Hot Off The Press
A group of New Zealand and Australian travel agents have just returned from an eight-day famil of Oman on Qatar Airways.
Highlights of the trip included journeying along the coastline to Sur and stopping at the Bimmah Sinkhole, viewing giant green turtles nesting around Ras Al Jinz, swimming at the Wadi Bani Khalid swimming hole, and venturing out into the desert dunes of the Sharquiya Sands.
The group also visited the ancient capital of Nizwa, famous for its monumental fort and lively souk before heading into the foothills of the Hajar mountains to explore the hillside garden village of Misfat Al Abreyan, the peaks of Jabel Shams (Mountain of the Sun) and the canyons and clifftop villages of Jebel Akhdar – the green mountain.
The final few days were spent exploring the hotels, resorts, coastal villages and beaches of Muscat, with some agents taking in an opera performance at the Royal Opera House and most of the Kiwis taking seats at the Oman versus All Whites football friendly.
Lyn McLeod, Paul Borrie United Travel Wellington, says Oman is a place of many wonders with spectacular scenery.
‘The most memorable moments are when you meet the local people. They are warm and friendly and hospitable which made my stay unforgettable.’
Kristen Delugar, World Travellers Best Travel, says the trip was ‘a magnificent insight into a truly beautiful destination that I can now confidently sell to my clients.’
Rocky Mountaineer hosted its first major trade event in Auckland this week, with over 100 agents getting a taste of the train’s famous service.
The event was held in conjunction with Rail Plus and Globus at the Auckland Seafood School, and featured cooking lessons from Rocky Mountaineer executive chef Jean
Kirsty Blows, country manager New Zealand with Rail Plus, says the event was designed to showcase the holy grail of Canada with guests getting to taste exactly what clients will experience when on the train.
‘It’s also a really great talking point for when people come into the office
Mark Richardson, Rocky Mountaineer New Zealand sales manager, says sales are growing healthily out of New Zealand, up 65% in the last year.
‘This is just one of a number of events or activations that we’d like to bring to the New Zealand market to continue to grow the awareness of Western Canada, continue to grow the awareness of our iconic train Rocky Mountaineer, and continue to support the trade in their education and sales of our product.’
Richardson was appointed New Zealand sales manager only a year ago, and has just recently been awarded global sales manager within the company.
The Travel Agents Association of New Zealand says it welcomes online travel agencies (OTAs) as members.
‘OTA’s in all senses are welcome to become allied members. Those that service the customer could become bonded members but they would need to play by the rules to do so,’ says TAANZ chief executive officer Andrew Olsen.
‘Bonded Members of TAANZ support standards, qualifications, accreditation, professionalism and the benefit of our consumer ‘warrant of fitness’. OTAs wanting to also enjoy that might consider slightly adjusting their business model to have a real presence in the country.’
Air Vanuatu is offering special industry rates for agents and companions flying return from Auckland to Port Vila.
Agent fares are $50 plus taxes, while companion fares are also available from $199 plus taxes.
Jonas George, commercial manager NZ, Air Vanuatu, says that while these fares have been active for a while, it seems as though the industry has been unaware of them.
These rates come on the back of a strong comeback in the number of Kiwi visitors to Vanuatu following Cyclone Pam earlier this year.
George says that the New Zealand market is almost back to where it was before Pam, and that this coming January’s visitor numbers will likely surpass pre-Pam numbers.
‘It’s extremely pleasing to see the Kiwi market come back to strength – Aussies seem to be a lot more cautious so those numbers are still a work in progress.’
Bookings for the industry fare must be made through Air Vanuatu in Auckland.
Sell TNQ, the B2B meeting workshop held annually in North Queensland, got underway over the weekend with buyers from around Australia, New Zealand and Asia meeting with North Queensland suppliers with the aim of growing group, corporate and incentive business.
Emma Perez from Business Events Cairns & Great Barrier Reef says there is strong interest from the New Zealand MICE market for North Queensland. ‘We have received a record number of incentive enquiries from the New Zealand market since September this year, with most looking for mid to late 2016. This could be attributed to the announcement of the new Philippine Airlines (PR) direct Auckland to Cairns service that commences in December, but either way, it is positive for the market as a whole.
‘The new PR flights bring so many opportunities for the leisure and the conference and incentive market, and pair this to the strong NZD (against the AUD), and incentive programmes to Cairns, Palm Cove and Port Douglas are well within reach for many Kiwi companies.’
Perez is attending PAICE (Pacific Area Incentives & Conferences Expo) in Auckland tomorrow and wants to bring tropical North Queensland to the front of the buyers minds. ‘I am delighted with the number of pre-scheduled appointments and I am looking forward to getting in front of the buyers to update them, educate them and answer any questions about the region.’
So many options
Delegates attending Sell TNQ had a one-day workshop at Tjapukai, a cultural and event venue, including a programme of traditional dance, music and art and
Boomerang and spear throwing lessons. Day two is getting to know the region with options of a Sunlover Cruise the outer reef, a day sailing on Quicksilver’s caterman, Wavedancer to the Low Isles or a Discover Kuranda tour including a ride in one of Skyrail’s new Diamond View glass floored gondolas and a visit to AJ Hackett for a rush of adrenaline where the delegates can try their hand at the Minjin Swing or Bungy Jump.
Air New Zealand is expanding its Pacific Rim presence introducing a seasonal direct service to Ho Chi Minh city in Vietnam from June to October 2016. The airline will fly three times a week between Auckalnd and Ho Chi Minh City's Tan Son Nhat International Airport with the potential to expand the seasonin subsequent years.
With a flight time of around 11 hours the direct service will be operated by the airline's Boeing 767-300 aircraft. Tickets will go on sale early in 2016, subject to government and regulatory approvals.
Today's announcement builds on Air New Zealand's new direct services to Buenos Aires and Houston, both of which commence flying in December 2015. With the addition of services to Ho Chi Minh City, Air New Zealand will fly to 30 international destinations.
This morning’s announcement that Air New Zealand will begin flying directly to Ho Chi Minh from next year is a response to Vietnam’s growing popularity as a holiday destination for Kiwis, according to House of Travel.
House of Travel Commercial Director Brent Thomas says he is expecting the new flight route to be more skewed towards Kiwis traveling to Vietnam, as opposed to tourists entering New Zealand.
'Unlike parts of Australia such as Sydney and Melbourne, in New Zealand we don’t have a large Vietnamese population. From our perspective, the new flight route from Air New Zealand isn’t targeting those wanting to visit friends and family or travel for business purposes – it’s a response to Vietnam’s surge in popularity for Kiwi holidays,' he says.
'This is supported by the fact that the new route is a seasonal service. If we estimate 700 seats per week are available over five months, we reckon we’ll see around 10,000 Kiwis taking advantage of this new flight route and heading over to Vietnam.'
Thomas says this new flight route is likely to open up more of Vietnam to compete with popular holiday destinations such as Thailand and Bali.
'Much like Thailand or Bali, Vietnam is becoming a go-to holiday spot for New Zealanders. At the moment, Vietnam seems to be more of an adventure destination. We believe the direct flight to Ho Chi Minh is likely to open up the central Vietnam beaches, to become more of a relaxation destination.
'Vietnam is a mid-haul flight, making it attractive for families and couples who are looking for a destination different from where they have been before. Vietnam is becoming more of a mainstream holiday destination, which is really exciting for Kiwis.
Simon Mckearney has been appointed executive general manager of Stella NZ ahead of the New Zealand launch of the helloworld brand in the new year.
Mckearney, who was most recently managing director of Flight Centre Corporate, will replace Grieg Leighton, who departs the role after eight years, effective immediately.
Acting chief executive, Jenny Macdonald, says the appointment comes as the agency gears up to roll out the helloworld brand across New Zealand, consolidating Harvey World Travel and United Travel brands with ten additional retail stores purchased from Air
‘The launch of helloworld in New Zealand in 2016 is a key milestone in the ongoing evolution of the business. In Simon, we have an executive with the leadership talent and the diversity of business experience to deliver value to our agents, suppliers and our shareholders while executing our transformational strategy.’
New Caledonia is experiencing massive growth from Kiwi travellers.
The latest figures show a 41% increase in travel for the year to date 2015, according to Sally Pepermans, New Zealand representative with New Caledonia Tourism.
The month of August 2015 saw 861 Kiwis visit the island nation, up 36.7% from 630 for the same month in 2014.
New Zealand is the biggest growing market for New Caledonia by a long shot, followed by Australia, which is up 6.7% on last year.
The fully inclusive fares are a great selling point for the India Pacific and The Ghan, Australia’s two transcontinental rail journeys, according to House of Travel agents who checked out the India Pacific from Perth to Adelaide last week.
Gold and Platinum Service classes on both the India Pacific (Perth/Sydney) and Ghan (Adelaide/Darwin) include private sleeper/day lounge cabins, all-inclusive dining (breakfast, lunch, dinner) and complimentary, unlimited beverages (wines, beers and standard spirits). All have ensuites except for the Gold Single Service cabin.
However all-inclusive does make the upfront price seem high so you have to break it down for your clients, says Brenda White, HOT Hamilton. ‘Break it down to a daily total including the costs of the meals and it’s not so frightening.
Off-train excursions are also inclusive. On their Perth/Adelaide journey the HOT agents enjoyed a late night bus tour of outback gold mining town Kalgoorlie, taking in the massive, open-pit gold mine that operates 24/7, the history of pubs, gold robberies and night ladies of the gold-rush town with a droll commentary by proud fourth-generation-in-Kalgoorlie driver/guide Harry.
Throughout the two-day journey Graham Kevern, HOT Rangiora, was impressed most with the changing landscapes rolling by; the bushlands and wheat belt of the Avon Valley near Perth, then the immense Nullabor Plain. ‘If you like big sky country, this is stunning.’
The agents were hosted by Tourism West Australia for two days, exploring Perth, Freemantle and western beaches Scarborough and Cottlesloe, before crossing the Nullabor as guests of GSR and Railplus, to Adelaide. They also travelled on India Pacific’s last ‘Wildflower’ schedule. GSR has traditionally run two Sydney/Perth crossings a week during the spring, when the wildflowers bloom. However this service has been discontinued and the India Pacific will make just one crossing per week, year round.
The oppressive heat of the outback was the notable feature at ‘ghost town’ Cook, where India Pacific passengers took the chance to explore what was once a thriving railway settlement and is now populated by just three people.