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Monday, April 6, 2020

Travel industry mourns passing of celebrity hotelier, Michael Hall

Hotelier to the Stars Passes

by Richard Rosebery

It is with sorrow that I announce the passing of my long-time friend, compatriot and mentor – Michael J Hall. Michael died from a heart condition on Wednesday 1 April 2020.

Michael Hall (1939-2020)
Hotelier Extraordinaire, Mentor & Friend Passes
At the tender age of 17, Michael sailed alone from the UK to New Zealand, and at 19 he ventured across the Tasman to Australia where he first worked for Mary Kathleen mining in outback Queensland before he landed the job of Food & Beverage Manager at the massive Snowy Mountains Hydro Scheme. Finding hospitality in his blood Michael travelled to Canada to train at the Chateau Lake Louise in Banff. Returning to Australia in 1965 he started at the Sebel Town House as a storeman, in purchasing and then front office, however, he is especially well remembered as the long-time General Manager of this then famous Sebel Town House.

With a likeable personality, a great knowledge of catering, a natural appreciation of the needs of guests, plus an extremely street-savvy attitude, Michael was the consummate ‘mein host’. Along with his former GM Henry Rose, Michael helped to create an icon for the Australian hospitality industry - a home away from home for celebrities and the rich and famous alike. In truth the Sebel Town House facilities were not much more than a three-star property but the service, attention to detail and utmost care extended to guests by Michael and his staff elevated the Sebel well above its station! Even when new and more luxurious hotels opened their doors in competition to the Sebel, they were unable to knock it off its perch. The Sebel was the first and for a long time the only member of Leading Hotels of the World within this region during most of the hotel’s operating life. Michael held the Sebel’s reins tightly and ensured that every guest was recognised and warmly looked after – a winning formula that has not been emulated in Sydney since.

"With a likeable personality, a great knowledge of catering,
a natural appreciation of the needs of guests, plus an uncanny street-savvy attitude,
Michael was the consummate ‘mein host’."
- Richard Rosebery

When Mirvac bought the Sebel Town House in the late 1980’s Michael also became the Managing Director of Mirvac Hotels, a brand that would grow immensely in the years to come. Michael was instrumental in helping me found Select Hotels & Resorts International in the mid-1980s. Select was a hotel consortia and marketing network – the first of its type for the Asia Pacific region which gave independent hotels a platform to compete with the large hotel chains when the Internet didn’t exist!

Through his strong presence and congenial personality, he was an ideal first Chairman for the group, which grew from 10 to 75 hotels before we merged with Small Luxury Hotels of the World in 1997 to create a global network. In 2003 we resurrected the Select brand again, and again Michael took the reins as my chairman, with me as Managing Director.

Michael Hall was also a savvy investor and worked on several international and domestic hospitality projects after he left the Sebel in the early ‘90s. Unlike so many other General Managers his years as a five-star hotelier did not define the rest of his working life – he started the first ‘five star’ Original Backpackers in Kings Cross, selling it for a tidy profit, which he in turn invested in the Manor House in Surrey Hills, again a profitable adventure into boutique hospitality. I was involved with Michael in marketing both these projects.

Over the year’s Michael was a mentor to many of Australia’s top hoteliers – names such as Andrew Broad, George Bedwani, Graham Goldberg and Raj Mennon to name a few. As such Michael became the first Chairman of the now famous and successful Blue Mountains Hotel School. In 1990 Michael recognised the passion, commitment and expertise of Swiss hotelier Fritz Gubler and his building partner Max Player, and he was keen to see the highly successful Swiss hotel education model adopted into Australia. He supported them in the creation of Australia’s first dedicated hotel school. The school quickly became the Asia Pacific’s most respected and successful hospitality training facility - a school that still thrives today.

Michael was honourable and a real gentleman. He was highly respected by anyone who had the fortune to come in contact with him. He did not suffer fools easily but appreciated the best in people. He was always a shrewd businessperson.

Michael Hall adored his loving wife Patrea Hall and was a devoted family man, taking the role of patriarch for the entire Hall clan. Our hearts go out to Michael’s family – to Patrea, his daughter Leonie and son-in-law Matt Tindale, his son Adam, and grandchildren Charlie, Amy, Riley, Millie and Archie – in this saddest of times.

A small family-only funeral will be held on Wednesday 8 April 2020. When the times permit a full memorial for Michael will be organised by his many friends and held in Sydney.

Rest in Peace Michael

Signature Media Acquires Vacations & Travel Magazine

In big news for the Australian travel media industry, Signature Media has finalised the purchase of Vacations & Travel magazine, cementing the positioning of the media powerhouse as the largest independent travel publisher in the APAC region.

Established in 1983 and previously owned by US-based Morris Media Network, Vacations & Travel is the longest-running travel magazine in Australia, and has a strong digital presence through its website and social media platforms.

Until now Signature Media has focused on family and high-end travel markets. However, with the acquisition of Vacations & Travel, it will now cater to everyone.

Cathy Wagstaff, CEO & Group Editor, said: “The acquisition of Vacations & Travel magazine gives advertisers the opportunity to reach a much larger market, targeting different age groups and travel types, from cost-conscious travellers up to the discerning high-end luxe connoisseur and everyone in between.

“Vacations & Travel will fit very neatly into the Signature family, as will the existing editorial team headed by Jac Taylor and the digital team consisting of Anya Vokhmyakova and Eliza Valk. Helen Hayes, who has 14 years of history in various editorial roles with Vacations magazine, will return to the team as Editor-at-Large. We look forward to working together on this highly regarded travel title that has been on the shelves of newsagents and delivered to loyal subscribers for 37 years.”

Jac Taylor, the Editor of Vacations, adds: “I have to admit, I was ecstatic to hear that it might be Signature Media acquiring Vacations & Travel, and I'm beyond happy that they've chosen to retain not just me, but Anya and Eliza – both such great core team members! I give my heartfelt thanks (to Cathy) for believing in us and in what we know is a quality and much-loved magazine.”

“Signature Media plans to return Vacations & Travel to its former glory as a leading travel title in this market. We will take it back to its roots, catering to a broad market sector – it will be the magazine for everyone, with inspirational content covering the whole spectrum of three- to five-star experiences around the globe,” Wagstaff concluded.

Given the current coronavirus crisis, Signature Media will rest the print title for two issues, publishing the first issue in summer this year. In the interim, we will continue to publish digital content, focus on strengthening digital channels and will use the downtime to refocus the magazine as well as further fine-tuning its advertising and marketing strategies.

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Sunday, April 5, 2020

How to Keep Your Product Top of Mind During Coronavirus

As with many organisations, the coronavirus crisis has forced Tourism Australia to review and re-evaluate all aspects of our business. Whilst much of our marketing activity is currently on pause, we are still continuing with a lot of work behind the scenes. This includes continuing to train Aussie Specialist Agents in our key markets, creating new content for our online platforms, working with journalists on a whole range of media stories and continuing with appropriate social media activity. We need to be ready to go back and go back at scale when the time is right. We are already working on this recovery strategy, including how we reactivate aviation capacity, how we get the global distribution system firing again and the most appropriate type of campaign activity in a post-coronavirus world.

We are also continuing with our weekly webinar series. Last week we were joined by almost 2,000 people for our first webinar with Australia's Tourism Minister, Simon Birmingham, and the Deputy Chief Medical Officer, Dr Nick Coatsworth. Our second webinar will be held this Friday 3 April, from 2 pm to 3:30 pm. I will be joined by Prime Minister, the Hon. Scott Morrison MP, who will give an update on Australia's response to the coronavirus. We will also have representatives from the Treasury, Services Australia and the Australian Taxation Office answering questions on the different forms of government support available for individuals and businesses. Register for the webinar here.


With most of the world now in lockdown or self-isolation, there are still opportunities to share content that feeds people's escapism and use this time to inspire them to visit Australia once this crisis passes. People's appetite for travel hasn't disappeared. During this period, we want to keep Australia top of mind, so that when the travel bans lift and confidence returns, Australia gets its fair share of pent up travel demand. See below some tips for how to keep your product or business top of mind:

Get online: Consumers have more time than ever to dream and plan their next holiday. If you are able to showcase your product online through social media or your website, take this opportunity to offer future guests a virtual experience and keep your product top of mind.

Embrace all things Australian: While consumers can't travel at the moment, it doesn't mean we can't share all the things we love about Australia with the world. Movies, books, songs, cooking classes or storytelling – all this content can be shared online and allows you to keep consumers engaged with your product until it is safe to travel again.

Share your news: Tourism Australia still wants to hear from you. If you have any news about initiatives you are running to keep your audience engaged, please email them to Tourism Australia has also updated its Media Kit for 2020. It is available for download.

Source: Tourism Australia

Saturday, April 4, 2020

Update from IPW 2020

Dear IPW Delegate,

We recognize that you are closely following developments for our IPW 2020 event in light of the coronavirus pandemic. Likewise, we committed to share an update today, April 3, regarding its current status.

While IPW is scheduled to open in eight weeks, U.S. Travel advises against delegates taking further steps associated with participation as planned, such as preparing for booth construction and arranging for travel. We are hopeful to be able to share a firm decision and additional information in the days ahead, as we continue to address a variety of complex concerns and quickly changing circumstances.

Until then, please know that U.S. Travel is taking every step possible to inform you during this most challenging time.

I invite you to visit, where we will maintain current messaging to delegates. And everyone please be safe.

Respectfully yours,

Malcolm Smith

General Manager, IPW

Friday, April 3, 2020

Accor COVID-19 Update

Over the past three weeks, the crisis has severely deepened with over half the worldwide population either confined and/or under lock-down. This has resulted in a virtual standstill of travel, dining and entertainment, which is vastly affecting our industry. Today more than half Accor branded hotels worldwide are closed, likely over two thirds in the coming weeks. One piece of good news is the confirmation of initial recovery of the Chinese hotel market, with mild improvements in occupancy and F&B activity.

The abrupt deterioration in the situation has prompted the Group to take drastic actions across its global operations. These actions are indispensable to limit the impact on earnings and cash, and necessary to prepare for the post-crisis recovery. In these unprecedented times, the Group stands more than ever by its employees, partners and communities, providing time, resources and access to its local and global network.

Mitigation measures

Measures were implemented as early as February. Given the situation, the Group has decided to take aggressive, incremental actions. Collectively, these include:

-      Travel ban, hiring freeze, reduced schedules and /or furloughing for 75% of global head office teams for Q2, resulting in a minimum €60m reduction in G&A for 2020,

-      Reviewed recurring investment plan for 2020 resulting in a €60m reduction in capital expenditures.

The Group is further streamlining all other costs (e.g. sales, marketing, IT), in line with lower system wide revenues.

Balance sheet

Thanks to its recent asset-light transformation and cash preservation strategy, Accor can today rely on a strong balance sheet, with more than €2.5bn in cash on hand and an undrawn revolving credit facility of €1.2bn. While much uncertainty remains on the duration of this crisis, the Group expects a severe impact on its 2020 performance but remains bullish on the long-term perspective of the hospitality industry, for Accor, its employees, its owners and shareholders.

Dividend and solidarity measures

In these unchartered territories, Accor’s Board of Directors has decided today to complement management actions outlined above, by withdrawing its proposal for a 2019 dividend payment of c. €280m.

After consulting with the Group’s main shareholders, JinJiang International, Qatar Investment Authority, Kingdom Holding Company and Harris Associates, Accor has decided to allocate 25% of the planned dividend (€70m) to the launch of the “ ALL Heartist Fund”, a Covid-19 special purpose vehicle. This fund will typically assist:

-      the Group’s 300,000 employees, pledging to pay for their COVID-19-related hospital expenses, for those who do not have social security or medical insurance,

-      on a case by case basis, furloughed employees suffering great financial distress,

-      on a case by case basis, individual partners facing financial difficulty,

-      in addition, the Group will further deploy its solidarity initiatives to support front-line healthcare professionals and non-profit organizations.

This initiative reflects the ambition of the Group and its shareholders to provide a meaningful and significant contribution to global solidarity initiatives to address the current health crisis while planning for future needs. This decision has received unanimous support from the Board members, who collectively decided to reduce their attendance fees by 20% to the benefit of the “ALL Heartist Fund”. Additionally, Sebastien Bazin, Chairman and CEO of Accor, will forego 25% of its compensation during the crisis. The cash equivalent will also be contributed to the Fund.

S├ębastien Bazin, Chairman and CEO of Accor, commented: “Welcoming, protecting and taking care of others is at the very heart of what we do. In light of the urgency and the scale of the situation, we have decided to act in an immediate and meaningful way, in the spirit of our values and commitments. Through this impactful gesture, we wish to express our solidarity and gratitude to all those demonstrating courage and selflessness during this crisis. On behalf of the Board, I would like to thank the Group’s main shareholders. Without them, the “ALL Heartist Fund” would not have been possible. I also want to pay a special tribute to the Accor teams around the world. They are facing the current crisis with admirable courage, dedication and professionalism. As our industry is going through tough times, we have to make tough decisions, but Accor has a strong balance sheet which will enable it to withstand this crisis and emerge with strength during the recovery period. I am confident that Accor will soon rediscover the road to growth.”

Monday, March 30, 2020

ATIC strongly backs $130 billion JobKeeper package

The Australian Tourism Industry Council (ATIC) has strongly backed the Morrison Government’s eye-watering $130 billion JobKeeper package.

ATIC represents thousands of local tourism enterprises, where a feature of our industry is over 90% of 300,000 still registered tourism businesses are small to medium enterprises and sole traders that collectively employ 1 million people.

ATIC Executive Director Simon Westaway
ATIC Executive Director Simon Westaway said today’s package, once passed by Federal Parliament, represented a genuine lifeline and offer of hope to Australian tourism enterprises, most already facing their darkest hour.

Mr Westaway said for tourism firms, from sole traders to small or larger enterprises, to be directly incentivised to retain valued personnel as our industry faces its greatest ever challenge, is strongly welcomed.

“We naturally urge for the return of Federal Parliament and address this package of major significance swiftly and with appropriate scrutiny but bipartisan backing,” Mr Westaway said.

“Nobody is kidding themselves. The road back for many Australian tourism businesses is going to be incredibly tough. Our international border still remains closed and a number of States and Territories have shut themselves off to interstate visitors.

“The solution is simple. For our industry to again prosper to its once lofty heights we need to get on top of COVID-19. But we also need a tourism industry still with oxygen in its veins to effectively pivot and seize the genuine future opportunity the visitor economy is for our nation and the 1 million people we employ.

“The public health, safety and well-being of our fellow Australians must always remain our number one national priority and none more so than at this time. Our industry has stood solidly as one behind the all-of-government decisions that are designed to ensure this remains the case in facing the headwinds of COVID-19.”

Shinju Matsuri’s 50th Anniversary event postponed to May 2021

In response to the COVID- 19 crisis we have made the decision to postpone the 50th Anniversary of Shinju Matsuri to May 2021.

The 50th Anniversary event next May It will still feature signature elements of the usual Shinju Matsuri Festival including the Sunset Long Table Dinner, Floating Lantern Matsuri, taste journey Makan Dulu and celebratory art installation.

To celebrate Shinju Matsuri’s 50th Anniversary event, local artists Jacky Cheng, Jody Loaring, Michael Torres and Tomoko Yamada will join forces with international artist, Lisa Foo, to create a largescale installation at Town Beach that explores the theme of ‘Home’.

“We are all really looking forward to the 50th Anniversary Celebrations. The artist group will keep collaborating and creating to ensure the work truly captures the spirit of our wonderful community and unites everyone after this very challenging time.” Jacky Cheng – Broome Artist

Shinju Matsuri President Chris Maher said, “Despite the postponement, we are still working hard to plan a fantastic 50th Anniversary celebration event for both visitors and the Broome community. Holding Shinju Matsuri in May will allow us to kick start our tourism season and showcase our beautiful town to holidaymakers once more.”

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