The 2017 helloworld Travel Owner Mangers Conference wrapped on Saturday night at Movieworld with iconic surprise act Jimmy Barnes revving up a thrilled crowd for a raucous finalé to the four-day event.

This years ‘mega’ conference which began on Wednesday evening and ended on Saturday evening, was the group’s largest in its three year history, with 700 plus helloworld Travel branded, non branded and business Owner Managers and suppliers in attendance together for the first time.

The formal conference proceedings and Qantas sponsored Gala Award night took place at the Gold Coast Convention Centre, with other evening social events taking place at The Star, Q1 and Seaworld on Thursday night and Movieworld.

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CEO and Managing Director, Andrew Burnes

With the theme of ‘Making a difference’, a number of commercial refinements and initiatives were announced by CEO and Managing Director Andrew Burnes in his opening address on Friday morning.

Read all about them here

Notably, the biggest and most talked about announcement during the event was that of the return of the old Harvey World Travel tagline and jingle, ‘The Travel Professionals’ to the brands newly refreshed ‘helloworld Travel’ logo and marketing collateral which launched into market over the weekend in a huge multi-channel campaign with APT.

Whilst there were some cheers, replacing the words “We’re Harvey World Travel” with “We’re Helloworld Travel” in the jingle was a move it seemed some may take a little time to get used to just yet. ‘The Travel Professionals’ tagline however, certainly seemed to get the big member tick.

In what was also member music to the ears, Burnes confirmed that helloworld Limited would be paying for the refreshed brand look and feel for all stores in terms of signage, decals and other brand assets that will require changing.

Jokingly Burnes remarked that members will soon be “Seeing me turn up with a red paint tin.” The roll out will take place over the next 12 months.

Throughout the conference, branded store owners got to experience the new brand and store updates for themselves with a full sized mock store set up in the networking area, which was most definitely a hit with members.

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The store mock up was packed all weekend

Guest speakers, workshops and supplier networking time flowed through the days with David Caon (Creative Director, Caon Studio) taking the audience through just how Qantas’ plane interiors and lounges are designed and sharing trivial nuggets such as why the new Qantas Dreamliner jet engines are plain white so they can switch them with Jetstar should they need for maintenance and save millions in the process.

Russell Howcroft (Gruen Transfer and Chief Creative Officer PWC), who has recently been working with helloworld on the new look spoke of the power of branding whilst there were updates on marketing, research, leadership, HR and AFTA.

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Cinzia Burnes had the audience in stitches with her Ready Rooms (RR) reference

Member favourite Cinza Burnes (Executive Director and Head of Wholesale & Inbound for helloworld Ltd) held court on Saturday morning and had the crowd in hysterics with an honest and transparent presentation that came with plenty of positives but also a firm disclaimer: “Not everything is fixed yet. But we’re getting there.”

Pete Rawley (General Manager Sales, APAC) for Intrepid Travel spoke of ‘Making a difference’ in his keynote presentation and touched on the incredible work the group has done in re-building Nepal, where Intrepid have now raised over AU$750k with the goal of $1m though donating 100% of their trip profits.

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Pete Rawley, General Manager Sales, Intrepid Group APAC

Rawley also spoke of Intrepid’s other stand out projects including helping women to become tour leaders in India, as well as their work against Orphanage Tourism and animal welfare. It was a message that resonated loudly with the audience and received enthusiastic applause throughout.

Burnes formally closed the conference on Saturday afternoon by saying “18 months ago in Wellington when I first arrived I said I’d be back, I was back in Singapore and I will keep on being here. I’m not going anywhere. It’s a great privilege to represent helloworld and all of the markets we operate in.”

In the 18 months that Andrew Burnes has been in the CEO hot seat, the group’ fortunes have turned around with a share price rise from $2.40 in early January 2016 to today’s price of $3.85, with a high of $4.90 in September 2016.

The group had also previously upgraded its earnings guidance for the 2016/17 financial year from $47-$51 million to between $52-$55 million. The earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortization (EBITDA) will come on the back of some $5.8 billion in total transaction value (TTV).

Come Saturday night it was left to Jimmy Barnes to energetically belt out iconic favourites including ‘Khe Sahn’, ‘Working class man’, ‘Goodnight Astrid’, ‘Flame trees’ and ‘Driving Wheels’ and get everyone up on their feet singing their hearts out too. Which of course they duly did with gusto.

HTG fam with Jimmy Barnes!!! #helloool2017 #htgdoOMC #jimmybarnes @suthosphere @brooke_travel_agent

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As a die hard Jimmy Barnes fan, Helloworld CEO and Managing Director Andrew Burnes had already declared this year’s Owner Mangers Conference as the “The biggest and best ever” in his opening address, and my guess is that after Barnes performance his opinion was only validated further.

Next year’s combined helloworld Travel and Business Travel Owner Managers Conference will be held in Adelaide with the plan to hold an overseas conference every third year, the first one being in 2019.

What are your thoughts? Were you there? Share your thoughts below.