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GTMC Conference: Dublin Special report


IAG boss Willie Walsh used this year’s GTMC Overseas Conference to criticise French air traffic controllers. By Matthew Parsons


GTMC delegates at Powerscourt House, Dublin


posed the “biggest challenge this year and next” to the travel industry. “We are seeing continuous strikes


K


in the Marseille region, which impacts disproportionately on those airlines flying out of Barcelona because of the airspace that’s covered by Marseille, which includes most of the Mediterranean,” he told delegates. “It’s not for salary, or working conditions; it’s effectively a political statement about the changes being made in France,” he claimed. He also reiterated his interest in acquiring


Norwegian Air – but hinted that his interest may wane as oil prices begin to rise. He added that since IAG approached Norwegian more than two months ago with an offer – which


EYNOTE SPEAKER WILLIE WALSH, chief executive of IAG, said a group of 20 air traffic controllers in Marseille


IAG’s Willie Walsh


was rejected – “the fuel price has gone up significantly, and we’ve also seen volatility with the dollar. Norwegian is not hedged. Going into this year, they’ve got about 25 per cent hedged. We’ve got about 70 per cent.”


THE NEXT STEPS Sessions at the two-day event, themed “Mind the gap”, sought to guide TMCs and suppliers on the next steps to grow their businesses. David Trunkfield, head of leisure – strategy,


at PwC, cited NDC, margin pressure, traveller expectations and new entrants such as OTAs as the main challenges TMCs faced today. When more than 100 delegates were


polled on their views, 46 per cent replied margin pressure was the biggest threat, with NDC at 22 per cent and both new entrants and traveller expectations at 15 per cent. However, 68 per cent said unmanaged business represented the most significant


opportunity for growth. Trunkfield added TMCs should also leverage their technology, data and mind-set to succeed, while also looking to “value-add niches” and their ability to scale-up. The conference, held at Dublin’s


Powerscourt Hotel, was the first event under new GTMC chief executive Adrian Parkes, who urged delegates to engage more. “We represent the TMCs… it’s about representing in total, not just senior levels,” he said. “We have a people strategy group. Please engage. Everybody talks about people; they talk about the next generation. We need more input and involvement from partners, to share ideas of what’s happening in the industry.” Meanwhile, Parkes added, the GTMC


was also “a couple of months away from launching a whole new e-learning and certification programme”.


IAG: Restricted GDS fares and a ‘symbiotic’ relationship However, Walsh added, customers need help


“The customer doesn’t need an intermediary,” said IAG’s chief executive Willie Walsh, commenting on IAG’s stated intention to restrict certain fares from the GDSs.


During a Q&A session with moderator David


Kurk, he said: “We’re not going to make all of our fares available through the GDSs. To be competitive on price, we’ve got to look at our cost base. A lot of our transactions are simple; it’s point-to-point for consumers looking predominantly for price.”


14 BBT July/August 2018


with complex tickets that feature multiple stops and hotels. “There are times when the customer looks for a service we can’t provide, but you as a TMC can provide, and we want that relationship where we both serve the customer,” he said. He also described the future relationship with TMCs as a “symbiotic” one. “It’s your area of expertise; you’ve been doing it in an exceptional way for many years,” Walsh


added. “But we won’t make all fares available. We can’t afford the prices the GDSs are charging… I can’t justify it.” Walsh said it was a difficult decision to take, and praised the GDSs for their collaboration. “To their credit the GDSs have been much more constructive in their approach than I thought they would be, particularly Amadeus,” he said. “They have a role to play, but it can’t be based on a model that was right in the 1990s.”


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