Andrew Burnes has kicked off his new reign as Helloworld chief executive by branding rival Flight Centre’s decision to open up its content range to non-affiliated agents as “disingenuous”.
On Tuesday, Flight Centre unveiled a new partnership program which gives external travel agents and chains the opportunity to secure products and deals by tapping into the company’s “global negotiating strength” via an unbranded buying group.
Burnes questioned the move, announced on Tuesday, saying it was inconsistent with the retailer’s own approach to other companies’ content.
“Frankly I can’t understand why Flight Centre would suddenly open up its content range in a purportedly magnanimous gesture to “other retailers” in Australia when they have done everything they possibly can to close out anyone else’s content range from being sold through their own retail distribution, he said.
“Not only has Flight Centre deliberately excluded several Helloworld wholesale businesses from being sold in their retail shops over the last few years, including Qantas Holidays and Sunlover Holidays, they actually financially penalise their consultants for selling these products.”
With Flight Centre “fiercely competitive” in a number of arenas, including retail, wholesale and corporate, Burnes questioned whether other agents would jump at the offer.
“I don’t believe other agents are going to be fooled into feeding the hand that bites them,” he said.
“There isn’t a high street or shopping mall retail agent or consultant that isn’t in a battle with its nearest Flight Centre outlet and to imagine that those outlets and those consultants are going to start actually booking Flight Centre product is a tremendously courageous assumption.”
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