By JAMES WILKINSON
Qantas is continuing to partner with Tourism Australia on two major upcoming events in 2013, including ATE, despite a bitter feud between the organisations that erupted earlier this week.
In a statement released yesterday (Nov 29), Tourism Australia confirmed Qantas was committed to supporting G’day USA in Los Angeles in January 2013 and the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE) in Sydney in April 2013 despite Qantas CEO Alan Joyce ending a AUD$44 million marketing partnership.
Joyce wrote to Australian Tourism Minister Martin Ferguson earlier this week informing him of the company’s decision to end the current three-year marketing arrangement due to a conflict of interest with Tourism Australia Chairman and former Qantas CEO Geoff Dixon.
In the letter, it is believed Joyce said there was an “untenable” conflict of interest with Dixon who has been widely reported in the Australian media as being part of a consortium (that is also believed to include retailer Gerry Harvey and advertising guru John Singleton) that wants to build up a significant shareholding in the Flying Kangaroo and remove the current management team, led by Joyce.
In a speech to reporters at the National Aviation Press Club on Wednesday (Nov 28), Joyce defended his decision to cut off the marketing partnership.
“Many of you have been reporting on a club of investors taking a stake in Qantas, a club that includes some key players from the rejected APA private equity bid in 2007 [which Dixon was a part of],” he said.
“There has been some interesting speculation about the aims and ambitions of APA Mark 2… but so far there is no evidence they know their aims and ambitions themselves.
“At Qantas we are not looking to recreate the past [and] we are not dwelling on earlier times.
“The world has moved on and we are busy taking care of today’s business, looking after Qantas interests, and advancing our strategy for all of our stakeholders and for all of our shareholders.
“Where we see specific issues that need addressing, we do so [and] we will always defend our interests.
“Today you’ve seen mention of correspondence relating to the Qantas relationship with Tourism Australia and a conflict of interest issue.
“Given that the Tourism Australia Chairman is a member of the APA Mark 2 club we deemed it prudent to suspend our partnership with Tourism Australia.
“We will, of course, continue to be a proud supporter of Australian tourism through other avenues.
“And the tourism industry can be assured that no one dollar of tourism marketing will be lost as a result of this decision.
“The only difference is where we spend our money,” he said.
The statement from Tourism Australia on Thursday followed a board meeting on Wednesday night (Nov 28), soon after Joyce’s keynote to the NAPC, where TA threw its weight behind Dixon.
Tourism Australia Deputy Chair Kate Lamont said Dixon had previously declared an interest in Qantas and “it was the Board’s view at the time, and remains the case, that this does not create an unmanageable conflict of interest”.
“As per regular Board protocols, having declared the interest, Chairman Geoff Dixon will continue to absent himself from all matters relating to the Qantas Group,” she said.
In the statement, Tourism Australia said it would “continue to deliver on its objectives in conjunction with its partners across the industry”.
“The Qantas Group represents Tourism Australia’s largest and highest value tourism marketing partnership,” said Tourism Australia Managing Director Andrew McEvoy.
“This year alone, Qantas and Tourism Australia were contributing almost AUD$5 million each to market Australia for mutual benefit in key markets such as the United Kingdom and the USA.
“While important, this and other support, represents around 6 per cent of Tourism Australia’s total marketing effort and we are confident that our future spend won’t be compromised in any way.
“It is encouraging that Qantas have committed to G’day LA / G’day USA (January 2013), the Australian Tourism Exchange (ATE) in Sydney in April 2013 and other planned marketing activity.
“We’d like to reassure the industry, that given the number and scale of other commercial partnerships, Tourism Australia will continue to aggressively market Australia to overseas consumers.
“Tourism Australia works with many commercial partners including 20 international airlines as well as the States and Territories, Australian industry and international travel distributors,” McEvoy said.
It is understood Qantas has already had meetings with Tourism Victoria, a state part of the $44 million could be re-directed to.