Date posted: 2/10/2020 3 min read

Support for travel and retail companies

The first Retail and Travel Community in Queensland is helping members through knowledge sharing and networking.

In Brief

  • Retail and Travel Community is organising its first post-COVID networking and knowledge sharing event in Queensland
  • Retail and travel industries are among the hardest hit by COVID-19
  • CA ANZ is committed to helping members navigate their way through the COVID-19 pandemic

When the first impact of COVID-19 was being felt in March, travel and hospitality brand Wyndham Destinations faced a mammoth challenge.

The company had no choice but to adapt its business immediately to survive as its hotels across the Asia Pacific were forced to close almost overnight as flights were grounded and borders shut.

Area Financial Controller Julian Porter CA helped the company reduce its head count, capital expenditure and fixed costs. These measures included reducing commercially leased office space, closing sales offices and focusing on virtual sales.

With the impact of COVID-19 expected to be prolonged, protecting the business was the key strategic focus.

Wyndham Destinations minimised loss generating and negative cash flow activities and channelled resources to the highest margin and high cash generating activities.

The non-financial adaptations allowed flexibility for owners and guests, creating Club Wyndham TV, engaging more through online platforms and providing staff with mental health assistance.

Porter is a part of the six-member founding committee of the Queensland Retail and Travel Community set up by Chartered Accountants Australia and New Zealand (CA ANZ) at the start of the year to share knowledge, experiences and to build connections within these industries.

The establishment of this Community couldn't have been better timed as both these industries now struggle due to restrictions enforced to stop the spread of COVID-19.

According to CEDA estimates, about one-quarter of tourism's A$60 billion direct contribution to the economy comes from interstate travel. Adding international border closures, almost 55% of the sector's activity currently remains out of play.

However, there are success stories, too. Some companies have adapted quickly to keep up with the changing market dynamics.

One such story belongs to committee co-member Chris Chan CA, who along with his employer, Fitstop Australia, has learnt from COVID-19. The business moved quickly from a solely offline model to a blended one through a mobile app. Working remotely is now normal, as is maintaining connections with its franchise partners over Zoom.

Jarryd Cahill CA, Finance Business Partner at Uniti Group also has a success story to share.

Although this business had a stellar period even through the pandemic, it faced the challenge of converting positive results into a strong cash flow to satisfy market expectations. It was also imperative it showed compassion for businesses and individuals who required relief.

"Balancing the dedication of time and resources between being reactive and proactive to the constant market changes was one of the key challenges of the past few months," reveals another committee member, Michael Quach CA, Commercial Leader (Marketing & E-Commerce) Flight Centre Travel Group.

This company has made some tough decisions to preserve its business, including realigning staff expectations about roles and responsibilities, with an emphasis on being more flexible and adaptable.

Committee members Tina Edwards CA, Group Reporting Manager at Super Retail Group and Samantha Robertson CA, Group Financial Controller at Collins Foods, both helped their respective teams switch to online within just a few weeks.

While Robertson successfully managed staff wellbeing, shifting company technologies and undertaking a year-end audit remotely, Edwards played a key role in changing her team's mindset by embracing new technologies and challenging the notion that effective work can be achieved only in a traditional office environment.

The Retail and Travel Committee believes hearing success stories such as these – of resilience through tough times and of agility in the face of adversity – can help build stronger organisations and strengthen the community of finance professionals.

CA ANZ is striving to assist those in the retail and travel sectors with opportunities to connect and share ideas.

To facilitate this, the Community is hosting its third networking event on 28 October while conforming to prevailing COVID-19 guidelines.

Speakers at the event will to delve into themes such as changing business strategies; finance shifts; big picture rather than just working capital; holding debt conversations with the bank; cash-flow consolidation; future proofing through cash buffering; and team management, among others.

The Retail and Travel Community is one of the many ways CA ANZ is providing support to its members.

Other initiatives include the CA Advisory Group (CAAG) providing counselling and support for CAs facing ethical or career dilemmas, My CA and Facebook networking groups as well as wellbeing and other resources available in the COVID-19 resources hub.

Participate in the Retail and Travel Community event

Register for the face-to-face and knowledge-sharing networking event on 28 October.

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