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Real Business : Issue 3 2008
FASTEN YOUR SEATBELT FINANCE PROFESSIONALS ENTERING THE TRAVEL INDUSTRY ARE EMBARKING ON A FANTASTIC JOURNEY G 14 et set for an excellent adven- ture. The travel industry promises an exciting journey for entrepreneurial thinkers who enjoy rapid change. Some turbulence is inevita- ble, but the upside is working in a sector that has a worldly outlook and many far-flung opportunities. Airlines, travel agencies, resorts and luxury hotels are just part of the travel industry, and hold big career magnetism. Ask the CEO of internet booking agency Webjet Richard Noon FCPA what’s not to like about travel, and he’s pressed for an answer. His 30 years’ experience in the industry began in hotels and moved into airlines, retail and tour wholesaling, then airfare consolidation. After stepping into the CFO role at Webjet, the company grew so quickly – 16 times in four years – he’s moved into the top job at the $330 million publicly listed company. “Because the industry is constantly changing, I’ve been able to use my ideas and skills to build businesses within businesses,” Noon says. “You have to be innovative and that’s what I’ve loved.” Beyond glossy brochures and hot deals, the role of the finance professional in travel is strategic, Noon says, not least because it’s a low-margin (average 1.5 to 2 per cent) business with high turnover. Growth and change, such as the trend to self-service for travellers, keep it stimulating. BECAUSE THE INDUSTRY IS CONSTANTLY CHANGING, I’VE BEEN ABLE TO USE MY IDEAS AND SKILLS ... YOU HAVE TO BE INNOVATIVE AND THAT’S WHAT I’VE LOVED RICHARD NOON FCPA CEO, WEBJET Every few years an X-factor rocks the industry – think terrorism, SARS and the war in Iraq – which demands smart contingency planning, says Noon. Right now, there’s the impact of fluctuating fuel costs, while on the international front gains are being made in higher exchange rates on the Australian dollar. Trish Mikhael CPA is general manager of finance, business performance and analysis at Jetstar Airways. She agrees the industry’s volatility makes the finance professional’s role crucial. In an airline, it takes not only a robust commercial offering, but rigid, sustained cost management and staying close to the business to provide the right informa- tion for sound decision making. “Fuel is cur- rently 35 to 40 per cent of our cost base, and for every dollar the oil price rises, our bottom line is directly impacted,” she says. “At least another 30 to 40 per cent of the cost base is fixed (including airport fees and charges and aircraft leasing costs).” Try drawing a line around the travel BY DEBORAH TARRANT industry and you see its indefinable scope. It overlaps the tourism sector, which in Australia employs around half a million people and is a major driver of the economy, worth around $85 billion. According to the 2006–2007 Australian Bureau of Statistics ? REAL BUSINESS ISSUE 3, 2008 RICHARD WHITFIELD
Issue 1 2009