News

Comment: Gurney departs as he arrived: in controversy

There will have been a few North Sydney-bound commuters who returned to work today with a spring in their step.

For if the decision to appoint Rob Gurney as chief executive of Jetset Travelworld 18 months ago was met with surprise, the overriding emotion following news of his departure last Friday was probably one of relief and quiet celebration.

Judging from comments posted on our website since Travel Today broke news of a “cultural health check” at Helloworld, the weekend will have been a happy one for those with a vested interest in the business.

Gurney’s appointment by the board back in August 2012 was always risky. Frankly, he was not a popular leader of the Helloworld business.

Supporters of Gurney will point out, quite correctly to some degree, that senior management positions do not revolve around popularity contests and being liked by staff is irrelevant to success. Peter Lacaze was hugely popular yet the company listed heavily towards the end of his tenure.

But Gurney came with baggage that was hard to shake off, namely that his disposition toward travel agents during a lengthy career at Qantas could hardly be described as warm. He was branded a Rottweiler, a tough negotiator who had a reputation for an aggressive and confrontational style, both with staff and externally. He also had very little experience of the retail environment.

In a business where its principal stakeholders – travel agents – need a bit of TLC, it was always going to be an uneasy partnership.

What is odd about Gurney’s departure is the timing. According to Friday’s announcement, the business transformation “is at an advanced stage” so, with that in mind, “he wishes to pursue a new opportunity with an international focus”.

Make no mistake, this transformation is a job half done. The company is right in the middle of the transformation, not at the end of it, and the board surely know that.

For many who have offered opinion on Gurney’s stewardship, the writing was on the wall as soon as employment experts were drafted in to conduct the aforementioned “cultural health check”.

To recap the facts, senior leadership team members were spoken to, in confidence, after the board received information from a number of sources raising concerns of “management style”.

According to those sources, it was a style that was putting the very success of the transformation in jeopardy.

Chairman Tom Dery, in an email to senior staff, quite rightly said the board took such matters “very seriously”.

Publically, when questioned by Travel Today, the board dressed up the probe – for that is what is was – as “common practice”, which, of course, was nonsense. If this is common practice, then God help Australian business.

Gurney was said to be furious at developments.

All of which will have left an extremely unpalatable situation at Helloworld at a time when it needed everyone pulling in the same direction; a disgruntled CEO, a worried board of directors which initiated a “culture check”, and senior staff who, sources said, felt undermined as a result of the style of management.

What precisely took place in the Helloworld boardroom last week is likely to remain a matter of conjecture and speculation.

What is beyond dispute is that Gurney’s appointment was controversial; his departure is much the same.

SEE WHAT PEOPLE ARE SAYING

Comments are closed.

Destinations

New Zealand launches brilliant tourism campaign just as it pauses quarantine-free travel from NSW

by Huntley Mitchell

Tourism New Zealand has suffered some very unfortunate timing with the launch of its new tourism campaign directed at Aussies.

Share

CommentComments

Tourism

International travel ban denies Aussies fundamental rights, Federal Court hears

A conservative think tank has delivered the first blows in its legal stoush against the Commonwealth’s controversial international travel ban.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

Travel agency network scores 100pc satisfaction rating from members

This Aussie agency network appears to be doing something right, with its membership base full of happy campers.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

“Guys, stop it!”: Brawl erupts over last remaining seats on American Airlines flight

Let this video serve as a gentle reminder that while travel may be limited, unruly passengers are still out there wreaking havoc.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

As Italy prepares to welcome back international visitors, its tourism board has launched a radio station

by Sponsored by the Italian National Tourist Board

Yes, the Italian National Tourist Board has turned itself into a radio station. However, don’t expect Alan Jones to come out of retirement to play host.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Belgian farmer accidentally moves French border

Finally, some border-based news that doesn’t involve COVID-19. Remind us to send a thank you card to the grumpy farmer.

Share

CommentComments

Aviation

Qantas and Jetstar headquarters to stay put, but flying kangaroo’s JAL alliance in doubt

Qantas and Jetstar staff are no doubt breathing a sigh of relief after facing the prospect of having to move interstate and – god forbid – barrack for another footy team.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Tourism Australia urges Aussies to take an epic holiday in new $9m campaign

Australia’s fave power couple are back to spruik the country’s tourism offerings in a big, big way.

Share

CommentComments

Hotels

IHG signs two Sydney properties, announces major revamp for InterContinental Adelaide

IHG has had a very busy week, announcing a $32 million refurb, a new build and the Australian debut of one of its iconic brands.

Share

CommentComments

Travel Agents

SUCCESS STORY: How this dynamic duo kept their business afloat despite the odds

by Sponsored by MTA - Mobile Travel Agents

These two agents took their business from 90 per cent international bookings to 95 per cent domestic, while still paying their bills and keeping food on the table (and we’re not just talking canned beans).

Share

CommentComments

Cruise

P&O Cruises Australia extends operational pause

Much like Travel Weekly’s monthly wine budget, P&O’s pause in operations has been extended once again due to the global pandemic.

Share

CommentComments

Destinations

Tourism Authority of Thailand supports beach clean-up at Sydney’s Chowder Bay

We love hearing about sustainable initiatives like this at Travel Weekly. It’s also reminded us to empty our office compost bin.

Share

CommentComments