Travel surge and business growth will continue

As businesses push ahead with growth plans over the next decade, there will be increasing pressure to effectively balance the needs of the environment and people, with tech innovation set to play a key role.

At Flight Centre Travel Group’s peak corporate travel and thought leadership conference Illuminate 2022, held last Thursday in Sydney, it was clear there is plenty of industry and business growth ahead. Much of which, will be heavily influenced by developments in tech, sustainability and efforts to support travellers and budgets.

Virgin Australia CEO, Jayne Hrdlicka, who took to the stage as part of a Q and A with Melissa Elf, Managing Director ANZ, Flight Centre Travel Group Corporate, revealed international network growth plans were in the pipeline for the carrier.

Ms Hrdlicka said Virgin was considering extending its international flight offering in line with the addition of newer, longer-range aircraft.

“We’re looking at a world of possibilities and extending our reach,” the CEO said. “We’re very focused on our 737 aircraft footprint. We’ve got 737-700s and 800s, and we’ve got MAX-8 and 10s coming into the fleet that gives us a bit more range, and so we will be adding to the network.”

The airline CEO also said the travel boom was not just a ‘sugar hit’ that it was more of a case of people wanting to reconnect.

 “It is not a short-term sugar hit but a practical reconnection. Those connections are based on physical relationships,” she told the audience.

Flight Centre Travel Group CEO, Graham Turner, also mentioned growth plans for the global travel giant. Mr Turner said that by June 2025, he was anticipating the global business would be 25% larger than it currently was in terms of sales and have operations across 30 countries, which would be mostly corporate businesses. The focus on technology and enhancing productivity would also continue in the future to ensure best outcomes for customers and staff.

Gert-Jan de Graaff, CEO of Brisbane Airport Corporation (BAC) told the audience that airports would look very different by the time the 2032 Olympics arrived in Brisbane with major tech developments in biometrics and facial recognition tools creating a totally seamless and touchless customer experience. The Brisbane Airport CEO said the infrastructure to support the use of biometric technology throughout the airport experience currently existed, it was a matter of implementing the tech between now and then.

Gert-Jan gave the audience insight into the proposed expansion of the domestic and international terminals in Brisbane saying that customers could expect to be travelling through a completely new state-of-the-art Brisbane Airport, net zero, or even climate positive Scope 1 and 2, with new mass transport solutions to and from each terminal.

Creating a more environmentally friendly operation was also front and centre for Rex Airlines’ Deputy Chairman, John Sharp, who also presented at the annual industry conference. Mr Sharp explained how the airline was working with Dovetail Electric Aviation to retrofit its fleet of Saab 340s with electric and hydrogen powered engines with plans to start trials in 2024. He said the introduction of electric powered engines would increase their service network and deliver new airfare savings.

“This will change the way our business works,” Mr Sharp told the audience. “It will make routes we previously couldn’t afford to operate on viable, because we’ll have lower operating costs. The savings we’ll make from reduced operating costs translates into lower airfares for customers and an expanded flying footprint, which means more options and choice for travellers.”

Adam Carrel, who oversees Climate Change and Sustainability Services for Ernst & Young, believed transformation of the travel industry for a more sustainable future, would need to involve all stakeholders within the value chain working together. He added that sustainability ideally would be part of every business decision from here on in to support sustainable growth and industry decarbonisation.

Event keynote Dr Chadden Hunter, a renowned wildlife filmmaker, environmentalist and right-hand man to Sir David Attenborough, brought the topic of sustainability and environmental welfare to life. The conservationist showcased snippets of his film work throughout his keynote, reiterating how important it was to find the balance between the negative and the positive, to inspire people to take positive pro-environment action and connect with the natural world.

Illuminate 2022 included more than 18 guest speakers and discussion panel facilitators to the stage, $50,000 in travel industry prizes and over 25 travel industry suppliers as part of our Partner Showcase. Over 1200 people registered for the hybrid event, which broadcast live from The Venue Alexandria.

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