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Qantas Airways on the right track for growth in the Middle East

It has been around three months that the Qantas-Emirates tie-up was formally announced and launched. Within the time frame, Qantas Airways carried almost a quarter of million people. Rohan Garnett, regional general manager Middle East & North Africa at Qantas Airways Ltd explains to Travel Daily Middle East, the plan and strategies ahead…

Dubai
Rohan Garnett, regional general manager Middle East & North Africa at Qantas Airways Ltd with HH Sheikh Ahmed bin Saeed Al Maktoum, chairman and chief executive, Emirates Airline and Group

The Beginning

Our start off was very positive and we have received enormous positive feedback. This gives us a proud feeling to see Qantas positioned in the market. This also points to examples of a strong partnership when you see the aircraft and staff. In addition, an enormous collaboration by both companies, the trade, customer base and customers from UK, Australia and the Middle East market.

Expectations

Our expectation would not to shift the business from previous hubs but to grow that business. We are serving the GCC, Australian and UK market. My expectation would be that we continue to grow these markets with our stakeholder and partners. The initial passenger loads are encouraging and also gives us plenty of room to develop up these markets as time passes by. We have 2,000 seats a day and four movements of the A380, this indicates plenty of room to expand and a mix of cultures.

Brand awareness of Qantas

I think its early days to get a complete picture. Firstly, we need ensure that we are operationally ready, we can then turn our attention to trade initiatives to be achieved. The next would be how do we align our own activities with that of Emirates here. However, to kick-start, we have introduced fare alignment here in the Gulf with Emirates. This shows commitment to the region by the fact that after Australia, that we chose to fare align in this market. We are looking at fare alignments in markets such as UK and Europe. Our next task is to build the Qantas story for the trade and how do we interact with key trade partners. We are known as a trade-friendly airline on a global basis, so there would be no reason why we cannot customize international strategies for the Gulf region.

Dubai
Emirates-Qantas

Key focus regions

We see a lot of potential in Saudi Arabia, which we have gauged to be a very active student, followed by business, leisure and property investment market in Australia. In that order, after the UAE, which would be key focus, it would be Saud Arabia, Oman, Kuwait, Bahrain and then the broader GCC markets. We will also look at Egypt, Lebanon, Iran, Iraq and they will start to take a focus. Targeting these markets would require the operational stability and liability, for which we have done a very good job. We certainly met if not exceeded our own expectations of how this would go. is a learning experience with our partners. Our initial feedback from the trade has been very positive.

As a commercial team, we have been together for a short while, so we would also like to know from the trade what they expect from us.

Booking preferences

Our view would be to use both the trade and online mediums. Our online activation in this region will take some time to customize. I think you companies can have a very complimentary strategy by using both the trade and online mediums. We have a long history of being an airline, which has been very trade supportive, our intention is not to change. We are of the opinion that the trade is very important in the Middle East, the Gulf and broader MENA region. The trade can look forward to us being supportive and in his regard we have set up a small call centre. The objective of the call centre is to help educate and inform the trade on our issues.

Tourism boost

We have very strong partnerships with the Department of Tourism and Commerce Marketing (DTCM) in Dubai and several other partners. Subsequently, we also have a good understanding with our partners in Abu Dhabi tourism. These fruitful partnerships are now starting to reap the benefits. In order to increase awareness about the destination, we had a small corporate familiarization trip sponsored down from the UK with prominent DMCs. We have had very positive response from even our own state tourism boards like Queensland Tourism, Tourism New South Wales and Tourism Victoria. These partnerships are not only good for us as an airline but also for the trade. We want to make it tactical. We are seeing phenomenal take up of the code-share from other markets apart from the UAE, which is very encouraging. It is a great awakening for our Australian and UK customers too.

The tourism authorities have seen several participations such as the South Australian representation here and several FAM trips. We have also worked with the Australian government on the Australia Unlimited product, wherein we were one of founding sponsors. This shows a very close association with the Australian government and its activities. Tourism New Zealand was here too with their CEO and other trade partners. This shows our commitment to Tasman and Australia is unrivalled and our ability to work with them in partnership. The same goes for VisitBritain, where we have a campaign on-going.

Market segmentation

Emirates-Qantas inaugural fly-over
Emirates-Qantas inaugural fly-over

We are in the market to cater to all segments. This is an interesting proposition as we see corporate leisure really growing. One of the interesting aspects of corporate leisure is that it starts off with business but lead to leisure on the next. I personally am not setting any targets for segments as we cater to all.

Boosting regional presence

We have a presence in Saudi Arabia with Kanoo Group and we continue with these arrangement. Dubai will be our focus. One of the things we are researching is the customer acceptance of travelling from Riyadh, Qatar, Bahrain and other markets to the Dubai hub and thereon, to Australia and into the UK. Our understanding here is that if they are getting the right product, right schedule and right pricing, they are willing to travel the extra mile. The aim is to make the experience comfortable and this can be achieved with good trade partners.

We are also not into passive representations like passive GSAs, we are interested in proactive representations. We have had a phenomenal response with our partners who we have been not that active to be able turn on the activation.

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