Ripples down under: Qantas suspends marketing deal with Tourism Australia

Courtesy theconversation.edu.au

THE aviation world is never short of news about the flying kangaroo, and once again Qantas chief Alan Joyce is showing he is the man in charge at the airline. In what appears to be a match with predecessor Geoff Dixon who now heads Tourism Australia, the Australian flag carrier has severed a 40-year relationship with the federal agency.

Mr Joyce has accused Mr Dixon of being part of a consortium aimed at undermining the strategy of the airline, and there had been rumours of a takeover bid. The airline’s honcho said: “Qantas cannot continue to collaborate with an agency whose chairman is a member of a syndicate committed to unravelling Qantas’ structure and direction.” Apparently, that “unravelling” included the proposed Qantas-Emirates partnership.

But Mr Joyce was quick to add that the suspension of the A$50 million (US$52 million) does not mean Qantas would be abandoning efforts to towards promoting Australian tourism. He said: “The tourism industry can be assured that not one dollar of tourism marketing will be lost as a result of this decision.” Qantas will instead spend its money working with the states instead of the federal body.

It is interesting how this development came at a time when Qantas is pushing ahead with plans to resuscitate the ailing airline, raising promise in the proposed partnership with Emirates Airlines, and as rival Singapore Airlines announced its commitment to promoting tourism in Australia to maintain its profile in the competition. It is clear that Mr Joyce would not be deterred in his plans to restructure Qantas

Meantime, Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson said the split was a commercial matter that had nothing to do with Tourism Australia (although Mr Joyce in his letter to the minister said “this conflict has arisen from the involvement of Tourism Australia’s involvement of Tourism Australia’s chairman with a syndicate that is actively canvassing fundamental changes to the Qantas Group strategy”) or the Government. Following a morning-after meeting by the tourism Board in reacting to the “conflict”, Mr Dixon is keeping his job.

What next then? Is a storm brewing? Or are they just ripples to be expected in business relationships, just that the media made so much of how Mr Joyce and Mr Dixon were once the best of friends?

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About David Leo
David Leo has more than 30 years of aviation experience, having served in senior management in one of the world's best airlines and airports. He continues to maintain a keen interest in the business, writes freelance and provides consultancy services in the field.

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