wildfire, with more than 8000 cases identified in 37 countries, killing almost 10% of those infected.
  • United States invades Iraq assisted by “Coalition of the Willing” in March. 
  • Double whammy hits travel hard. 
  • Oil sells for $28.60 a barrel

2004:

  •  Travel industry begins to recover from recent turmoil.
  • Security and economic concerns impacting  travel decisions.
  • Major new outbound markets developing in China, India, Russia, Middle East.

2005:

  • US Monetary policy remains loose. Interest rates in the world’s biggest economy continue coming down.
  • Business people lose perspective, once again.
  • Massive salaries, bigger egos.
  •  Travel hits a sweet spot. 
  • Internet sales through the likes of Virgin Blue and Jetstar exceed 90%. 
  • S8, a little-known Queensland company, hits the headlines, not for the last time, when it buys Harvey World Travel.

 2006:

  •  It’s all good ‘cause we’re all making money
  • Roamfree founded by Gold Coast businessman Tony Smith, who says the company aims to become the Google of Travel, and begins an acquisition binge.
  • S8 buys Transonic Travel, Travelscene American Express and Gullivers Travel Group.

 2007:

  •   The debt binge continues, it’s the 1980s all over again.
  • Signs of a long crisis emerge in February when HSBC, then the world’s biggest bank, writes down the value of US$10bn in sub-prime mortgages.
  • But a Queensland financial services group called MFS remains oblivious and pays an awful lot of money to buy S8.

 2008:

  •  Financial markets and confidence unravel throughout the year. 
  • The cost of a barrel of oil breaches $100 on April Fool’s Day.
  •  Two months later oil price peaks at $147.29.
  • MFS rebrands as Octavier and promptly collapses.
  • All hell breaks loose when Lehman Brothers goes to the wall in September.
  • The Dow Jones falls 18% in the week beginning October 6.
  • Panic.
  • On 4 November Barack Obama is elected President of the United States.

 2009:

  • By March, it seems the world as we know is about to end.
  • Yet just three months later optimism returns.
  • Wotif posts a $43m profit.
  • Oil is $68 a barrel.
  • Stock market surges.
  • People are talking recovery.
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