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Skift Daily Briefing

English, News media, 1 season, 858 episodes, 2 days, 6 hours, 50 minutes
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Your daily insight into the business of travel from the industry’s most trusted authority.
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Delta Air Lines' Underwhelming Second Quarter

Episode Notes Despite a record number of people traveling this summer, quarterly results from Delta — one of the most profitable U.S. airlines — fell short of expectations, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi. Delta reported record revenues for the second quarter but profits dropped 29% largely due to a surplus of seats and higher fuel costs. President Glen Hauenstein said domestic seat growth this summer has surpassed demand, affecting main cabin revenues. Hauenstein added that Delta expects to take a $100 million revenue hit this summer to the Paris Olympics.  Next, 12 companies in the travel industry raised at least $100 million during the first half of 2024, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes. Dawes notes a big jump from the same period last year, when only two travel startups raised that amount of money. Travel startups raised roughly $2.8 billion through the end of June, more than double the figure last year. Skift Research predicts that 2024 will see fewer deals than 2023, but their larger average size is expected to boost overall funding compared to last year’s record low.  Finally, the Banyan Group is on a growth spree. The Singapore-based luxury hotel operator is set to open a record number of properties this year, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Banyan Group will have opened 10 hotels and resorts by December, and its flagship brand Banyan Tree is set to open five hotels this year — including its first in Japan. In addition, Bayan Group plans to expand into the Bahamas as well as launch a platform helping homeowners rent out their residences.  For more travel stories and deep dives into the latest trends, head to skift.com. 
7/12/20242 minutes, 49 seconds
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Paris Not Expecting Large-Scale Tourism Boom for the Olympics

Paris is expecting to see a small bump in overseas visitors for the upcoming Summer Olympics, but no large-scale boom, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Less than 15% of the projected roughly 11 million Olympic visitors will be foreign, according to the city’s tourism board. Paris tourism chief Corinne Menegaux had previously told us that most Olympic ticket holders will be French. Habtemariam notes many travelers are avoiding the popular tourist destination because of the Olympics.   Meanwhile, international flight bookings to Paris for the Olympic period — from July 26 to August 11 — have increased by 8% from the same timeframe last year. That figure is a substantial decrease from the last pre-Covid Summer Olympics.  Next, speaking of the French capital, Qantas will debut a roughly 17-hour nonstop flight from Perth to Paris on Friday, writes Airlines Editor Gordon Smith and Reporter Pranjal Pande.  The Perth-Paris flights will operate four times a week prior to the second week of August, after which flights between the two cities will operate three times a week. Qantas currently operates ultra-long-haul flights from Perth to both London and Rome. The company has said that roughly nine in every 10 seats on its Perth-London route have been occupied.  Finally, Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill provides more information about Marriott’s new online travel booking portal for small- to medium-sized businesses.  The new booking platform is part of Marriott’s strategy to increase direct bookings from corporate travelers. A Marriott executive said existing booking tools don’t satisfy the needs of business travelers. Small- and medium-sized businesses have become a larger part of the company’s guest mix coming out of the pandemic. O’Neill notes Marriott sees an opportunity to simplify the often complicated business travel process, with companies increasingly looking for more efficient solutions.  For more travel stories and deep dives into the latest trends, head to skift.com. 
7/11/20243 minutes, 10 seconds
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The Growing Wealth Gap’s Impact on Travel

Episode Notes Air travel is breaking records. But a recent Newsweek poll found that 44% of respondents won’t be traveling anywhere in the next three months, while 53% said they would’ve gone on vacation if the cost of living had been cheaper. Meanwhile, luxury hotel occupancy was up 1.8% in the first five months of 2024 while economy hotel occupancy was down 3.4% Next, Marriott has debuted an online travel booking portal for small-to medium-sized businesses. It’s part of the company’s strategy to attract more direct bookings for business travelers, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.   Marriott’s new platform will enable users to book hotels, flights and car rentals without having to rely on third-party services such as American Express Global Business Travel. The hotel giant’s business travel model provides customers discounted rates at Marriott properties worldwide as well as access to Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program benefits, among other features.  Finally, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada is scaling down funding programs that support the country’s 10 provincial First Nations tourism bodies, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Habtemariam reports the organization will receive $6.5 million from the federal government this year, a $4 million decrease from last year. CEO Keith Henry said he believes several First Nations tourism bodies won’t survive for much longer unless the organization secures funding from additional sources.  Habtemariam adds the organization’s staff of 40 will be cut in half by September.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
7/10/20243 minutes, 16 seconds
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Boeing Agrees to Guilty Plea

Episode Notes Boeing will accept a guilty plea deal from the Department of Justice over charges the planemaker misled federal authorities on certain aspects of the 737 Max 8, which has been involved in fatal crashes. Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi lists three takeaways from Boeing’s deal with the Justice Department.  Boeing will have to pay a more than $240 million criminal offense fine and invest at least $455 million in compliance and safety programs. The planemaker will be on probation for three years, during which it would need to install an independent monitor to oversee its compliance and safety. In addition, Boeing wouldn’t have any protection from any ongoing or future federal investigations.  Next, Airbnb has unveiled a new ad urging travelers heading to Paris for the Olympics to avoid hotels to discover the true essence of the French capital, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Airbnb’s ad features a family of four dealing with common tourist come-ons outside of a hotel before the hotel collapses. The hotel gives way to an Airbnb, and afterwards, the family views an artist painting on a canvas and a couple dining, among other sights. The narrator then urges travelers to stay where the locals live instead of the touristy part of the city. Finally, the effectiveness of carbon offsets has been a contentious issue in the travel industry. Research Analyst Robin Gilbert-Jones explores the reasons carbon offsets are controversialand how they can be effectively evaluated.  Travel brands are increasingly turning to carbon offsets — considered a way for companies to compensate for their own emissions by reducing them elsewhere — to help reduce the industry’s massive carbon footprint. However, Gilbert-Jones notes the carbon offset market has been described as the “wild west.” And one carbon credit may look like another but be much less effective at reducing CO2, which leads companies to seek out the cheapest credits available.  Gilbert-Jones listed five recognized ways to measure the quality of a carbon offset, including verifiability. Verifiability means a legitimate third party can verify claims of carbon avoidance in offset projects.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
7/9/20244 minutes, 9 seconds
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Corporate Travel Rebounds Despite Cuts in Travel Budgets

Presented by Brand USA Episode Notes A growing number of companies have reduced their travel budgets in recent years, but that hasn’t slowed down business travel’s rebound, writes Reporter Christiana Sciaudone.  Roughly 60% of travel buyers said their companies have cut their travel budgets in the past few years, according to a recent BCD Travel survey. In addition, 96% said their companies have introduced cost control policies.  However, Sciaudone notes 2024 is shaping up to be a strong year for business travel. The global business travel market is expected to hit pre-Covid levels this year, according to British data analytics firm GlobalData. Roughly 220 million outbound business trips are projected to take place in 2024, up from 174 million last year.  Next, American Airlines announced it’s reached a conditional purchase agreement with startup ZeroAvia for 100 hydrogen-electric engines, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  American CEO Robert Isom said the hydrogen-electric engines would help the company be more sustainable. ZeroAvia develops engines for commercial aircraft that can emit close to zero emissions. American joins rivals in making investments in ZeroAvia’s hydrogen-electric engines in recent years.  However, a major issue with engines is that they can only power smaller aircraft. Maharishi notes most of the investment has been limited to regional jets since technology isn’t yet ready for hydrogen-electric engines to power larger planes.  Finally, sports network ESPN has entered the experiences sector by launching a tour of Major League Baseball venues, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Jesse Chase-Lubitz.  ESPN’s first tour — which runs over Labor Day weekend — will include stops at three stadiums and exclusive access to the network’s headquarters. Chase-Lubitz notes ESPN will make a determination about running more tours based on the success of its initial offering. An ESPN spokesperson at the Disney-owned network said it had seen growing demand for experiences tours.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
7/3/20243 minutes, 50 seconds
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Oneworld's New CEO Explains Travel Trends

Episode Notes Nat Pieper has the task of helping lead 13 airlines as the CEO of the oneworld alliance, one of the world’s three major airline groups. Pieper discussed the challenges he faces and industry trends in an interview with Airlines Editor Gordon Smith. Oneworld has opened airport lounges in Seoul and Amsterdam this year, but Pieper acknowledged he doesn’t have a magic number in mind for how many lounges he’d like to open. He did note that the revenue outlook this summer for oneworld looks healthy despite post-pandemic revenge travel having run its course. And he sees the premium travel experience as a trend that’s here to stay.  Next, visitors to Japan no longer have free access to Mount Fuji’s popular Yoshida Trail, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Local authorities have implemented both a mandatory $12 fee to climb Mount Fuji on the trail and a daily cap of 4,000 hikers. Officials have also set up a new reservation system and entry gate to enforce the cap. A Japanese tourism executive said the measures are necessary to help protect Mount Fuji from congestion and overcrowding, with Habtemariam noting that revenue from the fee would go toward maintenance and safety measures, among other services.  Finally, Indian consumers are spending an astronomical amount of money on weddings, writes Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia. Weddings are the second-largest consumption category in India, trailing only food and groceries, according to brokerage firm Jefferies. In addition, the average Indian spends twice as much on a marriage ceremony than 18 years of education. Bhutia notes an Indian household spends on average three times its annual income on weddings.  India is the world’s largest wedding destination, hosting between 8 and 10 million wedding ceremonies annually. The country’s wedding industry is worth approximately $120 billion.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com.
7/2/20243 minutes, 9 seconds
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Boeing Screws Up

Presented by Brand USA Episode Notes The National Transportation Safety Board has blasted Boeing, arguing the planemaker shared sensitive information with the media, writes Airlines Editor Gordon Smith.  The NTSB said that Boeing had violated the agency’s investigative rules by disclosing information to the press about the January blowout on an Alaska Airlines flight. The agency also said Boeing improperly speculated about possible causes of the blowout.  As a result, Boeing will no longer have access to the investigative information that the federal agency produces as it continues its probe into the January 5 accident. In a statement, Boeing acknowledged that it overstepped and apologized.  Next, short-term rental price comparison business HomeToGo plans to show total cost, including fees and taxes, to comply with California’s new junk fee law that starts on July 1, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  HomeToGo CEO Patrick Andrae said his company is going further than Airbnb, which plans to display the nightly rates and fees upfront — but not taxes — in California. HomeToGo will display total cost throughout all of the U.S. Andrae added that showing all fees and taxes will be HomeToGo’s practice regardless of whether it’s processing a booking on its own channels or directing a guest to a third-party site to book. Finally, there were 539 direct passenger flights in December 2019 between India and China. However, there are currently zero. Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia examines the issue. China has been pushing to resume direct air links between the two countries, which was suspended during the pandemic. But India remains cautious due to strained diplomatic relations.  Bhutia notes people looking to travel between India and China have to rely on pricey and time-consuming connecting flights through third countries, such as Hong Kong, Bangkok and Singapore. Get more travel news at https://skift.com. 
6/28/20243 minutes, 6 seconds
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Xbox Can Teach the Travel Industry a Few Things

Presented by Brand USA Episode Notes A Microsoft executive believes Xbox can teach the travel industry several things about the customer experience, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  Shane O’Flaherty, a Microsoft executive who spoke this week at hospitality tech event HITEC, said Xbox has found ways to drive digital engagement with consumers. O’Flaherty explained that Xbox tracks every player’s movement and constantly presents them content that will improve their experiences.  So how might that approach work in travel? O’Flaherty provided an example of a hotel that knows some guests love whiskey might create an impromptu tasting event and send a note about the event to those guests.  Next, activist investor Elliott Investment Management has blasted Southwest Airlines for its weaker second-quarter financial outlook, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Elliott, which took a nearly $2 billion stake in Southwest earlier this month, argued the carrier is led by a team unable to adapt to the modern airline industry. Elliott added that Southwest more or less admitted it was struggling to adjust to a new environment. The hedge fund has also been calling for major leadership changes at Southwest, including the resignations of CEO Bob Jordan and chair Gary Kelly.  Meanwhile, Maharishi notes Southwest expects to record operating revenues for the second quarter.  Finally, real estate investor Blackstone has acquired Village Hotels from private equity firm KSL Capital Partners. The deal is part of Blackstone’s strategy to expand its footprint in the United Kingdom, writes Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. The companies haven’t revealed the price or deal terms, but O’Neill notes the transaction is valued at around $1 billion. The deal adds 33 properties to Blackstone’s portfolio in the UK. Meanwhile, Village Hotels CEO Gary Davis said the deal would also enable his brand to expand.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com. Presenter/Producer: Jane Alexander
6/27/20243 minutes, 6 seconds
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U.S. Hotels’ Up and Down Performance

Presented by Brand USA Episode Notes The U.S. hotel industry’s performance has had mixed fortunes so far this year. The luxury sector has experienced robust growth in demand and room rates while economy hotels have struggled, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Luxury hotel occupancy was up 1.8% in the first five months of 2024, according to CoStar. However, economy hotel occupancy was down a little more than 3%. O’Neill writes affluent travelers might be benefitting from a recent sharp run-up in stock prices and increased home values, which might make them feel comfortable spending on luxury hotels.  Meanwhile, O’Neill adds high inflation for core things for lower-income households may force them to prioritize essential expenses instead of discretionary travel.  Next, the Lufthansa Group — the parent company of several major airlines — says it can’t afford the additional costs of the European Union’s new environmental regulations on its own. So Lufthansa is adding a surcharge of up to $77 to flights departing next year, writes Airlines Editor Gordon Smith.  The surcharge starts at just a few euro – the highest is for first class on long-haul flights. Lufthansa says the surcharge is needed to cover a portion of rising costs due to new environmental requirements. Smith notes the European Union has enacted a new quota for Sustainable Aviation Fuel, which goes into effect on January 1. The surcharge will apply to any flight sold and operated by Lufthansa that departs from a European Union member state.   Finally, Oslo’s tourism board released a tongue-in-cheek ad that promotes the Norwegian capital by using dry humor, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. The ad features an actor telling potential tourists: “I wouldn’t come here.” The actor tells you everything that’s wrong with Oslo – no lines at museums, no waits at restaurants – and in doing so shares exactly what makes it unique and beautiful. It’s an appealing message as so many cities are overrun with tourists. Anne-Signe Fagereng, Visit Oslo’s director of marketing, said the city needed a different approach in the competition to attract tourists.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
6/26/20243 minutes, 52 seconds
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July Fourth Short-Term Rental Bookings Surge on the U.S. Coasts

Presented by Brand USA Episode Notes Travelers heading to New York City for the Fourth of July weekend aren’t booking as many short-term rentals as they did last year. Bookings are instead surging at destinations along the Atlantic coast, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  AirDNA revealed that New York City is no longer a top 10 market for the holiday and has been replaced by coastal destinations in Delaware and Maryland. Short-term rental bookings at coastal destinations for this Fourth of July weekend are up more than 7% from last year. Bookings for urban destinations saw a 10% drop from last year’s holiday weekend, which AirDNA attributes to a decrease in supply. Next, Jeff Miller, the longtime CEO and president of Travel Portland, will retire in December, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Miller, who has led the organization for 19 years, has been an outspoken advocate for the city against what he’s seen as negative news coverage of Portland. He said widespread reports about civil unrest in the city has damaged Portland’s reputation among suburban residents.  Miller added Portland has made progress in rebooking conventions that had pulled out after the unrest, but still has a long way to go.  Finally, the post-pandemic tourism surge has helped make some services more expensive across the world. Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden turns to Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot, for more information about the link between the tourism boom and inflation.  Jordan cites Iceland and Greece as two nations where inflation has been tied to an increase in visitor numbers. A 10% jump in visitors to Greece this year could cause the country’s property prices to increase close to 4%. In addition, inflation has been linked to tourism bumps from recent large concert tours, especially those of Taylor Swift and Beyonce.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
6/25/20243 minutes, 26 seconds
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Travel Venture Capital, Airbnb Transparency and Real AI Biz Travel

Presented by Brand USA Episode Notes Venture capital investment in the travel industry hit its lowest level in a decade in 2023, one finding from a new Skift Research report examining the state of venture capital investment in travel.  The travel industry had only $2.9 billion of venture capital investment in 2023, compared to nearly $9 billion in 2019. Senior Research Analyst Pravani Agarwal also notes the number of deals last year in the travel industry dropped more than 20% from the previous year. That’s the second steepest since the start of the pandemic. But while the trend is for fewer deals, they are on pace to be of a larger average size than 2023. This should lead to an overall increase in travel VC funding in 2024, Agarwal writes. The growth areas are in tours and experiences, AI & automation and hospitality employment. Next, starting July 1, Airbnb will display the total price before taxes of a stay in California to comply with the state’s new law banning junk fees, writes Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Those junk fees would include host cleaning fees and Airbnb’s service fee, for example. Schaal notes that a guest outside of California booking an Airbnb in the state won’t automatically see the total price unless they choose to view it. The short-term rental giant rolled out a total price toggle button across the U.S. in May 2023.  Finally, a growing number of corporate travel decision-makers are investing in artificial intelligence. Reporter Christina Sciaudone delves into how AI can solve problems in business travel.  A Mastercard survey found that 90% of travel decision-makers plan to invest in AI and machine learning to improve operations and personalize employee travel. Suzanne Neufang, the CEO of the Global Business Travel Association, said AI can help overcome the complexities of corporate travel.  FCM Travel, in particular, sees AI reshaping how it operates, including providing the company the opportunity to offer clients more personalized offerings.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com Producer/Presenter: Jane Alexander
6/21/20243 minutes, 6 seconds
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Europe Grapples With Extreme Heat

Episode Notes Destinations across Europe are grappling with extreme heat, with soaring temperatures contributing to the deaths of five tourists in Greece. Authorities on the continent are struggling to develop strategies to combat the heat, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Jesse Chase-Lubitz.  Chase-Lubitz notes policy experts in the European Union believe governments are unprepared for the heat despite having access to information about possible heatwaves. European Climate Pact Ambassador Cinzia de Marzo said countries are responding to emergencies instead of putting plans in place to deal with extreme heat.  The World Meteorological Organization released data recently showing that five of the most severe heat waves since 1950 took place in just the past three years. Next, a large number of Asian sports fans have traveled to Europe for the Euro 2024, the continent’s soccer championships, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia. Online travel company Trip.com Group reported a 125% increase in bookings to Germany from Asian tourists. Bookings from Chinese tourists have registered the largest jump — 132%. A Trip.com executive cited a growing Asian middle class with disposable income as one reason Asian fans are interested in traveling to Germany for the tournament.  In addition, flying to Germany has gotten easier for Chinese travelers, in particular. The number of direct flights from China to Germany has increased by 70% compared to last year.  Finally, JetBlue is making a big change to its baggage policy. From September, the airline will allow all passengers — even those on its most restrictive ‘Blue Basic’ fare — to bring a carry-on bag for no extra charge. Airlines editor Gordon Smith gets into the impact.  The policy change brings JetBlue in line with most of its peers. American, Delta, Southwest, and Alaska all allow ‘free’ carry-on bags, plus a smaller underseat personal item, across all fare categories.  The move leaves United Airlines as the only major U.S. network carrier to charge its Basic Economy passengers for a carry-on. Come September, United will find itself squeezed on two fronts. Along with all of its more upscale counterparts offering complimentary carry-ons as standard, even ‘ultra-low-cost airlines’ are making big customer service improvements.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com.
6/20/20243 minutes, 18 seconds
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NYC’s Crackdown on Short-Term Rentals Detailed

Presented by Brand USA Episode Notes New York City has cracked down on short-term rentals by requiring hosts to register since last September. Since then, the city has only approved a little less than 2,300 applications, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Schaal writes the figure is a sign of the lack of short-term rentals in New York City. Christian Klossner, the Office of Special Enforcement’s executive director, said Local 18, which also requires hosts to be present during the stay, has helped reduce illegal short-term rental listings in the city. The office has only approved roughly 36% of applications submitted since September.  Next, the Federal Aviation Administration is looking to tighten safety requirements on public charter airlines such as JSX. That could be a blow for companies like JSX, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Maharishi notes that if the changes are approved, public charter airlines would fly under the same rules as commercial airlines. The FAA has said some public charter flights operate like commercial airlines. Major carriers such as American Airlines and Southwest Airlines have lobbied the U.S. government to consider more stringent rules on JSX, arguing that JSX was benefitting from a regulatory loophole.  Maharishi writes that tougher safety rules would be a problem for carriers like JSX since part of their appeal is a private jet-like experience. JSX, for example, operates out of small private terminals, and passengers don’t go through a typical TSA security screening. .  Finally, China is continuing to expand its visa waiver program, adding Australia and New Zealand to the list recently, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia.  Chinese Premier Li Qiang announced on Monday that China would include Australia in its visa waiver program. While Beijing hasn’t revealed the details of the new visa arrangement, Bhutia notes Chinese officials announced a similar decision concerning New Zealand passport holders last week.  China’s moves to provide travelers from more countries visa-free access are part of its strategy to rejuvenate its tourism industry. The country only welcomed about 36% of its 2019 foreign visitor total last year.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
6/18/20243 minutes, 41 seconds
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How to Plan a Successful AI Strategy in Travel

The use of artificial intelligence in the travel industry has grown significantly in recent years. However, the industry still has a lot of work to do to get the most out of AI. Vivek Bhogaraju, advisory partner of data and AI at Skift, provides travel companies with ideas on how to develop AI strategies. Bhogaraju writes that this is just the beginning of the AI era. He urges companies to be flexible when using the technology, noting that new regulations will eventually be introduced. Bhogaraju also emphasized the importance of hiring the right chief data officers, who he said need extensive technical knowledge and a background in the travel industry.  Although Bhogaraju writes that successful data and AI execution requires urgency and efficiency, he notes that projects that succeed take time and persistence.  Next, LVMH said on Thursday it reached a deal with Accor to speed up the revival of the hotel company’s Orient Express brand, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.   LVMH said it would make an unspecified strategic investment in the Orient Express brand. O’Neill notes the joint venture will include ships in addition to trains and hotels. Meanwhile, LVMH downplayed rumors it would open a Louis Vuitton-branded hotel in Paris. Finally, Thailand has decided to scrap a proposed $8 fee on international tourists arriving by plane, writes Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia. Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin recently said his administration would abandon the previous government’s plan, which was approved in February 2023. Thai officials intended to use the revenue from the tourism fee to fund the management of insurance for international visitors.  However, Bhutia notes the tourism fee faced significant opposition from private stakeholders. Plus, Thavisin said eliminating the tourist fee could produce greater economic benefits. 
6/14/20242 minutes, 53 seconds
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Southwest CEO Is Staying Put

Episode Notes Activist fund Elliott Investment Management has called for a major shakeup at the top of Southwest Airlines after recently taking a $2 billion stake in the carrier. However, Southwest CEO Bob Jordan has no plans to resign, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.   Jordan said at a Politico event on Wednesday that he would consider Elliott’s feedback, adding that Southwest is ready to adapt its business model. Maharishi reports Elliott has been calling for Jordan and Chairman Gary Kelly to step down due to Southwest’s recent struggles. The carrier has yet to turn a profit this year.  Next, hotel companies’ investments in wellness have grown enormously in recent years. Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill takes a look at emerging trends in hotel wellness. A report from consulting firm RLA Global revealed hotels with wellness offerings saw healthy growth in 2023. So-called upper upscale hotels performed best in wellness last year compared to luxury and upscale segments. In addition, a report from investment bank Truist found that spa treatment revenue per occupied room was up at least 30% relative to 2019 levels.  Finally, cruise lines are expected to disclose all mandatory fees and taxes to U.S. consumers starting July 1 to comply with California’s junk fee law, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. California Governor Gavin Newsom signed a bill last October banning junk fees. The law applies to all businesses with offices or customers in the Golden State. Consumers can sue companies allegedly breaking the law for at least $1,000 in damages.  Royal Caribbean, Carnival and Norwegian Cruise Line all plan to meet the requirements of the new law. Habtemariam reports total prices won’t change — only the advertised prices shown upfront on cruise company channels will. 
6/13/20242 minutes, 55 seconds
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IAG Loyalty Has Big Plans for Avios

Presented by Brand USA Episode Notes IAG Loyalty has big plans to expand its frequent flyer currency Avios. IAG Loyalty CEO Adam Daniels discussed those ambitions and more in an interview with Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Daniels said one of IAG Loyalty’s goals is to make Avios a global currency. Avios has already entered into partnerships with Qatar Airways and Finnair, carriers outside of the IAG family. IAG’s airline brands include British Airways, Iberia and Aer Lingus. Daniels added Avios is in discussions with other airlines as well as hotel groups. Daniels also addressed the trend of devaluing frequent flyer miles. He acknowledged one criticism of loyalty programs is that collecting miles has been easier than using them. Daniels said IAG Loyalty is looking to change that.    Next, Marriott recently reached a deal with the U.S. Justice Department to comply with the Americans with Disabilities Act, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Marriott will make improvements to its reservation processes to make it easier for guests to reserve and stay in rooms they need to accommodate their disabilities. O’Neill notes that Marriott aims to list all accessible rooms through its booking system. The Justice Department had investigated Marriott’s reservation practices after complaints from individuals with disabilities.  Although Marriott contended it has complied with all ADA requirements, the company will pay a $50,000 civil penalty under the deal.  Finally, Southwest Airlines is vehemently defending its strategy after activist fund Elliott Investment Management took a $2 billion stake in the company, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Maharishi reports Elliott — now one of the airline’s largest investors — is pushing for major leadership changes at Southwest, including a shakeup at the top. Southwest said its board of directors and executive team are reviewing Elliott’s proposal. In addition, Southwest said it was taking steps to return to profitability, such as making new technology investments and cutting underperforming routes.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
6/12/20243 minutes, 46 seconds
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Apple Makes Big Travel-Related Updates

Presented by Brand USA Episode Notes Apple unveiled new travel-related features for several of its products on Monday at the 2024 Apple Worldwide Developers Conference. Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes provides details about Apple’s updates.  Dawes notes the Apple Watch will have a new translation app, live update features for flights and Uber, and a setting to alert users before it rains. In addition, Siri is getting a connection to OpenAI, which will enable users to ask Siri anything they can ask ChatGPT, including trip planning info for free. And travelers will be able to use Apple Vision Pro virtual reality headsets on not just planes — but trains as well.  Next, InterContinental Hotels Group would like its property mix to include more premium, lifestyle and luxury brands. However, IHG is downplaying its plans due to its investors’ preference for mid-market and extended-stay brands, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Although O’Neill notes moving upmarket is tantalizing for several reasons, IHG is responding to the demand it sees from hotel owners and investors. In addition, IHG’s Americas CEO Jolyon Bulley said that some owners who want to do deals are concerned about the state of the lending environment. O’Neill adds that conversions are more appealing to some investors because of obstacles in the market.  Finally, Mallorca has seen massive protests over mass tourism that many residents believe has helped make housing unaffordable, among other problems. Travel Experiences Reporter Jesse Chase-Lubitz delves into the widespread anger on the island. Protests have erupted even in towns far from Mallorca’s most popular beaches, with Chase-Lubitz citing one small town without tourist attractions that’s been swarmed by tourists seeking lodging. One university professor and Mallorca native said the tourism boom has made it hard for residents to find affordable housing. The island’s capital city Palma de Mallorca and four other cities have seen residential property prices jump more than 10% this year.  Chase-Lubitz adds several other incidents have fueled widespread Mallorcan anger about tourism, including a fight involving a group of young British men earlier this month.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
6/11/20243 minutes, 45 seconds
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Venice Might Hike Entry Fee

Presented by Brand USA Episode Notes Authorities in Venice believe the roughly $5 entry fee it charges visitors has benefited the city. And a top tourism official told Skift Venice could raise the amount, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Simone Venturini, the city’s deputy mayor for tourism, said the fee is part of Venice’s strategy to preserve its beauty and pivot away from being “a cheap tourism capital.” Venturini added that everything has gone smoothly since the entry fee was implemented in April. He said the city is considering hiking it to roughly $10.  Venturini said the entry fee mainly targets local day-trippers. He also disputed the notion that the majority of Venetians object to it, stating a protest that attracted 200 people didn’t represent the views of most residents.   Next, U.S. hotel demand growth is projected to slow down — even in the luxury sector, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Data firms STR and Tourism Economics project a roughly 2% increase in average daily rates this year. That’s down from a previous estimate of 3%. STR President Amanda Hite said hotel industry figures believe there isn’t as much weekend demand for leisure as expected.  Hite added she was surprised about the revised projection in the luxury segment. O’Neill notes the luxury sector faces greater risks due to a shift in the guest mix from leisure travelers toward more group bookings and business travelers.  Finally, population shifts across the U.S. could drive vacation rental growth in certain markets, writes Reporter Elizabeth Casolo. AirDNA Chief Economist Jamie Lane said at the Skift Short-Term Rental Summit this year that the “mass exodus” of people from certain locations would impact where guests stay. Lane said that would result in people vacationing in entirely different markets, with Casolo citing Texas and Florida as states that have seen population growth.  Lane added AirDNA had identified up-and-coming hot sports for vacation rentals. The four highest-ranked destinations AirDNA listed were all in Texas.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
6/7/20243 minutes, 33 seconds
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What's Happening in Short-Term Rentals

Episode Notes Booking.com is targeting U.S. travelers to tap into the increasing demand for short-term rentals, writes Reporter Christiana Sciaudone.  Eric Bergaglia, Booking.com’s vice president of Homes & Growth Segments, said at the Skift Short-Term Rental Summit that the company needs to be more U.S.-centric in how it develops products. Sciaudone reports Booking.com is focusing on in particular payments, liability insurance, damage policy to appeal to American consumers.   Bergaglia said that U.S. consumers aren’t as aware of Booking.com as those in other markets worldwide are.   Next, population shifts across the U.S. could drive vacation rental growth in certain markets, writes Reporter Elizabeth Casolo.  AirDNA Chief Economist Jamie Lane said at the Skift Short-Term Rental Summit that the “mass exodus” of people from certain locations would impact where guests stay. Lane said that would result in people vacationing in entirely different markets, with Casolo citing Texas and Florida as states that have seen population growth.  Lane added AirDNA had identified up-and-coming hot spots for vacation rentals. The four highest ranked destinations AirDNA listed were all in Texas.  Finally, Marriott Bonvoy’s Homes & Villas unit is seeing a surge in international reservations — especially in non-traditional destinations, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Jesse Chase-Lubitz.  International reservations are 38% of the unit’s total — up from 14% in 2021, according to Vice President Jennifer Hsieh. While Hseih said Italy, France, and Spain remain popular for guests, she added Marriott is seeing booking jumps in destinations such as Curaçao and the Greek island of Paros. Homes & Villas’ international listings have jumped 39% in the past year.  Hsieh also addressed the matter of standardization. She said travelers aren’t looking for standardization in the home product design — instead they’re focused on consistency in cleanliness, safety and security.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com
6/6/20243 minutes, 1 second
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What Travel's Best AI Experts Told Us Yesterday

Episode Notes Hotel tech has a long way to go before it can satisfy travelers’ demands, two executives said at the Skift Data + AI Summit in New York on Tuesday, writes Reporter Christiana Sciaudone. Chris Hemmeter, managing director at Thayer Ventures, and Kurien Jacob, partner and managing director of Highgate Technology Ventures, explained how hotel tech needs to evolve. Jacob noted how the travel industry is behind tech-wise – “room assignment can be automated,” he said. Hemmeter said the hospitality industry has been playing catch up while the traveler has changed.  Next, large numbers of travelers are making plans for the summer. But one thing many of them won’t be doing is using trip-planning apps, writes Sciaudone. Gilad Berenstein, founder of investment firm Book Bay Capital, said the travel industry hasn’t proven there’s a lot of consumer demand for a trip-planning app. He noted that Google Maps and Google Calendar are the world’s most popular trip-planning tools. Skift Research found earlier this year that 78% of American travelers haven’t used ChatGPT or another AI-based app to plan a trip.  As Sciaudone writes, one problem in the travel industry is the lack of shared information among potentially competing companies. Berenstein said the hotel industry in particular needs to be involved in the full journey.   Finally, Marriott is looking to do more than sell hotel rooms. The hotel company wants to tap into generative AI to reinvent itself as a travel retailer that creates personalized experiences, writes Sciaudone.  Marriott Executive Vice President Drew Pinto said at the Skift Data + AI Summit that the company is undergoing its largest-ever tech transformation. Sciaudone reports that Marriott is transitioning to Amadeus IT and “attribute-based booking,” in which customers will be able to personalize their stay. Pinto likened creating a personalized stay to building a Mr. Potato Head.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com.
6/5/20243 minutes
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Wyndham Targets Global and Upscale Growth

Presented by Brand USA Episode Notes Wyndham wants to shed its reputation for focusing on economy hotels in the U.S. The hotel group is looking to increase the number of upscale properties in its portfolio, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.   Wyndham CEO Geoffrey Ballotti said at a conference in New York on Monday that while the company loves the economy sector, it’s increasingly moving upscale. Ballotti added that Wyndham has added properties in Montreux, Switzerland and Detroit to its new lifestyle hotel brand HQ. Wyndham has also acquired several upscale brands across the world, including in Austria and India.  Next, Spirit Airlines Chief Financial Officer Scott Haralson is leaving the company to assume the same role at Hertz, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Spirit announced on Monday that Haralson will step down on June 14. Brian McMenamy, a vice president at Spirit, will be the carrier’s interim CFO. Haralson’s departure comes as Spirit has struggled to turn a profit since the pandemic, with its collapsed merger with JetBlue Airways and issues with Pratt & Whitney engines weighing on Spirit’s outlook.  Finally, Accor wants to take advantage of India’s booming middle class, writes Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia. CEO Sebastien Bazin noted during its recent earnings call that India’sdemographic profile, especially its growing middle class, is its greatest asset. He added that at least 200 million Indians will enter the middle class within the next 10 years.   Accor currently operates 62 hotels in India across four segments: luxury, premium, mid-range, and economy. The company expects to open nine more properties this year. Despite Accor’s optimism about India, the company’s India business currently represents only 2% of its global operations. Bazin acknowledged that Accor would have to revamp its strategy in India and hopes to reveal more this year.  Get more travel news at https://skift.com Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
6/4/20243 minutes, 23 seconds
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In-Flight Wi-Fi's Evolution

Episode Notes The market for unlimited in-flight Wi-Fi connectivity is set to boom as airlines look to make it easier for travelers to stay connected in the skies. Reporter Ajay Awtaney provides background into the history of in-flight Wi-Fi. Awtaney writes in-flight internet connectivity has come a long way since what he calls painfully slow service more than 20 years ago. As technology has improved over the past two decades, airlines have used advertising or sponsorship deals — such as a partnership with a streaming service — to make in-flight Wi-Fi more affordable. More carriers in recent years — including Delta Air Lines — have offered free Wi-Fi to members of their loyalty programs.  In addition, Airbus unveiled in 2022 the HBCplus system, which makes it easier for airlines to provide in-flight Wi-Fi.   Next, Airbnb hadn’t said much about its experiences offerings amid recent struggles. But the company’s Chief Financial Officer Ellie Mertz has explained what went wrong and how it plans to fix those problems, writes Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  When asked at a Bernstein conference why Airbnb experiences hasn’t been a success, Mertz said outside of packaged tours, consumers don’t go to a site and book everything — flights, lodging, cars, etc. — at the same time.  Mertz also said Airbnb needs to ensure experiences are “appropriately priced” and that proper timing and personalization are keys to a successful experiences product.  Finally, Skift recently reviewed the pay for more than two dozen top bosses at U.S. destination marketing organizations. However, Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam notes a lot of factors go into the link between CEO pay and the performance of a tourism board.  Habtemariam reports it’s hard to assess how much credit destination marketing organizations should get for tourism, adding a tourist may visit for reasons unrelated to marketing.  One place the value is more clear: Meetings and conventions. “They are hugely important. That’s the only organization that can talk collectively with meeting planners,” said Vijay Dandapani, a member of NYC Tourism’s board of directors and CEO and president of the Hotel Association of New York City. But you can’t paint with too broad a brush. As one former DMO leader told us: “Some of these CEOs are probably underpaid, some of them are probably overpaid,” she said.
5/31/20243 minutes, 20 seconds
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American Airlines Looks to Make Changes

Presented by BrandUSA Episode Notes American Airlines CEO Robert Isom has paid tribute to outgoing Chief Commercial Officer Vasu Raja. But Isom has indicated it was time for Raja to go amid American’s struggles, reports Airlines Editor Gordon Smith. Isom admitted at a conference on Wednesday that American has dug itself a hole during the second quarter, with the company’s financial outlook having been downgraded. While praising Raja’s creative thinking and passion, Isom acknowledged that American needed a reset. The company has underperformed compared to rivals Delta and United across multiple key metrics, including operating margin — an important measure of profitability.  Next, Glenn Fogel, CEO of both Booking Holdings and Booking.com, was the highest-paid travel CEO in 2023, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Fogel received a total pay package of $46.7 million last year, according to the Wall Street Journal. Delta Airlines CEO Ed Bastian came in second among travel CEOs, with a pay package of $34.2 million. The Wall Street Journal also scored each S&P 500 company’s total shareholder return versus its industry, with Booking Holdings and Delta among the four travel companies that got a top score.   Finally, luxury cruise line Viking has issued its first earnings report since going public earlier this month. Senior Hospitality Reporter Sean O’Neill lists several takeaways from its quarterly earnings. O’Neill notes Viking presented a generally upbeat report. The company, which largely targets affluent, English-speaking travelers over the age of 55, said it’s sold 91% of its possible passenger cruise days this season.  In addition, Viking executives said they’ve sold $2.5 billion in advance bookings so far for the 2025 season.  
5/30/20242 minutes, 50 seconds
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4 Google AI-Powered Travel Projects Explained

Presented by BrandUSA Episode Notes Google has made further inroads in the travel industry in recent months with several AI-powered products it’s launched. Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes delves into four of them. Dawes notes that Google has incorporated new AI features into software for physical products, including mobile phones. A new feature on Android devices enables users to translate content on the screen without having to switch apps. Travel technology firm Sabre recently unveiled a new AI-powered retailing platform for airlines called SabreMosaic, which is meant to help airlines create and sell personalized retail experiences.  Meanwhile, Alaska Airlines is planning to launch a trip planner built with tech from Google. IHG Hotels & Resorts has plans to release a trip planning tool powered by Google’s AI within its One Rewards mobile app later this year. Next, New York City hotel rates have hit record highs in large part due to a supply crunch, writes Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. The average nightly room rate in New York City during the first quarter was $231, a nearly 7% jump from last year, according to data firm CoStar. O’Neill notes one major factor behind the soaring room rates is local authorities essentially banning short-term rentals in the city. The New York Times reported short-term rentals represented roughly 10% of the city’s travel lodging before the crackdown.   The city’s move to convert thousands of hotel rooms into lodging for migrants has also contributed to the soaring room rates. The practice has removed about 2% of the city’s net hotel rooms from the market compared to pre-Covid levels.  Finally, Air France will open an ultra-exclusive airport lounge ahead of the Paris Olympics, reports Airlines Editor Gordon Smith.  While Smith writes the concept of airlines offering exclusive services for premium guests is far from new, he notes Air France is pushing those boundaries further with its new ultra-luxe offering, La Première lounge. Passengers in the lounge have access to a spa as well as a menu curated by prominent chef Alain Ducasse.  In addition, Air France’s premium guests can reserve space in three completely private suites that are adjacent to the main La Première lounge. Each suite includes a double bedroom, outdoor patio and a dedicated butler on the patio.  Get the latest travel news, analysis, and research at https://skift.com/ Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
5/29/20243 minutes, 47 seconds
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What We Learned From Testing the Updated AI Chatbots

Presented by BrandUSA Episode Notes OpenAI, Google and Meta have big plans for AI chatbots that can serve as personal assistants for travelers. Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes provides takeaways after reviewing the latest updates. OpenAI is releasing new voice translation capabilities in the near future that can understand non-verbal cues and recognize different voices in group conversations. Dawes notes OpenAI’s voicebot could break down language barriers that could keep travelers from visiting certain destinations. OpenAI and Meta are also promoting their tech’s visual translation capabilities, which help travelers, for example, figure out a menu not in their native language.  While Dawes notes OpenAI is the furthest along in creating a virtual personal assistant that can be a tour guide, he writes Google is the furthest along in developing trip planning tools integrated with booking options.   Next, Chase Travel saw its sales grow as fast as Booking Holdings’ last year. But Chase said it faces some headwinds, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Chase Travel reported it grew its gross bookings 25% year-over-year in 2023, just ahead of Booking Holdings at 24%. Meanwhile, Expedia Group registered only 10% growth. Chase Travel executives have said they’re looking to gain share from competitors such as Booking Holdings and Expedia that have been around for decades.  Chase Travel did report at its recent annual investor day that “macro travel headwinds” were impacting its profit margins. One Chase Travel executive told investors that the company saw lower growth in spending by luxury travelers.  Finally, India’s largest airline IndiGo is launching a business-class product by the end of this year, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia. CEO Pieter Elbers said the new product is part of IndiGo’s plans to adapt to India’s changing travel landscape, adding the carrier has seen a greater demand for premium travel. He also expressed confidence that the new offering would cater to corporate travelers’ needs. Elbers indicated IndiGo would unveil information about news routes in August.   Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
5/24/20243 minutes, 36 seconds
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Are Airbnbs Cheaper Than Hotels?

Episode Notes Airbnb recently said its average daily rates can be cheaper than those of hotels. But there are lot of factors to consider, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. The company said the average daily rate in March of a one-bedroom Airbnb worldwide was $114 while data firm CoStar reported the equivalent rate for a hotel room was $140. But Schaal notes there is a lot of nuance in those numbers, adding they don’t include Airbnb cleaning fees, hotel resort fees or taxes.  In addition, Jan Freitag, a CoStar executive, said the issue of whether an Airbnb or a hotel room is cheaper depends on the market and time of the year, among other factors.  Next, Scandinavia is seeing a surge in tour and activity bookings for this summer in part due to the region’s moderate climate, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Jesse Chase-Lubitz.  Data from GetYourGuide, Viator and TourRadar all indicate a significant jump in bookings compared to last year. The spike may be connected to traditionally popular destinations like Italy, Spain and Greece increasingly experiencing summertime heat waves and wildfires. Viator says Norway is the fastest-growing country in its portfolio while TourRadar reports bookings in Denmark and Sweden are surpassing average growth rates.  Finally, Southwest Airlines fares are now appearing on Google Flights, which had been considered unlikely, writes Airlines Reporter Megnha Maharishi.  Southwest said in a statement that it was looking to extend its reach, with Maharishi noting the carrier hadn’t previously listed its fares on Google Flights or online travel agencies as a way to cut distribution costs. Southwest is also conducting an in-depth study into consumer preferences as it considers making more changes to its model. CEO Bob Jordan recently said that Southwest is weighing whether to implement assigned seating and add premium cabins to its fleet. Today's podcast looks at Airbnb prices, summer travel in Scandinavia, and booking Southwest on Google Flights. 
5/23/20243 minutes, 24 seconds
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5 Countries With Booming Tourism Industries

The World Economic Forum recently released its 2024 Travel & Tourism Index. Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam and Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill profile five countries the organization named as among the most-improved economies for enabling travel and tourism development since 2019.  Habtemariam and O’Neill highlight Albania, Indonesia, Egypt, Tanzania and El Salvador. In particular, Albania has seen a 141% increase in daily flight traffic since 2019. Meanwhile, Indonesian authorities boosted domestic tourism last year by launching a program that gave financial support to more than 170 festivals and cultural events.  Habtemariam and O’Neill note that the World Economic Forum has recommended that tourism leaders develop strategies to combat challenges such as labor shortages and climate change.  Next, the Four Seasons is betting that luxury travelers will be willing to make a long journey to the remote Pacific island of Palau, writes Columnist Colin Nagy.  The Four Seasons is planning to open a permanent hotel development in Palau in the next few years. Armando Kraenzlin, a longtime Four Seasons general manager, described Palau as “one of the last true remaining frontiers.” The Great Barrier Reef Foundation reported that Palau is the only country to have protected 80% of its offshore marine environment.  In addition, Nagy notes the Four Seasons has relocated its liveaboard ship, the Explorer, from the Maldives to Palau, as well as moved some diving instructors and marine biologists.  Finally, airlines are scrambling to acquire the five new slots for long-distance flights departing from Reagan National Airport, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  President Joe Biden recently signed a bill with a provision approving the new slots. Maharishi reports the slots have to be allocated within 60 days of the act becoming law.  American Airlines had already announced a partnership with San Antonio International Airport to launch flights between the city and Reagan National. In addition, Alaska Airlines plans to apply for flights between San Diego and the airport. San Diego is currently the largest market without nonstop service to Reagan National.  
5/22/20243 minutes, 43 seconds
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Marriott vs. Hilton's Fight Over Hotel Fees

Episode Notes Marriott and Hilton are in fierce competition regarding the growth of their portfolios and loyalty programs. But Marriott is the clear winner in terms of fees earned from services for hotel owners, writes Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill in this week’s Early Check-In.  Hotel groups charge owners fees for managing or franchising hotels. Marriott generated $1.24 billion in gross fee revenue last year while Hilton generated $773 million. While Hilton’s fee revenue is growing faster than Marriott’s, O’Neill notes that Marriott’s lead is so large that it would take Hilton 40 years to catch up if current trends remained the same.  Next, Google recently launched AI-driven search capabilities as well as a more advanced Gemini AI model. Skift CEO and founder Rafat Ali provided his take on the new offerings.  Ali writes that AI Overview stands out as a key feature in Google Search, and provides comprehensive summaries for complex travel queries. One query – “What’s the best time to visit London?” – generated a curated overview with suggested itineraries, travel tips and related multimedia content.  The travel information landscape is now infinitely more complex, as Google is pulling results from across many different media and display formats. Reddit as a source of competition for any travel information query is the biggest new change in search in 2024. Finally, Spirit Airlines has joined fellow ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier in dropping change and cancellation fees, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Maharishi reports Spirit appeared to quietly remove most change and cancellation fees from its website this past weekend. Spirit now doesn’t charge any fare classes, except for group bookings. The company had charged between $69 and $119 to change or cancel a reservation, depending on the number of days before departing.  Spirit said the move was part of its strategy to return to profitability. Spirit and Frontier are among a growing number of U.S. carriers that have eliminated change fees in recent years. American, Delta and United all scrapped change fees during the pandemic, except for the cheapest and most restrictive fares. 
5/21/20243 minutes, 19 seconds
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Airlines Get a Boost From Business Travel's Comeback

Episode Notes Airlines have recently gotten a big boost from a segment many airlines thought would continue to struggle — business travel, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Delta Air Lines said corporate bookings were up 14% in the first quarter. Delta President Glen Hauenstein said 90% of the companies it surveyed said they plan to increase travel in the second quarter. United Airlines and Alaska Airlines both recorded significant increases in corporate bookings during the first quarter, with Alaska stating business travel for the carrier has fully recovered to pre-Covid levels.  Next, Chase now offers its cardholders something its rivals and online travel agencies don’t — the opportunity to book Southwest Airlines flights through its own travel platform, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  A Chase spokesperson said this week that cardholders are able to book Southwest flights on Chase Travel using points or cash. Cardholders who wanted to book Southwest flights in the past would’ve had to phone Chase Travel customer service. Schaal notes Southwest’s official website was the only place to book its flights for years, adding that online travel agencies that tried to offer Southwest flights received cease and desist letters.  It’s uncertain though if other credit card companies will enable cardholders to book Southwest flights through their travel portals.  Finally, Saudi Arabia is looking to attract 70 million international tourists annually by 2030. They can’t all stay in the luxury hotels that get so much attention, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder. Fahd Hamidadin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority, said that no more than 20% of visitors will be staying in four- or five-star hotels, adding that the real business of tourism is far from luxury. Indeed, an Accor executive said most people in the world are basically economy and mid-scale brand consumers.  However, roughly 82% of the rooms in Saudi Arabia’s hotel pipeline are in the luxury and upscale categories, according to real estate consultancy firm Knight Frank.
5/17/20243 minutes, 7 seconds
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Gen Z Travelers Boost Hotel Revenue

Episode Notes This year’s Summer Olympics are boosting short-term rental bookings in Paris, writes Reporter Elizabeth Casolo.  Short-term rental bookings in Paris between July 26 through August 11 are up 46% compared to the prior two weeks, according to data analytics firm AirDNA. Bookings in Paris’ suburbs for the Olympics are up 112%. However, AirDNA Chief Economist Jamie Lane said short-term rental rates during the Olympics are beginning to drop. Lane added AirDNA expects rates to continue falling because hosts will get worried their units aren’t booked.   Next, Generation Z travelers are spending big on travel — especially hotels, writes Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Generator and Freehand hotel brands — both of which heavily target guests between the ages of 18 and 28 — saw revenue jump 15% in 2023 from the previous year. The two brands have seen bookings jump 40% this year in markets such as Miami, Madrid and New York. Alastair Thomann, CEO of the two brands, attributed that growth to spending by Gen Z travelers.  O’Neill notes Gen Z is financially better off than young people in prior generations, with youth unemployment in the world’s seven most well-off countries the lowest since 1991.  Next, Europe’s largest tour operator TUI is facing several challenges due to ongoing Boeing delivery delays, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Jesse Chase-Lubitz.  TUI CEO Sebastian Ebel said the company received fewer Boeing jets than expected, which drove TUI to extend leases on older aircraft. Ebel added that maintenance expenses associated with older aircrafts helped drive up costs for TUI. However, he said the tour operator expects to receive compensation from Boeing.  Despite the challenges brought about by delivery delays, TUI still had a strong second quarter. The company generated just below $4 billion of revenue, a 16% increase from last year.
5/16/20243 minutes, 3 seconds
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Google's AI-Powered Trip Planning Updates

Episode Notes Google is going deeper into the AI-powered trip planning world. The tech giant is adding itinerary-building capabilities on Gemini Advanced, its paid generative AI chatbot, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes. Google Vice President Sissie Hsiao said Gemini Advanced can create a personalized vacation plan using multiple sources of information. The trip-planning capability is coming to Gemini Advanced this summer. In addition, Google is also boosting trip-planning options for AI Overviews, the AI feature it released earlier this year.  Next, Ariane Gorin took over as CEO of Expedia Group this week. She explained what she's looking to accomplish during an interview with Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Gorin said that organic growth is one of her priorities, having recently completed a tech migration that brought together several of its brands onto one platform. She added Expedia is focused on growing internationally, but will take a measured approach in doing so.  Gorin added Expedia needs to make improvements to its vacation-rental brand Vrbo. Expedia recently trimmed its 2024 outlook growth mainly due to Vrbo’s slower-than-anticipated recovery.  Finally, Qantas is pulling out of mainland China as it increasingly faces fierce competition from local carriers, writes Airlines Reporter Gordon Smith. Australia’s flag carrier is citing “low demand” as the reason it will no longer fly from Sydney to Shanghai starting on July 28. Qantas International CEO Cam Wallace said flights between the two cities have often been half full since the company relaunched service following the pandemic. Meanwhile, Chinese carriers operate 102 flights weekly between mainland China and Australia’s three largest cities. 
5/15/20242 minutes, 50 seconds
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AI-Powered Travel Updates Will Make Translation Easier

Episode Notes Travelers could have easy access to a robotic voice translator thanks to updates to ChatGPT. An OpenAI presentation explained how ChatGPT could serve as a human speech translator, the most significant travel-related feature in several updates unveiled on Monday, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  Dawes reports the upgraded translation capabilities are part of the new flagship GPT-4o model for ChatGPT. OpenAI said the new model is better at interacting with voice, photo and video than the previous model. The company said that a user, for example, could take a photo of a menu and ask ChatGPT to translate it.  Next, several major airlines are suing the Biden administration over its new rule requiring carriers to disclose all fees associated with buying a ticket, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Several carriers, including American, Delta, and United joined the suit along with Airlines for America, the trade group representing prominent U.S. airlines. The group said the new rule would create more confusion for consumers. Airlines for America added that it believed carriers already disclosed all fees to customers before ticket purchases.  The Department of Transportation unveiled a rule in April requiring airlines disclose the prices of checked baggage, carry-ons and changing a reservation.  Finally, European authorities have designated Booking.com’s parent company, Booking Holdings, as a “gatekeeper.” That means Booking.com will be subject to tighter regulation on the continent, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill  O’Neill notes the European Commission’s move will impose stricter rules on Booking.com regarding content moderation and make it easier for consumers to switch to other providers. Booking Holdings now has six months to submit a report outlining how it will comply with certain obligations.  Non-compliance could result in fines of up to 10% of Booking Holdings’ total worldwide revenue. Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
5/14/20243 minutes, 24 seconds
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Airlines' Frequent Flyer Programs Face Scrutiny

Episode Notes The U.S. government is investigating whether airlines have devalued frequent flyer miles, which would make booking reward tickets more difficult for customers, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Consumer Financial Protection Bureau Rohit Chopra said at a hearing his agency has found some evidence of airlines and credit card companies devaluing points and miles. Chopra added the bureau found that airlines have sold inflated points to consumers while credit card issuers receive those same points at a lower price.  The Department of Transportation announced last December it would investigate.   Another issue is whether loyalty programs of the biggest U.S. airlines have grown so big that smaller carriers can’t compete. Buttigieg acknowledged that would represent a competition concern. Transportation Secretary Pete Buttigieg said the agency had not reached any conclusions. Next, Hyatt received a boost from a surge in business travel as well as its loyalty program and all-inclusive resorts, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Hyatt executives said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call that they saw revenue from transient business travelers increase from last year. The company also registered a 22% increase in loyalty program members. In addition, O’Neill notes Hyatt’s 2021 move to buy Apple Leisure Group seems to be paying off as Hyatt saw bookings surge at its all-inclusive resorts.  Finally, the CEO of vacation rental operator Vacasa has told employees the company would suffer another round of layoffs, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  CEO Rob Greyber sent a letter to staff stating Vacasa would experience a “significant restructuring” amid another difficult year for the vacation rental market. The letter didn’t say how many employees would be laid off. Schaal notes this is Vacasa’s fourth round of layoffs since Greyber took over as CEO in September 2022. 
5/10/20242 minutes, 57 seconds
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Airbnb's Ready to Accelerate International Expansion

Episode Notes Airbnb is ramping up its plans for international expansion. The short-term rental giant is looking to grow significantly beyond its five biggest markets, writes Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  CEO Brian Chesky said during its first-quarter earnings call that Airbnb is ready to step on the gas regarding international expansion. He cited Mexico, Brazil, China and Japan, among other countries, as markets the company is focusing on. Chesky said Airbnb recently updated its app in China, and the company is making similar improvements in Japan and South Korea.   Next, Tripadvisor executives said the company doesn’t have any plans for a sale at the moment despite having previously explored the possibility, writes Executive Editor Schaal.  Tripadvisor made the announcement during its recent first-quarter earnings call. The company had formed a special committee to review potential deals after controlling shareholder Liberty Tripadvisor revealed in February it was exploring a potential sale. Skift reported earlier that private equity firm Apollo Global Management was looking into the deal.  Meanwhile, the company offered a weaker outlook for its major businesses, which it attributed to changes in Google’s travel search results pages.  Finally, Saudi Arabia is set to unveil a new cruise brand Aroya this December that aims to serve a domestic market, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder.  Aroya ships will include cigar lounges, jacuzzis, wellness facilities among other features. However, Corder reports the company has no plans to add features that would appeal to overseas travelers - including alcohol. Aroya spokesperson Turky Kari said the company is targeting Arabian markets, adding wherever its ships travel, Aroya would follow Saudi law. 
5/9/20242 minutes, 47 seconds
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World Cup Tickets: Corporations Are Beating the Fans

Episode Notes The 2026 World Cup, which will be co-hosted by the U.S., Canada, and Mexico, is shaping up to be a very corporate event. Several travel executives believe a lot of visitors for the tournament will be business travelers, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Lena Ross, chairwoman of the International Inbound Travel Association, said at the IPW travel trade show that big corporations would buy up ticket blocks and give them to clients. In addition, Oswaldo Freitas, CEO of tour operator Easy Time Travel, expressed concern that hospitality packages would be too expensive for fans looking to attend the World Cup. That’s okay for tour operators specialized in serving corporate groups. But some tour operators may experience financial pressure during the World Cup as their costs increase and profits drop for non-sports tours and packages. Next, Disney executives say they’re seeing strong attendance at the company’s theme parks but visitor numbers are slowing down after recent highs, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Jesse Chase-Lubitz.  CEO Bob Iger said that theme park attendance is normalizing following records set late last year. He did express optimism that the company would see healthy growth in terms of bookings. Meanwhile, Chief Financial Officer Hugh Johnston, who also acknowledged a cooling off, said Disney would place greater emphasis on cruises, which he believes could be lucrative for the company.  Finally, travel authorities in the Middle East are preparing to roll out a unified visa that will enable travelers to visit six Gulf countries. A unified visa could help the region attract big events, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder. Saudi Tourism Authority CEO Fahd Hamidaddin said at the Dubai Travel Market the kingdom could land events like Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour if the wider region promotes itself as a unified destination. Other officials at the conference said they would leverage the visa to develop travel packages and extend the length of stays in the region. Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
5/8/20243 minutes, 26 seconds
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U.S. Tourism CEOs Get Paid

Episode Notes Skift has unveiled its list of the U.S.’s highest-paid tourism marketing CEOs. Visit California CEO Caroline Beteta took the top spot, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Beteta collected more than $1.5 million in compensation during the 2022 fiscal year. Former San Francisco Travel Association CEO Joseph D’ Alessandro came in second at just under $965,000. Skift used the 2022 fiscal year because it contains the most recent comprehensive up-to-date records.   Habtemariam notes Skift focused on CEOs from the top 20 cities and major tourism states with large, non-profit destination marketing organizations. Pay packages of CEOs of Brand USA and Destinations International were also included in Skift’s list.  Next, Spirit Airlines CEO Ted Christie blasted the current state of the airline industry, describing it as a “rigged game,” writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Christie said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call that smaller non-legacy carriers like Spirit are struggling to return to profitability. He added that profits in the airline industry are concentrated around two companies. Maharishi notes the “Big 4” carriers — American, Delta, United and Southwest — have recorded record revenues since the pandemic.  Spirit reported a $142 million first-quarter loss.  Finally, Expedia Group has given a more complete explanation of the cause of a tech outage that took down several of its websites on Sunday, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Expedia Group had first blamed maintenance issues for the widespread outage. But Schaal writes that Monday Expedia acknowledged it was a “backend software issue.”  Schaal also confirmed that the affected Expedia sites had a common backend technology stack, and the problem went beyond just the consumer-facing websites and included some internal operations. Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
5/7/20243 minutes, 29 seconds
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Expedia and Booking's First-Quarter Reports

Episode Notes Expedia Group has trimmed its 2024 outlook for growth due to its vacation rental brand Vrbo’s slower-than-expected recovery, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  O’Neill reports Expedia Group’s first-quarter profit margins were mostly in line with last year. But the company acknowledged that the struggles of Vrbo and Hotels.com drove it to lower its full-year guidance. A tech migration that brought together all of Expedia Group’s major brands hasn’t yet paid off.  In addition, incoming CEO Ariane Gorin said changes to Hotels.com’s loyalty program contributed to the brand’s sluggish performance.  Next, one of Booking Holdings’ big goals is selling “connected trips,” where travelers book, for example, a flight, accommodation and attraction. Booking Holdings executives say they’ve seen modest growth in these “connected transactions,” reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  CEO Glenn Fogel said during its first-quarter earnings call that those connected transactions rose over 50% from last year, albeit off a low base Fogel added that the company has seen strong growth in the sales of attractions and rental cars as part of connected transactions.  However, Schaal writes Booking Holdings’ goal of a connected trip won’t become reality in the next few years — if it ever does. More than 90% of travelers use Booking Holdings platforms solely to book a flight, car rental, attraction or accommodation.  Finally, a bipartisan group of U.S. Senators is calling for the restriction of facial recognition at U.S. airports, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  A letter to the Senate leadership said that the biometric technology commonly used at airports poses a significant threat to civil liberties. More than 80 U.S. airports use the technology with plans to expand to more than 400. The senators want to add restrictions on biometric technology to the bill that would authorize funding for the Federal Aviation Administration.  However, the U.S. Travel Association has come out in favor of expanded facial recognition. 
5/3/20243 minutes, 7 seconds
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Airbnb CEO Reveals Its Big Plans

Episode Notes Airbnb is looking to make waves with the launch of nearly a dozen experience-based homes the company is calling “Icons.” CEO Brian Chesky discussed the new product, as well as AI, loyalty programs and other subjects in a wide-ranging interview with Skift Editor-in-Chief Sarah Kopit.  Chesky described Icons as a “gateway” into the experiences category, which Airbnb has been eager to break into. He acknowledged Icons won’t be a classic revenue generator for Airbnb as the houses will either be free or low cost to guests.  In addition, Chesky said Airbnb is working on implementing AI-powered customer service. As for a loyalty program, Chesky said the company plans to start one. He’s adamant that it won’t be a points program, but said he’s open to other formats, including paid membership like Amazon Prime.  Next, Marriott believes post-pandemic domestic travel demand in the U.S. is leveling out despite a global boom, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano said during the first-quarter earnings call that North American travel demand patterns were normalizing. U.S. and Canadian hotels saw their revenue per available room — a key industry metric — rise 1.5% from last year. Chief Financial Officer Leeny Oberg cited Europe, the Caribbean and Latin America as regions Marriott expects to see a year-over-year increase in revenue per available room.  Finally, Saudi Arabia is investing heavily in its tourism infrastructure as part of its strategy to attract more visitors by the end of the decade. But Middle East Reporter Josh Corder writes there’s a growing belief that the kingdom's Vision 2030 is too expensive for travelers.  A Wyndham executive at the recent Future Hospitality Summit in Riyadh said Saudi Arabia could become too exclusive for travelers, stating that three-star hotels democratize travel. Another executive said Saudi officials aren’t focusing on developing mid-market hotels, which he called the core accommodation for any city — instead opting to boost the luxury sector.  Corder reports roughly 320,000 new hotels are expected to open in Saudi Arabia, and roughly 82% of them are in the luxury and upscale segments. 
5/2/20243 minutes, 15 seconds
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Chinese Tourism to the U.S. Makes Slow Progress

Episode Notes The U.S. travel industry will likely see a full recovery in Chinese and Japanese tourism by 2026 — a year earlier than expected, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. The latest report from the U.S. National and Travel Tourism Office projects that international travel to the U.S. will fully recover in 2025. However, the office expects China and Japan to be behind the U.S.’ other source markets. An executive at the organization cited China’s weak economy and flight restrictions as barriers to a full rebound in Chinese visitors.  In addition, soaring airfares have deterred some Japanese travelers from visiting the U.S.  Next, many travelers might be unaware of Volotea, but the Barcelona-based airline is holding its own in Europe’s very competitive low-cost carrier market. Volotea CEO Carlos Muñoz explained how it’s achieved success in an interview with Airlines Editor Gordon Smith. Muñoz said Volotea is the only low-cost airline dedicated to second- and third-tier cities, adding the company has less competition than its rivals. Smith notes that Volotea has almost 450 routes, with more than half of them exclusively served by Volotea.  Muñoz also said the pandemic drove Volotea to remove the Boeing 717 from its fleet, aircraft he described as quite costly.  Finally, Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia takes a look at Indian carrier IndiGo’s plans to become a bigger player in the global airline industry.  Bhutia reports that IndiGo, India’s largest airline, is looking to offer nonstop connectivity from major Indian airports to global destinations. CEO Pieter Elbers said its plans align with the government’s aim to make India a global aviation powerhouse. IndiGo recently placed its first-ever order for widebody aircraft.  However, Elbers didn’t offer any indications about where IndiGo intends to fly next.  Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
5/1/20243 minutes, 34 seconds
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China’s New Plane Wins Could Signal More Competition for Airbus and Boeing

Episode Notes One of China’s largest airlines, China Southern, is buying 100 domestically-built planes – the C919, produced by the state-owned Commercial Aircraft Corporation of China (COMAC). The plane is considered an emerging competitor to Airbus’ A320 and the Boeing 737. And Airlines Editor Gordon Smith examines if other airlines will look to buy these Chinese-built aircraft. Just last week, Air China signed a similar agreement with COMAC for 100 C919 jets. The bigger question is if international carriers will be tempted to buy.  Christian Scherer, the CEO of Airbus’ commercial aircraft division, has said the C919 “isn’t going to rock the boat.” However, one Boeing executive said the planemaker is factoring in competition from the C919 in its long-term forecast.  Next, TUI CEO Sebastian Ebel believes recent protests in the Canary Islands against mass tourism aren’t about the industry itself. He says residents are angry about a shortage of housing, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Jesse Chase-Lubitz.  Protestors are calling on authorities to limit tourist arrivals to ease pressure on the environment, infrastructure and housing supply. Chase-Lubitz notes many Canary Islands residents argue that mass tourism is pricing them out of their homes.  However, Ebel said the unregulated online booking platforms are the reason housing prices have gone up — not tourism as a whole. Ebel blamed individual trips, which include people booking local apartments, for causing more housing to be offered as holiday accommodation.   Finally, columnist Colin Nagy argues the ideals of luxury hospitality have been distorted so much that guests are struggling to understand reality: Great properties don’t get the attention they deserve, and others serve up superficial goods but fail to deliver. He looks at the problems and suggests ways to fix them.  Nagy cites the decline of travel media as one area of concern, noting he believes thoughtful, unbiased commentary on hotels is disappearing. He lists writers and publications worth reading. Nagy also writes that luxury offerings all look the same, and urges readers to support brands carving out unique spaces.   Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
4/30/20243 minutes, 55 seconds
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Royal Caribbean Is Getting Younger

Episode Notes India’s largest airline IndiGo has taken a step in its quest to make a mark globally. IndiGo has ordered a large number of widebody aircraft that will enable it to operate more international flights, reports Contributor Ajay Awtaney.  IndiGo announced the order of 30 A350-900 jets on Thursday. The company has also retained the purchase rights for another 70 aircraft. Awtaney notes IndiGo expects to start incorporating the aircraft into its fleet from 2027 onwards, adding the airline has been conducting internal assessments on the best choice for its growth strategy.  Next, Wyndham is looking to adopt a two-part strategy after fending off Choice Hotels’ hostile takeover attempt, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. Wyndham executives said they want to maintain their hotel group’s strength in the economy sector while adding more premium properties that generate higher franchise fees. Wyndham is investing more of its money to help developers finance deals to create hotels.   Wyndham generated a net income of $16 million during the first quarter, down from $67 million a year ago. Wyndham executives attributed the drop to expenses related to Choice Hotels’ hostile bid.   Finally, Royal Caribbean is getting a boost from a surge in younger travelers, writes Reporter Elizabeth Casolo.  Royal Caribbean CEO Jason Liberty said during the company’s first-quarter earnings call that nearly half of its cruise guests are millennials or younger. Liberty added that demographic increased by 11 percentage points of share compared to 2019, growth he attributed to some of Royal Caribbean’s exclusive destinations.  Royal Caribbean generated $360 million in net income during the first quarter. 
4/26/20242 minutes, 51 seconds
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What Scraping 20,000 Google Hotel Listings Taught Us

Skift Research recently examined more than 20,000 hotel listings on Google to discover which online travel agencies and direct sites compete for bookings. Senior Research Analyst Pranavi Agarwal explains the major findings from Skift Research’s report.   Agarwal notes that Booking.com is the dominant brand across Google’s sponsored results, paying to appear the most often in every region. However, Skift Research found Expedia.com is investing heavily in ad dollars to be the top-of-the list option in Google’s sponsored results, especially in Asia-Pacific and the Middle East and Africa.  In addition, Agarwal reports Google actively prioritizes direct sites over OTAs even though they are far from being the cheapest price.  Next, the Biden administration has unveiled a set of rules that would require airlines to tackle junk fees, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Maharishi reports the Department of Transportation is requiring airlines to disclose junk fees upfront. Airlines and ticketing agencies would have to inform customers of the prices for checked baggage, carry-ons, and changing or canceling a reservation. Airlines would also need to share all information on fees with third-party sites.   The Biden administration has also unveiled rules mandating airlines provide automatic cash refunds in instances of significant flight disruptions and delays in checked baggage. The Department of Transportation said consumers often encounter a cumbersome process to receive a refund from an airline.   Finally, Hyatt is finally permitting members of its loyalty program book at roughly 700 properties vetted by booking site Mr & Mrs Smith, which it bought last year, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  O’Neill reports the new properties add about 20 countries to the list of nations where Hyatt loyalty members can earn and redeem points. In addition, booking a stay at a Mr & Mrs Smith hotel will work on the same points-earning system as a stay at a Hyatt property. 
4/25/20243 minutes, 4 seconds
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Atlanta's Michelin Guide Deal Translates to Tourism Dollars

Episode Notes Atlanta recently reached a three-year, $1 million deal with the Michelin Guide. Discover Atlanta CEO William Pate discussed that topic and more in an interview with Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Pate said having Atlanta’s restaurants appear in the Michelin Guide has boosted the city’s culinary scene. He noted restaurants that have already been selected for the guide have seen a 30% increase in business. Atlanta is the seventh U.S. city to be selected for the Michelin Guide.  Pate also touched on Atlanta’s preparations for the 2026 World Cup, during which the city will host eight matches. He said Atlanta could be a home base for World Cup fans since its airport has nonstop flights to every other host city.  Next, while the airline industry is seeing a surge in travel demand, JetBlue Airways is struggling. The carrier posted a first-quarter loss, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  JetBlue reported a $716 million loss, which Maharishi notes was partly caused by the large fees the company had to pay to end its planned merger with Spirit Airlines. JetBlue’s Chief Financial Officer said the break-up fees cost the carrier $530 million.  In addition, CEO Joanna Geraghty said the increase in capacity to popular destinations like Mexico and Caribbean has put pressure on the company’s revenues.  Finally, Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes examines how Amadeus employees have been using Microsoft’s artificial intelligence-powered chatbot Copilot.  Amadeus is among a group of companies testing Copilot as part of Microsoft’s Early Adopter Program. Microsoft said last September that it would incorporate Copilot into its products. Dawes lists several ways Amadeus staff has used Copilot, such as summarizing long discussions between coworkers and conducting searches of Amadeus’ own data.  Frederick Ros, Amadeus’ head of digital workspace services, said staff at the travel technology company had spoken very highly of Copilot. 
4/24/20243 minutes, 33 seconds
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Climate Change Comes for the Great Barrier Reef

Episode Notes The Great Barrier Reef is currently experiencing its worst-ever mass bleaching event, during which warmer-than-usual water causes corals to expel their algae and turn white. Tour operators have been doing their part in helping preserve the popular tourist landmark, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Jesse Chase-Lubitz.  Chase-Lubitz cites Reef Magic as one tour operator that offers travelers the opportunity to help revive corals. At least six tour operators are a part of the Coral Nurture Initiative, a partnership between researchers and tour operators to conduct research and restore reefs. Corals can survive a bleaching event, but it puts them under stress and makes them more susceptible to dying.  In addition, 26 tour operators have provided almost 3,500 reef health surveys to the government in 2023 and 2024.   Next, former JetBlue Airways CEO Robin Hayes has announced he will join Airbus to be the planemaker’s lead for North America, writes Airlines Editor Gordon Smith and Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.   Hayes, who served as JetBlue’s CEO for nine years, will lead Airbus’ commercial aircraft business in North America. He will also be responsible for coordinating Airbus’ helicopters, space and defense businesses in North America. Hayes will officially take over for Jeff Knittel at Airbus on June 3. Hayes announced this January he would step down as JetBlue CEO.  Finally, Delta Air Lines is planning to give staff 5% raises and increase the minimum starting wage for frontline employees to $19 an hour, writes Airlines Reporter Maharishi.  Maharishi reports the $19 starting wages, which go into effect on June 1, will apply to flight attendants, mechanics and ground handlers, among other employees. Delta CEO Ed Bastian also said the company, which is anticipating a busy summer season, would create a 5% merit pool to be allocated to employees based on individual performance and market standing.  However, the wage increases don’t apply to pilots. Delta’s pilots, who are already unionized, recently approved a contract that gave them 34% raises over the course of four years.  Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
4/23/20243 minutes, 40 seconds
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Amsterdam Says 'No' to New Hotel Developments

Episode Notes Amsterdam is banning hotel developments as part of its strategy to fight mass tourism, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Amsterdam’s municipal government announced the Dutch capital will no longer issue permits for new hotels. The only exception would be if another hotel in the city closes and the number of beds doesn’t increase. Habtemariam notes Amsterdam officials are looking to limit annual overnight stays in the city to 20 million.  The new hotel restriction is Amsterdam’s latest attempt to discourage mass tourism. The city raised its tourist tax 5 percentage points earlier this year.  Next, Hyatt is ramping up its efforts to attract Indian leisure travelers, writes India Reporter Bulbul Dhawan.  Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian said India’s leisure travel market is mainly driven by domestic travelers, and that the company is looking to open 50 more hotels across 28 markets in India. The company currently operates 50 hotels in 17 Indian markets. Hoplamazian added he’s seen more interest in investments in India’s hospitality industry.  Finally, Apple is putting wireless streaming technology in hotel rooms for the first time as part of its partnership with IHG Hotels & Resorts, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  Apple’s Airplay technology is now available in rooms at more than 60 IHG properties throughout North America. Airplay enables guests to stream content from their iPhone or iPad to the LG television in their hotel rooms. An IHG executive said the company is looking to create a “home-away-from-home” experience that many guests crave. 
4/19/20242 minutes, 44 seconds
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Airbnb CEO’s $1 Billion Pay Package

Episode Notes Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky’s 10-year pay package, announced in 2021, could hit $1 billion or more if the company’s share price hits certain price targets, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.   Airbnb said recently the potential value of Cheksy’s eight remaining tranches of unearned shares at the end of 2023 was $1.3 billion. However, Schaal notes it’s far from certain that Chesky will receive the shares. Airbnb awarded Chesky a pay package with 12 million restricted stock units that the company valued at $430 million in November 2020 before Airbnb’s IPO. The potential payout would be based on whether Airbnb’s share price hits the designated thresholds as well as the actual share price on the date an earned award settles.   Next, Europe’s largest tour operator TUI announced in February it would be offering sustainability-linked bonds. Travel Experiences Reporter Jesse Chase-Lubitz delves into whether those bonds are a step toward more sustainable tourism or a form of greenwashing.   TUI’s sustainability-linked bonds are tied to an overall environmental target – if it misses the target, it pays a higher interest rate. The Germany-based tour operator has linked its bonds to its airline division, which is responsible for 70% of the company’s total greenhouse gas emissions.  However, Chase-Lubitz notes some climate finance experts aren’t sold on the new instruments: They don’t have a long track record and there’s no standard for measuring progress. An executive at a global investment bank described sustainability-linked bonds as the Wild West.  Finally, Google is releasing new features that aim to promote greener ways of travel, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes. Dawes reports the new features will appear in its Maps, Search, Flights and Hotels products, adding some of those features are powered by generative artificial intelligence. Google Maps will also include features to help electric vehicle drivers locate charging stations. Dawes also notes Google’s Travel Impact Model is free to other tech companies that want to embed carbon emissions info into their websites or apps.  Presenter/Producer: Jose Marmolejos
4/18/20243 minutes, 43 seconds
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California's 'Ultimate Playground' Campaign

Episode Notes Officials in California recently launched a new tourism marketing campaign. Visit California CEO Caroline Beteta discussed it and more in an interview with Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Beteta said California’s current marketing campaign — titled “Ultimate Playground — aims to showcase a sense of play often associated with the Golden State. She described the campaign as a pivot from Visit California’s long-running campaign “Dream Big,” which she added will still be a part of the organization’s messaging. Beteta also touched on Visit California’s work with celebrities, who frequently appear on the cover of its visitor guides. She cited Jennifer Hudson as one celebrity the organization has partnered with.  Next, travel and tourism investment firm Certares was behind a consortium that acquired FTI Group, Europe’s third-largest tour operator, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Jesse Chase-Lubitz.  The consortium will own all of the share capital while FTI will receive about $130 million to use for its digital transformation and growth. Certartes holds stakes in G Adventures, Tripadvisor and AmaWaterways, among other travel brands. Meanwhile, Munich-based FTI has 120 subsidiaries throughout Europe.  Finally, Iceland is still a popular destination for Chinese travelers while Kazakhstan has become a new favorite, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia. Iceland remains one of the top 10 most coveted outbound destinations among travelers surveyed by China-based marketing company Dragon Trail International. An executive at Dragon Trail credited reality TV and social media for familiarizing Chinese travelers with Iceland. As for Kazakhstan, the easing of visa restrictions — as well as its winter resorts — have made the country more appealing for many Chinese.  However, Thailand has suffered in the eyes of many Chinese travelers due to concerns about safety. Roughly 38% of those surveyed by Dragon Trail considered Thailand “unsafe” to visit.
4/17/20243 minutes, 3 seconds
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How Marriott and IHG Will Grow in Europe

Episode Notes Marriott and IHG have each announced plans to add 100 hotels to their portfolio in Europe, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. Marriott said it would add those roughly 100 properties by the end of 2026 through hotel conversions — deals where the owner of an existing hotel assumes a new brand affiliation — or converting existing buildings into hotels. Marriott already has more than 800 properties in Europe.  As for IHG, the company is planning to team up with Novum Hospitality, one of Germany’s largest family-run hotel groups, to add a little more than 100 hotels to its footprint in Germany.    Next, several major airlines are still taking a cautious approach to operating flights in the Middle East following Iran’s attack against Israel this weekend, writes Airlines Editor Gordon Smith.  While the European Union Aviation Safety Agency said there’s currently no overflight risk for civil aviation, some airlines are extending route cancellations and diversions. Virgin Atlantic said on Monday it’s temporarily avoiding the airspace of Iraq, Iran and Israel, resulting in some flights from the UK to India being adjusted.  Meanwhile, the Lufthansa Group said its flights to Lebanon and Iran will remain suspended until at least Thursday.  Finally, Accor CEO Sébastien Bazin sees enormous room for growth in India. India Reporter Bulbul Dhawan delves into the reasons for Bazin’s optimism. Bazin described India, where the company operates 62 hotels, as an untapped market. He noted that the top five hotel operators in India collectively have less than 1,000 hotels compared to 25,000 in China. In addition, Dhawan cited India’s rapidly growing middle class — a 2024 Skift Megatrend — as another reason for Bazin’s belief that business in India will boom.  Bazin also said he saw a lot of potential in India’s secondary and tertiary cities, which are home to roughly 1 billion people.  Presenter/Producer: Jose Marmolejos
4/16/20243 minutes, 25 seconds
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Tripadvisor Faces Important Questions

Ben Drew recently announced he’s stepping down as Viator president. Executive Editor Dennis Schaal explores what that means for Viator’s parent company Tripadvisor, which is considering a potential sale.   While Schaal writes the impact of Drew’s departure is unclear, one travel industry executive said it would make a potential buyer of Tripadvisor take a deeper look at Viator’s prospects as well as its leadership structure. Tripadvisor has yet to comment about who might succeed Drew.   Tripadvisor has also floated the idea of spinning off Viator in recent years.  Next, the U.S. airline industry is asking the federal government to halt additional flights to China, citing what it believes are Beijing’s “anti-competitive policies,” writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Mahirisi.  Four aviation industry groups signed a letter urging Washington to pause an increase in flights between the U.S. and China. U.S. airlines have argued they’re at a disadvantage because they can’t fly over Russian airspace while other Chinese competitors can. U.S. and Chinese carriers have been able to operate up to 50 weekly flights between the two countries since March 31, roughly 100 fewer than prior to the pandemic.    Finally, as several Western destinations are still waiting for Chinese group tours to return to pre-Covid levels, Canada has found ways to deal with the ongoing absence of Chinese groups. Destination Canada CEO Marsha Walden addressed that topic and more in an interview with Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Walden said China’s ban on group tours has enabled Destination Canada to focus more on attracting fully independent travelers, who she said are likely to spend more. Walden added that Canada has had success coming out of the pandemic attracting visitors from the U.S., Mexico and Europe.  Walden also discussed soccer’s 2026 World Cup, an event Canada will co-host with the U.S. and Mexico. She said she had confidence that the Canadian government could reduce visa wait times before the tournament.  
4/12/20243 minutes, 21 seconds
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Delta Comes Out of the Gate Strong

Episode Notes Delta Air Lines posted a first-quarter profit in what’s normally a sluggish period for airlines — in part due to a rebound in business travel, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Delta President Glen Hauenstein said during the company’s earnings call that corporate travel sales were up 14% from last year. He added the technology, customer services and financial services industries led the increase. In addition, Delta saw record revenues for domestic travel during the first quarter.  The company recorded a $37 million first-quarter profit — in contrast to a $363 million loss during the same period last year.  Next, Brazil has postponed reinstating its visa requirement for visitors from Australia, Canada and the U.S. until 2025, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  President Luiz Inácio Lula da Silva signed a decree this week that included the postponement. This is the second time Brazilian authorities have postponed the visa requirement, which was originally set to be implemented in January. Citizens of the three countries have been allowed to visit Brazil without a visa since 2019.  Finally, the travel industry has seen a wave of corporate travel agency mergers and acquisitions recently. Contributor Justin Bachman notes two key factors contributing to the trend.  Bachman reports that travel suppliers — especially airlines — are looking to improve their distribution channels and obtain more capital for investments in tech. Amex GBT CEO Paul Abbott said suppliers want their distribution channels to deliver a modern retailing experience.  Meanwhile, Mike McCormick, former head of the Global Business Travel Association, said the largest corporate travel agencies firms have been forced to invest heavily in technology due to pressure from airlines. Airlines are moving more of their fares from the traditional global distribution system model to a direct New Distribution Capability platform. 
4/11/20242 minutes, 59 seconds
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The Big Hotel CEOs Saw $50+ Million Packages in 2023

Episode Notes Several major hotel CEOs took home more money in 2023 than they did the previous year. Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill provides information about their pay packages.  Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta was the highest paid hotel executive in 2023, making $56.8 million. He was awarded about $8.3 million in total compensation the previous year. O’Neill cites stock-market gains as a reason why Nassetta’s pay package was substantially higher. Hilton’s stock price jumped 42% last year, and Nassetta received $16.3 million in stock awards.  Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian was the second-highest paid hotel CEO in 2023, making close to $56.4 million. Next, Viator President Ben Drew has announced he’s leaving the company, reports Senior Hospitality Editor O’Neill.   Drew said he would leave Viator — Tripadvisor’s travel experiences brand — on April 12 for “a new opportunity in a new industry.” Drew, who had previously worked at Expedia and Deloitte, has served as Viator president since 2020. Viator generated about $4 billion in gross bookings last year, a figure Drew said was only about 1% of the experiences sold online and off.  Finally, a whistleblower at Boeing claims the planemaker took shortcuts to make both the 787 and 777, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Boeing engineer Sam Salehpour said the company has dismissed repeated concerns about the quality control of the 787 Dreamliner and 777. Those models are among the most used widebodies in the aviation industry. Federal authorities are currently investigating Salehpour’s claims, which were made public on Tuesday. He had filed a complaint with the Federal Aviation Administration in late January.  Boeing has disputed some of the claims and said it has worked to improve the production and quality control processes of the 787. 
4/10/20243 minutes, 3 seconds
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Michelin Unveils New Hotel Rating System

Episode Notes Michelin is rolling out a new hotel rating system worldwide this year. The company has already awarded 24 French hotels its highest rating, “Three Keys,” writes Travel Experiences Reporter Jesse Chase-Lubitz.  Michelin said it’s looking to evaluate hotels beyond basic amenities, with an emphasis on their restaurants, design and service. One key signifies a “special” hotel, two keys an “exceptional” hotel, while three keys represents “extraordinary” establishments. Michelin has bestowed the new honors on 189 French hotels, and it plans to reveal its picks for top U.S. luxury hotels later this month.  Next, Spirit Airlines has announced two major changes to boost its balance sheet, writes Airlines Editor Gordon Smith. Spirit has reached a deal with Airbus to delay deliveries of some new jets by five years. The carrier said the decision is expected to improve its liquidity position by roughly $340 million over the next two years. Spirit is also planning to furlough about 260 pilots from September 1, which the company said is a result of the aircraft deferrals and grounding some jets due to engine issues.   Finally, Airbnb and its rivals saw short-term rental stays in Europe increase 14% in 2023 from the previous year, writes Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman.  Airbnb, Expedia, Tripadvisor and Booking sold about 678 million nights in short-term rentals on the continent last year. Those platforms also registered a roughly 23% year-over-year increase in short-term rental nights sold in last year’s fourth quarter. Every country in Europe except Liechtenstein registered growth. 
4/9/20242 minutes, 48 seconds
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Solar Eclipse's Impact on Airlines

Episode Notes The total eclipse that will pass diagonally across the U.S. next week is expected to boost tourism in dozens of cities. So how will it impact air travel? Reporters Meghna Maharishi and Elizabeth Casolo have answers.  The Federal Aviation Administration has issued warnings about traffic possibly being higher at airports in the eclipse’s path. However, two airports run by the Niagara Frontier Transportation Authority in New York State aren’t projecting more traffic than usual. Meanwhile, one expert said it’s safe to fly in the middle of a solar eclipse, adding it’s practically no different from flying at night.   United Airlines and Southwest Airlines, among other carriers, have offered flights that provide travelers a chance to see the eclipse.  Next, travel technology company Amadeus announced it has agreed to an expanded partnership with Expedia, writes Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Schaal reports Expedia will further incorporate the New Distribution Capability into its operations. The NDC enables online travel agencies to allow travelers to choose their plane seats in advance for many airlines, along with a range of offerings. While Amadeus said the collaboration would enable Expedia to further personalize services, Expedia declined to state which services it might add.  Finally, Alaska Airlines said it’s received $160 million from Boeing as initial compensation for lost profits after the blowout aboard Flight 1282, writes Airlines Reporter Maharishi.  Maharishi notes the $160 million is the initial payment Alaska expects to receive for the blowout in January. However, the terms of future payouts from Boeing haven’t been revealed yet. Alaska Chief Financial Officer Shane Tackett said the company expects to be fully compensated for any losses in the first quarter. 
4/5/20242 minutes, 51 seconds
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Brand USA Names New CEO

Episode Notes Brand USA will have a new president and CEO soon. NYC Tourism + Conventions CEO Fred Dixon will lead the U.S.’ destination marketing organization starting July 15, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Dixon, a veteran of the travel industry, will be tasked with helping the U.S. tourism industry make a full recovery from the pandemic. Long visitor visa wait times and the U.S.’ outdated air infrastructure have posed challenges for Brand USA. Dixon comes to Brand USA after having helped NYC secure $30 million in funds to market itself after the pandemic.  Next, Hilton has acquired a majority controlling interest in Sydell Group, the owner of NoMad Hotels, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Sydell will design, brand and manage the NoMad brand while Hilton will take the lead in working to get more NoMad hotels created. Hilton expects to build up to 100 NoMad hotels. NoMad, which currently has properties in Las Vegas and London in its portfolio, will join Hilton’s rewards program.  Hilton’s acquisition of NoMad Hotels comes after it announced last month it would buy Graduate Hotels for $210 million.   Finally, Air India has completely transformed its loyalty program, writes Contributor Ajay Awtaney.  Awtaney lists six major changes the company has made to its loyalty program. Air India will now award points to customers based on the fare paid instead of the distance traveled. In addition, Air India will keep any unredeemed points alive provided the loyalty program member flies with the company every two years. Under the previous system, unredeemed points expired three years after they were earned.  Air India has also simplified the loyalty program’s status tiers. Awtaney notes Air India’s loyalty program is considered the toughest in India to achieve status. 
4/4/20242 minutes, 54 seconds
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Concur Co-Founder Acquires Direct Travel

Steve Singh, co-founder of travel expense management company Concur, and four firms have acquired corporate travel agency Direct Travel, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  Singh said the group purchased Direct Travel, one of the world’s largest corporate travel agencies, from private venture capital firm Antares Capital and other debt providers. He said they’re planning to release a platform for Direct Travel customers that combines the four firms’ technologies and services. The platform is expected to include an artificial intelligence-powered trip planner and a way to provide assistance to travelers facing disruptions.   Next, Trivago has brought back members of its leadership team from the time of its IPO in December 2016, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Trivago recently named Robin Harries its chief financial officer, a move the company said completed its leadership changes. Schaal notes that four executives who left Trivago in 2020 have returned to the Germany-based hotel metasearch engine. The company launched an AI-driven ad campaign in December.  Finally, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts has announced its 25th brand, WaterWalk Extended Stay by Wyndham, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. O’Neill reports WaterWalk stands out from other hotel brands in that it permits owners to sell a mix of rooms. About 60% of its rooms are marketed as extended-stay hotel rooms and 40% are marketed as short-term rentals. O’Neill adds WalterWalk is part of Wyndham’s strategy to expand in the extended-stay sector. 
4/3/20242 minutes, 55 seconds
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Travel Metasearch's Big Issues

Episode Notes Travel metasearch sites, which enable consumers to compare hotel or flight prices from multiple vendors simultaneously, had been thriving since the early days of online travel. But the sector is experiencing a rough patch now, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Schaal writes some of the major travel metasearch players have had financial issues in recent years, noting Google has eaten into Tripadvisor’s metasearch market share. Tripadvisor’s hotel metasearch revenue grew only 7% in 2023. Meanwhile, Trivago recorded a roughly $176 million loss last year.  Wells Fargo Managing Director Brian Fitzgerald said factors other than increased competition from Google have contributed to the struggles of travel metasearch companies. Hotels in particular have been able to attract more direct traffic through their loyalty programs. Next, United Airlines is offering pilots unpaid time off in May due to delivery delays with Boeing jets, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  The carrier said its projected 2024 block hours — the industry’s standard measure for aircraft use — have been cut. So United pilots now have the option of taking unpaid time off to help reduce excess staffing. Boeing delivery delays have also impacted hiring at United, with the airline announcing it would halt pilot hiring in May and June.  Finally, baseball star Shohei Ohtani could boost tourism to the U.S. this season after joining the Los Angeles Dodgers — that is, if he isn’t suspended for being involved in an ongoing gambling scandal, writes Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden.  Japanese travel agency JTB is looking to take advantage of the huge interest in Japan in seeing Ohtani play for the Dodgers. JTB, which agreed to an international partnership with Major League Baseball earlier this year, is offering travel packages to Ohtani’s regular season games in the U.S. JTB Branding and PR Manager Kaori Mori said the company saw enormous demand in the travel packages it offered for the season-opening series in South Korea between the Dodgers and San Diego Padres. Ohtani has been mired in controversy recently, as his longtime interpreter has been accused of stealing millions of dollars from Ohtani to cover a gambling debt. But Mori said she believes more Japanese fans want to travel to the U.S. to watch Ohtani, who has denied betting on baseball.  Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
4/2/20243 minutes, 45 seconds
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Airbnb Makes Changes to Its Cancellation Party

Episode Notes Airbnb will introduce a new cancellation policy in June that will cover weather-related disruptions, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.   Airbnb’s “Major Disruptive Events Policy” would enable guests to cancel reservations and receive refunds when a natural disaster causes government travel restrictions or mass outages of utilities, such as electricity or water. Airbnb’s new policy would allow guests to cancel reservations mid-trip during a covered event.  However, the short-term rental giant explicitly said its new policy would not cover Covid-19 or flu outbreaks.  Next, Marriott Vacations Worldwide has launched its first collection of timeshares in cities, a sign of the increasing demand for timeshares outside of resort locations, writes Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  The Marriott Vacation Clubs City Collection has properties in seven U.S. cities, including Boston, New York and San Francisco. While city timeshares will still be the minority of the group’s portfolio, executives say they’ve seen more interest in urban timeshares. O’Neill reports Waikiki and Charleston are among the locations where Marriott Vacations Worldwide will open its next city clubs.  Finally, Las Vegas will start welcoming low-cost, long-haul flights from London later this year, writes Airlines Editor Gordon Smith.  The route, which will be operated by Norse Atlantic Airways, is due to start on September 12. As flights from Las Vegas to London run between 10 and 11 hours, Norse will be the only low-cost carrier flying such a long route from the Nevada city. Meanwhile, Smith notes that economy passengers on the Las Vegas-London flights will be paying for services for checked bags and inflight meals. 
3/29/20242 minutes, 45 seconds
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Google Unveils New AI-Powered Travel Tools

Episode Notes Google is launching several new artificial intelligence-powered tools to help travelers plan trips, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  The new tools will allow Google Search to create itineraries based on prompts from users. Dawes reports users can search for a trip itinerary, and they’ll see flight and hotel options as well as suggestions for attractions and dining. Google said the AI tools use information appearing online and reviews that users post about businesses.   Google is also enhancing its Maps app to provide users more details about certain destinations in the U.S. and Canada.  Next, the U.S. State Department will receive $50 million to help it cut visa wait times and passport backlogs, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  President Joe Biden recently signed a bill into law that would provide the department more resources to tackle lengthy visa wait times, one of the travel industry’s most pressing issues. The average wait time for a first-time visitor visa for the U.S.’ top inbound markets is roughly 400 days, according to the U.S. Travel Association.   More than 300 travel industry professionals recently lobbied federal lawmakers to take action on the issue of excessive visa wait times.  Finally, Australia saw a record number of visitors from India last year. Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia turned to Nishant Kashikar, Tourism Australia’s country manager for India, to find out about Australia's recent success in attracting Indian tourists.   Australia welcomed roughly 402,000 arrivals from India from February 2023 to January 2024. India is now Tourism Australia’s fifth largest inbound market. Kashikar partly attributed that record number to an increase in weekly flights from India to Australia and a simplified visa application process for Indian travelers.    Kashikar added that Australia has seen a significant surge in business travel from India. 
3/28/20243 minutes, 1 second
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How Hilton Got So Big

Episode Notes Hilton has built the largest pipeline of hotels in its history, an achievement CEO Chris Nassetta attributed to the power of the group’s brands. Nassetta touched on Hilton’s pipeline growth and more in an interview with Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Hilton has also seen membership growth in its loyalty program surpass that of its rivals in the last five years. Nassetta cited partnerships Hilton has entered into and improvements in the program’s app as reasons for the membership boom. He also addressed Hilton’s work to reduce carbon emissions in its franchised hotels.  Next, Breeze Airways announced it’s launching a co-branded credit card and re-branded loyalty program, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Chief Commercial Officer Lukas Johnson said Breeze was eager to launch the co-branded credit card as part of its effort to revamp its loyalty program. The credit card, in partnership with Barclays, would allow customers to earn 10 times the points for checked baggage and premium seating, among other services. Johnson said he was confident Breeze could attract enough sign-ups for the card.  Meanwhile, Breeze’s loyalty program will be known as “Breezy Rewards” instead of “BreezePoints.” Finally, Hawaiian officials recently launched a marketing campaign to reassure travelers that all of Maui is ready for visitors following last August’s wildfires, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  The campaign is called Mākaukau Maui, which means “Maui is Ready,” and it’s part of efforts to attract tourists amid the island’s slow recovery. Visitor spending in Maui fell 19% in January 2024 from the previous year. Maui lost an estimated $120 million in revenue. In addition, Maui is facing fierce competition from other sun-and-sea destinations looking to lure American tourists.  Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
3/27/20243 minutes, 8 seconds
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The New Business Travel Mega Merger

Episode Notes Amex GBT announced plans on Monday to acquire CWT for $570 million, a deal that would combine two of the world’s largest corporate travel agencies. Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes explains why Amex GBT executives are pushing for the megadeal.  Amex GBT CEO Paul Abbott said acquisitions are a key part of its growth strategy, noting the combined company would generate revenue of at least $3 billion. Abbott added acquiring CWT would strengthen several areas of Amex GBT, citing CWT’s footprint in industries such as the media, entertainment and sports.  In addition, Amex GBT also said the acquisition would help produce savings of $155 million within three years.  Next, Boeing’s senior leadership team is undergoing a major overhaul. CEO Dave Calhoun announced he’s leaving the role at the end of the year, writes Airlines Editor Gordon Smith and Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  In addition to Calhoun stepping down, Commercial Airplanes Division CEO Stan Deal is retiring while board chair Larry Kellner will not run for re-election. Those senior personnel changes come as Boeing has experienced a rough start to 2024, including a blowout aboard an Alaska Airlines flight in January. Smith and Maharishi note that major airline CEOs and the U.S. government have been increasingly critical of Boeing in recent weeks.  Finally, Booking.com is ending a program that highlighted properties the company believed were standouts in sustainability, writes Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.   Dutch regulators said that Amsterdam-based Booking.com’s “Travel Sustainable” program, which awarded certain properties green leaves as badges, was possibly misleading. Dutch officials said properties might be conducting sustainable practices that weren’t recognized. Booking.com reported last year that more than 100,000 properties on its site had received a Travel Sustainable badge.  Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
3/26/20243 minutes, 22 seconds
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Hilton Investor Day's Main Takeaways

Episode Notes Hilton recently held a private presentation for investment analysts at its U.S. headquarters. Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill lists the three biggest takeaways from the presentation’s 223 slides.  First, Hilton claims the world’s largest hotel pipeline. The company said it controls about 20% of the rooms under construction worldwide. Hilton added its loyalty members are responsible for 64% of its total room nights booked, which it claims is an industry high. The company said it’s aiming to get that number up to 75%. In addition, Hilton said it’s increasing its investment in technology to help sell more ancillary services to guests. Only 13% of its bookings include these upsells.  Next, United Airlines will allow friends and family to create joint accounts for pooling frequent flier miles through its loyalty program, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Any adult United MileagePlus user can be “pool leader” and create a joint account on United’s website. United MileagePlus Chief Operating Officer Luc Bondar said the move is intended to make it easier for friends and family to use miles when booking flights. Bondar added United’s decision was driven by a surge in family and friends travel since the pandemic.  Maharishi reports United is the first of the Big Four U.S. airlines to allow pooling miles with no extra fees.  Finally, China’s economy is going through a rough patch now, but that probably won’t stop large numbers of Chinese from traveling overseas, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Several executives speaking at the recent ITB Berlin travel show said those in China with the means to travel internationally will do so. One CEO stated about 100 million Chinese travelers have enough money for a long distance trip. In addition, Philip Dickinson, an executive at Visit Qatar, said the Gulf State has seen a surge in Chinese tourists since Beijing lifted its group travel ban on Qatar last August.  However, one obstacle for Chinese tourism to the West has been flight availability. Flight schedules from China to Germany, the U.S. and the U.K., among other destinations, haven’t recovered to pre-Covid levels. 
3/22/20243 minutes, 20 seconds
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India Could See a Lifestyle Hotel Boom

Episode Notes Ennismore co-CEO and founder Sharan Pasricha believes India is a sleeping giant in the lifestyle hotel sector, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder.   Pasricha told Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill at the Skift India Summit on Wednesday that the new wave of lifestyle hotels could be in India. Ennismore currently doesn’t have any hotels in India in its portfolio. But Pasricha said that could change as soon as this year, citing India’s growing middle class and infrastructure improvements as reasons why lifestyle hotels could thrive in the country. Next, Eric Garcetti, U.S. Ambassador to India, is eager to see U.S. travel demand for India increase, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes. Garcetti told Skift CEO and founder Rafat Ali at the Skift India Summit that Americans don’t know India as well as Indians know the U.S. Garcetti said a lot of work needs to be done to promote India as a tourism destination. But he noted India’s tourism infrastructure has gotten a boost from the growth of the country’s aviation industry.  Garcetti also addressed the lengthy waits many Indian travelers have endured to obtain U.S. visitor visas. Although the U.S. government has been able to reduce average wait times, he said there’s work to do as travel demand to the U.S. increases.  We end today with a look at Keshav Suri, a hotel owner looking to increase support for India’s LGBTQ+ community.  Suri, the executive director of the LaLiT Suri Hospitality Group, told Senior Hospitality Editor O’Neill at the Skift India Summit that his company has a loyal customer base among the LGBTQ+ community. He added that being supportive of the community is a competitive advantage. Suri, whose company operates roughly a dozen hotels across India, added that he would like to see more research done on the LGBTQ+ market.
3/21/20242 minutes, 59 seconds
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India’s Booming Travel Market

Air India has major goals. CEO Campbell Wilson is looking to turn the company into a “top-tier and world-class airline” after decades of underinvestment by Indian officials, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.   Wilson discussed Air India’s strategy during a discussion with Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia at the Skift India Summit today. The company has undergone a major overhaul in recent months that includes new business class cabins and a new logo. In addition to going on a major hiring spree, Air India has also recently placed an order for 470 aircraft — one of the largest orders in commercial aviation.  Next, the CEOs of India’s two largest online travel agencies said they’re not at war with each other. But they acknowledged they’re in a race to take advantage of India’s huge potential for growth, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder.  MakeMyTrip CEO Rajesh Magow said at the Skift India Summit that there’s room for multiple competitors in the sector considering the huge size and potential of India’s travel industry. While Magow added competition is healthy, Yatra Online CEO Dhruv Shringi said during the discussion with Executive Editor Dennis Schaal he doesn’t worry about what Yatra’s rivals are doing.  Both executives also said that companies operating in India need to focus on promoting domestic travel and finding ways to reach the country’s growing middle class.    Finally, Oberoi Group has unveiled plans to develop an ultra-luxury hotel brand, writes Middle East Reporter Corder.  Oberoi Group CEO and Managing Director Vikram Oberoi told Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill that the new brand is part of the company’s push to double its overall room count by 2030. Oberoi also discussed the company’s “Oberoi Nature” project, which is its plan to develop hotels close to nature. He said Oberoi Group wants to add 50 new hotels to its portfolio by 2030. 
3/20/20242 minutes, 58 seconds
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India’s Weddings Are Big Business for Travel Brands

Episode Notes Indian weddings are a billion dollar business — and not just in India. Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia delves into the increasingly lucrative phenomenon.  Bhutia writes Indian weddings aren’t just celebrations — they’re massive economic engines. The roughly 3.5 million couples that got married in India between November 23 and December 15 last year spent about $57 billion on wedding-related expenses. Meanwhile, the more than 900 weddings Marriott hosted in India last year generated close to 10% of its revenue in the country.  Bhutia cites Thailand and the United Arab Emirates as destinations eager to attract wealthy Indians looking to get married. A Thai tourism official said the country hosts between 400 and 500 Indian weddings annually.  Next, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby has sought to reassure travelers after a spate of recent mishaps aboard United flights, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Kirby sent a memo to customers on Monday stating that United is working to improve safety. United has had five incidents during the past month, including one where a Boeing jet landed in Medford, Oregon with an external panel missing. Kirby said United is reviewing the details of each and plans to use information from those reviews to develop its safety procedures.  Finally, Egypt’s tourism chief said the ongoing Israel-Hamas war has hurt the country’s growth, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Minister of Tourism and Antiquities Ahmed Issa said tourism grew 6% in the first two months of 2024 compared to last year. The government was expecting a 20% increase. Issa added Egypt has seen a decrease in the number of American tourists, with two tour operator executives stating bookings from the U.S. have yet to make a full recovery.    Presenter/Producer: Jose Marmolejos
3/19/20243 minutes, 11 seconds
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State Tourism Boards Relying More on Instagram and YouTube

Episode Notes The growing push to ban TikTok in the U.S. has raised questions about how travel brands would market themselves without the popular app. Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam writes several state tourism offices have already directed more resources toward Instagram and YouTube.  Habtemariam notes Visit Utah has increased its investment in Instagram Reels after Utah’s governor banned state government agencies from using TikTok in 2022. Katlyn Svendsen, an executive at Travel South Dakota, said the state took a similar approach after South Dakota enacted its own state government ban on TikTok that year. Svendsen said the agency has had success reaching audiences on platforms such as Instagram Reels and YouTube Shorts.  Next, business travel could make a full recovery from the pandemic in 2024, writes contributor Justin Bachman.  Business travel is expected to hit 95% of 2019 levels this year, according to the U.S. Travel Association. However, some major corporations could send more staff on the road if the U.S. economy achieves a so-called “soft landing,” which would see inflation slowing and interest rates easing. Executives from both Alaska Airlines and Delta Air Lines said at a recent investor conference they’re seeing business traffic increase.  Finally, Middle East Reporter Josh Corder profiles the new Ritz-Carlton Reserve in Saudi Arabia, which is set to be the Middle East’s most expensive hotel.  A night at the new Ritz-Carlton Reserve, which opens for bookings on May 26, will set guests back roughly $3,400. The property — known as Nujuma — will be home to 63 villas. Nujuma is slated to include a spa, swimming pools, and a retail area, among other features.  Nujuma is located in a coastal tourism project called The Red Sea, which will eventually house 50 hotels. 
3/15/20242 minutes, 58 seconds
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Visa-Free Travel Becomes More Common

Episode Notes Skift on Wednesday unveiled its newest venture: Executive Search. The aim: Address the growing demand for skilled and visionary leaders within the travel sector. The people we place will define the future of travel.  Skift has helped thousands of travel industry leaders establish connections at our events throughout the years, often indirectly acting as a recruitment firm. The Executive Search unit is the next step in assisting companies looking not only to acquire talent but better understand prospective candidates.  We turn next to the growing push to ban TikTok in the U.S. Although it’s uncertain the U.S. government will enact such a measure, Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam breaks down how a TikTok ban would impact the U.S. travel industry. U.S. lawmakers have expressed concerns over China's government having access to personal data of American citizens, with TikTok being owned by a Chinese company. Habtemariam notes a ban on TikTok would disrupt the global travel industry as many travel brands have offices in the U.S. Travel brands would also lose the ability to advertise on TikTok, a popular platform for promoting destinations and products.  Finally, visa requirements are easing for travelers worldwide, according to a recently published report by UN Tourism, reports Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden.  UN Tourism’s Tourism Visa Openness Report revealed 47% of people globally last year needed a traditional visa. A traditional visa is a standard paper visa placed in a passport after submitting paperwork and/or conducting an in-person interview. That figure is a 12-percentage point drop from 2018. However, 84% of the world’s population still needs a traditional visa to travel to North America.  Meanwhile, the percentage of travelers able to obtain an e-visa has increased significantly in recent years. About 18% of the world’s population can apply for e-visas, up from 7% in 2018. 
3/14/20243 minutes, 3 seconds
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The Solar Eclipse Tourists Will Gather in April

Episode Notes A total solar eclipse will pass diagonally across the U.S. on April 8, a development that’s poised to spark a tourism surge. So are destinations prepared to take advantage of the visitor boom? Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam examines the issue.  The eclipse will cross the country from the south to the east, touching roughly a dozen states. Habtemariam cites Niagara Falls, New York as one destination expecting to see large crowds for the eclipse. A local tourism executive said the region is expecting 1 million visitors. In addition, domestic flight bookings for cities where viewers can see the full eclipse have increased fourfold from April 1 to 7 last year.  However, Habtemariam notes communities will have set aside massive resources to serve the large number of projected visitors. One Texas country has already declared a state of emergency ahead of the eclipse due to concerns about the impact on local infrastructure.  Next, airlines went on a hiring spree after the pandemic to address the labor shortage that had plagued the industry. However, that hiring surge could be ending, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi. Southwest Airlines CEO Bob Jordan said there even could be job cuts. He cited Boeing delivery delays and the demand for airline jobs returning to pre-Covid levels as reasons hiring has plateaued.  Maharishi notes Southwest isn’t the only airline to slow pilot hiring. United Airlines recently told staff it’s planning to pause pilot hiring this spring due to delivery issues with the Max 10. Meanwhile, Delta Air Lines is slowing pilot hiring in 2024 with job demand in the industry starting to level off.  Finally, Middle East Reporter Josh Corder profiles the Aman Dubai, which could be the most expensive hotel in the United Arab Emirates.  Aman Resorts CEO Vlad Doronin made the claim at the hotel’s unveiling this week. Corder notes Aman Dubai, which is scheduled to open in 2027, will have a 350-meter private beach and its own members-only club, among other features. While it’s uncertain how many rooms the property will have, Doronin said that Aman’s city hotels don’t exceed 90 rooms.  Producer/Presenter: Jose Marmolejos
3/13/20243 minutes, 36 seconds
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Airbnb Moves to Ban Indoor Security Cameras

Airbnb announced on Monday it’s banning the use of all indoor security cameras, writes Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman.  The company said the change comes after it received feedback from guests, hosts and advocacy groups. Indoor cameras had been permitted in common areas of homes under certain conditions, but the cameras had to be disclosed to guests and not be in private spaces. Hosts not complying with the new policy by April 30 could see their listings or accounts removed. Next, Saudi Arabian officials believe its latest tourism campaign featuring soccer icon Lionel Messi can help it overcome negative perceptions, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Fahd Hamidaddin, CEO of the Saudi Tourism Authority, addressed the kingdom’s efforts to increase visitor numbers in an interview with Skift. Saudi Arabia recently launched a campaign titled “Go Beyond What You Think” in which Messi attempts to break down stereotypes about the country. Hamidaddin said thus far the campaign has performed better than the agency’s previous marketing efforts.  Hamidaddin added Saudi Arabia is looking to attract 150 million visitors by 2030, up from its previous target of 100 million.  Finally, columnist Colin Nagy addresses the decline in American hospitality that he argues is making travel less pleasant for visitors to the U.S. .  Nagy writes that international travelers often encounter sloppiness, rudeness and ineptitude. He cited Dubai Airports CEO Paul Griffiths’ four-and-a-half hour delay at immigration at JFK Airport last year as an example of worsening hospitality in the U.S. Nagy added if the service at airports, hotels and restaurants continues to decline, international travelers would be less willing to come to the U.S.
3/12/20242 minutes, 54 seconds
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TikTok Is Coming for Travel

Episode Notes Millions of travelers look to TikTok for help in planning their next trip. So we discussed the company’s influence in the travel industry, among other topics, with Stuart Flint, head of TikTok’s global business solutions for Europe and Israel. Flint told Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam that several major travel brands are working with TikTok, including Booking.com. Although TikTok doesn’t currently allow travelers to book directly on the platform, Flint acknowledged that could change as commerce is a huge part of its growth. He also addressed TikTok’s role in the growing trend of “travel dupes,” which are possibly cheaper and less crowded alternatives to popular destinations.  Next, United Airlines is putting a pause on pilot hiring in the spring due to aircraft delivery delays from Boeing, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  New-hire classes won’t take place in May and June while some may resume in July, according to a staff memo. The memo cited new aircraft certification and manufacturing delays at Boeing as the reason why the carrier is slowing the pace of pilot hires. United CEO Scott Kirby had expressed his frustrations with Max 10 delivery delays earlier this year.  United, one of Boeing’s biggest customers, had expected to receive an order of 80 Max 10s in 2024. Maharishi notes United isn’t expecting that order to be fulfilled this year due to the certification delays.  Finally, The European Union’s Digital Markets Act, which is designed to ensure fair competition for online platforms, went to effect on Thursday. However, the EU Travel Tech association argues that Google isn’t complying with the new law, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  The group said in a letter to the European Commission that Google’s own products for hotels, flights and travel services appeared more prominently than those for its competitors. EU Travel Tech added that Google’s efforts to change how it displays search results haven’t satisfied the new law’s requirements. The association has also demanded Google propose new ways to show search results.  A Google spokesperson said, in addition to changing search result displays, it’s been seeking feedback from consumers as well as hotels and airlines. 
3/8/20242 minutes, 57 seconds
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Tripadvisor's Possible Sale

Episode Notes Speculation has been rife about what company could be behind the possible sale of Tripadvisor since the news first broke last month that it was in play. Executive Editor Dennis Schaal writes about recent reporting that one possible buyer is private equity firm Apollo Global Management.  Apollo has expressed interest in a bid , according to Bloomberg. Schaal notes that Apollo’s exploration of any purchase is believed to be in an early phase.  Tripadvisor has formed an independent committee to vet any offers, which analysts and travel industry insiders believe will come from private equity firms. Tours and activities leader Viator is the fastest-growing in Tripadvisor’s portfolio of brands. In speaking to travel industry insiders, most agreed that buying Tripadvisor and then selling Viator made the most sense. Next, the alleged rape of a Brazilian tourist in India has raised questions about whether the country is safe for female tourists, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia. Bhutia writes the incident has triggered criticism of India across social media, with one travel executive stating the widespread coverage would hurt the country’s marketing efforts. The CEO of a company organizing backpacking trips in India for a largely female clientele said it would take years to undo the damage.  However, Chirag Gupta, CEO of online platform Deyor, said he hasn’t received any cancellations despite concerns from international travelers.  Finally, one travel executive believes artificial intelligence could replace generic top 10 lists and travel guides, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Barry Rogers, the head of Dublin City Tourism Unit, said ChatGPT could enhance tourism marketing. Speaking during a panel discussion at the ITB Berlin travel trade show, Rogers added that AI will be able to give travelers personalized itineraries. The Dublin City Council and OpenAI announced a partnership to develop AI-powered itineraries. 
3/7/20242 minutes, 44 seconds
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American Airlines Focuses on Smaller Cities and Loyalty Programs

American Airlines is changing its strategy. The company is turning to smaller U.S. cities and its loyalty program to boost revenue, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  American Chief Commercial Officer Vasu Raja cited the Sun Belt region as a location the carrier is focusing on. The region has accounted for 75% of U.S. population growth in the past decade, according to U.S. Census data. American’s focus on smaller U.S. cities lies in contrast to rivals like Delta and United, which have chosen to emphasize capacity across long-haul international routes.  American is also looking to increase membership in its frequent-flier program. Roughly 65% of the company’s revenue came from members of its AAdvantage program.  Next, Airbnb is poised to unveil a new series of non-core services as part of its quest to become a “super brand for travel,” reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Airbnb is looking to expand co-hosting, a service some homeowners use to manage their listings if they don’t want to do it themselves or don’t live locally. Chief Financial Officer Ellie Mertz also said Airbnb is studying how to use artificial intelligence to solve both guest and host issues. Schaal notes Airbnb hosts have complained at times about the quality of support coming from the company.  Airbnb is planning to resurrect its dormant experiences product. However, Mertz didn’t provide any details about what it might include.  Finally, Turkish Airlines has recently launched service to Australia, a development that could concern Qantas, writes Airlines Editor Gordon Smith. Smith notes that Turkish Airlines’ three times a week service via Singapore isn’t a major threat to Qantas in itself. But he writes the Singapore aspect of the new Turkish Airlines route treads on Qantas’ toes. It allows the airlines to drop off and pick up passengers in Singapore when flying between Istanbul and Australia.  The Australian government approved an increase in the number of weekly services to and from Turkey last December.  
3/6/20243 minutes, 12 seconds
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Airbnb Approaches 1.5 Million Verified Listings

Episode Notes Airbnb said on Monday it’s approaching 1.5 million verified listings, a key part of its strategy to build trust among users, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. The company added that badges will be pinned to listings that have completed the verification process. Airbnb has long struggled to deal with fake listings and scammers, Airbnb’s verification push is designed to combat those issues. The short-term rental giant said it removed 59,000 fake listings last year.  Airbnb first pledged to verify all of its listings in November 2019. The company recently said it had 7.7 million active listings at the end of last year.  Next, JetBlue Airways announced that it has reached an agreement with Spirit Airlines to end their proposed merger, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  A federal judge had blocked the merger in January on the grounds that the combined airline would raise fares and hurt consumers. Both airlines said they believed it was unlikely that all the conditions for the merger would be approved by July 24. JetBlue CEO Joanna Geraghty said the company would focus on its strategy to return to profitability while Spirit CEO Ted Christie said he believed it could survive as an independent airline.  Some Wall Street analysts have speculated that Spirit could either face a potential bankruptcy or have to find another buyer if it couldn’t merge with JetBlue.  Finally, American Airlines has announced it’s ordering 260 new jets from three different manufacturers. Airlines Editor Gordon Smith delves into what the company is getting. American has confirmed it ordered 85 Boeing 737 Max 10 jets. It’s the company’s first order of the Max 10, which has yet to be certified to fly commercially. American ordered the exact same number of Airbus A321neos. In addition, the carrier placed an order for 90 Embraer E175s, which will be equipped with high-speed satellite Wi-Fi. 
3/5/20242 minutes, 45 seconds
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Hilton, Travel and Leisure, and Marriott Timeshare Results

Timeshare operator rivals Hilton Grand Vacations, Marriott Vacations Worldwide and Travel and Leisure Company have all reported financial results recently. Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill delves into those reports to search for broader trends in the segment.  HGV executives said they’ve seen more consumers hesitant to agree to deals in part because of inflation. However, O’Neill notes that HGV has actually had to deal with more demand than the group can efficiently handle. Meanwhile, both Travel and Leisure and Marriott Vacations have seen business boom, with each company generating at least $3.5 billion in net revenue last year. Next, Airlines Editor Gordon Smith lists three takeaways from Air France-KLM Group’s full-year results. Smith notes geopolitical issues in the Middle East and Africa have hurt the supergroup’s profitability. KLM has yet to resume service to Israel. Meanwhile, instability in several West African countries has impacted Air France’s bottom line. However, group CEO Ben Smith said Air France might see a slight bump in the amount it earns from each passenger flown during this year’s Paris Olympics.  Ben Smith added that the surge in premium leisure travel could make up for any weakness in business travel.  Finally, Visit California is launching its first tourism campaign in a decade as part of the state’s efforts to reintroduce itself to travelers, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. The roughly $33 million campaign — titled “The Ultimate Playground” — is looking to remind travelers about the Golden State’s abundance of activities. Habtemariam notes Visit California hadn’t been able to market itself extensively during the pandemic, when the state’s image took a hit due to widespread coverage of issues such as urban crime and wildfires. 
3/1/20242 minutes, 54 seconds
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Accor's New Chief Strategist Unveils Plans

Episode Notes Gilda Perez-Alvarado surprised some hotel industry insiders when she left JLL to become Accor’s chief strategy officer last October. Perez-Alvarado outlined her plans for Accor in her first interview since taking the new role.  Perez-Alvarado touched on Accor’s efforts to make inroads in the U.S., among other subjects, with Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. She said Accor would target markets and segments in the country where the company believes it should be present. Perez-Alvarado added that Accor would be increasingly open to dealmaking with interest rates stabilizing. Next, the Federal Aviation Administration told Boeing it has 90 days to create a plan to tackle its quality control issues, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  FAA chief Michael Whitaker revealed the timeline after the agency had an all-day discussion with the planemaker. Boeing’s 737 Max aircraft has been plagued with a litany of issues, including a blowout aboard an Alaska Airlines flight this January. Whitaker said he expects the plan to take into account the latest results from the FAA’s audit of Boeing’s production processes. Finally, Vacasa’s workforce is undergoing major changes again. The company announced it is laying off 320 employees while Chief Operating Officer John Banczak is leaving the vacation rental operator, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Schaal writes Vacasa’s latest round of layoffs, which represent 5% of the company’s overall workforce, will cost it between $4 million and $5 million. Meanwhile, Banczak will stay on in his current role through March 31. Vacasa said his departure as chief operating officer isn’t the result of any disagreements between him and the company. 
2/29/20242 minutes, 36 seconds
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Why Checking In Bags Is More Expensive

Episode Notes American Airlines and United Airlines are among the major carriers that have increased baggage fees in recent months. Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi explains why checking bags at airports has gotten more expensive.   Maharishi writes that nearly every carrier cited inflation, higher fuel and operating costs as reasons they hiked baggage fees. JetBlue Airways said it raised baggage fees as part of its plan to return to profitability.  Airlines may also be increasing bag fees to help boost sign ups for their loyalty programs and co-branded credit cards. An airline consulting firm executive said expensive bag fees increase the value of airline-branded credit cards. American said its loyalty program members and credit card holders can check their first bag for free.   Next, New York City hotels could see a $380 million boost in revenue this year from the city’s de facto ban on short-term rentals, writes Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman.  A new report from real estate firm JLL revealed the New York City hotels could book an additional 2.2 million nights this year. A city law requiring hosts to be present for stays shorter than 30 days went into effect last September. In addition to the crackdown on short-term rentals, New York City’s hotel industry also stands to benefit from a projected surge in international tourists this year. Finally, Katerina Giannouka has left her role as CEO of Jumeirah Group, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder.  Giannouka became Jumeirah’s first female CEO in December 2022 after having previously served as the Asia-Pacific president for Radisson. During her brief time at Jumeirah, she said she was looking to double the group’s portfolio, including signing more hotels outside of the United Arab Emirates. Jumeirah’s current Chief Operating Officer Thomas B. Meier will serve as interim CEO, according to an internal document seen by Skift. 
2/28/20242 minutes, 48 seconds
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Super Bowl Weekend’s Record Hotel Rates

Episode Notes Hotel guests in Las Vegas during Super Bowl weekend earlier this month paid the highest room rates in continental U.S. history, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Industry data company STR said guests shelled out on average $800 for rooms in Las Vegas that weekend, the highest ever for any Saturday and Sunday in the continental U.S. Hotel guests on the Las Vegas Strip paid an even higher rate on Super Bowl Sunday — $962 on average. Meanwhile, short-term rentals in Las Vegas also saw average daily rates during Super Bowl weekend surge 19% from the previous weekend.  Next, a Federal Aviation Administration panel reported on Monday that Boeing’s efforts to improve its safety culture are inadequate, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  The panel found a “disconnect” between Boeing executives and employees involved in the planemaker’s safety culture. Congress had mandated the report into Boeing’s safety culture after two fatal 737 Max 8 crashes. The FAA report revealed, among other findings, that most Boeing employees were unaware of the company’s safety culture efforts.  Finally, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary said a shortage of aircraft could cause airfares to jump 10% in Europe this summer, reports Airlines Editor Gordon Smith.  O’Leary said delays in delivering the Boeing 737 Max are a factor for the potential shortage. Fifty-seven Max planes are due to arrive at Ryanair by the end of March, the official start of the airline industry’s summer season. However, O’Leary acknowledged that only 40 to 45 jets may be ready for this summer.  Produced and Presented by Jose Marmolejos
2/27/20242 minutes, 51 seconds
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Wyndham Results Take a Bit of a Hit

Episode Notes Wyndham executives say the company’s efforts to fend off Choice Hotels’ hostile bid weighted on its results in the fourth quarter, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. Wyndham CEO Geoff Ballotti said its fourth quarter could have been better without the distractions from Choice Hotels’ merger proposal. The company’s revenue and income in 2023 both fell from the previous year, which may have been a result of Wyndham devoting resources to prevent the hostile merger.  Wyndham said it’s spent $75 million related to the deal so far, including answering antitrust queries from regulators.  Next, Expedia Group has pulled a Vrbo ad in Canada because its use of a traditional folk song from Newfoundland and Labrador sparked an uproar, writes Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  The ad, which aired during both the Grammys and Super Bowl, used the folk song I’se the B’y as its theme. Schaal notes the ad was intended to take a dig at rival Airbnb. But the provincial government and local tourism executives demanded Expedia remove the ad because they believed using the folk song was disrespectful. Finally, Bali has implemented a tourist tax as part of its efforts to combat overtourism, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Visitors to the popular Indonesian destination have to pay about $10, which will go toward conservation efforts and improving the island’s infrastructure. Mark Howarth-Archer, an executive at tour operator G Adventures, said Bali’s infrastructure can’t handle the surge in tourists.
2/16/20242 minutes, 20 seconds
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Marriott Vs. Hilton: What Their Earnings Say

Episode Notes Marriott and Hilton have both released their annual financial reports for 2023. Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill lists 12 noteworthy takeaways after comparing the companies’ 10-K filings.  The two hotel giants have a rivalry in terms of loyalty program membership numbers. Marriott currently has roughly 16 million more loyalty program members than Hilton. But O’Neill notes Hilton could overtake Marriott in 2025 if the two companies maintain their most recent growth rates this year.  O’Neill adds that both companies were considerably more profitable in 2023 than they were six years prior.  Next, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky believes the company can create a new artificial intelligence interface that will help transform it into a cross-vertical company, writes Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.   Chesky said the planned interface could be one of the most innovative ever created. He added that it would enable Airbnb to become a cross-vertical company: Think Amazon when it expanded beyond books and Apple when it launched the app store. Chesky also said Airbnb would make announcements later this year regarding new products and services.   Finally, American Express has opened the world’s largest Centurion Lounge at Atlanta’s Hartsfield-Jackson International Airport, writes Airlines Editor Gordon Smith. The 26,000-square foot lounge, which includes indoor and outdoor areas, is American Express’ latest effort to target high-spending travelers. It also includes a whiskey bar serving cocktails designed by Centurion’s mixologist. American Express Travel President Audrey Hendley said a new Atlanta lounge was a major priority for the company. 
2/15/20242 minutes, 33 seconds
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Airbnb Isn’t Running out of Hosts or Listings

Episode Notes Some analysts had wondered if Airbnb could increase its supply of hosts and listings to meet the growing demand from travelers worldwide. That question has been put to rest, writes Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Airbnb said during its fourth-quarter earnings call on Tuesday it has around 7.7 million active listings. That’s an increase of more than 1 million from the end of 2022. The company ended 2023 with a roster of more than 5 million hosts, also a jump of roughly 1 million from the previous year.  Airbnb also said its supply of listings increased 18% in the fourth quarter from the same period in 2022.  Next, Marriott had a banner 2023, especially in the luxury sector, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Marriott said during its fourth-quarter earnings call that it generated $3 billion worth of net income and a 48% profit margin last year. The company was boosted by its strength in luxury. Marriott had a company record of 58 luxury signings last year. It says its portfolio of luxury hotels is 50% larger than its nearest competitor.  Finally, billionaire investor Carl Icahn has again bought a stake in an airline — this time in JetBlue Airways, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Icahn reported a 9% stake in JetBlue, making him the airline’s third-largest investor. JetBlue shares rose by more than 16% after news of Icahn’s stake became public. That’s welcome news for a company that has experienced its share of struggles in recent years, including declining revenues.  Icahn acquired a more than 20% stake in Trans World Airlines in 1985. He helped TWA grow, but it was saddled with debt and filed for bankruptcy twice. 
2/14/20242 minutes, 51 seconds
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Bahamas Tourism Bookings Fall After Safety Alert

Episode Notes The Bahamas saw a drop in short-term rental bookings and hotel reservations in January after a U.S. State Department safety alert to travelers, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Habtemariam notes short-term rental bookings fell 7% in January from the same month in 2023. Meanwhile, hotels in the Bahamas also registered weekly occupancy declines from last year throughout the month. While higher average daily rates may have deterred bookings, those drops followed a U.S. Embassy alert warning Americans about crime in Nassau.  A State Department spokesperson said the overall Travel Advisory for the Bahamas is at Level 2, which advises U.S. citizens to be cautious in the country due to crime.  Next, Expedia Group’s equity stake in American Express Global Business Travel has taken a beating — to the tune of $326 million, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Expedia said on Monday the fair value of its equity stake in Amex GBT has dropped 40% since 2021. Expedia took a 19% stake in Amex GBT following its sale of corporate travel agency Egencia. However, Schaal notes Expedia may have benefited from the deal on several levels, including enabling it to offer hotel stays and vacation rentals to business travelers through Amex GBT.   Finally, flying taxis could take to the skies in Dubai by 2026 after local officials signed a deal with electric aircraft maker Joby Aviation, writes Airlines Editor Gordon Smith.  Joby’s contract with Dubai’s Road and Transport Authority gives the company exclusive rights to operate flying taxis in Dubai for six years. Smith notes Joby believes it could even operate air taxis next year, ahead of the planned 2026 launch. Joby has also signed a deal with infrastructure company Skysports, which will build and run take-off and landing areas for flying taxis in Dubai. Still, it’s no sure thing: As with all pioneering technologies, progress in the sector has been peppered with pitfalls. 
2/13/20243 minutes, 10 seconds
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Expedia Group Has a New CEO

Episode Notes Expedia Group will have a new CEO soon. Ariane Gorin, currently president of Expedia for Business, will succeed Peter Kern starting on May 13, writes Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.   Schaal reports Gorin will also take a seat on Expedia Group’s expanded board of directors, effective February 12. Expedia Group Chair Barry Diller said the company was looking for an internal candidate to succeed Kern. As president of Expedia for Business, the company’s business-to-business arm, Gorin was responsible for a large portion of Expedia Group’s revenue and profits. Meanwhile, Kern will continue to serve as Expedia Group’s vice chairman and a member of its board.  Next, Spirit Airlines has experienced its share of struggles in recent years, including $1 billion worth of debt due next year. But CEO Ted Christie is refuting any talk the company could go bankrupt, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Christie expressed confidence Spirit will survive during the airline’s fourth-quarter earnings call, citing steps it’s taking to strengthen its finances. It recently netted $419 million in cash through selling and leasing back 25 aircraft. In addition, Spirit plans to make adjustments to its network, including reducing service to less lucrative destinations.  Finally, a spokesperson for Taylor Swift says she has bought double the carbon credits needed to offset emissions caused by her Eras Tour. However, it’s uncertain if carbon credits are effective in reducing emissions, writes Airlines Reporter Maharishi.  A study from the Institute of Policy Studies found a private jet emits at least 10 times more carbon emissions than a commercial jetliner. As for carbon offsets, Maharishi notes they can include replanting trees in the rainforest or introducing energy-efficient methods to struggling communities. Commercial airlines often provide customers the opportunity to buy carbon offsets when purchasing flight tickets.  But Maharishi cites research that revealed 78% of carbon reducing emissions projects could be considered “junk.” 
2/9/20242 minutes, 49 seconds
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Taylor Swift’s Travel Impact

Episode Notes Taylor Swift’s massive influence on U.S. culture and the economy isn’t slowing down anytime soon. And as her ongoing Eras Tour continues to pack stadiums and boost tourism worldwide, Editor-in-Chief Sarah Kopit explains why Swift might be the most powerful person in travel. Swift’s impact on the travel sector is vast, with major influence over tourism dollars, hospitality spending and the short-term rental market. Kopit notes that each Swift concert has the economic impact of the Super Bowl – and it’s not just once a year. U.S. cities hosting a Eras Tour concert have seen their monthly hotel room revenue jump more than 7% on average. In addition, one short-rental executive said the Eras Tour has been responsible for double-digit increases in occupancy and average daily rates. Skift Research estimates the tour generated an incremental $1.2 billion for the U.S. travel industry in 2023 across flights, hotels, short-term rentals and other expenditures. Next, Hilton is considering making acquisitions, a shift from its longtime strategy of creating brands internally, writes Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta said the current economic environment might be more conducive for acquisitions. O’Neill notes rumors have surfaced that Hilton is in talks to acquire both Graduate Hotels and NoMad Hotels, a luxury lifestyle hotels brand. Nassetta said Hilton intends to enter the luxury lifestyle sector this year.  Finally, the upcoming Super Bowl between the San Francisco Chiefs and Kansas City Chiefs is driving a surge in short-term rental rates in Las Vegas, writes Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman.  Short-term rental demand in Las Vegas from February 9 to 11 is 87% higher than the same period in 2023, according to AirDNA. Kalyanaraman adds that average daily rates have increased 51% from last year. Meanwhile, searches for Airbnb rentals in the Las Vegas area during Super Bowl week have jumped 65% compared to the same period last year.  
2/8/20242 minutes, 59 seconds
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Chinese Travelers Thinking Less of European Destinations

Episode Notes A preliminary report from the National Transportation Safety Board has provided information about what possibly caused the January blowout aboard Alaska Airlines Flight 1282. Four bolts appeared to be missing on a door plug that blew off that Boeing 737 Max 9 jet, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Maharishi notes it’s not exactly clear how the four bolts meant to keep the door plug intact went missing. The board said it plans to interview Boeing and aircraft supplier Spirit Aerosystems. The report said the door plug Spirit delivered to Boeing last August had come with certain defects.   Next, U.S.’ low-cost carriers have generally struggled in recent years. But Frontier Airlines believes its new three-point plan can help boost profitability, writes Airlines Editor Gordon Smith.  Smith notes that Frontier is planning to thoroughly overhaul its network, with fewer flights to oversaturated markets such as Las Vegas and Orlando. Frontier is also looking to increase service to more lucrative destinations where it aims to charge higher fares. The second part of Frontier’s three-point plan is a new product called “BizFare,” which would enable businesses to save on corporate travel expenses. In addition, Frontier is unveiling a revamped website and app, which the company hopes will help boost sales on its platforms.  Finally, Chinese travelers are showing less interest in visiting Europe this year, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. A survey by the European Travel Commission found roughly 57% of Chinese travelers plan to travel to Europe in 2024. That’s a 14 percentage point drop from last year. Habtemariam notes one reason for the drop is Chinese travelers’ growing desire to explore locations closer to home, with several Asian destinations easing their visa policies. 
2/7/20243 minutes, 3 seconds
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Boeing Is (Mostly) Back in Action

Episode Notes Nearly 94% of 737 Boeing Max 9s are back in service after the aircraft was grounded for roughly three weeks in January, writes Airlines Reporter Meghan Maharishi.  The Federal Aviation Administration said that 135 Max 9s have been inspected and returned to service following a blowout aboard an Alaska Airlines flight in early January. The grounding of the Max 9 forced United Airlines and Alaska — the only two U.S. carriers operating the aircraft — to cancel thousands of flights last month. Next, Brand USA, the U.S.’ tourism marketing agency, will air a Super Bowl ad internationally for the first time, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Habtemariam reports the 15-second ad will air in both Germany and the United Kingdom, two major sources of tourism for the U.S. Brand USA established a partnership with the NFL in Germany and the UK last year. Staci Mellman, the agency’s chief marketing officer, said partnering with the NFL has enabled it to tap into the growing number of international travelers interested in American football.  We end today looking ahead to soccer’s World Cup in 2026. Officials in Dallas are disappointed they won’t get to host the final match but they still got one big win: hosting the most matches of any city, writes Global Tourism Reporter Habtemariam. Dallas will host nine matches during the tournament, including a semifinal. One local sports executive said the economic impact would be similar to that of nine Super Bowls. A study by the Boston Consulting Group found the 2026 World Cup should generate between $90 million and $480 million for the cities. 
2/6/20242 minutes, 49 seconds
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Asia Poised to Lead Travel's Recovery in 2024

Episode Notes Skift Research has published its Global Travel Outlook 2024, which sees Asia leading the travel industry’s growth while Europe’s travel boom will likely slow down. The forecast shows Asia Pacific growing 20% over 2023. Research Analyst Saniya Zanpure writes the region has gotten a big boost from China easing its strict Covid-era regulations in January 2023. Meanwhile, Europe’s travel revenue is projected to register only a 5% increase from last year, with Zanpure noting that Europe faces challenges such as inflation and climate-related concerns.  Next, Frontier Airlines announced on Thursday that it’s launching a business fare as part of its strategy to attract corporate travelers, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Frontier said that “BizFare” would enable businesses to save on corporate travel expenses. The ticket would be available through a company’s global distribution channel. Maharishi added the new fare could help Frontier cater to travelers that wouldn’t normally fly with an ultra-low-cost carrier for business trips.  Finally, Royal Caribbean believes the new Icon of the Seas, the world’s largest cruise ship, will help the company better compete against destinations like Las Vegas and Orlando for family vacations, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Royal Caribbean Group CEO Jason Liberty said during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings call that it can hold its own against longtime popular tourist destinations. The $2 billion, 20-floor ship contains eight different sections, each with a different experience for guests. Liberty added Royal Caribbean plans to innovate further to reduce the value gap between the company and land-based vacations. 
2/2/20242 minutes, 35 seconds
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Boeing Takes the Blame

Episode Notes Boeing CEO Dave Calhoun issued an apology for the recent Alaska Airlines blowout amid the reeling planemaker’s struggles with its 737 Max 9 aircraft, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Calhoun said during Boeing’s fourth-quarter earnings call that the company has a lot of work to do to earn the public’s trust back. While Calhoun didn’t speculate on what possibly caused the blowout, he acknowledged Boeing was responsible. The 737 Max has been plagued with problems in recent years, and Max 9 was grounded by the Federal Aviation Administration for roughly three weeks in January. Boeing didn’t issue any financial targets for 2024, with Calhoun saying the company needs to “focus on every next airplane.” It is unclear how big of a financial hit Boeing will take. Next, GetYourGuide is rolling out its largest-ever advertising campaign as part of its strategy to challenge Viator in the U.S., reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  GetYourGuide recently aired a 30-second commercial during the NFL playoffs and it plans to run more national TV ads during major events such as the Academy Awards. O’Neill writes that GetYourGuide’s ads aim to reach 70% of Americans this year. Only 25% of the company’s customers are located in the U.S.  Finally, travelers can easily visit Machu Picchu again as protests blocking critical rail access to Peru’s most famous landmark are over, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Protesters had blocked rail service to Machu Picchu for five days in anger over the government’s contract with private company Joinnus to distribute tickets to tourist attractions. Peruvian officials signed an agreement on Tuesday night that includes ending the contract. A representative from Inca Rail said travelers can now book rail service to Machu Picchu. 
2/1/20242 minutes, 44 seconds
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JetBlue Looks for Post-Spirit Profitability

Episode Notes JetBlue Airways is focusing on how it can be profitable following its failed merger with Spirit Airlines. So JetBlue is looking at ways to cut costs and offer more leisure routes, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi. JetBlue is grappling with rising costs due to new labor contracts and also has engine issues that have currently grounded seven aircraft. JetBlue Chief Financial Officer Ursula Hurley said the company would offer crew members voluntary buyouts to help offset some of those costs. The New York-based carrier also plans to defer $2.5 billion in aircraft spending to the end of the decade.  And as JetBlue is increasingly targeting leisure travelers, the company is expanding service to popular destinations such as Florida, the Caribbean and Mexico.  Next, protesters have blocked crucial rail access to Machu Picchu in anger over the Peruvian government’s new online ticketing system for tourist attractions, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Habtemariam reports tour operators have had to substantially alter their trips due to the lack of rail service since last Thursday. Sarah Migniac, an an executive at tour operator G Adventures, said reaching Machu Picchu could take nine hours without the train route. Migniac added that international travelers may cancel trips to Peru if traveling to Machu Picchu remains difficult.  One Peruvian official said the disruption is costing the Machu Picchu site roughly $260,000 in lost income per day.  Finally, Hilton has announced plans to enable guests to make requests by text at all of its hotels by the end of 2024, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Guests will be able to send messages via the Hilton Honors app, WhatsApp, and other platforms. Although texting customer service requests has become common in sectors such as retail and finance, some major hotel groups still require phone or face-to-face internations. Hilton is the first hotel group to require all its hotels to enable guests to make requests via text. 
1/31/20243 minutes, 6 seconds
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Hotels Cash in on the Super Bowl

Episode Notes Fans heading to Las Vegas for the Super Bowl on February 11 will likely pay the highest hotel room rates in the event’s history, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  The average daily rate for a Las Vegas hotel room between February 9 and 11 is projected to be $573, according to industry data company STR. That figure would break the record set in Miami four years ago. Habtemariam reports that visitors coming for the Super Bowl are expected to book about 350,000 room nights. Next, Ryanair CEO Michael O’Leary has come out in support of beleaguered planemaker Boeing, and called out United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby for saying his company would consider a future without the Max 737 10 in its fleet, reports Airlines Editor Gordon Smith. O’Leary called Kirby’s comments on the Max 10 “stupid” during Ryanair’s third-quarter earnings call on Monday. The Max 10 isn’t certified yet and United has more than 200 of them on order – it has already been waiting five years for the first deliveries of the plane. O’Leary said Ryanair would gladly accept Max 10 jets if United chose to cancel any deliveries. Ryanair has orders for the largest Max 10, which it isn’t due to receive until 2027. Finally, Vrbo took some not-so-subtle shots at Airbnb in two commercials that aired during the National Football League playoffs on Sunday, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Schaal writes the two ads — titled Relax/Rooster and Relax/Spaceship — are part of a Vrbo multimedia campaign. The narrator in both ads urges travelers to choose a vacation rental that will meet their expectations unlike others. While the Vrbo advertisements don’t mention Airbnb by name, Schaal notes they depict the “other vacation rentals” as those offered by Airbnb.
1/30/20242 minutes, 57 seconds
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Alaska Airlines CEO Blames Boeing for $150 Million Losses

Episode Notes Alaska Airlines said it would take a $150 million financial hit from the Boeing 737 Max 9 grounding that prompted the airline to cancel roughly 3,000 flights, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Alaska CEO Ben Minicucci said during its fourth-quarter earnings call that the company would put pressure on Boeing to produce better planes. Minicucci told NBC News this week he was angry at Boeing for the blowout aboard an Alaska flight earlier this month. He did express optimism that consumer confidence in the Max 9 would eventually come back.   Alaska posted a $2 million net loss during the fourth quarter.  Next, Oracle Hospitality, one of the largest players in hotel tech, is selling what it considers a simplified system for hotel tech operations, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  Dawes reports Stockholm-based Scandic Hotels Group is already piloting an expanded version of Oracle Hospitality’s cloud-based system. The system, known as Opera Cloud Central, includes a property management system, central reservation system and distribution services on a single platform. Dawes adds that using a single system removes the need to transfer information between systems.  An Oracle Hospitality executive said the company believes it will disrupt the traditional hospitality ecosystem.  Finally, Jolyon Bulley, IHG’s CEO of the Americas, aims to grow the group’s luxury and lifestyle portfolio at what he calls ‘China speed,” writes Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. Bulley, IHG’s former CEO for Greater China, said in an interview with Skift he sees potential for growth in the Americas. IHG’s luxury and lifestyle brands represent 22% of its global hotel development pipeline, roughly double the figure from five years ago. Burley also expressed optimism he could use lessons from China, where IHG’s portfolio has doubled over the past five years, to guide the expansion in the Americas.  However, O’Neill notes that one obstacle to growth is IHG doesn’t have a great reputation among hotel owners for luxury in the Americas. 
1/26/20242 minutes, 59 seconds
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L.A. Tourism Goes Big While Orlando Shrinks

Episode Notes Los Angeles is launching its largest-ever global advertising campaign to help remain competitive in the fight to attract tourists, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Habtemariam reports the city will unveil next week the latest iteration of its “Now Playing” campaign, which has showcased Los Angeles’ arts, food and lifestyle. The multi-million dollar campaign will target the UK, France and South Korea, among other markets. LA Tourism CEO Adam Burke said the city is increasing its international marketing efforts in response to the emergence of other competing destinations, including Saudi Arabia. Next, Qantas’ new 10-minute long safety video has been largely panned by viewers who found it tedious among other complaints, writes Airlines Editor Gordon Smith. The new video features Qantas crew and passengers sharing some of their favorite destinations. But with renewed focus on pre-flight briefings in recent weeks, some commenters on social media have argued Qantas’ film lacks critical information regarding safety. Smith notes the Qantas video doesn’t have any in-cabin visuals of the actual airplane.  However, Qantas executives said the video travelers see pre-flight will be shorter than the online version.  Finally, Visit Orlando, one of the U.S.’ largest tourism boards, is about to see its marketing budget reduced by $15 million, writes Global Tourism Reporter Habtemariam.  The Orange County Board of Commissioners approved a proposal to move that amount of tax funds from destination marketing to other projects. Visit Orlando CEO Casandra Matej said she was relieved the organization didn’t see a larger reduction in funding. Its leaders had warned the county commissioner board that cuts could result in fewer advertising projects. Visit Orlando will have an $85 million marketing budget for the 2025 fiscal year. 
1/25/20242 minutes, 39 seconds
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United Airlines Reconsiders Fleet Plans

Episode Notes United Airlines is taking another look at its fleet plan due to delivery delays with the Boeing 737 Max 10, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi. The Max 10 hasn’t been certified by the Federal Aviation Administration yet. And given the Max 9 groundings, United executives said during the airline’s fourth-quarter earnings call on Tuesday that it’s unrealistic to expect deliveries will be on time. Maharishi notes United is focused on the Airbus A350.  Meanwhile, United posted net income of $600 million during the fourth quarter. However, the Chicago-based carrier said Monday it expects a first-quarter loss due to the grounding of the Max 9 following a blowout aboard an Alaska Airlines flight earlier this month.   Next, Expedia CEO Peter Kern is urging hotel owners to clamp down on rogue wholesale rates, reports Executive Editor Sean O’Neill.  Kern said at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit this week that hotels aren’t doing enough to keep their wholesale rates off of smaller retail travel sites. While hotels have long set aside certain rooms at discounted rates for contracted partners, Kern argued that some agencies are breaking the rules.  Hotels may not be quick to respond because they benefit when rooms are full and it takes time and money to clamp down. Finally, Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano faces major challenges at the helm of the world’s largest hotel group, but he remains optimistic about the company’s future, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Capuano said during an interview with Skift that he doesn’t see Marriott’s growth slowing down. Marriott has more than doubled its room count in the last 10 years, and Capuano said it’s targeting Europe, China and the Middle East as areas for growth.  While O’Neill writes technology has changed faster than Marriott’s software has, Capuano expressed optimism the company’s tech transformation will be complete in the near future. Marriott will revamp its website and app to make comparison-shopping for hotels easier, among other updates. 
1/24/20243 minutes, 4 seconds
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Global Hotel Dealmaking Is Expected to Boom

Episode Notes Global hotel dealmaking is expected to make a major rebound in 2024 thanks to a more positive financing environment, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  At least $58 billion in hotel deals are set to take place this year, according to investment advisory firm JLL Hotels & Hospitality. That would surpass 2023’s total by at least 15%. JLL believes one reason for the increased dealmaking is that struggling hotel owners are looking for buyers to take problem properties off their hands.  The company expects hotels in major cities like London, Paris and New York to see the most investor interest.  Next, Google is planning to change how it displays flight search results in European Union countries. But eDreams Odigeo, a major flights seller, argues Google’s plan isn’t going far enough to let rivals compete, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Spain-based eDreams Odigeo said Google’s plan will allow it to favor Google Flights over competing flight-selling services. Google is under orders from the European Union to increase competition in the travel retail sector.  The tech giant said it plans to add new dedicated units that contain links from competitors, among other changes.  Finally, the Federal Aviation Administration is asking airlines to inspect the door plugs on more Boeing jets, another blow for the beleaguered planemaker, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  The agency said in a safety alert the Boeing 737-900ER has an identical door plug design to one on the Boeing 737 Max 9. The 737 Max 9 has been grounded since a blowout aboard an Alaska Airlines flight earlier this month. Alaska, Delta Air Lines and United Airlines all operate the 737-900ER. However, the three airlines have said they don’t expect the inspections to impact their operations. 
1/23/20243 minutes, 11 seconds
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What's the Global Travel Outlook for 2024?

Episode Notes The travel industry has gone from deep struggles during Covid to a major boom, with the high demand for “revenge travel.” So what’s in store for travel in 2024? Skift Research believes the industry will return to normal, writes Head of Research Seth Borko. Skift Research said in its newly published 2024 Global Travel Outlook that revenue growth for the travel industry will likely decelerate. However, Borko writes the slowdown isn’t a sign of weakness. He adds that economic conditions appear poised to support further spending and that consumers increasingly prioritize travel.  Next, Airbnb argues that New York City hasn’t delivered on the benefits it promised residents after it enacted a de facto ban on short-term rentals in the city, writes Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  New York City enacted the law, which requires hosts be present for stays shorter than 30 days, as part of its efforts to increase housing availability and lower rents. Taylor Marr, Airbnb’s senior housing economist, said there’s been no discernable increase in available rental supply since the city’s rules went into effect last September. In addition, rents in New York City rose roughly 2% in December.  Finally, Spirit Airlines faces an uncertain future following a federal judge’s decision to block its proposed merger with JetBlue Airways, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Maharishi writes Spirit is on its own to deal with declining revenues and surging operating costs. The airline hasn’t turned a profit since 2019 and several analysts said it probably needs a buyer or another way to improve its financial situation. Spirit’s shares have dropped by nearly 70% since the judge’s ruling.  Maharishi adds Frontier Airlines, which originally sought to merge with Spirit in 2022, could be a potential buyer. But some industry analysts believe it may be difficult for Frontier to launch a bid since it’s also in a financially weaker state compared to two years ago. 
1/19/20242 minutes, 49 seconds
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What JetBlue Saw in Spirit

Episode Notes A federal judge blocked the proposed JetBlue-Spirit merger, putting an end to the two airlines’ attempt to create the fifth-largest carrier in the U.S. Why did JetBlue pursue a merger with Spirit Airlines? One key reason is Florida, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi and Jay Shabat, senior analyst for Skift’s Airline Weekly.  While Florida is a major market for JetBlue, the New York-based airline doesn’t have much pricing power for those flights. Maharishi and Shabat note that absorbing Spirit in a merger would have eliminated a major competitor known for pushing down airfares. Travelers would have had one less option and probably would have seen higher fares. U.S. District Court Judge William Young wrote the merger would lead to less competition in the industry since Spirit is the largest ultra-low-cost carrier. JetBlue and Spirit directly compete on roughly 40 routes to Florida.  Next, Airbnb has announced it’s forming a housing council to help the company better engage with communities it operates in, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Jay Carney, Airbnb’s global head of policy and communications, said the short-term rental company would like to avoid regulations like those implemented in New York City last September. The city enacted a law requiring hosts be present for stays shorter than 30 days, which Carney described as onerous.  Former Baltimore Mayor Stephanie Rawlings-Blake, who once headed the U.S. Conference of Mayors, will chair the Airbnb council.  Finally, Chinese travelers aren’t super enthusiastic about visiting the U.S. in 2024 despite Beijing’s efforts to address the hurdles restricting outbound travel from the country, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhuta.  Travel from China to the U.S. is expected to be 70% below pre-Covid levels this year, according to marketing technology company China Trading Desk. CEO Subramania Bhatt cited limited flight capacity and expensive airfare as factors deterring Chinese travelers from visiting the U.S. Bhatt added that a perception of high crime is also a concern for Chinese travelers. Bhatt said Chinese travelers are increasingly interested in destinations suited to last-minute bookings, which means distant locations are taking a backseat. 
1/18/20242 minutes, 58 seconds
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JetBlue-Spirit Merger Blocked

A U.S. District Court judge blocked the proposed $3.8 billion merger between JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines, the first time in 20 years Washington has rejected an airline merger, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi. Maharishi reports the ruling represents a victory for the Biden administration, which has supported more competition in the airline industry. Four airlines control 80% of the U.S. market following a series of mergers the U.S. government has approved in the last two decades. Maharishi adds the judge’s decision is a major setback for JetBlue, which had been seeking ways to become more competitive against the giants of the U.S. airline industry.  JetBlue would have fully absorbed Spirit’s operations if the merger had been approved.  Next, flight disruptions are continuing to mount after a severe winter storm battered the Northeastern United States, writes Airlines Reporter Maharishi.  There were close to 2,000 cancellations and 5,000 delays across the U.S. as of Tuesday afternoon, according to flight tracking site FlightAware. Southwest Airlines, United Airlines and American Airlines have been hit with the most disruptions thus far, although not all were caused by the weather. Maharishi adds airlines may not get a reprieve after the current storm passes, with another Arctic blast expected to hit the Southern and Plains regions of the U.S. later this week.  Finally, Turkey is now charging tourists an admission fee to enter mosque and UNESCO World Heritage Site Hagia Sophia, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Tourists have to pay about $27 to enter the site, one of Turkey’s most famous attractions, starting this week. Hagia Sophia had admitted tourists free of charge since 2020, when services resumed at the mosque. Muslim visitors to Turkey can still worship for free at Hagia Sophia at appropriate times, noting the government has separated how tourists and worshippers enter the building. 
1/17/20242 minutes, 51 seconds
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Tripadvisor Wants Tourists to Test Drive Reality in the Metaverse

Episode Notes Tripadvisor plans to release a metaverse experience later this year that would provide travelers the chance to virtually see popular attractions before booking, writes Travel Technology Justin Dawes.  Tripadvisor has signed a contract with Meet Kai, a company that creates metaverse and artificial intelligence products. Dawes reports it’s still too early for Tripadvisor to share specifics on exactly how the metaverse experience will look, but the company looks to partner with travel brands to create digital spaces — such as shops in Paris — that users can explore.  Adam Ochman, Tripadvisor’s global director of marketing solutions, said travel is one of the most expensive things that consumers can purchase without trying it beforehand.  Next, London Heathrow Airport is coming off an enormously busy 2023, which saw 24 of its routes break the million-passenger milestone. Airlines Editor Gordon Smith takes a look at the airport’s busiest routes last year. Routes from Heathrow serving the U.S. represented six of the 24 that carried more than 1 million passengers last year, a sign of the boom in transatlantic travel. The Heathrow-JFK route was the busiest for the London airport, serving more than 3 million passengers. Meanwhile, Dubai and Doha took the next two spots for Heathrow’s busiest route in 2023.  Finally, Thailand will be setting for the third season of the popular HBO show The White Lotus, which is expected to boost tourism to the kingdom, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Tourism Authority of Thailand and HBO have partnered to film and promote the Emmy-winning series. Thai officials didn’t disclose which hotel would be featured – the last two seasons were set at Four Seasons properties. Habtemariam notes that travel demand for Sicily boomed after the island was selected as the filming location for season two of The White Lotus. 
1/12/20242 minutes, 42 seconds
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Greece's New Climate-Focused Tourist Tax

Episode Notes The recent blowout aboard an Alaska Airlines flight is far the only problem that Boeing has experienced with its 737 Max aircraft. Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden takes a look at some of those issues using our artificial intelligence chatbot Ask Skift and additional reporting.  The 737 Max was grounded globally for 20 months following fatal crashes in 2018 and 2019 in Ethiopia and Indonesia. But even after being recertified by the Federal Aviation Administration in November 2020, the aircraft has had technical problems. More than 100 737 Max jets were grounded in April 2021 after the discovery of a potential electrical program, which the FAA said could impact certain systems.  In addition, Boeing asked airlines last month to inspect all of their 737 aircraft for a possible loose bolt in the rudder system, which is used to control planes during a flight.  Next, Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes takes a look at the Apple Vision Pro, a virtual reality headset going on the market in February that could help travelers explore new places. Apple Vision Pro has a setting that allows users to view landscapes, which Apple said could include several U.S. national parks. Those landscapes could be a backdrop while watching movies on a plane or at home. Dawes adds there’s also potential for third-party companies to build apps on the Vision Pro that could offer more virtual travel experiences.  Finally, Greece has introduced a new tourist tax to help provide financial support for future disaster relief efforts, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Greece’s so-called “climate crisis resilience fee” replaces the previous hotel tax that the government had levied on travelers. Habtemariam notes the amount for the new tax varies by hotel category and time of year. Greek officials implemented the new tourist tax after the country suffered several natural disasters in 2023, including record rainfall that left at least 17 dead.   Habtemariam adds those disasters prompted some tour operators to cancel trips in Greece. 
1/11/20242 minutes, 51 seconds
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The Travel Trends That Will Define 2024

Episode Notes Skift has revealed its Megatrends for 2024, the 12th edition of its annual forecast of big-picture trends poised to shape the year in travel. The 12 megatrends delve into a wide range of topics: The impact on travel of demographic shifts, how the industry will react to the rise in loneliness. What we see developing out of India and the Middle East. Where you’ll see investments in hotels, aviation and how AI will impact travel jobs.  Next, federal officials investigating the recent blowout on an Alaska Airlines plane are examining whether the bolts meant to keep a door plug in place were ever installed, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  National Transportation Safety Board Chair Jennifer Homendy said that four bolts should have secured the left door plug to prevent it from separating from the Boeing 737 Max 9. Maharishi notes those four bolts were missing when the agency recovered the door plug. Homendy added it’s uncertain if the bolts were ever installed or if they came out during the decompression.   The accident drove the Federal Aviation Administration to temporarily shelve certain 737 Max 9 planes for further inspection.    Finally, Airbus has beaten Boeing to land the first major airplane deal of 2024, reports Airlines Editor Gordon Smith.  Taiwan-based carrier EVA Air has reached an agreement with Airbus for an order of 33 aircraft. EVA Air has long been a customer of both Boeing and Airbus, but Smith notes EVA Air’s deal with Airbus is a sign Boeing is losing ground to its European rival in the long-haul market. EVA Air Clay Sun said Airbus offered the most modern and fuel efficient plans for each market segment.
1/10/20242 minutes, 52 seconds
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Alaska and United May Not Be Hit Hard From 737 Max 9 Grounding

Episode Notes Choice Hotels has long relied on traditional broadcast and outdoor billboard advertising to drum up brand awareness. But the company is turning to streaming platforms including Spotify and using a touch of celebrity in its new year-long marketing campaign, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Choice Hotels is experimenting with digital-video ads and podcast placements, which are cheaper than traditional TV sports, to better target demographic groups. The company will also feature Emmy winner Keegan-Michael Key in a set of six spots. Chief Marketing Officer Noha Abdalla said a celebrity like Key could help Choice Hotels grab consumers’ attention quickly on TikTok in particular.  Next, we turn to the fallout from the recent accident aboard an Alaska Airlines aircraft that’s temporarily grounded certain Boeing 737 Max planes. Although Alaska and United Airlines both canceled hundreds of flights over the weekend, both airlines may not suffer a major financial hit from the grounding, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly. Raymond James analyst Savanthi Syth estimates that the financial hit from the grounding could be akin to that from a severe weather event. That’s based on the belief that the Federal Aviation Administration will explain what airlines need to inspect, which would allow them to begin returning to service.  Boeing provided airlines information on Monday on how to inspect the planes, according to Reuters.   Finally, Indian online travel agency EaseMyTrip has suspended all flights to the Maldives in what the company’s CEO called “solidarity with the nation,” reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia.   Calls for boycotts of the Maldives have grown after many in India have accused Maldivian politicians of disparaging Prime Minister Narendra Modi. Modi sparked a social media controversy after urging Indian travelers to visit India’s Lakshadweep Islands, where he recently traveled to. Bhutia notes angry tweets called Modi’s Lakshadweep visit a suggestion to visit domestic destinations instead of the Maldives. India was the Maldives’ largest tourism source market in 2023, with roughly 210,000 Indians visiting the archipelago.  Episode Presenter and Producer: Jose Marmolejos
1/9/20243 minutes, 13 seconds
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Paris Reaches for More of Travelers’ Gold

Episode Notes A trip to Paris is getting more expensive this year. Visitors to the French capital have been hit with higher tourist taxes as the city prepares to host the 2024 Summer Olympics, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Habtemariam reports that tourist taxes on stays in Paris have more than doubled. In addition, some tour operators have seen their room rates surge due to the Olympics. An executive at Kensington Tours said it’s seen year-over-year increases of at least 20% in the weeks leading up to the Olympics.  Habtemariam adds that some of Paris’ major tourist attractions, such as the Louvre, have bumped up their prices.  Next, luxury travel is expected to continue its boom this year. Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy outlines seven key trends to look out for in luxury travel, according to several figures in the sector.   Brophy reports that group travel bookings will once represent big business for tour operators. Trips aboard private yachts for small groups are also expected to be popular this year. And Brophy notes that luxury travelers will likely continue to visit largely unexplored locations, noting that tour operator Black Tomato is seeing growing interest in lesser-known areas in Peru.  Finally, Europe’s largest tour operator TUI has proposed delisting from the London Stock Exchange as a way to simplify its business structure, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Brophy.  Brophy reports TUI shareholders will make a decision on the matter at its annual meeting next month. If they approve the move, TUI would likely delist from the London Stock Exchange in June. However, the company would retain its full listing on the Frankfurt Stock Exchange as roughly three-quarters of its share transactions are already conducted directly in Germany.  Episode Presenter and Producer: Jane Alexander
1/5/20242 minutes, 39 seconds
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Ryanair Doesn’t Want Any Help Selling Seats

Ryanair is in a conflict with several major online travel agencies. The Irish-based airline said that “pirates” throughout the sector stopped selling its flights last month, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Ryanair said that Booking.com, Kayak and Kiwi removed Ryanair flights from their websites in early December. Ryanair called those online travel agencies “pirates” for allegedly stealing what it considers its proprietary information and intellectual property. Although Ryanair expects a drop in bookings for December and January, the company doesn’t expect its full year traffic for 2024 to be significantly impacted.   Next, a leading hotel analyst sees good things on the horizon for several major companies in the industry, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.   David Katz, managing director of Jefferies Research, offered his predictions for the hotel industry in a report released this week. Katz believes average room rates will slightly increase this year while overall average occupancy rates will hit pre-Covid levels by 2025. Meanwhile, he projected Marriott, Hilton, Hyatt and Wyndham will experience growth this year.  Finally, Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy lists seven trends to look out for in adventure travel, according to prominent figures in the sector.  Brophy reports that September and October — the Northern Hemisphere’s traditional shoulder season — should continue to see a surge in bookings. In addition, Northern Europe is expected to become more popular with travelers seeking cooler climates. And Brophy writes that the use of electric bicycles will likely increase, noting that tour operator Explore Worldwide has introduced an e-biking option on most of its trips.  Presenter and Producer: Jane Alexander
1/4/20242 minutes, 38 seconds
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Venice Moves to Limit Tour Group Sizes

Episode Notes Officials in Venice have recently approved a measure to cap tour group sizes to help the city better manage tourist arrivals, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Tour groups of more than 25 people will be banned from the city center and three of its islands starting June 1. A local tourism official said that limiting large group tours would help preserve Venice’s infrastructure and reduce overcrowding. Habtemariam notes the city is also banning portable loudspeakers used by tour guides.  Travel investor Greg O’Hara said at last year’s Skift Global Forum that Italians have been deterred from visiting Venice in part because of the huge crowds it attracts. Next, Tripnotes got a lot of buzz in 2023 as one of the first ChatGPT-powered AI trip planners. But by December, it sold itself and shut down the site, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  Dawes notes that Tripnotes was one of the first travel companies to commit to building a generative AI-powered trip planner. Tripnotes co-founder Matthew Rosenberg said he was looking to use personalized recommendations and in-app travel booking to reinvent city guides. However, Dawes reports that while Tripnotes had buzz, it needed money – which wasn’t easy to raise in 2023, especially after Silicon Valley Bank collapsed in March. Restaurant reservation startup Dorsia ultimately bought the company.  Next, China and Thailand have reached a reciprocal agreement that will permanently waive visa requirements for citizens of the two countries starting in March, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia.  Thai Prime Minister Srettha Thavisin said on Tuesday that the agreement would help strengthen the relationship between Thailand and China. Thailand currently allows Chinese visitors to stay in the country visa free for 30 days. However, Beijing hadn’t granted Thai travelers a similar treatment until now. China was Thailand’s second-largest tourism market in 2023, with 3.5 million Chinese travelers visiting the kingdom. 
1/3/20243 minutes, 8 seconds
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A Question of Loyalty as U.S. Probes Airlines Points

Episode Notes The U.S. Department of Transportation has launched an investigation into whether airlines’ loyalty programs are deceiving customers, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  The DOT is examining whether airlines have devalued the frequent flier miles in their loyalty programs and made it more difficult for customers to book tickets using their rewards. The department is also looking into how airlines alert customers of changes to their frequent flier programs, among other practices, according to Reuters Next, Skift will release its 11th annual Megatrends — trends poised to shape the year in travel — next month. So how did this year’s Megatrends play out? Executive Editor Dennis Schaal takes a look at five of them. Skift projected that India would become the new China in terms of emerging as Asia’ largest outbound tourism market. Indeed, several destinations have recently granted Indian nationals visa-free entry to help boost visitor numbers from the booming market. In addition, Skift’s projection that generative artificial intelligence would transform travel marketing is holding up. Schaal cites Trivago using AI to launch a new marketing campaign that features just one actor speaking several languages.  Finally, South Africa has seen an increase in international visitors this year, especially from the U.S. But concerns about crime could hurt its tourism recovery, writes Travel Experiences Selene Brophy. Roughly 370,000 Americans visited South Africa between January and November — a 42% jump compared to the same period last year. However, total visitor numbers were 17% below 2019 levels. As crime is a significant concern for tourists in South Africa, authorities are deploying 2,300 tourism monitors during the peak holiday season to improve security for visitors.  Brophy reports those tourism monitors will be deployed at locations such as ports of entry, national park and popular tourist attractions.
12/22/20232 minutes, 47 seconds
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Faster In-Flight Wi-Fi Is Coming to More Airlines

Episode Notes Universal Studios is looking at England for its next theme park. The company has bought land near London to possibly build its next big project, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.   Universal said it’s examining how viable a new theme park resort in the United Kingdom would be. Brophy notes the attractions operator expects to make its final decision about the project after several months of stakeholder and community engagement. If Universal decides to build the theme park, Brophy writes it would be its most significant foray into Europe.  A Universal representative told Theme Park Insider that roughly half of the UK population lives within two hours of the proposed site.  Next, the retailer Tommy Bahama is famous for producing Hawaiian-themed attire. The company is now taking its beach vibes to the hotel industry — it recently opened its first hotel, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Tommy Bahama CEO Doug Wood said the retailer decided to enter the hotel business on the advice of focus groups it commissioned. Tommy Bahama then bought the Miramonte, a struggling resort in California’s Coachella Valley, with real-estate services firm Lowe. Tommy Bahama’s first hotel, which underwent a roughly $20 renovation and redesign, includes a restaurant serving common beach offerings.  While O’Neill writes the jury is still out on the hotel’s success, Wood said he’s looking to open more resorts.  Finally, in-flight connectivity has gotten a major boost thanks to Starlink Aviation, writes Reporter Ajay Awtaney.  Awtaney notes a growing number of airlines have turned to Starlink in recent years to improve in-flight internet service. Hawaiian Airlines, Latvia carrier airBaltic and Qatar Airways are among the carriers that have reached agreements with Starlink. In addition, Starlink signed Air New Zealand to trial internet onboard its domestic aircraft.
12/21/20232 minutes, 43 seconds
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Iceland Volcano Erupts With Minimal Tourism Impact

Episode Notes A volcano in Iceland that erupted on Monday, December 18th, is not currently posing any direct danger to either residents or tourism, according to officials.  The capital of Reykjavik and much of the rest of the country remain unaffected, and major tour operators are still running trips as planned, writes Dawit Habtemariam, Skift’s global tourism reporter. Flights are operating through Keflavik International Airport on schedule. Answering a list of frequently asked questions about the Icelandic volcano’s impact, Habtemariam said that the eruption has been shrinking. However, areas near the eruption, like the town of Grindavik, have been evacuated as a precaution. The nearby Blue Lagoon spa expects to stay closed through December 27th. Next, Uber has partnered with expense management companies Brex and Ramp to automatically match Uber rides and Uber Eats meal receipts to corporate expense reports. This new integration eliminates the need for business travelers to manually submit receipts, writes Skift Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Uber stated that this automated receipt matching is seeing “strong adoption” from corporate clients so far.  The deal is part of a larger wave of companies attempting to streamline the business travel expense process for workers and travel managers. Finally, Lufthansa Group has ordered aircraft from both Airbus and Boeing to modernize and expand its fleet. The group ordered 40 Airbus A220-300 jets. Lufthansa also ordered 40 Boeing 737-8 MAX aircraft, marking the return of the 737 to Lufthansa’s fleet for the first time since 1995. In a separate deal, EasyJet confirmed an order for 157 additional Airbus A320neo family aircraft to be delivered between 2029 and 2034. The orders support both Lufthansa’s and EasyJet’s plans to make their fleets more fuel-efficient overall by replacing older jets with newer ones.
12/20/20232 minutes, 57 seconds
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Southwest Airlines' Meltdown Fine

Episode Notes The U.S. Department of Transportation has hit Southwest Airlines with a $140 million fine over consumer-protection violations during last year’s holiday travel meltdown, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Maharishi reports the fine is 30 times larger than any previous DOT penalty for consumer-protection violations. The DOT said most of that money will go toward compensating future Southwest passengers for any disruptions. The department had concluded that Southwest didn’t do enough to protect travelers during a massive winter storm that forced airlines to cancel thousands of flights.  Next, destinations worldwide are increasingly waving visitor visa requirements. Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden delves into the impact of visa-free travel on tourism, using our artificial intelligence chatbot Ask Skift and additional reporting. Jorden writes that destinations view lifting visa requirements as part of their strategy to increase visitor numbers. Visa processing delays have been a significant obstacle to the industry’s full recovery. Travel authorities in particular are looking to attract more visitors from India, with several nations having eliminated visa requirements for Indian travelers recently. Jorden cites China as one country that’s received a major boost from a visa-free travel policy. China’s foreign ministry recently said a policy that went into effect this month has helped increase tourism from the countries involved — including France, Germany and Italy.  Finally, more older married women are embarking on trips without their spouses, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.  Brophy lists Boston-based tour operator Road Scholar — which specializes in educational group travel for older adults — as one company seeing a surge in married female guests traveling solo. Roughly 60% of Road Scholar’s solo traveler customers in 2022 were married women traveling without their spouses. Road Scholar has said the boom reflects the emergence of Baby Boomer female travelers.  Brophy notes that younger female travelers are also largely eager to travel solo. A StudentUniverse survey found that 58% of Gen Z female travelers are extremely interested in solo international travel.  
12/19/20233 minutes, 17 seconds
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U.S. Consumers Complain About Airlines in Record Numbers

Episode Notes Major U.S. airlines have made improvements this year on cancellation rates. However, the industry has seen an enormous increase in passenger complaints, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi.  Consumer complaints against airlines in the first five months of 2023 topped 2022 levels during the same timeframe, according to a report from the U.S. Public Interest Research Group, with data from the U.S. Department of Transportation. Maharishi notes the DOT received so many complaints it had to delay the release of the data. U.S. travelers made more than 38,000 complaints, according to the report Roughly 35% of consumer complaints pertained to flight issues, whether they be cancellations, delays or missed connections.  Next, Middle East Reporter Josh Corder takes a look at Dubai, host of the Skift Global Forum East conference. The city has completed its journey from a “dot in the desert” to a global hub, believes one local tourism executive. Issam Kazim, CEO of Dubai Tourism, said at the Forum on Thursday the city’s expat residents are truly global citizens. Kazim attributed Dubai’s growth to the city’s entrepreneurial spirit. He also expressed optimism that Dubai will see further tourism growth, noting it views 2023 as its tourism benchmark. The CEO acknowledged that staffing remains an issue after many hotels and airlines downsized during the pandemic.  Finally, destinations throughout Africa are ramping up their efforts to lure travelers from India, the world’s largest outbound travel market, writes Reporter Harriet Akinyi.  Akinyi reports Kenya in particular is heavily targeting Indian travelers. Kenya attracted the most Indian visitors among all African countries in the first eight months of 2013. The Kenya Tourism Board recently welcomed more than 150 Indian tour operators for a conference that one Kenyan official said would help drum up interest in the country.   Akinyi also cited South Africa, Rwanda and Uganda — among others — as African nations increasing their efforts to welcome Indian visitors. South Africa’s Tourism Minister has called for visa requirements for Indian — as well as Chinese — nationals to be eased or eliminated. 
12/15/20233 minutes, 5 seconds
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Dubai's Luxury Hoteliers Aim for Global Expansion

Episode Notes Dubai is poised to become the next big name in luxury travel, and two of the city’s luxury hoteliers are looking to expand their properties globally, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder.  Emaar Hospitality head Mark Kirby and Atlantis’ Global President Timothy Kelly spoke about their strategy in Dubai at the Skift Global Forum East conference on Wednesday. Kirby said Dubai has been a strong contributor to Emaar’s growth, and that the company wants to bring Dubai’s success overseas. Kelly expressed his desire for Atlantis to be a global brand, adding the goal is to open properties on every continent. Corder notes that Atlantis is in discussion with national governments about expansion rather than investors due to the scale of its planned projects.  Next, China’s outbound travel recovery is currently at just over half of 2019 levels. A Trip.com executive believes cumbersome visa regulations are hurting outbound travel, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia. Trip.com Managing Director Boon Sian Chiai said at the Skift Global Forum East on Wednesday that once visa issues are resolved, Chinese travelers will be eager to go overseas. Chai said that destinations with simplified entry procedures have a clear advantage in attracting Chinese visitors. He also urged hotels and destinations to provide services tailored to Chinese travelers, such as language support and digital payment options. Despite the struggles of Chinese outbound travel, Bhutia notes that domestic travel is 90% above 2019 levels.  Finally, international travel spending in the U.S. still hasn’t recovered to pre-Covid levels, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  International travelers spent $10.7 billion in October, roughly $1 billion less than the same month in 2019. Habtemariam notes one factor limiting travel to the U.S. has been affordability. Higher costs and the strong dollar have reduced the buying power of many international travelers who would come to the U.S.  Habtemariam adds Americans traveling abroad have been spending more than prior to the pandemic. U.S. travelers spent $12.1 billion on travel and tourism-related goods and services in October. That’s up from $9.8 billion from October 2019.
12/14/20233 minutes, 5 seconds
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Choice Hotels’ Next Step Toward Wyndham Takeover

Choice Hotels believes it’s taken another key step toward its planned takeover of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. Choice Hotels said on Tuesday it had bought enough Wyndham stock to nominate candidates to Wyndham’s board, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Choice Hotels said it purchased more than $110 million of Wyndham stock. In addition, it is putting forth an exchange offer to present to Wyndham shareholders for a vote next year. Wyndham said its board is reviewing the offer and would give a recommendation to its shareholders within 10 days.  But Wyndham stated Choice’s offer seems to be unchanged from one it previously rejected.  Next, Canada won’t surpass its pre-Covid visitor numbers until 2025. One reason why is China’s ongoing ban on group travel into Canada, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Meaghan Ferrigno, Destination Canada’s chief data and analytics officer, said Canada’s tourism industry would get a major boost from Beijing ending the ban. Ferrigno added that Destination Canada wasn’t currently marketing group travel in China, instead focusing on individual Chinese travelers. Tourists from China spent the most in Canada of any other group in 2019.  Finally, flight attendants at Southwest Airlines recently overwhelmingly rejected a new contract. That’s a major sign of the widespread discontent many flight attendants are feeling, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly.  Nearly two-thirds of Southwest flight attendants who voted rejected a contract that would have included pay increases of 36% over five years. Russell writes one issue was a lack of pay during the boarding and deplaning processes, with almost all U.S. flight attendants only being paid when an aircraft door is closed.  American Airlines flight attendants have authorized a potential strike. Russell notes that if American flight attendants were to go through with one, it would have a significant impact on the U.S. airline industry. American flies nearly a fourth of all U.S. domestic flights. 
12/13/20233 minutes, 5 seconds
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U.S. Holiday Travel Season May Be Largest Ever

Episode Notes A large number of Americans are planning to travel this holiday season. How many? Roughly 115 million, according to the latest forecast from AAA, which predicts this holiday season will be one of its largest on record.  It projects 7.5 million travelers will fly this year, topping the record set in 2019, noted Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi, who added that U.S. airlines are under pressure to be ready for any extreme weather. Winter storms caused airlines to cancel thousands of flights last year.  Next, Hilton went public 10 years ago Monday in the hotel industry’s biggest IPO ever. Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill lists 10 takeaways from one of the industry’s most significant events. O’Neill notes one lesson for investors is that a well-priced public debut at the right company can be a great investment. In addition, Hilton used the proceeds from the IPO to pay down debt as well as help it expand. The company currently has twice as many rooms under development than it did at the time of the IPO.   Furthermore, Hilton now has 22 brands, up from 10 a decade ago, and it has chosen to develop them in-houseO’Neill writes that strategy contrasts with the acquisition-first approach of most hotel companies.  Finally, Chinese travelers won’t be returning to New York City at pre-pandemic levels next year. Travel executives believe affordability and limited flights to the U.S. are hurting the recovery, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Peter van Berkel, chair of the International Inbound Travel Association, said it’s unaffordable for the average Chinese traveler to come to the U.S. Economy airfares from China to the U.S. can run more than $3,500, he stated during a panel discussion with New York City tourism leaders. Habtemariam also notes that flights between the U.S. and China haven’t recovered to 2019 numbers.  However, Vijay Dandapani, CEO of the Hotel Association of New York City, expressed optimism that the city would see a major rebound in Chinese tourism next year. 
12/12/20233 minutes, 8 seconds
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Middle East Tourism's Fading Momentum

Episode Notes The Middle East was the fastest-growing tourism region this year until the Israel-Hamas war began in October. No other region in the world saw its tourism fully recover this year — let alone surpass their pre-pandemic level, reports Dawit Habtemariam, Skift's Global Tourism Reporter. Through September, the Middle East saw its international tourist arrivals rise 20% above pre-pandemic levels, according to the UN World Tourism Organization. Two factors boosting Middle Eastern tourism were expanded air connectivity by airlines like Emirates and investments by tour operators like Intrepid Travel. Those ongoing strengths may help the broader region rebound if a truce in Gaza is brokered. Next, more travel companies are investing in the potential for artificial intelligence to help overhaul both customer sales and internal operations. Amazon Web Services had a conference last week, sharing AI-based updates to services used by travel companies such as Accor, Cathay Pacific, and Booking.com, reports Justin Dawes, Skift's tech reporter. Exhibit A was a new AI-based trip planning tool from Accor, the Paris-based hotel group. The chatbot helps recommend rooms at a hotel as well as local tours and activities based on answers to questions it asks travelers and past customer reviews of activities. Accor's new chatbot may help travelers find it easier to plan trips. It may also reduce call volumes at Accor's contact center. Finally, travel startup Klook has raised $210 million in financing. Klook has now raised more than $900 million in financing since its founding in 2014, reports Sean O'Neill, Skift's Senior Hospitality Editor. The Asia-based startup, with offices in Hong Kong and Singapore, competes with Berlin-based GetYourGuide as the most heavily funded startup in selling travel experiences, such as walking tours. Bessemer Venture Partners and other notable investors took part in the funding round. Klook said it was profitable and was aiming to go public someday.
12/8/20232 minutes, 57 seconds
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Navan Implements Layoffs in Attempt at Profitability

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Navan, a travel and expense management startup, has laid off 5% of employees at the company, accounting for about 145 people, writes travel tech reporter Justin Dawes. Kelly Soderlund, a spokesperson for Navan, said in an email that the layoff affected teams across departments. She said in a statement that Navan is “refocusing efforts to move faster toward profitability” as its enters the next phase of its company.  Navan has raised well over $1 billion in venture capital, most recently $154 million in October 2022.  Next, a summit about mental health highlighted the risk for pilots, writes airline reporter Edward Russell. The issue received new attention in October after an Alaska Airlines pilot Joseph Emerson nearly brought down a plane while suffering a mental health crisis. Emerson said that he had experienced depression-like symptoms since the death of a friend in 2018 — some five years before the incident. More than 55% of pilots have expressed reluctance to report mental health issues due to fear of career reprisals, according to researcher William Hoffman Jennifer Homendy, chair of the National Transportation Safety Board, is firm that something needs to be done. She stated at the summit in Washington, D.C.: “There’s a culture right now, which is not surprising to me, that you either lie or you seek help. We can’t have that. That’s not safety.” Finally, advertisements on Google by Air France, Lufthansa, and Etihad were banned for giving what the U.K.’s Advertising Standards Authority said was “a misleading impression” of their environmental impact, writes airline reporter Meghna Maharishi. The ad by Etihad, for example, implied that customers can travel with “total peace of mind” regarding its environmental advocacy. The ASA said it did not have adequate evidence that that was true. Etihad and Lufthansa took down the ads following the ruling. The ASA said Air France “did not provide a substantive response” to its ruling.
12/7/20232 minutes, 56 seconds
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Airbnb's C-Suite Shuffle

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Airbnb is shaking up its business team. It announced that CFO Dave Stephenson will become chief business officer, and VP of finance Ellie Mertz will become CFO. Catherine Powell, who became global head of hosting in July 2020, will be leaving the company.  The change comes after analysts on Wall Street expressed concern about Airbnb’s forecast for slower growth in room nights, writes Skift Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Stephenson will be in charge of expanding Airbnb’s core homes business, pushing international expansion, and expanding Airbnb’s host supply. Next, hotel brand Selina is trying to avoid bankruptcy with a new restructuring plan and a capital injection of up to $50 million. a, writes Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neal.  Financial crunches aren’t new for the brand geared toward younger travelers. Late last year, Selina went public in a SPAC deal that failed to bring in enough capital to fund its operations. Selina may have a savior, writes O’Neal. In June, the brand arranged a promise of strategic investment led by Global University Systems, which runs for-profit universities. Selina has received over about $20 million in capital since then. Finally, how profitable would a merger Alaska and Hawaiian play out? A merger between the two carriers could make them the fifth-or-sixth largest airline based on revenue, writes Skift airlines reporter Meghna Maharishi.  In terms of profitability, Alaska-Hawaiian together is less profitable than Alaska by itself but significantly more profitable than Hawaiian, which has struggled since the pandemic.  In 2017, Hawaiian reported the highest margins in the U.S. airline industry at 18.8%. But it has faced a number of issues in recent years, including the Maui wildfires and a sluggish recovery of the Japanese visitor market.  The operating margin if the two merged would be 5.1%, putting it in the middle of major U.S. airlines, writes Maharishi.
12/6/20233 minutes, 14 seconds
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What's Next for the Alaska-Hawaiian Airline Merger

Episode Notes Alaska Air Group said it would buy Hawaiian Airlines in an all-cash transaction valued at $1.9 billion, including Hawaiian’s debt. The parent company of Alaska Airlines and regional Horizon Air said it would continue to operate Hawaiian as an independent brand, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly.  The proposed merger isn’t a sure thing, given that it faces antitrust review by the Biden Administration. Analysts noted that JetBlue recently attempted to merge with Spirit Airlines, but that deal has since been mired in legal review.  Given that the route networks of Alaska and Hawaiian wouldn’t lead to the same concentration as the networks of JetBlue and Spirit, the probability is higher that the Alaska-Hawaiian deal will go through, reports Russell. Next, the American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) and American Airlines are going head-to-head in a complaint before the U.S. Department of Transport (DOT).  The debate hinges on whether American Airlines has been wrong to withhold about 40% of fare inventory from travel agencies that fail to adopt its preferred booking technology, reports Selene Brophy, Skift’s experiences reporter. Last month, American Airlines defended itself to regulators about its assertive push of the so-called new distribution capability while accusing travel agents of standing in the way of innovation.  Skift asked ASTA for the group’s response, which it published on Monday exclusively. ASTA said, “What’s lacking from American Airlines’s response is how atrocious their workflow is for new reservations.”  “We fully support the adoption of modern retailing methods when the necessary technologies are ready and in place, and we’re thankful for other airline partners who recognize that and have taken a more responsible approach.” The complaint is under review by U.S. regulators, with a response expected next year. Finally, Travelport said Monday that it had raised $570 million in new equity from investors, writes Skift tech reporter Justin Dawes.  The world’s third-largest travel technology company will add new major backers, including Davidson Kempner Capital Management and Canyon Partners, to its existing equity stakeholders, Siris Capital and Elliott Investment Management. With this new investment, Travelport will have a stronger balance sheet with the least debt amongst its peers, it said. Travelport competes with larger peers Amadeus and Sabre in helping travel agencies book flights from airlines. Once again, as with the other two stories of the day, the travel industry waits for regulators to decide what to do.
12/5/20233 minutes, 57 seconds
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American Airlines' Smaller Planes Get Bigger Wi-Fi

Episode Notes American Airlines is planning to improve its in-flight Wi-Fi access on regional jets, allowing passengers to easily check emails, browse the internet, or stream videos. The carrier plans to install high-speed Wi-Fi on around 500 regional aircraft starting next year in partnership with satellite services provider Intelsat, writes Skift’s airline reporter, Meghna Maharishi. While American already has high-speed Wi-Fi available on 900 mainline aircraft, the carrier said it wants to the same Wi-Fi service and speeds on its regional aircraft, with the goal of increasing the total number of satellite-connected aircraft to more than 1,400.  Next, Hyatt plans to improve its hotel loyalty program in January, reports senior hospitality editor Sean O’Neill.  Hyatt’s most notable change will be to expand the ability of program members to give some benefits to friends and family in one-off gifts. Before this, only certain members were able to share perks, which the company said has been highly popular. Those members could only share their benefits by booking a trip on behalf of someone else, using points or certificates.  But come January, they’ll be able to extend those benefits to someone who booked and paid for a trip on their own. Benefits include free breakfast and the possibility of a free late checkout. Finally, Trip.com Group said Thursday that it has selected Amazon Web Services as its “strategic cloud provider” in a multiyear deal meant to drive innovations in travel bookings, personalized recommendations, and customer service, writes Skift tech reporter Justin Dawes. China-based Trip.com Group owns Trip.com, Skyscanner, and other travel sites.  AWS is hosting a conference this week in Las Vegas, where it announced the Trip.com partnership as well as a number of other new technologies for the travel industry.  Trip.com Group plans to improve the booking process, optimize flight pricing, and create personalized travel planning capabilities for consumers, among a group of other projects the partners have been working on.
12/1/20233 minutes, 7 seconds
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Travel in the Ozempic Era

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes A new class of drugs is helping make progress in the fight against obesity. However, Editor-in-Chief Sarah Kopit reports the global travel industry isn’t yet ready for a shift that could have a colossal impact on businesses.  Kopit notes the so-called Ozempic Era could benefit cruise and tour operators and airlines – businesses that have food as a cost. For example, the more an aircraft weighs, the more fuel it takes to fly. Bloomberg cited one analyst who thinks United Airlines could save $80 million a year if the average passenger lost 10 pounds.  But there could also be losers – travel companies that count on food as a revenue generator, such as hotels and entertainment venues. Even a small decrease in spending on food and drinks while traveling would hurt.  Next, several next generation travel products have been revealed at the Amazon Web Services’ ongoing conference in Las Vegas, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  Dawes cited the Amazon One Enterprise, a kiosk that scans the palm of the hand to verify a person’s identity, as one product that could help hotels and airports operate more efficiently. AWS said the tech is meant to help turn companies away from traditional security access measures — like fobs and passwords — that can lead to security breaches.  In addition, AWS revealed some new generative artificial intelligence capabilities for Amazon Connect, a platform that companies can use to streamline operations in customer-service contact centers. Choice Hotels is already using some of those capabilities in its customer service contact center.  Finally, Virgin Atlantic Airways completed a transatlantic flight this week using only sustainable aviation fuel. The company is calling on the UK government to provide more support for the greener way of flying, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly.  Virgin Atlantic CEO Shai Weiss said the flight was important to show that sustainable aviation fuel could fully power a flight across the Atlantic safely. Russell notes the fuel is considered to be the holy grail of its decarbonization efforts.  But the global supply of sustainable aviation fuel is limited, and Weiss urged the British authorities to provide a price support mechanism to help bring down its cost. Russell writes most airlines are clamoring for a mix of sustainable aviation fuel mandates and financial support. 
11/30/20233 minutes, 45 seconds
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U.S. Visitor Visa Demands Are Still Overwhelming

Episode Notes Lengthy waits for visitor visas have hurt the U.S. tourism recovery. The problem isn’t expected to die down in 2024 — especially in Colombia, Mexico and India, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. U.S. State Department representatives said demand for visas reached record highs in those three countries. Previously, the visa backlog had been driven by pent-up demand and staffing shortages at multiple U.S. embassies. Both resulted from the pandemic. Julie Stufft, deputy assistant secretary for visa services, said agencies now need to contend with strong demand that goes beyond the Covid hangover.  Lengthy U.S. visitor visa waits will cost the U.S. travel industry roughly $12 billion in lost traveler spending this year, according to the U.S. Travel Association.  Next, Dolly Parton has been in the news recently, thanks to a recently released album and a new book. Parton and her partner company have also opened a new independent hotel, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Dollywood’s HeartSong Lodge & Resort is the latest collaboration between Parton and Herschend Family Entertainment. O’Neill writes they run hotels on their own, without having to rely on a major global brand or a third-party management. Parton and Herschend also finance their projects through their own capital and bank loans, rather than take the more common path of getting multiple investors. Finally, Canadian carriers Air Transat and Porter Airlines are planning a joint venture that would enable them to grab a larger market share, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly.  The newly unveiled pact would allow Porter and Transat to coordinate routes, schedules and fares across their networks. The two companies would essentially be able to merge their respective operations without the cost or challenges of actually combining. Russell adds Porter and Transat would be able to better compete with Air Canada, which dominates the Canadian market. 
11/29/20233 minutes, 2 seconds
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Choice Pushes Ahead in Wyndham Takeover Bid

Episode Notes Choice Hotels is taking a bold step in its hostile takeover bid of Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. Choice is preparing to nominate directors to Wyndham’s board, according to Reuters, writes Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Choice’s move is part of its plan to push its roughly $9.8 billion unsolicited merger between the two companies. Shareholders’ annual vote on board members would become a referendum on whether Choice and Wyndham must reopen deal talks. O’Neill notes Choice is taking those aggressive steps because Wyndham rebuffed Choice’s latest offer to restart merger talks last week.  Next, Expedia Group, Airbnb, and Uber are among major travel brands that have stopped advertising on X, the social media platform formerly known as Twitter, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Those moves come after X Executive Chairman Elon Musk endorsed another user’s post that was widely seen as antisemitic. Schaal writes critics have argued that antisemitic and anti-Muslim hate speech have increased on social media since Hamas’ attack against Israel last month.  Expedia Group declined to explain its reasoning for pausing advertising on X while Airbnb and Uber didn’t respond to Skift requests for comments.  The New York Times reported that X could lose $75 million from major brands discontinuing advertising on the platform. However, X said only $11 million was in jeopardy as other companies have increased their advertising.  Finally, ahead of next month’s Skift Global Forum East in Dubai, Middle East Reporter Josh Corder lists five questions about the Middle East travel industry he’s eager to get answers to.  Corder writes he’s excited to find out from Dubai Tourism CEO Issam Kazim if its visitor boom can continue. The city was attracting roughly 17 million visitors annually prior to the pandemic, a figure it hopes to surpass this year. Corder also notes he’s interested in learning about how Dubai’s major hotel brands plan to make inroads outside of the region.
11/28/20233 minutes, 32 seconds
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Wyndham Says ‘No’ to Choice, Again

Episode Notes U.S. airline pilots who believe they need treatment for depression often face difficult choices, such as whether to disclose their mental health issues. The new Federal Aviation Administration administrator is looking to establish a system to better help pilots dealing with mental health issues, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly.  Under current policy, disclosure leads to a lengthy evaluation process during which pilots can’t fly. Joseph Emerson, the Alaska Airlines pilot who nearly crashed a plane in October, said he had experienced symptoms of depression and that many pilots don’t come forward. FAA Administrator Mike Whitaker said this week the agency needs a system and has already formed a new committee to evaluate mental health rules and recommend changes.  Russell writes studies have found many pilots experience some form of mild depression.    Next, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts blasted Choice Hotels latest attempt at a hostile takeover, describing it as a “step backwards,” reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Wyndham said it received a letter from Choice CEO Pat Pacious last week, which it stated was Choice’s first communication since going public with its bid. However, Wyndham Chair Stephen Holmes said Choice has failed to address critical issues Wyndham has raised, especially the timeline for Choice to obtain regulatory approval. Schaal writes the regulatory issue — and the possibility a deal could get blocked — is a major concern for Wyndham.  Schaal adds that Wyndham believes the hostile bid would undervalue its growth potential.  Finally, China’s travel rebound helped Trip.com Group’s third quarter revenue surpass 2019 levels, writes Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia. Bhutia reports Trip.com Group posted a net revenue of nearly $2 billion in the third quarter. That’s a 99% increase from last year as well as a 31% jump from 2019 levels. CEO Jane Sun attributed the company’s strong third quarter to Chinese consumers increasingly prioritizing spending on travel.  In addition, Bhutia notes Trip.com executives are optimistic about China’s travel demand remaining strong despite uncertainties in the global economy. 
11/22/20233 minutes, 1 second
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U.S. Airlines Brace for Massive Thanksgiving

Episode Notes The U.S. aviation industry is prepping for a record number of flyers to take to the skies for Thanksgiving this year. They’re doing so amid ongoing labor and air traffic controller issues, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly. The TSA and U.S. airlines predict 30 million travelers will fly from November 17 to 28. Russell writes this year’s holiday forecast comes while the aviation industry is already straining at the seams. Airlines are still grappling with pilot and air traffic controller shortages, especially in the New York City area.  U.S. Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigieg said the government is taking steps to limit flight disruptions as much as possible. But he acknowledged some delays and cancellations are outside of anyone’s control, with inclement weather forecast across the U.S. in the coming days.  Next, a new report reveals that climate change and sustainability issues largely aren’t a priority for U.S. tourism boards, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Only 8% of U.S. tourism boards strongly prioritize tackling climate change and cutting greenhouse gas emissions to zero. That’s according to a survey of more than 300 destination marketers by travel marketing platform Sojern. Meanwhile, 62% of European tourism boards have made climate change a significant priority.  However, U.S. — as well as Canadian — tourism boards placed much more emphasis on celebrating racial and ethnic diversity in their marketing efforts than their counterparts in Europe. Finally, Vietnam is poised to offer visa-free entry to Indian nationals, reports Contributor Ashvita Singh in the Skift India Newsletter.  Vietnamese Minister of Culture, Sports and Tourism Nguyen Van Hung indicated the country would provide visa-free entry to Indian citizens as well as Chinese nationals. Indian travelers are increasingly looking to visit destinations that don’t require visas. Vietnam would follow in the footsteps of Sri Lanka and Thailand, both of which currently offer visa-free entry to visitors from India. 
11/21/20233 minutes, 14 seconds
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U.S. Air Traffic Controller Shortage Won’t Go Away Soon

The U.S. is grappling with an air traffic controller shortage that could run into the next decade, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly. A new Federal Aviation Administration report found the agency is on pace to only have about 200 more controllers in 2032 than it does now. The report also said that planned hiring numbers would barely make up for retirements and others leaving the position. Russell notes the shortage has contributed to flight reductions and aviation safety concerns.  The report also provided recommendations for boosting air traffic controller staffing, including expanding capacity at the FAA Academy in Oklahoma City.  Next, digital nomad startup Outsite has raised $325 million with the goal of purchasing 150 boutique hotels in Europe, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  Dawes reports the company is focused on purchasing hotels in France, Spain, Portugal and Italy. Outside properties are meant for remote workers looking to book stays between one week and three months. Outside founder Emmanuel Guisset said there’s plenty of demand for its properties, but it needs more inventory.  Outside currently has roughly 50 properties in its portfolio around the world.  Finally, Tripadvisor has released a preview of its 2024 study on the Experience of Travel, which revealed the majority of travelers treasure experiences over material objects, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.  Roughly 67% of travelers surveyed said they place more value on experiences than things. In addition, 95% of travelers said they would reduce discretionary spending in areas such as food or entertainment to fund their travels. Tripadvisor surveyed more than 5,600 travelers from seven countries for the study. 
11/17/20232 minutes, 58 seconds
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UK Faces the Slow Return of Chinese Tourists

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes The United Kingdom is seeing a gradual return of Chinese visitors, but a full recovery won’t take place until 2025, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  VisitBritain CEO Patricia Yates told Parliament on Tuesday that Chinese visitor numbers would slowly build back to pre-Covid levels. Flight bookings from China to the UK are down 50% from 2019. Yates attributed that massive drop to Beijing not approving the UK for outbound group travel until August.  Chinese visitors were the second-highest spenders in the UK behind American tourists prior to the pandemic.  Next, Etihad Airways has plans for significant growth. The company aims to double its fleet and triple its passenger number by 2030, writes Reporter Ajay Awtaney.  Etihad Aviation Group CEO Antonoaldo Neves said the company plans to increase its fleet size to 150 aircraft. That’s a part of its growth plan named Project 2030, a year Etihad wants to fly 33 million passengers. Awtaney reports the company expects to increase its number of partnerships over the next six months.   Finally, Japan has seen a major tourism boom recently. But tours and activities operators say they’re experiencing a capacity crunch in the country, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.  The Japan National Tourism Organization said visitors to Japan topped pre-Covid levels for the first time in October. However, Wei-chun Liu, chief operating officer of experiences booking company KKday, said Japan has struggled to manage the surge in travel demand. Liu said KKday has seen constraints in areas such as bus and tour guide capacity. 
11/16/20232 minutes, 48 seconds
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Airbnb’s New AI-Focused Acquisition

Episode Notes Airbnb is looking to further incorporate artificial intelligence into its business. And on Tuesday, it announced it has acquired GamePlanner.AI, a company founded by a creator of Siri, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said his company has been rebuilding its app with a focus on AI, and that the GamePlanner.AI team will focus on accelerating certain projects. Airbnb recently unveiled a new AI-powered photo tour tool for hosts.  Airbnb didn’t reveal the acquisition price, but a CNBC report valued the deal at close to $200 million.  Next, the chief operating officer of Riyadh Air, Saudi Arabia’s new airline, believes it can take advantage of the growing travel demand in the kingdom. But the company isn’t looking to compete with Emirates to be a global hub, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder. Riyadh Air Chief Operating Officer Peter Bellew told Skift the airline’s main goal is to make going from point-to-point easier for travelers. He added he doesn’t see Riyadh Air, which is scheduled to launch in the middle of 2025, becoming a super connector. Riyadh Air hopes to fly to more than 100 destinations by the end of the decade.  Meanwhile, Corder reports Riyadh Air hasn’t announced any orders at the ongoing Dubai Airshow. Bellew said the company is primarily focused on recruiting staff at the moment. Finally, travelers haven’t been booking trips to Turkey in large numbers recently, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Several tour operator executives said they’ve seen bookings for Turkish trips dry up. Kelly Torrens, Kensington Tours’ vice president of product, said many travelers don’t feel comfortable traveling in the region despite Turkey not being near the Israel-Hamas conflict. Jacada Travel founder Alex Malcolm said he’s had to explain the situation to travelers to make them feel comfortable about traveling in Turkey.  G Adventures Vice President Yves Marceau said if bookings continue to remain weak, tour operators will have to trim their inventory in Turkey. 
11/15/20233 minutes, 13 seconds
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Thanksgiving Travel Will Be a Massive in the U.S. This Year

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Americans are gearing up to travel in large numbers for the Thanksgiving holiday next week. This Thanksgiving could be the busiest for the U.S. air travel for 18 years, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Travel organization AAA says that more than 4.7 million Americans will fly for Thanksgiving, the highest number since 2005. AAA also found flight bookings on the Tuesday before Thanksgiving appear higher than normal. That’s possibly because Americans working remotely can take advantage of cheaper airfares on off-peak days. Habtemariam notes both American Airlines and United forecast this Thanksgiving will be their busiest ever. United will fly nearly 4,000 flights daily on average during the holiday period.  Next, Emirates Airlines has reached a deal with Boeing to order $52 billion of aircraft, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder.  Emirates ordered 90 jets from Boeing as part of the megadeal, which was announced on day one of the Dubai Air Show. The deal brings Emirates’ total orders to 295 aircraft. In all, more than 200 new aircraft orders were placed on the first day of the airshow.  Emirates is set to receive new Boeing 777 aircraft that take flights up to 18 hours, enabling the airline to establish direct connections between Dubai and cities on six continents.  Finally, GetYourGuide has made waves in the tours and activities sector. And its Chief Financial Officer Nils Chrestin believes there’s an opportunity for somebody to build a hundred billion company in the sector, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.  Brophy reports that GetYourGuide is one of the dominant online travel marketplaces for experiences. Chrestin said in an interview with Skift that GetYourGuide has seen considerable growth over the last year and a half. However, he said the company has no immediate plans to go public.  Meanwhile, in addition to being the clear market leader in Europe, Chrestin said GetYourGuide has seen business boom in the U.S. and North America in general.
11/14/20233 minutes, 3 seconds
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Booking.com Will Sell You a Cruise Now

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry Go deeper into the business of travel with Skift’s new AI chatbot. Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Booking.com took a step to diversify its offerings on Thursday. The company launched cruises in the U.S. via a partnership with cruise agency World Holdings, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Schaal writes Booking.com offering cruises is part of its efforts to be a larger force in the U.S., the world’s largest cruise market. A company spokesperson said Booking.com’s cruises would offer customers access to exclusive offerings and deals on its platform. Schaal adds that Booking.com customers would be able to choose from more than 10,000 sailings on 30-plus lines.  Next, Americans have gone overseas in large numbers this year. So what have been the most popular destinations for U.S. travelers? Flight booking data reveals Cancun and London are Americans’ top international destinations so far this year, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Roughly 17.5% of all flight bookings from U.S. cities to international destinations from January through August were for Cancun. U.S.-Cancun bookings hit 91% of 2019 levels. Meanwhile, London was the second-most popular destination from U.S. airports with 8.5% of bookings. Meanwhile, New York City was the top domestic destination for U.S. travelers with roughly 4% of flight bookings. Finally, Wizz Air has experienced enormous growth coming out of the pandemic. But that growth is set to come to a halt next year, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly. The Hungary-based airline has been boosted by an increase in seats in London and Italy as well as the arrival of dozens of new Airbus jets. However, Russell notes that Wizz has been hit hard by engine issues affecting a large number of its jets. Wizz expects that at least 45 of its roughly 200 planes will be grounded in January. The airline has also suspended flights to Israel.  Meanwhile, Wizz recorded a $560 million operating profit and 17.1% operating margin in the six months ending in September.
11/10/20232 minutes, 54 seconds
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Will Las Vegas' Sphere Be a Big Zero?

Episode Notes Airbnb released its latest set of product enhancements on Wednesday — including Guest Favorites, new badges that identify customers’ favorite homes, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Schaal writes that Airbnb will place a Guest Favorites badge on 2 million of its properties. Those badges will help travelers pick stays based on homes’ ratings. Schaal notes that hosts will benefit from several other features as well. Airbnb said hosts will be able to create AI-powered photo tours of their homes in seconds.  In addition, Airbnb said it’s overhauling ratings and reviews to make them more guest-friendly. Guests will be able to sort reviews by when they were written and their rating scores.   Next, Las Vegas’ Sphere arena opened to much fanfare in September, headlined by a U2 concert. But will it be a profitable venue? Newly released data highlighted the risks and rewards of the $2.3 billion structure, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.   While Sphere Entertainment CEO James Dolan expressed optimism about the Sphere’s potential, Brophy notes analysts are uncertain if it will generate enough revenue to offset the enormous initial investments. Revenue from the Sphere’s opening didn’t cover its first quarter direct operating expenses. However, one media executive said the Sphere was on its way to becoming a global landmark due to the publicity it’s already received. Brophy adds its owners are hopeful upcoming major events in Las Vegas will help expose visitors to the venue.  Finally, Singapore Airlines is coming off a strong September quarter. But the company is not resting on its laurels as its rivals continue their recoveries, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly. Singapore Airlines posted a $589 million operating profit during the quarter. Company executives attributed the success to strong peak summer travel demand and lower fuel prices. And Russell writes the carrier is developing a multi-part strategy to maintain a competitive advantage, including extending its network of airline partnerships around the world.  Russell adds that Singapore Airlines is working to increase connectivity over the city-state’s Changi Airport. Singapore Airlines and budget subsidiary Scoot plan to serve 23 destinations in China by December. 
11/9/20233 minutes, 6 seconds
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Microsoft's and Amadeus' New AI Push

Episode Notes Some analysts have argued that Choice Hotels International is too reliant on acquisitions to grow. But despite its ongoing push to acquire Wyndham, Choice believes the organic growth of its development pipeline is healthy, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Choice CEO Patrick Pacious said during its earnings call on Tuesday that he’s encouraged by the state of its pipeline. He noted that Choice averaged more than four openings per week through September. However, Joseph Greff, a J.P. Morgan analyst, said Choice Hotels’ legacy room count has registered, at best, only modest footprint growth.  As for its third quarter performance, O’Neill writes Choice Hotels generated $92 million in net income. Next, Microsoft and travel technology company Amadeus are working together to develop artificial intelligence-related travel products. Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes highlights three of those innovations.  Cyril Tetaz, Amadeus’ executive vice president of airline solutions, outlined what Microsoft and his company have in store in an interview with Skift. Their initiatives include personalized airline homepages for customers, a system for airline crew rescheduling, and a platform to simplify the work of an airline analyst.  Tetaz added that Amadeus has many other initiatives in the works with Microsoft.  Finally, luxury hospitality brand Inspirato is continuing to see losses mount. But the company believes it can become profitable by cutting costs, writes Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman. Kalyanaraman reports Inspirato is burning cash at $15 million per quarter. It’s also grappling with a decrease in revenue. But Chief Financial Officer Robert Kaiden said Inspirato will save $50 million by the end of first quarter next year by cutting costs. He noted that roughly $30 million of those savings are expected from pruning the portfolio and terminating leases.  Inspirato posted a net loss of $25 million in the third quarter. Its revenue also decreased 11% from last year. 
11/8/20233 minutes, 11 seconds
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Airbnb's Solution to NYC Listings Drop: Hotels

Episode Notes Airbnb has seen its listing numbers tumble in New York City due to a regulatory crackdown. But the short-term rental giant believes boutique hotels can help fill the gap, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky said during the company’s recent earnings call that adding boutique hotels to its New York City inventory was an opportunity given the decline in short-term rental listings for homes. He noted that boutique hotels are already listed on HotelTonight, the app Airbnb acquired in 2019. However, despite the possible boutique hotel push, Chesky said Airbnb’s core business will always be houses.  Next, timeshare company Hilton Grand Vacations has offered to buy Bluegreen Vacations in a deal that could be worth $1.5 billion, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Hilton Grand Vacations will offer $75 a share in an all-cash transaction. O’Neill reports Hilton Grand Vacations, which was spun off from Hilton in 2017, is looking to strengthen its position in the vacation ownership and experiences sector. Hilton Grand Vacations runs resorts primarily in the U.S., Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. Finally, Egypt was on track for a record tourism year in 2023. But it’s seen rising cancellations recently from American tourists due to the Israel-Hamas war, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Habtemarian reports that Egypt had welcomed roughly 10 million tourists in the first eight months of this year. However, travel companies that take American travelers to Egypt have reported a surge of recent cancellations. Kelly Torrens, an executive at Kensington Tours, said the current season will be lost for most tour operators working with the U.S. market. Although some tour operators are optimistic travel to Egypt will increase in 2024, Torrens acknowledged that bookings for Egypt trips next year are low compared to previous years. 
11/7/20232 minutes, 48 seconds
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Travel Stocks' Wild Ride in 2023

Episode Notes 2023 has been a wild ride for investors in travel companies, with those stocks on the edge of a bear market. How bumpy has the year been? Senior Research Analyst Seth Borko turns to the Skift Travel 200, an index tracking the stock market performance of the global travel industry.  Borko writes that while travel has been a volatile industry this year, travel investors have made money in 2023. The Skift Travel 200 is up 6% from this point last year after being down 20% in 2022. In addition, Borko notes that stocks in cruises and tours, travel’s best performing sector so far in 2023, are up 26%.  Next, Expedia Group rode a strong third quarter in its business-to-business and business-to-consumer segments to record revenue and profitability, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  The company reported an adjusted net income of $778 million, the highest for any quarter in its history. Expedia Group also generated $3.9 billion worth of revenue during the third quarter, a 9% jump from last year and a quarterly record as well. Schaal adds the company also accomplished a couple of key goals, including launching its One Key loyalty program in July. Finally, Hyatt remains optimistic that its large hotel pipeline in China will pay dividends despite the country’s economic difficulties, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Although China is currently experiencing both a commercial property and municipal debt crisis, O’Neill reports Hyatt leaders are still confident in their strategy there. Hyatt has 40% of its hotel pipeline in China. CEO Mark Hoplamazian said during its third quarter earnings call he believes Hyatt will be able to maintain both net room and pipeline growth.  Meanwhile, Hyatt said that overall hotel demand in the third quarter was down from 2019 levels by the mid-to-high teens, but that’s an improvement. At the start of the year, demand was down 60%. 
11/3/20233 minutes, 6 seconds
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American Airlines Looks at Small Cities, United Airlines Looks Abroad

Episode Notes Airbnb had a strong third quarter, recording its highest ever quarterly profits and setting a company record for revenue, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes. The company reported net income of $1.6 billion, excluding a one-time income tax benefit. It also generated $3.4 billion worth of revenue, an 18% jump from last year. Dawes reports those record numbers were driven by 113 million bookings during the third quarter, a 14% year-over-year increase.  In addition, Airbnb said it saw a 19% jump in its active listings last quarter, with Latin America and Asia-Pacific representing the regions with the highest growth.  Next, American Airlines is looking to boost profitability as it flies to more underserved U.S. cities and enhances its loyalty program, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.   American CEO Robert Isom said at the Skift Aviation Forum on Wednesday the carrier would increase service to smaller U.S. cities, citing Roanoke, Virginia and Lubbock, Texas as examples. Isom added that American was looking to strengthen its loyalty program, which lags behind competitors. He called it an “untapped opportunity.”  Finally, United Airlines strongly believes that the international travel boom hasn’t peaked, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly.  United Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella said at the Forum on Wednesday that the company sees more opportunity for growth overseas. United recently ordered hundreds of new Boeing 787s and unveiled several transatlantic routes for next summer. Russell writes United saw record profits for both transatlantic and transpacific travel in the third quarter.  However, Russell notes many airline industry insiders wonder if the international boom will continue. In addition, long-haul international routes cost more to operate than domestic flights, possibly leading to large losses. 
11/2/20232 minutes, 46 seconds
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Maui’s Long Road to Recovery

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Maui’s western region will fully reopen to tourism on Wednesday, two months after it was devastated by a massive wildfire. But Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam writes the island still faces a long road to recovery.   Sherry Doung, executive director of the Maui Visitors & Convention Bureau, said the organization wasn’t expecting large numbers of travelers to come to western Maui. Scheduled airline seats to Maui for November and December are still substantially below 2022 levels. While Habtemariam reports that the huge post-disaster decline in tourism to Maui has stopped, visitor numbers aren’t expected to substantially increase for some time.  Next, JetBlue Airways had a brutal third quarter, as weather-related disruptions and rising jet fuel costs dented its profits, reports Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden.  JetBlue posted a $129 million net loss, excluding one-time accounting charges. The company reported during its earnings call on Tuesday that it generated $2.4 billion in revenue, an 8.2% decrease from the same period last year. JetBlue Chief Financial Officer Ursula Hurley described the magnitude of air traffic control and weather-related delays as staggering.  However, the news coming out of the earnings call wasn’t all negative. JetBlue President Joanne Geraghty said the company has seen a surge in corporate bookings since Labor Day. Finally, Colorado legislators held a public hearing on a proposed bill that would significantly impact short-term rental properties in the state, writes Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman. The bill, if passed, would result in short-term rental units being classified as a residential real property or a lodging property based on its use the previous year. Kalyanaraman reports that how a unit is classified would have a big impact on taxes that owners ultimately pay, with a substantial increase in the tax rates for short-term rentals.
11/1/20233 minutes, 17 seconds
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Africa’s Booming Middle Class Poised to Boost Domestic Tourism Across the Continent

Episode Notes Visa processing delays have hurt the travel industry’s recovery, especially in the U.S. and Europe. Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden turns to Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot, for more information about how lengthy visa waits are impacting tourism.  Jorden reports visa delays for the U.S.’ top inbound markets top 400 days on average. U.S. Travel Association CEO Geoff Freeman said at the recent Skift Global Forum that the long visa wait times make the U.S. an unwelcoming environment for travelers and the U.S. is losing ground in the race to attract tourists.  Meanwhile, lengthy visa waits for travel to Europe are driving more Indian travelers to visit destinations closer to home. One India-based travel executive said it’s taken travelers as long as 45 days to land an appointment for a Schengen visa.  Next, the Four Seasons recently enhanced its latest marketing campaign that showcases employees’ efforts to enhance customers’ stays.  Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill said the Four Seasons is looking to unveil more guest-centric tech, including mobile keys for all guest rooms. The company is also working to enable guests to pay check-out invoices from their phones.  However, Marc Speichert, the Four Seasons’ executive vice president, said the hotel isn’t looking to add any large properties to its portfolio.  Finally, African travel executives believe the continent’s growing middle class could significantly boost tourism, especially domestic tourism, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy. Brophy reports that South Africa in particular has had a surge in domestic tourism. The sector has seen a 31% jump in overnight trips during the first four months of 2023. And domestic travel spending in the country has increased 41% in the same period.  Analysts believe the growth could be replicated around Africa. The World Bank estimated that the continent was home to a pre-pandemic middle class of 170 million people. In addition, Brophy writes Africa has the youngest population in the world, with more than 60% of Africans under the age of 25. 
10/31/20233 minutes, 24 seconds
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Wyndham Execs Bemoan Choice's 'Desperate Plan'

Episode Notes Wyndham Hotels & Resorts executives used strong language Thursday to explain to investors why they were rejecting the $9.8 billion hostile bid from Choice Hotels, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.   O’Neill writes Wyndham executives highlighted a lack of cash up-front and Choice’s alleged weaker performance as major concerns about a deal. In addition, Wyndham said any deal between the two companies would take more than 12 months to clear regulatory review. The prospects for a deal aren’t completely dead, but it faces long odds. “It’s hard for us to say no more than we’ve already said no,” said Stephen Holmes, chairman of Wyndham’s board.  Next, Royal Caribbean executives are optimistic they’ll see strong demand for cruises in China when they return there next April, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Royal Caribbean International CEO Michael Bayley said during the third-quarter earnings call that the company has seen strong bookings for China sailings next year. Bayley added that bookings are already ahead of 2019 levels, a record year for Royal Caribbean. Habtemariam reports the company doesn’t expect a slowdown in consumer spending, with Royal Caribbean customers having a median household income of above six figures.  Finally, a Dubai billionaire believes the city is home to too many millionaires and it doesn’t have enough resources to cater to its increasingly wealthy population, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder. Real estate magnate Mohamed Alabbar, one of Dubai’s wealthiest men, said the city’s growth isn’t sustainable. Corder reports Dubai’s population is expected to increase from the current 3.5 million to 5.5 million by 2030. A recent report stated the United Arab Emirates is expected to attract a large number of millionaires from India.  Alabbar added one of Dubai’s problems is that the city is trying to build too much, too quickly.
10/27/20232 minutes, 45 seconds
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Hilton Sees U.S. Growth Returns to Pre-Pandemic Norms

Episode Notes Hilton’s third-quarter earnings call suggested that U.S. hotel demand is returning to pre-pandemic norms. However, the company is seeing bookings surge at its overseas hotels, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. Hilton’s revenue per available room — an important industry metric — rose only 3% in the U.S. in the third quarter. But it jumped 39% in the Asia-Pacific region. Hilton also reported worldwide growth in revenue per available room across all customer segments.  The company generated $379 million worth of net income in the third quarter, a roughly 10% jump from last year.  Next, Taylor Swift’s Eras Tour has had an enormous impact on hotel bookings around the U.S. (and Kansas City Chiefs viewership), but what about the short-term rental industry? Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman examines the boost Swift has provided the sector. Kalyanaraman reports that the Eras Tour contributed roughly $10 million to the short-term rental industry. In addition, the 20 U.S. cities that hosted shows during the Eras tour registered a 28% increase in revenue per available room. Jeff Breece, an executive at revenue management program Beyond Pricing, said cities also saw double-digit increases in occupancy and average daily rates.   Finally, vacation rental brand Vrbo has recently cut ties with a large number of hosts who have canceled guest bookings too frequently, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Tim Rosolio, an Expedia Group vice president, said at a conference this week that Vrbo, an Expedia Group brand, has essentially been getting rid of bad apples from its ranks. He said that unnecessary cancellations could not only anger guests but turn them off from booking a vacation rental again. Rosolio noted that Vrbo has always viewed how many properties it has as a bit of a vanity number.  In addition, Vrbo has also decided to levy penalties of up to 50% of a gross booking against hosts who cancel too much.
10/26/20233 minutes, 6 seconds
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Beyonce Boosts Hotel Bookings

Episode Notes Taylor Swift wasn’t the only major pop star responsible for a tourism boom this summer. Beyonce’s Renaissance Tour helped lift hotel bookings across the U.S. and Europe, writes Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. O’Neill cites Cardiff, Wales, Cologne, Germany and Houston, Texas, as cities where hotel bookings surged during stops on Beyonce’s tour. Hotels in her hometown of Houston generated $18 million in revenue on the nights of her concerts, a 45% jump from the same weekend last year.   However, O’Neill notes some cities — including London, Boston, and Las Vegas — didn’t register a noticeable bump. He adds shows on weeknights during the school year were much less likely to drive travel demand.  Next, Airbnb has been accused of violating a temporary restraining order in a New York City building, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  The owner had placed the building on New York City’s so-called banned building list, which blocks short-term rentals.  However, the contempt motion alleges that guests were seen in the apartment on October 17 and that the listing was still on Airbnb. Schaal writes the building owner asked the judge to impose penalties for an alleged violation related to a short-term rental listing. A hearing is scheduled for October 30 in a New York State court.  Finally, prominent airline industry executives will gather for the Skift Aviation Forum in Fort Worth, Texas on November 1. Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly, lists five topics he’s looking forward to discussing at the Forum.   Russell writes that, despite constant warnings about economic downturns, the global airline industry is continuing to make progress in its recovery. While he notes that corporate travel in the U.S. has plateaued in its rebound, international travel has continued to boom. Transatlantic demand set records this summer, and many industry figures expect transpacific to surge as well. 
10/25/20233 minutes, 4 seconds
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Qatar Airways CEO Steps Down

Episode Notes Qatar Airways CEO Akbar Al Baker, one of most influential executives in the global airline industry, announced on Monday he’s stepping down, effective November 5, writes Reporter Ajay Awtaney.  Under his leadership, the airline has grown from five aircraft in 1996 to 258 aircraft today. Al Baker also played a critical role in the opening of Hamad International Airport, which has served as Qatar Airways’ hub since 2014. Badr Mohammed al Meer, the airport’s current Chief Operating Officer, will replace Al Baker as Qatar Airways CEO.  Next, Airbnb has emphasized South Africa in its quest to substantially boost international revenue. Indeed, the short-term rental company reported on Monday that host revenue in the country is 25% above pre-pandemic levels, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.  Brophy reports that users who listed South African properties on Airbnb generated roughly $211 million of revenue last year. The company said it has about 65,000 South African listings, triple the number it had in 2017. And Brophy notes Airbnb has plenty of room to expand in South Africa as the country has yet to make a full tourism recovery.   Finally, Meta is among a growing number of companies that have released artificial intelligence-powered tools that can be used for travel. So how does Meta’s new chatbot perform? Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes explains what it gets wrong. Dawes tested the chatbot on WhatsApp and noted several errors, including links to articles with outdated information.  Dawes adds that Meta AI struggles with itinerary creation. He writes the chatbot produced a barebones itinerary following several steps, which included asking for details about restaurants and museum exhibits. 
10/24/20232 minutes, 58 seconds
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U.S. Issues Message of ‘Caution’ to Americans Traveling Worldwide

Episode Notes First, the U.S. Department of State has issued a message urging all Americans traveling abroad to “exercise increased caution” due to heightened tensions in various locations and potential terrorist attacks and violent actions against U.S. citizens. The alert is in response to the global consequences of the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas, writes tourism reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Americans traveling abroad were advised to stay alert in locations frequented by tourists, enroll in the Smart Travel Enrollment Program to stay updated, and follow the State Department on Facebook and Twitter. Next, AirDNA, which analyzes short-term rental data from Airbnb and Vrbo, has launched a feature to help investors make profitable decisions when purchasing homes for vacation rentals, writes executive editor Dennis Schaal. Investors can now view homes for sale through AirDNA, as well as view estimates for how they have fared as short-term rental properties regarding occupancy, average daily rates, and revenue. Currently, it shows homes for sale in the U.S. only. The UK and France would likely be the next countries on tap for expansion. Finally, Air India Express unveiled its new look on a brand new Boeing 737–8 aircraft. The message was clear: A break away from its staid image as a sleepy subsidiary no one talks about, writes reporter Ajay Awtaney. The airline’s visual identity now features a bright color palette of orange and turquoise, with tangerine and ice blue as secondary colors. It has built its branding around the letter X, and is clearly trying to connect with a younger generation. Each aircraft livery will feature a variable tailfin design inspired by India’s art and crafts heritage. This is one of several investments being made with a goal for Air India Express to become a dominant carrier in India and serve international markets from India. 
10/20/20232 minutes, 54 seconds
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Google Hotels Is Making it Easier for Small Companies to be Found

Episode Notes Google is constantly tweaking its hotels platform, and the latest iteration contributes directly to the democratization of the online travel industry, writes Skift Research analyst Pranavi Agarwal. Skift Research conducted a study of Google Hotels platform. Here are three insights from the analysis: paid sponsored listings are dominated by the largest online travel agencies; the introduction of organic results is allowing direct sites and smaller online travel agencies to compete head-on with Booking and Expedia; and Google Hotels prioritizes the direct site in its organic results, with the official site most likely to appear on top, even when it is not the cheapest option.  Next, there have been at least four travel tech acquisitions this month, writes travel tech reporter Justin Dawes.  One of them was by property management system startup Mews, which acquired a small hotel AI startup called Nomi, whose tech is meant to help hotels deliver personalized recommendations based on data that guests provide. If the hotel can keep a profile on customers, then the hotel will have better information they can use to recommend activities and restaurants. And that data sets the groundwork for the useful implementation of future generative AI concierge tools.  Finally, Premier Inn’s owner, Whitbread, said a shrinking supply of budget hotels in the UK will strengthen its pricing power for years to come, writes Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neil. Premier Inn, the UK’s leading budget hotel chain, said the country’s independent budget hotel sector shrunk 10% between 2019 and 2022, with many not expected to reopen. This supply shortage is predicted to last for at least five years, presenting a growth opportunity for Premier Inn. Because of the company’s size, it can more easily obtain favorable loans and discounted supplies. Premier Inn also said that repeat guests made 86% of its bookings this year.
10/19/20233 minutes, 5 seconds
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Choice’s $8 Billion Hostile Takeover Bid for Wyndham

Episode Notes Choice Hotels has made a public bid to acquire Wyndham Hotels in what would be a hostile takeover. Valued at nearly $8 billion, the deal would combine the companies to create the largest franchisor of budget hotels in North America, writes Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neil. Wyndham’s board of directors, however, publicly rejected the deal, citing regulatory and execution risks and they said the deal was not fair to its shareholders. Choice made its offer public after its talks with Wyndham broke down in September. The two had been in private negotiations over the past six months. Next, Expedia recently laid off around 100 employees in its recent round of job cuts. This is the online travel tech giant’s second round of layoffs in recent months, reports Online Travel Editor Dennis Schaal. Expedia’s recent layoffs follow Google, Hopper, Vacasa, Sonder and other tech companies cutting their workforces. One of the employees Expedia laid off was a director of program management for AI, machine learning and data.  Finally, United reported strong in domestic demand in the third quarter. Analysts had been worried that the U.S. market would soften but United – and other airlines – aren’t seeing it yet. Profits in the Atlantic and Pacific regions reached “record highs.”
10/18/20232 minutes, 16 seconds
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Hilton's New Loyalty Plan for Small Businesses

Episode Notes Hilton will simplify how small-and medium-sized businesses book and manage billings for its small-group meetings and events and has opened a waitlist for Hilton for Business, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neil. To encourage sign ups, Hilton will run a loyalty program that rewards business owners with points that can go toward their businesses or their personal travel. Hilton will also offer bonus points based on the number of employee sign ups, stays and stays over time. Skift estimates the initiatives may be relevant to up to 70 million road warriors next year. Next, the ongoing war between Israel and Hamas have disrupted the operations of Royal Jordanian and Wizz Air, reports Airline Weekly Editor Ned Russell from the Routes World conference in Istanbul. To avoid flying through Israeli airspace, Amman-based Royal Jordanian has to now route flights either north over Lebanon and Syria, or south over Saudi Arabia and Egypt, said Royal Jordanian CEO Samer Majali at the conference. In addition, Wizz is canceling flights on a rolling four-day basis.  Finally, Saudi Arabia’s futuristic NEOM super-city has unveiled a new region. Called Leyja, it’s a $500 billion sustainable and eco-tourism hub in the mountains, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder.  The ultra-luxury project will include high-end stores, helipads and fine-dining restaurants. It will have at least three hotels, which will be called the Wellness Hotel, Oasis Hotel and Adventure Hotel. Each will have just 40 keys. An opening date for Leyja has not been announced yet.
10/17/20232 minutes, 33 seconds
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Loyalty Backlash Doesn't Hurt Delta's Bottom Line

Episode Notes Airbnb has been blamed in recent years for helping average rents in some cities increase. But Taylor Marr, Airbnb’s first senior housing economist, downplays its impact, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.   Marr said, in an exclusive news interview with Skift, that Airbnb is launching a housing research program. Although Marr acknowledged Airbnb could have negative impacts on some communities, he played down the company’s role in rent increases. He cited a recently published Conference Board of Canada study that found there was no connection between Airbnb and rents.  Next, Delta Air Lines struck a nerve with many of its customers when it made major changes to its SkyMiles loyalty program. However, the pushback the company received didn’t hurt its bottom line during the third quarter, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly. Delta CEO Ed Bastian said the company didn’t see a drop in bookings, spend levels or usage of its co-branded credit card with American Express. The Atlanta-based carrier changed its key loyalty metric to money spent with Delta. The company brought in roughly $1.7 billion during the third quarter under its deal with American Express. Bastian added that Delta plans to release updated requirements for its loyalty program soon.  Delta generated a nearly $2 billion operating profit during the third quarter. The company’s revenue increased 11% from the same period last year.  Finally, ever since the first generative AI chatbot was released almost a year ago, there has been widespread discussion about it might affect travel. Indeed, a trio of tech giants have recently unveiled travel-related AI products, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes in his Travel Tech Briefing.  Dawes explores the new offerings from Amazon Web Services, Meta and Microsoft. Amazon Web Services said its platform allows travel companies to build AI tools and apps that access their own proprietary data. As for Meta, it’s released a generative AI chatbot named Meta AI that could answer questions related to trip planning.  Meanwhile, Microsoft revealed that users will be able to plan and complete corporate travel bookings through Microsoft 365 Chat. In addition, Microsoft said it’s working to pilot a travel assistant in partnership with travel technology company Amadeus. 
10/13/20233 minutes, 15 seconds
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Good Politics Vs. Travel Junk Fees

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Go deeper into the business of travel with Skift’s new AI chatbot. Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes The Biden administration has taken another step to combat so-called junk fees. The Federal Trade Commission unveiled a proposed rule on Wednesday that would stop businesses — including those in the travel industry — from charging misleading fees, reports Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden.  Jorden writes the rule would require companies to show consumers the full price of their purchase as well as whether fees are refundable. Under the FTC’s proposal, businesses that don’t comply with the agency’s regulations could face fines and possibly have to refund consumers. An FTC spokesperson told Skift that the agency will hold a 60-day public comment period after which it will decide any changes to the proposal. The FTC would then vote on a final rule.   Next, Disney has raised the price of tickets for both Disneyland and Disney World, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.  Brophy reports Disneyland raised one-day ticket prices by between 4% and 9% and also increased the prices of multi-day tickets. Meanwhile, Walt Disney World raised the price of its annual passes by nearly 10%, but it didn’t increase the price of daily tickets to any of its theme parks. One travel industry insider said Disney could be betting that a small monthly increase in payment won’t cause many pass holders to cancel.  Finally, British Airways is the latest airline to suspend all flights to Israel following Hamas’ recent attack on the country, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly.  British Airways has joined United Airlines, Ryanair and EasyJet and other airlines in suspending service to the country. However, Russell notes an extended conflict wouldn’t significantly impact the balance sheets of most major global airlines. Israel’s small size makes it easy for airlines to route flights around its airspace.  Meanwhile, not every airline has suspended flights to Israel indefinitely. EasyJet and Ryanair currently plan to resume flights to the country before the end of the week. 
10/12/20232 minutes, 52 seconds
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New York City’s Booming Short-Term Rental Underground Market

Episode Notes New York City’s recently enacted stringent host registration rules for short-term rentals has led to a substantial reduction in Airbnb’s listings in the city. They’ve also helped create an underground market for Airbnb alternatives, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal in his weekly Online Travel Briefing. A recent article in Wired described New York City’s short-term rental regulations as “pure chaos.” Schaal cites a listing on Craigslist for a one bedroom property as one example of the booming underground market. Wired revealed that fewer than 500 hosts out of the 22,000 listings on Airbnb last summer are now registered.  A spokesperson for an organization representing homeowners said short-term rentals are increasingly taking place in an unsafe environment for both hosts and guests.   Next, tourism to Morocco – especially the city of Marrakech – was hit hard by the massive earthquake that struck the country in September. But the city has just reached some important milestones in its recovery, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Although some areas affected by the earthquake remained closed to the public, Habtemariam reports several historic sites in Marrakech reopened to tourists recently. In addition, the city is hosting the 2023 World Bank and IMF Annual Meeting this week. One Moroccan tourism official said more than 14,000 people are expected to come to Marrakech for the event.  Finally, Virgin Australia recorded a profit for its fiscal year ending in June, the airline’s first in 11 years. However, the company still has a long way to go to catch up to rival Qantas, reports Jay Shabat, senior analyst at Skift publication.  Shabbat writes Virgin Australia notched an $87 million net profit and a 9% operating margin during the fiscal year. Virgin’s return to being in the black comes after it had restructured in bankruptcy during the pandemic. However, Virgin was less profitable than Qantas, which reported a 14% operating margin. Qantas also generated a little more than six times Virgin’s revenue during the fiscal year. 
10/11/20233 minutes, 26 seconds
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Puerto Rico's New No Passport Pitch

Episode Notes Israel had high hopes this year for its tourism sector this year as it sought to surpass 2019 visitor numbers. But Hamas’ surprise attack on the country, which has led to at least 1,000 deaths, has completely halted Israel’s tourism industry, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder and Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia.  Corder and Bhutia report that major airlines worldwide, including American Airlines and Air India, have stopped routes to Israel. Meanwhile, several governments, such as the U.S., have issued “Do Not Travel” warnings to Gaza and urged their citizens to exercise caution when traveling to Israel.  Israeli officials had expressed optimism earlier this year the country could set tourism records in 2023. However, Israel was already struggling to meet its targets before the recent attacks. Furthermore, carriers halting flights from the Americas and Europe, both large source markets, will likely have a major impact on visitor numbers for the rest of the year.     Next, Airbnb is ending its Airbnb Plus program, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Schaal writes Airbnb viewed the program as a way to obtain and promote and push exclusive listings that satisfied roughly 100 design expectations. However, he notes that Airbnb Plus sputtered and never came close to meeting expectations, with several industry experts questioning the usefulness of it for both hosts and guests. In addition, Airbnb hasn’t onboarded any new Airbnb Plus listings in some time.  The official end date for the program is November 6.  Finally, Puerto Rico is launching a new tourism campaign geared towards travelers unable to take certain trips because they couldn’t obtain their passport in time, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Habtemariam reports that the “No Passport, No Problem” campaign will launch next month. It aims to remind Americans they don’t need a passport to visit Puerto Rico, a U.S. territory. Discover Puerto Rico Chief Marketing Officer Leah Chandler said about a third of Americans are unaware that trips to the island don’t require a passport.  While the number of Americans traveling abroad is continuing to surge, Habtemariam notes that the average wait time to get a U.S. passport is between 10 and 13 weeks. 
10/10/20233 minutes, 9 seconds
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Marketing British Tourism With Movies and TV

Episode Notes Saudi Arabia has just announced it will bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2034. A big question is, if chosen as the host, will the kingdom stage the first entirely alcohol-free World Cup, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder. Corder reports Saudi Arabia would have all the event spaces it needs as well as some of the world’s luxurious hotels by 2034. However, Saudi authorities would have to determine whether to ease the country’s long-standing ban on alcohol. Fellow Gulf State Qatar severely restricted the sale of alcohol when it hosted the World Cup last year after having initially announced that stadiums would serve booze. John Pagano, CEO of the Saudi government-owned Red Sea Global, said earlier this year that serving alcohol was not on the agenda for the country’s tourism industry.  Next, Europe’s short-term rental industry has been blamed for an array of problems affecting the continent, including overtourism. But sector representatives argue they shouldn’t be the scapegoat for bad policies, writes Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman.  Viktorija Molnar, the acting secretary general of the European Holiday Home Association, defended the short-term rental industry in an interview with Skift. Molnar cited poor management as the reason why cities such as Barcelona and Amsterdam have suffered from overtourism. She also said the short-term rental industry has been attacked by politicians eager to show they’re working to solve the continent’s issues.  Finally, VisitBritain will develop a tourism campaign featuring locations appearing in movie and TV shows, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  VisitBritain CEO Patricia Yates said at the recent Skift Global Forum that British officials will tap into pop culture as part of its strategy to boost tourism. Yates cited Bristol, where the Charlie and the Chocolate Factory prequel Wonka was filmed, as one destination the organization would heavily promote. VisitBritain had previously featured Harry Potter and James Bond in its marketing campaigns.   Habtemariam writes VisitBritain is using film tourism to help spread tourism beyond London. The organization said roughly a third of potential tourists are interested in visiting locations used in filming and seen-on-screen. 
10/6/20232 minutes, 45 seconds
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Saudi Arabia Wants to Host the World Cup

Episode Notes Hilton has just released its annual whitepaper documenting major travel trends. So what did it reveal? Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill documents the three trends he found most noteworthy. O’Neill reports that only a small percentage of Hilton’s guests are checking in via the company’s app despite its efforts to upgrade the platform. He adds that other hotel groups may see even lower percentages of guests checking in via apps. In addition, Hilton has joined rival Marriott in unveiling a series of non-alcoholic cocktails. O’Neill writes that’s a sign prominent corporations believe mocktails can generate a lot of revenue.  Hilton’s report also said that interest in all-inclusive resorts is booming, with O’Neill noting that event organizers are seemingly more eager to hold gatherings at resorts.  Next, Saudi Arabia has announced it will bid to host the FIFA World Cup in 2034, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder. The kingdom is looking to follow in the footsteps of fellow Gulf State Qatar, which hosted the event last year. Corder notes Saudi Arabia must satisfy new hosting requirements to earn the right to stage the tournament. FIFA’s regulations for aspiring host countries include respecting human rights and committing to sustainability.  Saudi Arabia’s World Cup bid is its latest effort to boost tourism through hosting major sporting events.  Finally, China’s resurgent domestic travel industry is helping boost the global air travel recovery, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly.  Airline passenger traffic was nearly 96% of 2019 levels during August, according to the International Air Transport Association. That figure is the closest to pre-pandemic levels since the start of the crisis. Russell writes that the return of Chinese domestic travelers drove the increase in air traffic worldwide. Domestic air traffic in China nearly doubled compared to last year.  
10/5/20232 minutes, 45 seconds
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Visa Delays Will Cost the U.S. $12 Billion in Lost Spending in 2023

Episode Notes The U.S. tourism industry has made progress in its recovery from the pandemic, but two major issues are hurting its ability to attract international travelers. What are they? Long wait times for visitor visas and outdated air infrastructure, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Executives speaking at the recent Skift Global Forum said the U.S. is facing fierce competition from overseas destinations that have improved their tourism infrastructure. NYC Tourism+Conventions CEO Fred Dixon highlighted Saudi Arabia as one destination his city is competing against for tourists.  In addition, U.S. Travel Association CEO Geoff Freeman said long visa wait times in some top markets will cost the U.S. $12 billion in traveler spending. Freeman added those long waits don’t make the U.S. a welcoming environment. In addition, Freeman described air travel to the U.S. as a hassle as roughly 23% of all U.S. flights are delayed or canceled.  Next, Air France-KLM will take a minority stake in bankrupt Scandinavian carrier SAS as part of a nearly $1.2 billion deal unveiled Tuesday, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly. Air France-KLM will invest $145 million for almost 20% stake in SAS as part of an investor consortium that includes the Danish government. SAS will join the SkyTeam Alliance with Air France and KLM as part of the Chapter 11 restructuring deal. Russell writes the deal is the latest in a wave of European airline consolidation that includes the Lufthansa Group’s pending acquisition of Italy’s ITA Airways.  Russell adds Air France-KLM would see its share in Scandinavia, an area long seen as Lufthansa’s backyard, increase.  Finally, United Airlines has placed an order for 110 Airbus and Boeing planes amid ongoing constraints limiting flight schedules, reports Airline Weekly Editor Russell. United said on Tuesday that the 110 planes will be delivered between 2028 and 2031. Russell writes the orders are driven partly by United’s need to replace older jets by the end of decade. The carrier is looking to grow at the capacity-constrained airports around the world. Russell adds United’s latest order will enable it to add seats to its existing schedules at, among other airports, Newark and San Francisco. 
10/4/20233 minutes, 29 seconds
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Airbnb and Hotels’ Impending Fight Over Customers

Episode Notes Executives speaking at the recent Skift Global Forum said hotel operators and short-term rental managers are not fighting for the same customers. However, hotel owners and Airbnb both have growth ambitions that could lead to more competition, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.   The heads of both Hilton and Airbnb said at the Forum that lodging isn’t a winner-take-all market but one in which multiple companies can coexist. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky added the overlap between hotels and Airbnb is smaller than most people realize.  But, O’Neill writes the future of lodging will probably see hotels and short-term rental providers increasingly go after the same travelers. While Chesky argued hotels don’t serve people seeking extended stays well, O’Neill notes hotels are increasing extended-stay options. Nearly a third of the construction pipeline for hotels in the U.S. is extended-stay projects, according to industry advisory firm Lodging Econometrics.  Next, Marriott recently gave a 144-slide presentation to analysts documenting its strategy for years to come. So what were the highlights? Senior Hospitality Editor O’Neill provides analysis of the five most eye-catching sides.   O’Neill reports Marriott has plans to grow its footprint, including adding about 40,000 net rooms over the next three years. The world’s largest hotel company is also looking to expand outside of North America. Close to 40% of its current rooms are outside of the U.S. and Canada. In addition, Marriott has seen its non-room revenue rise significantly in recent years. Roughly 20% of Marriott’s total fee revenue comes from sources other than traditional room bookings. That figure was only 5% about a decade-and-a half ago. Finally, Japan Airlines has substantially upgraded its business and first class cabins as it prepares the Airbus A350-1000 to be its flagship long-haul aircraft, writes Reporter Ajay Awatney.  Japan Airlines will add doors to both business and first class cabins. The company will also introduce industry-first features, such as large partitions in its premium economy seating. It’s part of Japan Airlines’ strategy to help improve privacy for travelers. The A350-1000 will start flying on the Tokyo-Haneda to JFK Airport route by the end of 2023.
10/3/20233 minutes, 34 seconds
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Ennismore's Big Push to Market All-Inclusive Hotels

Episode Notes Travel executives from some of the industry’s most important companies will be speaking at the 10th annual Skift Global Forum this week in New York City and they’ll address a wide range of topics.  When it comes to the future of travel, Skift CEO and founder Rafat Ali has outlined four major themes that will impact travel the most: demographic shifts, the widespread loneliness crisis, the evolving future of work and the urgent need for climate adaptation.  All pose significant challenges – but also opportunities. As the world’s population ages rapidly, the travel industry can craft experiences for an older yet increasingly active population. To address loneliness, it can create group travels centered around shared interests and themes. Next, Hospitality group Ennismore has taken major steps to market its all-inclusive resorts in its push for 100 resorts by 2027, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. The company’s all-inclusive resort collection currently has 38 properties, and Ennismore co-CEO Gaurav Bhushan expressed confidence his company could stand out in a segment that O’Neill notes is typically dominated by generic offerings.  Finally, tourism-dependent destinations such as Morocco and Maui have been decimated by natural disasters recently. Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden turns to Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot, to find out how events like earthquakes and wildfires impact tourism. As the aftermath of natural disasters often includes massive trip cancellations, Jorden writes Maui might see a decrease in visitors for the foreseeable future. Analysts at T.D have predicted that Maui’s rebound would “take years,” citing the two-year recovery for air travel demand to Puerto Rico after Hurricane Irma in 2017.  Meanwhile, one Morrocan-based expert said the tourism to Marrakech, near the recent earthquake’s epicenter, would suffer for years, adding relying on the industry to revive would be illogical. However, Moroccan hotel managers have said business is gradually returning, especially with the upcoming World Bank Group annual meeting in Marrakech. 
9/26/20233 minutes, 15 seconds
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Hilton Promises Clarity on Mandatory Fees

Episode Notes Hilton told hotel owners on Thursday it would move quickly to disclose mandatory fees upfront on all of its platforms, according to information Skift obtained, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  O’Neill writes that Hilton’s support of fee transparency comes after it received legal pressure earlier this year. Texas’ Attorney General sued Hilton in May, alleging the company had a pattern of not disclosing the total price consumers would have to pay for a room upon booking. O’Neill adds a change in Hilton’s policy should help put an end to the lawsuit.  Hilton follows in the footsteps of Marriott and Hilton, both of which now display mandatory resort fees upfront on their websites and apps.  Next, U.S. tourism executives who recently visited China for the first time in four years said there’s growing demand there for travel to the U.S., writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Habtemariam reports that representatives from NYC Tourism + Conventions and Visit California have traveled to China in the past two months. Those trips came as the U.S. and China have taken steps to improve their tourism ties. China lifted in August its Covid-era restrictions on group tours to the U.S. In addition, both Beijing and Washington have agreed to double weekly flights between the two countries.  NYC Tourism + Conventions CEO Fred Dixon said he’s seen inquiries about trips to the city increase since group tour restriction was lifted. Meanwhile, Visit California CEO Caroline Beteta noted that even China’s high youth unemployment rate hasn’t stunted pent-up demand for international travel. However, she added that Chinese looking to travel to the U.S. face long waits for visitor visas.  Finally, Moroccan tourism managers said business is returning as the country recovers from an earthquake that decimated the country earlier this month. They expect a big boost from next month’s annual meeting of the World Bank Group, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder.  While hotel bookings decreased immediately after the earthquake, Corder reports they’ve increased for October and beyond the country’s tourism hubs. Corder cites the Fairmont Royal Palm Marrakech as one hotel expecting a boom in business from the World Bank Group meeting. General Manager Jean-Francois Brun anticipates being fully booked for the event.   Corder also cited the Mandarin Oriental as another Moroccan hotel optimistic about the future. Its general manager Alain-Thomas Briere said the World Bank Group meeting is sending a message to the world that tourism to Morocco is about to resume. 
9/22/20233 minutes, 25 seconds
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Airbnb Updates: Cutting Cleaning Fees and Boosting Verified Listings

Episode Notes The travel industry now – for the first time – has an index to track public travel stocks. Skift unveiled on Wednesday the Skift Travel 200, the first benchmark for measuring the $1 trillion-plus market for public travel companies.  Senior Research Analyst Seth Borko reports the Skift Travel 200 will track travel company stock performance as well as analyze metrics such as revenue growth and profit margins. Borko adds that the Skift Travel 200 will be able to break down travel industry performance by sector. The index currently tracks 196 public companies from 34 countries, with each company classified into one of five travel sectors.  Next, Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky provided updates on Wednesday about verified listings on its platforms and cleaning fees, among other issues, writes Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman. Chesky tweeted that the company is building a new system to verify its listings. Each verified listing will have a special icon, which Chesky said is part of Airbnb’s efforts to assure users that listings aren’t fake. Airbnb plans to verify every listing in five countries — including the U.S., Canada, and Australia — in the next several months. Verified icons are set to appear on those listings starting next February.   Meanwhile, Chesky added that more than 200,000 listings have either reduced or removed cleaning fees since Airbnb started displaying the total price of stays last December.   Finally, Dubai is set to offer travelers more hotel rooms than Las Vegas by the end of the year, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder. Dubai is expected to have more than 154,000 hotel rooms, according to real estate consultancy firm Knight Frank. That’s roughly 2,000 more than what Las Vegas currently has. Dubai’s hotel count is projected to increase 6% from last year. Corder reports Dubai is seeing a surge in luxury hotel construction, with close to half of its planned rooms in luxury properties. 
9/21/20232 minutes, 46 seconds
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Europe’s New Ideas to Reign in Short-Term Rentals

Episode Notes A European parliament group has issued proposals to regulate short-term rentals that it believes will help make housing more affordable, writes Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman. The Progressive Alliance of Socialists and Democrats has proposed, among other measures, requiring online platforms to share host information with authorities and display host registration numbers. The coalition has argued short-term rental platforms have contributed to the “touristification” of cities, impacting housing affordability and livability.  Kalyanaraman reports that several European destinations have taken steps to help manage visitor numbers. Venice’s city council said it will charge day trippers a fee after the main island saw a drop in the number of permanent residents. In addition, Florence has raised its tourist tax for rentals, including on Airbnb and bed and breakfasts.  Next, global corporations are finally increasing their investments in the tourism industry after taking a pandemic-era pause. But they have far to go to reach 2019 levels, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Habtemariam reports there were 352 new capital projects in 2022, a 23% jump from the previous year. That’s according to a report by the UN World Tourism Organization and investment publication fDI Intelligence. However, that’s far below 2019’s figure of 753 projects. Habtemariam adds that the cumulative value of the projects in 2022 was $50 billion below 2019 levels.   Finally, Dubai is continuing to see visitor numbers surpass pre-pandemic figures — in large part because of a surge in Russian travelers, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder in this week’s Middle East Travel Roundup.  Dubai welcomed 9.8 million overseas visitors up to July this year, more than a million over 2022’s figure. It’s slightly greater than Dubai’s visitor numbers for the same period in 2019. Corder reports the boom in Russian visitors is a major reason for Dubai’s tourism rebound. Travel from Russia has jumped 93% from last year, with many wealthy Russians settling in Dubai. 
9/20/20232 minutes, 59 seconds
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California's Crack Down on Travel Junk Fees

Episode Notes California is looking to crack down on so-called junk fees at hotel and short-term rentals. The state’s legislators have passed two bills that could impact how California’s hotels and short-term rentals inform consumers about those fees, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.    Senate Bill 537 would prohibit businesses that sell lodging for up to 30 days in California from displaying room rates that don’t include all fees or charges, except for government-mandated taxes. Senate Bill 478 would block California businesses from advertising prices without including mandatory fees or charges, with some exceptions.  The bills are on the desk of Governor Gavin Newsom, who has yet to take a position on them. While the California Hotel & Lodging Association has expressed support for the final version of the bills, Expedia Group and Airbnb both raised concerns about it.  Next, Florida has seen an enormous boom in vacation rentals in recent years. But the state’s short-term rental industry is facing a profit squeeze with soaring labor and construction costs, writes Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman. Kalyanaraman writes that while Florida has always been a formidable destination for vacation rentals, it’s becoming more unaffordable for visitors and residents. She adds the main factor behind Florida’s soaring inflation is the high cost of housing. The surging cost of housing and growing economic divide between out-of-state investors and Florida residents has been blamed for pricing locals out.  Kalyanaraman cited Miami as one Florida city that’s seen an enormous demand for short-term rentals. However, an executive at real estate developer Newgard Development Group said despite the demand, it’s getting more expensive to build properties with lenders tightening big construction loans. In addition, the state has experienced a shortage of labor needed to maintain and service those rentals. Finally, despite the recent boom in air travel in the U.S., the country’s aviation industry is still suffering from a pilot shortage. Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden turns to Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot, for answers why. Jorden notes concerns about pilot shortages are nothing new, with thousands of U.S. pilots approaching mandatory retirement age. But major carriers made the problem worse by encouraging staff to retire early or accept voluntary leave to help avoid massive layoffs during the pandemic. Officials at budget carrier Allegiant Air said U.S. airlines are short 17,000 pilots this year. That number could double by 2032.   In addition, Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly, reported regional airlines have been the hardest hit by pilot shortage. Crews are leaving regional carriers for jobs at major airlines faster than the regionals have been able to replace the departed staff. 
9/19/20234 minutes, 8 seconds
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Maui Tourism’s Path to Recovery

Episode Notes Maui faces a long road to a full tourism recovery after wildfires decimated the western part of the island last month. Travelers have largely been slow to return to Maui out of sensitivity to local residents, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Although Hawaii tourism officials have said most of Maui is ready to welcome tourists, Habtemariam reports some travel businesses believe it’s too soon for visitors to come back. Alaska Air Group Chief Financial Officer Shane Tackett said a subset of travelers aren’t eager to vacation in a destination still suffering. In addition, airlines are continuing to cut flights to Maui in response to the wildfires.  Habtemariam adds tour operators have been cautious about taking guests back to Maui. G Adventures is considering making a return to the island in October or November. Its Vice President of Product Yves Marceau said it doesn’t want travelers to feel like they’re going back too early.  Next, Marriott International is making progress in reducing its carbon footprint ahead of its 2030 target. But the company’s emissions data reveals its greenhouse gas emissions increased last year, reports Head of Research Wouter Geerts.  Geerts writes Marriott has some of the best tracking of emissions of any hotel company. That reporting showed the company’s scope 1 and 2 emissions rose by 2.5% in 2022 compared to 2021. Scope 1 and 2 emissions are all emissions from activities under operational control for hotel companies.  Geerts notes Marriott is still on track to reach its 2030 emissions goal. But he adds the company needs a 5.4% annual decline in emissions to hit its target.  Finally, Spirit Airlines stunned investors and even its competitors with its forecast of a steep third-quarter operating loss, reports Jay Shabat, senior analyst for Skift publication Airline Weekly.  Spirit anticipates its third-quarter operating margin to be between negative 15-16%. The company had forecast in August the figure would be roughly negative 7%. Shabat notes that fuel prices have increased sharply in recent weeks while demand has softened. Spirit also expects total revenue for the third quarter to decrease from what was previously forecast.  The poor forecast follows a rough first half for Spirit. Only Hawaiian Airlines performed worse in terms of operating margin in the first half of this year among major U.S. carriers. 
9/15/20233 minutes, 11 seconds
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Airbnb Loses Three Quarters of its New York City Listings

Episode Notes Airnbnb’s New York City listings for short-term stays dropped 77% over a three-month period during which the city enacted stringent host registration rules. A major New York City hotel operator believes that decrease will contribute to a significant tailwind for hotels next year, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  An New York City-based hotel executive, who declined to be identified, said Airbnb’s struggles could give his company a boost. The hotelier noted that revenue per available room for city hotels was already projected to jump roughly 10% in 2024 from pre-Covid levels. He added the figure could rise at least three percentage points given the clampdown on Airbnb listings.  However, Schaal writes not everyone in the hotel industry agrees. Some hotel owners have argued that Airbnb’s inventory numbers are too low to significantly impact hotels in New York City.  Next, Morocco was hit by a massive earthquake last week that caused nearly 3,000 deaths. Yet several tour operators are organizing trips in the country, writes Travel Experiences Selene Brophy. Although some tour operators decided to cancel or suspend operations following the deadly earthquake, Intrepid Travel and G Adventures have chosen to reroute trips away from areas most heavily affected. In addition, Journey Morocco, which provides multi-day tours around the country, confirmed it would be operating all of its trips. However, the company’s founder Redouane Ouadi said some tours to impacted areas would be modified.  Finally, JetBlue Airways CEO Robin Hayes said it’s selling flights it can’t fly due to the ongoing air traffic control shortage, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly. Hayes said at an aviation conference that Washington hasn’t done enough to ease the operational limits from lower staffing levels. He urged the government to grant airlines waivers to flight rules at busy New York City-area airports well in advance. Russell writes airlines would be better able to plan schedules maximizing the number of seats to New York with fewer flights.   Russell adds the waiver is needed because airlines are required to use their slots and runway timings 80% of the time or risk losing them. United CEO Scott Kirby said the air traffic control shortage could cause hundreds of flight delays that wouldn’t have occurred in the past. 
9/14/20233 minutes, 30 seconds
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UAE Launches Gaming Authority to Regulate Emerging Gambling Industry

Episode Notes The rise of artificial intelligence has been a major topic of discussion in the travel industry over the past year. So as the theme of this month’s Skift Global Forum is Connection in the Age of AI, what do major travel executives think about booming technology? Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes provides some of their opinions about it. Dawes cites Airbnb’s Brian Chesky and Uber’s Dara Khosrowshahi as two CEOs vocal about the impact of AI on their companies. Chesky said AI would be the driving force between a vastly different Airbnb. Meanwhile, Khosrowshahi said AI could improve user personalization by tracking preferences, such as preferred types of cars.  Dawes adds that executives around travel have spoken about how advancements in AI could change travel search and booking. Priceline and Booking.com have already released Google-powered tools on their respective apps.  Next, the United Arab Emirates has established a gaming authority to regulate its nascent gambling industry, writes Middle East Reporter Josh Corder.  Corder notes the General Commercial Gaming Regulatory Authority will set guidelines for future casinos as well as a potential “Arabian Strip” gambling zone. The country’s media has reported the agency would look to help unlock gaming’s economic potential. The United Arab Emirates could earn roughly $6.6 billion in revenue yearly from gaming, according to Bloomberg Intelligence.  Finally, tour operators are increasingly turning to African adventures to attract young travelers, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy. Brophy cites Contiki as one company that has significantly boosted its Africa offerings. Contiki, which organizes trips geared largely towards 18-35 year olds, has seen bookings for its Africa tours jump 57% from 2019 levels. Kyle Junkuhn, Contiki’s Operations Lead for Africa, said its itinerary design has been a major factor in its growth. Its guests can bungee jump and zip wire, among other activities, at Zimbabwe’s Victoria Falls. 
9/13/20233 minutes, 17 seconds
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Hyatt Thinks a Return to Offices Could Boost Business Travel

Episode Notes Hyatt has seen signs that more workers in big cities are returning to their offices. That could result in the company eventually seeing more business travelers, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  CEO Mark Hoplamazian said at a recent conference that some of its New York hotels are seeing increased levels of local traffic, a sign of more people back in their offices. Hoplamazian added the increased traffic doesn’t necessarily mean pre-Covid levels of business travel. But he said it’s an indication of more activity in offices that will eventually boost the sector’s recovery. Hoplamazian also expressed confidence that business travel would rebound fully.  Next, budget carriers Allegiant Air and Frontier Airlines are poised to profit significantlyif U.S. authorities approve JetBlue Airways’ proposed merger with Spirit Airlines, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly.   JetBlue said on Monday that Allegiant would receive Spirit’s assets at Boston Logan and Newark Airports under divestiture agreements reached by JetBlue. In addition, Frontier would gain Spirit’s assets at New York’s LaGuardia Airport. Russell notes both Allegiant and Frontier could expand their operations at the above-mentioned airports.  However, the agreements between JetBlue and Allegiant and Frontier are subject to the JetBlue-Spirit merger being approved by the U.S. government. The U.S. Justice Department has sued to block the deal on the basis of concerns about competition.  Finally, business travel has made significant progress in its recovery, but will spending in the sector fully rebound? Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden turns to Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot, for answers. Jordan reports that the state of business travel’s recovery varies across the world. Corporate travel volumes were reported as of August to be at least 30% below 2019 levels globally. While a majority of India-based businesses expect business travel to increase this year, executives at several U.S. and European airlines have said in recent months the sector’s rebound has plateaued.  But the Global Business Travel Association projected last month that corporate travel spending would surpass pre-Covid levels faster than expected. The group anticipates spending will hit $1.52 trillion in 2024, two years of a previous prediction. 
9/12/20233 minutes, 28 seconds
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Travel Industry Earnings Analysis Reveals 4 Dominant Trends

Episode Notes Travel companies have just finished reporting their second quarter results. So what did we learn about the state of the industry? Senior Research Analyst Seth Borko outlines four major trends Skift Research discovered after studying more than 200 publicly traded companies.   Borko writes that second quarter revenue growth was still far higher than other sectors – but that it’s beginning to slow down to more normal rates. At the same time, he notes that profits for the travel industry hit a post-Covid peak. In addition, among five travel sectors Skift Research studied, travel tech posted the fastest revenue growth while accommodations had the highest profit margins.  Next, Hilton unveiled plans on Thursday to install Tesla electric vehicle chargers at 2,000 of its North American hotels, reported Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  O’Neill notes that Hilton is installing up to 20,000 Tesla Universal Wall Connectors. They’re designed to charge all North American electric vehicles, not just Tesla-branded ones. Installation starts next year and once the process is complete, Hilton will own more electric vehicle chargers than any other U.S.-based hotel group.  Hilton has had electric vehicle chargers at its hotels since 2015. O’Neill writes the company’s website has seen a significant rise in people seeking out the chargers in its search tool this year.  Finally, President Joe Biden nominated airline industry veteran Michael Whitaker to lead the Federal Aviation Administration, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly. Russell writes Whitaker checks many of the boxes the Biden administration was looking for. Whitaker had previously served as a senior executive at United Airlines in addition to working as a deputy administrator at the FAA. Russell notes Whitaker, if confirmed, would face several major challenges running the FAA. The agency’s five-year funding bill is currently stalled in Congress and it also faces an air traffic controller shortage that won’t be solved soon, among other hurdles. The nomination comes more than five months following the withdrawal of President Biden’s first nominee, Denver Airport CEO Phil Washington, amid questions over his aviation experience. 
9/8/20232 minutes, 59 seconds
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Get Ready for Trivago's Advertising Reboot

Episode Notes Trivago has struggled in recent years, with its shares currently trading for a little more than $1 per share. So the company is returning to its old playbook by looking to significantly beef up advertising, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal in his weekly column.   Schaal writes Trivago’s new leadership plans on intensifying its brand advertising, including on TV,by the end of the year. Schaal reports Trivago had built its brand as the place to find hotel deals through its seemingly ubiquitous TV ads. The company spent an average of 82% of annual revenue on advertising from 2015-2019. But the former CEO, who left in May, downplayed that strategy.  Next, Capital One will open a branded lounge at Washington-Dulles Airport on Thursday, marking the latest investment by a credit card company in the space, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly.   Russell writes the new lounge is a part of Capital One’s multi-year strategy to target high spenders. The company is investing in a larger network, with plans to open lounges at both the Denver and Las Vegas airports. Capital One had opened its first branded lounge at the Dallas-Fort Worth Airport in 2021.  Russell adds the lounge at Dulles is part of a larger ecosystem at Capital One. The company runs Capital One Travel, a travel booking portal, powered by online travel agency Hopper.  Finally, a Mastercard executive highlighted six trends shaping Indian travel at the recent B20 Summit, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia.    Mukul Sukhani, the company’s senior vice president of business development, said India is becoming a bigger player in the global travel industry — especially as the world’s largest outbound tourism market. He added that Indians are increasingly eager to visit countries with easier visa policies, citing Thailand as an example. Sukhani also said that more Indian travelers are looking to combine business and leisure trips. 
9/7/20232 minutes, 43 seconds
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New York City's Short-Term Rental Verification System Fails to Launch

Episode Notes September 5 was the beginning of New York City’s host registration rules. However, the city’s electronic verification system isn’t ready yet, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Three sources familiar with the new process said the city hadn’t completed implementing the system for verifying listings with short-term rental platforms like Airbnb. Hosts with shared rooms need to obtain registration from the city to legally accommodate a maximum of two guests. Hosts also need to be present during the stay.  Schaal notes that platforms such as Airbnb could face fines of $1,500 per transaction processed from an unverified listing. Airbnb said in a court filing this June that it has to remove a listing to avoid penalties when a verification fails.  Next, as the pandemic is over, what does the future of tourism look like? Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam explores five critical issues industry executives will address at this month’s Skift Global Forum. Habtemariam writes that leaders from brands such as the U.S. Travel Association and NYC Tourism+Conventions will discuss topics like the absence of Chinese tourists and the relationship between empty downtown offices and tourism. Brand USA CEO Chris Thompson said there’s no U.S. tourism recovery without Chinese travelers. The CEOs of Visit Britain and Intrepid Travel will also touch on the challenges of trying to encourage travelers to visit hidden gems – sites beyond the well-known tourist attractions. Finally, several major U.S. cities are facing hurdles in their recovery from the pandemic, so are they struggling to attract tourists? Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden turns to Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot, for answers. Jorden writes challenges such as U.S. visitor visa delays that have complicated attracting tourists from key overseas markets. However, several large U.S. cities are still putting up big tourism numbers. New York City is projected to welcome at least 6 million more visitors this year than it did last year. In addition, international passenger traffic at Boston’s Logan Airport has already recovered to pre-Covid levels.  To find these stories and more insight into the business of travel, subscribe to Skift daily newsletter at skift.com/daily.
9/6/20233 minutes, 12 seconds
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Washington, D.C.'s $20 Million Bet on Tourism

Episode Notes Washington, D.C. will spend roughly $20 million in an upcoming campaign to help boost the city’s lagging tourism recovery, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  The global campaign — called “There’s Only One DC” — will launch November 1. Habtemariam reports the campaign will support influencer collaborations, as well as advertising on social media and television. Destination DC, the city’s destination marketing organization, hopes the funding injection will help it in its efforts to attract international travelers. Washington, D.C. welcomed 1.2 million foreign tourists last year, which was just 60% of its pre-Covid figure. Habtemariam cited the absence of Chinese tourists, the city’s largest visitor market pre-pandemic, as one reason for Washington, D.C.’s international slump.  Next, U.S. hotel group Sonesta is facing a lawsuit about how it displays resort fees on its website and app, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. The suit alleges that Soneta made tens of millions annually since at least 2017 by not disclosing upfront its mandatory resort and destination fees at some of its properties. O’Neill writes Sonesta isn’t alone in not disclosing those fees upfront. He adds all of the major hotel groups and many smaller hotels brands have engaged in the practice of junk fees in recent decades.  Lauren Wolfe, a counsel from consumer advocacy group Travelers United, said lawsuits against more companies regarding so-called junk fees are coming. Travelers United filed the class-action suit against Sonesta.  Finally, Airbnb and New York City have often had a rocky relationship, once marked by lawsuits and numerous disputes. Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden provides a timeline documenting the tension between the city and the short-term rental giant over the past 10 years.  Jorden lists the major twists and turns in New York City’s and Airbnb’s relationship using Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot, and additional reporting. Airbnb has sued the city twice — including this June over measures the company called a “de facto ban” against short-term rentals. That recent lawsuit was dismissed by a judge.  In addition, Airbnb is staring at the prospect of a steep reduction in New York City listings starting September 5. That’s when city authorities said they would start enforcing its host registration law for short-term rentals. 
9/1/20233 minutes, 13 seconds
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New York City's Airbnb Inventory Will Drop Dramatically

Episode Notes Airbnb hosts in New York City are rapidly approaching a September 5 deadline to register with the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement. So the company could see a large reduction in its New York City listings, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Airbnb had 23,000 active listings in the city as of July and Schaal writes many would be unable to accept stays under new enforcement. Airbnb has said it generated $85 million of revenue in New York City last year. Schaal adds due to regulatory pressures and other factors, Airbnb is a shadow of itself in New York compared to pre-pandemic years. The company had 36,000 active listings in New York City in July 2019, according to AirDNA.  Next, the U.S. overseas travel boom is showing no signs of slowing down. Americans are traveling abroad in large numbers for Labor Day weekend, reports Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden. International travel bookings have risen 44% this Labor Day weekend from last year, according to travel organization AAA. The group also said international hotel bookings have increased 82% from last year’s holiday. AAA Spokesperson Aixa Diaz said pent-up travel was a major factor in the high number of international bookings.  Meanwhile, travel news site The Vacationer found 57% of American adults plan to travel over the Labor Day weekend. That’s a 4 percentage point jump from last year. Finally, Indian travelers looking for a U.S. visitor visa will now find the process substantially less time consuming. Visa applicants can book interviews at U.S. consulates in India with no wait time, writes Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh in the Skift India Newsletter. The U.S. Consulate General in Mumbai said that applicants can schedule appointments for visa interviews within the standard time frame. It added that more than 900,000 nonimmigrant visa applications are being processed at the moment. U.S. Ambassador to India Eric Garcetti had said the goal for 2023 was to process at least one million visas. 
8/31/20232 minutes, 53 seconds
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Hyatt's Junk Fee Efforts Stymied by Third Parties

Episode Notes Hyatt has joined MGM Resorts and Marriott in changing how they disclose resort fees on their websites and apps. However, those modifications still won’t quiet the growing uproar over so-called junk fees, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  In July, Hyatt began displaying nightly rates plus mandatory resort fees upfront on a traveler’s first search of its site and app. Hyatt’s move to more clearly disclose resort fees follows in the footsteps of Marriott and MGM Resorts. However, O’Neill notes the three companies still face unresolved grievances from some consumer advocates and government representatives. He adds one of the lingering issues is how hotel rates and fees are displayed on online travel agencies’ websites and apps.  The three hotel groups have also quoted prices without including resort fees in ad and marketing campaigns.  Next, amusement park corporation Six Flags has become the latest travel brand to hop on the artificial intelligence bandwagon. Six Flags is planning to release generative AI tools in partnership with Google Cloud, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  Dawes reports Six Flags is looking to release AI chatbots on updated versions of its app and park websites later this year. Six Flags said the virtual assistants would provide personalized recommendations and answers for visitors planning their trips. Google CEO Thomas Kurian said generative AI would enable Six Flags to redefine guest experiences.  Finally, India’s hotel occupancy and room rates have finally recovered to pre-pandemic levels, writes Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh in the Skift India Newsletter. Ghosh reports that soaring demand for next month’s G20 Summit is a major reason for India’s strong hotel performance. One travel executive said the roughly 200 G20 meetings already held throughout India have placed some lesser-known destinations on the global tourism map. Meanwhile, FCM Consulting’s latest Global Trends Report revealed that India had Asia’s highest hotel occupancy rates in the first half of this year.
8/30/20233 minutes, 10 seconds
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New York City's Big Short-Term Rental Deadline

Skift Short-Term Rental Report: Skift’s latest newsletter focuses on the business of short-term rentals. Don’t miss out on essential industry news. Get a Trial Subscription Episode Notes New York City is behind in reviewing hundreds of short-term rental applications prior to a September 5 deadline requiring hosts to register with the Mayor’s Office of Special Enforcement, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  The enforcement office told Skift it’s only reviewed roughly 25% of the more than 3,200 host applications submitted to date. The office added that more than half of the applications came in after August 8, when a judge dismissed an Airbnb lawsuit challenging New York City’s efforts to enforce its host registration rules. Hosts face fines up to for any violations.  Google shut down its Book on Google feature for flights for overseas travelers last year. But those in the U.S. will be able to book some flights on Google to take advantage of its flight price guarantee, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Schaal writes Google announced it would end the service in the U.S. on or after March 31 of this year. That leaves the end date open-ended, though Google still intends to terminate Book on Google. The tech giant is trying to find another way to implement its flight price guarantee in the U.S.  Schaal notes the issue is important because of the fear Google could become more of a booking-oriented online travel agency like Booking.com or Expedia.  Finally, this year’s Men’s Cricket World Cup is driving up travel demand in the host country India, reports Research Analyst Saniya Zanpure. Zanpure writes travel companies are looking to cash in the cricket frenzy, a sport deeply embedded in Indian culture. Accommodation searches in the 10 host cities for match days have risen, on average, by 237% over the past year. In addition, airfares to some prominent host cities have increased between 40% and 60% during the same period.  The Men’s Cricket World Cup runs from October 5 to November 19. 
8/29/20232 minutes, 57 seconds
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JetBlue’s Fare Plans for Spirit Air

Episode Notes A new report said JetBlue Airways is planning to raise airfares on routes flown by Spirit Airlines by as much as 40% if the two carriers’ proposed merger is approved, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly.  JetBlue would increase fares between 24% and 40%, according to a report by legal news service Law360. The report cited documents released as part of a lawsuit brought by travelers looking to block the JetBlue-Spirit deal. The travelers suing JetBlue argued that the proposed merger would reduce competition for consumers. Russell notes their lawsuit is separate from the U.S. Department of Justice’s suit to stop the merger.  JetBlue said in a statement that, without context, the information gave a “completely inaccurate picture of the facts” and that the proposed merger would result in low fares and better service.  Russell adds that while airfares rose substantially last year, the average domestic airfare has dropped below pre-Covid levels.  Next, travelers flying Qantas to the U.S. have historically arrived in Los Angeles to connect to other cities across the country. But the Australian carrier is looking to serve U.S. and Asian cities with a new plane order, reports Russell.  Russell writes the airline has ordered 24 new long-range planes for both the U.S. and Asia that will see it add more nonstop flights to both regions. That means Qantas’ future will see more flying to Chicago and Seattle than Los Angeles. Qantas CEO Alan Joyce said on Thursday the new aircraft will enable the carrier to have more direct flights into the U.S. Finally, American Airlines has filed a federal lawsuit against hidden city flight platform Skiplagged, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Schaal writes that American alleges that Skiplagged sells flights without authorization and misleads flyers with deceptive offers, among other practices. Skiplagged is famous for offering hidden city flights, where passengers seeking a bargain ditch the rest of their journey at a layover. Schaal notes that airlines prohibit hidden city ticketing because of operational hassles and lost revenue.  American is the latest major travel brand to sue Skiplagged, following Orbitz, United Airlines and Southwest Airlines. Skiplagged founder Aktarer Zaman told Skift he is fighting to protect consumer rights to find favorable airfares. 
8/25/20233 minutes, 12 seconds
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Maui Tourism Grapples with Uncertainty Amidst Wildfire Devastation

Episode Notes Maui’s tourism industry faces an uncertain future as the island recovers from the massive devastation caused by recent wildfires. Maui’s hotels have suffered enormously in the aftermath of the destruction, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Habtemariam reports that nearly half of all hotel rooms in Maui were unfilled last week. The island’s hotel occupancy rates were 49% for the week ending August 19, according to commercial real estate information provider CoStar.  Although the Hawaii Tourism Authority is encouraging travelers to visit areas of Maui away from the destruction, Habtemariam writes the state’s tourism leaders are facing a messaging challenge regarding the island. Three major U.S. airlines have cut their number of scheduled flights to Maui over the past week. The wildfires have claimed more than 110 lives in addition to causing billions of dollars of damage. Next, U.S. hotel companies have viewed China’s economic boom as a vehicle to boost hotel development. However, China’s economic turmoil could derail their plans, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Hilton, Hyatt and Marriott are companies that have unveiled major expansion plans for China. Although O’Neill lists several reasons why hotel executives find China enticing, including the potential to expand quickly, he notes the country’s current economic woes are complicating growth plans. Hotel development in China recorded an 8% year-over-year drop in the second quarter.  In addition, Bloomberg Economics Chief Economist Tom Orlik said China’s biggest challenge is that’s working-age population is decreasing. The country population’s fell last year, with O’Neill writing that an aging population will create multi-year problems economically.  Finally, Wynn Resorts expects to obtain a gaming license soon for the United Arab Emirates’ first casino, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia.  Wynn Resorts CEO Craig Billings said recently the company has everything it needs to operate gaming at the Wynn Al Marjan property. Billings added that construction on the casino has already started. Skift reported last November that Wynn had confirmed the property would house a casino. However, Bhutia notes that questions about the casino have lingered to the country’s strict Islamic laws that typically don’t permit activities like gambling.    The Wynn Marjan is scheduled to open in 2027
8/24/20233 minutes, 10 seconds
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Europe’s Mounting Flight Delays and Slowed Recovery

Episode Notes Europe is experiencing a major air traffic controller shortage. It’s not only delaying flights, it’s hurting the continent’s travel recovery, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly. European airspace manager Eurocontrol found flight delays have increased 6% from last year, attributing those disruptions in part to air traffic controller staffing shortages. Russell writes the staffing shortage appears the worst in France and Germany, the two countries at the heart of Europe’s air traffic control system. One industry executive said European air traffic controllers, often run by individual countries, are at least 700 controllers short of target staffing levels.  Meanwhile, Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr said in July that air traffic control and other industry constraints would limit growth through at least 2024.  Next, global investment in the travel industry has dropped from pre-pandemic levels. How much? Roughly $100 billion, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Habtemariam reports that $856 billion was invested in the industry last year. While that’s an 11% jump from 2021, it’s substantially below 2019’s figure. Habtemariam notes worldwide investment in travel and tourism isn’t expected to return to pre-Covid levels until 2025. The three countries with the highest levels of investment in travel and tourism last year were the U.S., China and Saudi Arabia.  Finally, the U.S. lifestyle and boutique hotel pipeline is projected to grow substantially in the near future, but those forecasts may be overly optimistic, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Analysis by hotel consulting firm The Highland Group said developers and hotel groups are planning to open nearly 60,000 branded lifestyle, soft-branded and boutique hotels by the end of 2027. That figure would represent a 29% annual increase.  However, Kim Bardoul, partner at The Highland Group, said those projections are likely too optimistic. Still, O’Neill writes that developers are interested in lifestyle and boutique hotels because of their recent positive financial performance, on par with the traditional, large hotel properties. And there’s growing demand from guests. 
8/23/20233 minutes, 9 seconds
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Selina’s Big Stock Swing

Episode Notes Hospitality brand Selina has seen a dramatic swing in its stock price as it attempts to escape from its penny stock status, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  The company saw its shares fall 41% last Friday although they rebounded 9% on Monday. O’Neill writes the stock price drop happened after Selina said that 8.6 million shares could be hitting the market soon. Two other hospitality brands, Sonder and Vacasa, have also seen stock prices go to penny stock status recently.   Next, American Airlines pilots approved a new contract on Monday worth nearly $10 billion, becoming the second major U.S. carrier to finalize a pilot deal this year, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly.   Russell writes pilots at American will immediately see a more than 21% pay raise under the four-year contract. It also includes roughly $1.2 billion in retroactive pay and bonuses. However, Russell notes that the deal was hardly a slam dunk for the Allied Pilots Association, which represents American’s pilots. Only about 73% of crew members voted for the deal.  Pilots at Delta Air Lines had ratified a four-year contract of their own in March, which included an up to 34% pay increase.  Finally, Omni Hotels knows it has the odds stacked against it in the fight to attract travelers. But it’s confident it can compete against global hotel giants, reports Senior Hospitality Editor O’Neill in this week’s Early Check-In column.  Hotel giants have argued that smaller players such as Omni, which only has 51 hotels and resorts, can’t compete with their ability to use huge loyalty programs to lure guests. But Omni CEO Kurt Alexander touted the benefits of his company in an interview with Skift. Alexander said Omni is less expensive for hotel owners than bigger brands from a franchise and royalty fee standpoint.   Alexander added he would like to partner more with institutional owners. He said that Omni is flexible on brand standards, which may make it more appealing than large hotel groups that often have an extensive list of requirements. 
8/22/20232 minutes, 57 seconds
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Planning Travel With Artificial Intelligence

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Paid ChatGPT Plus users are now able to plan virtually every aspect of a trip in one place using the travel plugins available on the platform. So what worked well and what didn’t on those travel plugins? Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes provides answers in his Travel Tech Briefing. Dawes reports ChatGPT Plus wasn’t created to be a travel platform, but with some improvements, he notes it could be a very useful tool for planning trips. Paid ChatGPT Plus users have access to beta versions of third-party plugins such as Expedia, Kayak and Skyscanner. Dawes writes that users can, for example, ask about the availability of flights and hotels, and the chatbot will pull information from the plugins when it can.  He also lists issues he experienced using the travel plugins, such as errors when trying to prompt for a detailed itinerary and booking options. Those errors force a user to start the process over again.  Next, China recently announced it would ease restrictions on overseas group tours. But traveler numbers won’t likely hit 2019 levels for some time, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia. Although Bhutia writes would-be travelers immediately started searching for trips in large numbers, numerous challenges remain for those looking to travel overseas in groups. International flights from China are at roughly 50% of pre-pandemic levels. In addition, Chinese travelers often face a complicated visa application process as well as surging prices for many popular tourist destinations.  Bhutia adds another hurdle making group overseas travel difficult is high levels of youth unemployment. The unemployment rate among urban workers aged 16 to 24 was a little more than 21%.  Finally, as airlines post record transatlantic profits, American Airlines will launch service to three European destinations next summer, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly.  Russell writes American will start offering daily flights from its Philadelphia hub to Copenhagen, Naples and Nice next year. The company had hoped to add new European destinations to its schedule this summer but chose to wait until next year due to uncertainty about new Boeing 787 deliveries. American will also add new flights between Dallas-Forth Worth and Barcelona next June. 
8/18/20233 minutes, 14 seconds
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IHG Has a New Hotel Brand for the Middle Class

Episode Notes IHG has launched its 19th brand, called Garner, an IHG hotel, as part of its strategy to target mid-market travelers, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. O’Neill writes Garner aims to be more affordable for travelers than IHG’s other brands targeting this segment. The company expects to open more than 1,000 hotels under the Garner brand over the next two decades. O’Neill adds that until the launch of Garner, IHG didn’t have a brand that fit this price range. An added attraction: Garner will allow guests to bring pets into their rooms.  Next, Booking Holdings is proposing concessions for an issue threatening European Commission regulatory approval of its deal to acquire flight tech company eTraveli Group. Booking’s plan is to show hotels from competitors when travelers book a flight, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.   Schaal writes European regulators are balking at approving the roughly $2 billion deal because they think it would strengthen Booking’s leading hotel business on the continent. As for a potential solution, Booking could use sister brand Kayak to offer choices from rival online travel agencies or the hotels themselves. Schaal adds such a scenario could also bolster the company’s already market-shaping hotels business.  The European Commission is expected to make a decision on the deal by August 30.  Finally, the proposed merger of JetBlue Airways and Spirit Airlines has been one of travel’s most watched developments over the past year. Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden provides a timeline of the planned deal poised to shake up the U.S. airline industry.  Jorden lists the major twists and turns in the proposed JetBlue-Spirit deal by the month they occurred, which includes Spirit’s initial plans to merge with Frontier Airlines and JetBlue’s repeated attempts to acquire Spirit. The timeline also details the U.S. Department of Justice’s quest to block the JetBlue-Spirit merger, citing concerns the deal would reduce competition and raise airfares. The department’s lawsuit to thwart the proposed merger will go on trial this October. 
8/17/20232 minutes, 53 seconds
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Airbnb and Booking.com’s Strong Cash Flow

Episode Notes Airbnb and Booking.com have delivered strong cash flow over the past year, giving them the flexibility for acquisitions and other transactions, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal in his Online Travel Briefing. Schaal looked at the companies’ free cash flow conversion, which measures how efficiently companies convert revenue into free cash flow after interest payments.  A key factor in their favor: They are all asset light businesses, meaning they don’t own the hotels or short-term rentals that they offer. The companies’ high levels of free cash flow provides the needed resources for a range of investment, including acquisitions and product development.  Next, global luxury travel network Virtuoso has seen a sales boom driven by surging interest in private experiences, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.  Brophy notes that Virtuoso guests are spending between $10,000 to $50,000 per trip on average. Virtuoso’s platform has a network of 20,000 luxury travel advisors and they are seeing growing demand for exclusive experiences, wellness travel and yacht bookings.  We end today looking at Saudi Arabia’s big investment in its tourism industry. Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden examines why the kingdom is investing so heavily in the sector using Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot.  Ask Skift provided four reasons why Saudi Arabia is planning to spend more than $1 trillion beefing up its tourism industry over the next decade. That investment is a key part of its strategy to wean away from its heavy reliance on oil revenue. Jordan writes that Saudi tourism officials are heavily targeting Chinese travelers, with the goal of attracting roughly 4 million visitors from the country annually by 2030.  Saudi Arabia is also investing heavily in sports tourism, a sector that is expected to be worth more than $3 billion in the country by 2024. Saudi authorities view sports as a key part of its strategy to boost the kingdom’s profile. The country has hosted several major sporting events in recent years, including its first-ever Formula One Grand Prix race in 2021. 
8/16/20233 minutes, 18 seconds
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The Surging Travel Demand in Europe and Asia

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes The Texas state government has filed a lawsuit against Booking Holdings, alleging the company violates state law by not including certain fees when it initially displays room prices, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Schaal writes the Texas lawsuit comes as the Biden administration and Congress are increasingly taking aim at so-called junk fees, charges that aren’t disclosed to consumers upfront. The lawsuit includes Booking Holdings and its sub-brands, Booking.com and Kayak, and refers to so-called resort fees and other extras. Texas Attorney General Ken Paxton said while announcing the lawsuit that the state had recently sued Hilton and Hyatt for allegedly deceptively displaying their fees.  Next, experiences and major tourist attractions have become significantly more expensive in the past four years, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.  Analysis from marketplaces GetYourGuide and TicketLens revealed prices from tours and admissions tickets globally rose on average 18% between June 2019 and June 2023. Charmaine Chua, GetYourGuide’s head of optimization, attributed the jump to factors such as tourism’s rebound and a shift in consumer spending toward experiences.  TicketLens found that Turkey recorded the largest price increase for experiences globally, with a 35% jump from 2019. Meanwhile, Miami registered the biggest price hike at 27% for local tourism attractions in the U.S.  Finally, major hotels and online travel agencies have benefitted from an enormous surge in travel demand in Asia and Europe in the first half of this year, reports Senior Research Analyst Pranavi Agarwal. Agarwal writes the strength in global demand has now shifted to Europe and Asia. She writes companies initially hurt by their exposure to Asia are now reaping the rewards as its rebound takes hold.  Agarwal cites Accor as one example. The France-based hotel company, which derives about a third of its revenue from Asia and nearly half from Europe, saw its revenue jump 40% from last year. 
8/15/20233 minutes, 14 seconds
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Force Workers Back to Office to Help Tourism, Say U.S. Tourism Boards

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Tourism boards across the U.S. are increasingly supporting measures to get workers back into offices to help boost struggling downtowns, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Habtemariam notes the U.S. Travel Association strongly backs President Joe Biden’s push to have federal employees spend more time in the office. An executive at the organization said getting federal workers back into the office was critical to the success of U.S. cities. Habtemariam reports cities are losing billions due to workers spending more time working remotely and fewer days in the office.    Tourism bureaus are also taking steps to fill their offices. San Francisco Travel and LA Tourism, among others, have each required employees to head to the office several days a week. LA Tourism CEO Adam Burke said getting people back in office would help increase foot traffic in the city’s downtown. Meanwhile, NYC Tourism+Conventions plans to increase the number of days employees go to the office weekly this fall.  Next, Trivago recently brought back commercials featuring ad pitchman, the Trivago Guy. However, it’s uncertain if he’ll be part of the company’s marketing efforts going forward, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Schaal writes that the Trivago Guy — played by Actor Tim Williams — was credited with helping make the company somewhat of a household name in North America. Trivago CEO Johannes Thomas said the company is trying to boost growth and taking a more experimental approach to its TV ads to help boost traveler engagement.  Finally, the U.S. House of Representatives recently passed its version of a bill reauthorizing funding for the Federal Aviation Administration. Reporter Kristin Majcher explains five key issues the bill addresses.   Majcher writes, beyond funding the agency for five more years, the reauthorization is important because it includes provisions about consumer protections and airline safety. She adds that some of those provisions have proven controversial. In particular, the Regional Airline Association has supported a proposal to increase the maximum age for pilots from 65 to 67 while the Air Lines Pilots Association has come out against it.  Majcher reports the Senate needs to finalize its own version of the bill and both houses need to work out any differences by September 30. If the House and Senate miss the deadline, Congress would have to approve an extension. 
8/11/20233 minutes, 10 seconds
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Decline in Chinese Tourist Spending Forces the U.S. to Reassess

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes U.S. tourism businesses were heavily dependent on Chinese visitors pre-pandemic and now are looking elsewhere to replace billions in tourist spending, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Brand USA CEO Chris Thompson said Chinese visitors spent $35 billion in 2019, making them the largest tourism market in the U.S. in terms of spend.   So where are U.S. travel brands turning? NYC Tourism + Conventions CEO Fred Dixon cited Brazil as one market the city is focusing on. Meanwhile, LA Tourism CEO Adam Burke said his city is ramping up its marketing efforts in countries such as Australia, New Zealand and the United Kingdom.   Next, tour operator group TUI has posted its first post-pandemic net profit. However, the company’s overall performance for the year is expected to be impacted by extreme weather throughout Europe, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.   TUI Group CEO Sebastian Ebel said on Wednesday that surging travel demand in its third quarter pushed its booking performance to a 6% gain. He added the company had seen a drop in bookings after recent wildfires in Greece’s Rhodes Island. Brophy reports an estimated 8,000 TUI customers were impacted by weather and wildlife disruptions. Although Ebel outlined several ways extreme weather could impact the travel industry and the company, including destinations with more moderate climates likely seeing a boom in popularity.     TUI Group reported revenue of $5.8 billion during the third quarter, a 19% jump from last year.  Finally, luxury travel subscription brand Inspirato has had its share of struggles recently, including mounting losses and another round of layoffs. But the company does see a path back to profitability, writes Short-Term Rentals Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman.  Inspirato CEO Brent Handler announced a partnership on Wednesday with investment firm Capital One Ventures, in which Capital One would provide Inspirato a $25 million convertible note. In addition, Inspirato has reduced supply, removing 60 residences from its portfolio due to non-renewal and/or early terminations of leases. Handler expressed confidence the company’s efforts to cut costs will be successful and said it can be profitable even without growth.  
8/10/20233 minutes, 7 seconds
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Choice Hotels Wants to Make More Acquisitions

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Choice Hotels views its recent acquisition of Radisson Americas as an enormous success and it’s strongly considering making more deals, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. Choice CEO Patrick Pacious touted the benefits of the acquisition during Choice’s second quarter earnings call on Tuesday. As for future acquisition activity, Pacious said Choice is always looking for deals that could boost the return on investment for hotel owners and grow brands. He added that Choice sees opportunities to expand its portfolio outside of the United States.   Choice reported that its revenue per available room — an important hotel industry metric — increased 20% from the same period in 2019. The company also set a quarterly record for revenue.  Next, the Chinese government is limiting overseas group travel for its citizens to certain destinations. Those restrictions are stunting the global travel industry’s recovery, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.  Chinese travelers can only take group tours to less than half of the countries that were available to them pre-Covid. Brophy reports the U.S. is not on that list as Chinese travel agencies aren’t permitted to sell any group tour products to the U.S. Sienna Parulis-Cook, an executive at China-based marketing company Dragon Trail International, said Chinese outbound tourism to the U.S. is also limited in part because of visa delays. Chinese travel agents surveyed said visa delays were the biggest obstacle in selling outbound tourism in 2024.  Chinese outbound travel hit 65% of 2019 level during the country’s most recent national holiday period.  Finally, Turkish Airlines and Thai Airways have unveiled a plan to form a joint venturecovering flights between Europe and the Asia-Pacific region, reports Jay Shabat, senior analyst at Skift publication Airline Weekly.  The two carriers already have a codeshare arrangement, which enables them to market each other’s flights. But Shabat notes joint ventures go deeper, often involving revenue sharing, collaborating pricing and cargo cooperation among other practices. Turkish and Thai haven’t yet detailed their exact plans, other than announcing that Thai will start serving Istanbul in December. 
8/9/20233 minutes, 17 seconds
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U.S. Won’t See Full Travel Recovery Without Chinese Tourists

Episode Notes The U.S. expects visitor numbers from some major markets such as Canada and India to exceed pre-Covid levels this year. However, Brand USA CEO Chris Thompson says that progress won’t be enough to make up for the large-scale absence of Chinese visitors, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Thompson said in an interview with Skift that the U.S. won’t experience a full tourism recovery unless it attracts more Chinese tourists. China represented the U.S.’ largest tourism market prior to the pandemic. Thompson said Beijing’s refusal to lift the ban on overseas group travel for its citizens has impacted visitor numbers to the U.S. He added that West Coast destinations such as Los Angeles have been hit hard by the absence of Chinese travelers.  Thompson also touched on what Brand USA is doing with the $250 million it received in federal funds to help boost international tourism. The organization used the funding to launch “This Is Where It’s At,” its largest ever single consumer campaign. It’s running in 10 out of Brand USA’s 11 markets, with the exception of China.   Next, a newly published financial report said that the Expedia Group may be showing resilience against rival Booking.com in the U.S., reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.   An analysis from global financial services firm BTIG listed reasons why Expedia Group may have blunted Booking.com’s market share gains. Schaal writes Expedia likely saw a faster increase in room nights than Booking.com. He adds that signs suggest that Expedia outperformed Booking.com in the U.S. He notes that’s important because Booking Holdings sees the U.S. as a relatively untapped market where it has ample room to grow.  BTIG estimated that 60% of the Expedia Group presence is centered in the U.S.  Finally, artificial intelligence has fundamentally altered the travel industry in recent years. Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden explains how, using answers provided by Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot.  Ask Skift listed four areas where AI has significantly impacted travel, including predicting travel demand and providing personalized customer service. One travel executive said AI will likely uncover signals about travel demand from unlikely sources of information.  In addition, Jorden reports travel brands are using AI to customize travel itineraries, enabling them to increase customer loyalty. Amazon Web has already used AI to make personalized recommendations for travelers, including suggesting hotels that matched their interests. 
8/8/20233 minutes, 41 seconds
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Hyatt Sees a Business Travel Rebound

Episode Notes It’s still uncertain when business travel will make a full recovery. But Hyatt is optimistic that the sector is making substantial progress in its rebound from the pandemic, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. Hyatt CEO Mark Hoplamazian said on Thursday the company is seeing sustained corporate demand for group travel, which he added is showing no signs of slowing down. Hyatt booked roughly $500 million in future group business in the second quarter, and 42% of those group business were corporate. O’Neill writes that Hyatt’s more than 1,200 hotels and resorts are popular places to hold events, noting that corporate travel managers have reason to be encouraged about Hyatt’s upbeat report.  Hyatt generated a net income of $68 million during the second quarter. The company’s revenue per available room — an important industry metric — rose 15% from last year.  Next, the Lufthansa Group has lifted its profit outlook for the rest of the year due to robust travel demand in Europe, reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift travel brand. CEO Carsten Spohr said on Thursday that the company has seen travel demand remain extraordinarily strong. Russell writes the Lufthansa Group has been boosted by premium leisure travelers who have become increasingly important to major airlines. He adds that people are still willing to pony up for travel within Europe and long-haul international routes. In addition, although corporate travel has plateaued at passenger volumes roughly 60% of 2019 levels, Spohr expressed optimism about the sector’s outlook for the fall.  Finally, Airbnb believes its formula to continued growth includes providing better value than hotels and expanding throughout Europe, Latin America and Asia, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  CEO Brian Chesky told analysts on Thursday that he heard last year that Airbnb was becoming less affordable compared to hotels. However, the short-term rental giant saw its rates rise 1% globally in the second quarter while the hotel industry saw an up to 10% jump. The company unveiled new pricing tools for hosts several months ago, which Chesky said will help make Airbnb stays more affordable for guests.  Schaal notes that Airbnb saw bookings significantly rise in both Brazil and Germany during the second quarter. Chesky said Airbnb would apply the lessons it’s learned from those two fast growing markets to its global expansion strategy, especially in Asia. However, he said Airbnb isn’t planning to re-enter Mainland China, which the company withdrew from in 2022. 
8/4/20233 minutes, 20 seconds
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Trivago Gets Harsh Reminder of Google Ads' Power

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Trivago opted not to join the advertising unit that Google launched in May to attract hotel bookings. That decision contributed to the online travel agency’s disappointing second quarter performance, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.   Schaal writes that Trivago’s absence in the new unit — unlike rivals such as Booking.com, Priceline and Expedia — negatively impacted its second quarter financial results. Trivago’s revenue fell 14% from the previous year. Trivago Chief Financial Officer Matthias Tillmann said on Wednesday it decided not to participate in Google’s property promotions ads because they are a part of Google hotel ads, which don’t perform well for Trivago.   Next, the chief technology officer of travel technology firm Sabre stepped down last month, a departure that coincides with other major job cuts and changes in leadership, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  Dawes reported that David Moore left Sabre last month after seven years with the company. The change comes as Sabre continues its biggest tech transformation ever, namely its transition to Google Cloud, which is expected to be completed by the beginning of 2025.  Finally, Allegiant Air successfully rode its strategy of mostly flying on specific days[Access for Skift Pro and Airline Weekly subscribers only] and to its most popular destinations to a strong second quarter, reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift publication.  The Las Vegas-based discount carrier saw revenue increase 9% in the second quarter from last year. It also reported a $133 million operating profit. Russell writes Allegiant is unique among U.S. airlines in that it typically only flies on peak days, an approach that has helped it profitably serve many U.S. smaller and medium-sized cities.  Russell adds that Allegiant’s rivals are taking steps to emulate its success. Southwest, Frontier and JetBlue have all unveiled plans to reduce flying on off-peak days. 
8/3/20232 minutes, 47 seconds
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Marriott’s Push to Add Midscale Hotels

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes The solid performance of Marriott’s premium hotels drove the world’s largest hotel company to a strong second quarter. And now, Marriott is looking to add midscale hotels to its portfolio, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. O’Neill writes one reason Marriott has raised its 2023 outlook for profitability was that its hotels are mostly premium or above. He adds that travelers able to afford Marriott stays were largely sheltered from the economic concerns hitting the general population. Marriott’s revenue per available room — a key hotel industry figure — rose roughly 13% in the second quarter from last year.  Marriott has also taken steps to boost its number of midscale hotels, with CEO Anthony Capuano indicating that Marriott would make a midscale push in Europe. O’Neill writes one factor driving Marriott’s interest in the sector is that midscale properties are popular with developers, investors and owners. Midscale hotels tend to be fancier than economy hotels while still being considered affordable.  Next, the Biden administration has repeatedly taken aim at so-called junk fees, charges that aren’t disclosed to consumers upfront. So what should the travel companies do? Give in. That’s the message from Skift CEO and founder Rafat Ali in an open letter to the travel industry.  Ali argues that companies need to acknowledge that it’s a real issue and tackle it head on and. In most cases, that will mean being more transparent. In some cases, getting rid of certain fees. Ali adds that there’s bipartisan agreement in Washington, D.C. on the cracking down on junk fees and that consumer sentiment is 100% with it.  Finally, India’s newest carrier Akasa Air has added an 20th aircraft to its fleet, making it eligible to fly internationally, writes Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh. Akasa Air CEO and founder Vinay Dube hailed the milestone as a major sign of the potential of India’s aviation industry. Ghosh notes that Indian regulations require airlines to have at least 20 aircraft in their fleet to be eligible for international operations. Dube has said Akasa Air, which launched last year, is looking to fly to the Middle East, Southeast Asia and Eastern Africa among other regions. 
8/2/20233 minutes, 27 seconds
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3 U.S. Cities Fight for the 2026 World Cup Final

Episode Notes Soccer’s World Cup is coming to North America in 2026, but it’s uncertain where the final of the tournament will be held. Three U.S. cities are jockeying to host the event’s most prestigious match, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Habtemariam writes that Dallas, Los Angeles and MetLife Stadium in New York City’s New Jersey suburbs are prime contenders to host the final. FIFA, soccer’s international governing body, is expected to announce in September which city will host the match. Travel executives from each city laid out reasons why their city should be chosen. NYC Tourism+Conventions CEO Fred Dixon cited New York City’s passion for soccer as one reason it should host the World Cup final. Next, the lengthy visa processing times have inhibited U.S. destination marketers’ ability to attract tourists from crucial international markets, writes Global Tourism Reporter Habtemariam. The average wait time for a U.S. embassy interview for a first-time visitor visa applicant in countries such as India, Brazil and China exceeds 400 days on average, according to the U.S. Travel Association. LA Tourism CEO Adam Burke said those long waits are the biggest issue facing the U.S. tourism industry. NYC Tourism+Conventions CEO Dixon said the city needs to attract travelers who need visas in order to boost tourism.  Habtemariam notes there are large numbers of travelers with valid visitor visas in many key tourism markets. Burke said there are roughly 5 million people in India with a valid 10-year visa, and Dixon stated there’s a good base of business coming from that segment of travelers. A 2023 Skift Megatrend examined the impact of visa processing delays on the travel industry’s recovery.  Finally, as international travel continues to recover from the pandemic, Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden turns to Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot, to find out what’s the world’s largest outbound travel market. Ask Skift revealed the answer is India, which overtook China as the world’s most populous nation in April of this year. India’s travel industry has been boosted by a growing middle class increasingly eager to venture overseas. India generated Asia’s highest outbound travel volume for the first time in 2022. In addition, international leisure flight bookings from India have jumped 40% for trips between June and August, compared to last year, according to travel software company RateGain. 
8/1/20233 minutes, 51 seconds
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Google Is Ho-Hum About its Travel Business

Episode Notes Wyndham Hotels & Resorts reported a drop in profitability during the second quarter. That’s partly because the hot demand for its budget hotels is cooling, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Wydham saw its net income fall 18% in the second quarter from last year. O’Neill writes its portfolio skews toward affordable roadside hotels, which surged in popularity immediately after the pandemic eased. Now, Chief Financial Officer Michele Allen said things are returning to normal. The company has also seen travel to big cities and international destinations rebound significantly. Meanwhile, Wyndham said it’s not worried about increased competition in the extended stay sector. The company launched its own extended stay brand last November in the U.S. and Canada. Extended stay has since emerged as one of the hottest categories in hotels, with Marriott, Hilton and Hyatt all addring brands.  Next, Google executives had cited travel as a major source of revenue growth during the previous two quarters. However, the tech giant’s parent company Alphabet didn’t call out travel as a major priority this week, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Alphabet’s Chief Business Officer Philipp Schindler said that Google’s three main priority areas are artificial intelligence, retail and YouTube. Google had extensive layoffs at Google Flights earlier this year and recently replaced the head of Google Travel. Even so, Schaal writes Google surely still makes a lot of money from travel advertisers. And it announced in June that it had added some travel features to its AI-powered search experience.  Finally, Royal Caribbean has raised its earning forecast this year by a third after a strong second quarter, writes Contributor Jess Wade. In addition to the increased earnings per share, the company said during its conference call on Thursday that consumer spending onboard is continuing to significantly surpass 2019 levels. A Royal Caribbean executive also pointed to “encouraging” bookings for its China cruises, which are expected to set sail in April 2024.  Royal Caribbean recorded a net income of $459 million during the second quarter, in contrast to a loss the same period last year.
7/28/20233 minutes, 5 seconds
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Hilton Had a Very, Very Good Quarter

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Hilton is seeing no signs of a slowdown in travel demand. The company said the second quarter was the best booking quarter in its history, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  O’Neill reports Hilton’s second quarter revenue per available room — an important hotel industry performance metric — rose 12% from last year. CEO Christopher Nassetta expressed optimism on Wednesday that the good news would continue into next year. O’Neill notes that leisure and corporate travel were major revenue drivers for the company. Roughly 85% of Hilton’s revenue comes from corporate travelers at small-to-medium sized businesses.  Nassetta also hinted Hilton is considering adding a new luxury lifestyle brand to its portfolio, adding the company could launch something in the sector next year. Next, the ongoing FIFA Women’s World Cup is sparking a U.S.-led tourism boom in Australia, writes Reporter Jess Wade. An executive at Tourism Australia cited the enormous interest in two-time defending champion U.S. team as a reason Americans are the largest group traveling to Australia for the tournament. Tourism Australia expects the projected 55,000 World Cup visitors to inject $385 million into the country’s economy.  Tourism Australia Managing Director Phillipa Harrison said the tournament comes at a crucial time for an Australian tourism industry still recovering from the pandemic.  Finally, travelers and travel companies have increasingly expressed a desire in recent years to make the industry more sustainable. But are they making any progress in doing so?Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden provides answers using Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot, and further research.  Although the vast majority of travelers have said greener travel is important to them, Jorden reports most of them aren’t willing to shell out more money for sustainable travel options. Skift Research revealed late last year only 23% of travelers had paid more for greener travel in the previous 12 months.  However, Jorden adds that the travel industry has made some progress in reducing its massive carbon footprint. The U.S. National Park Service is moving toward adopting a 100% electric vehicle fleet as well as installing charging station infrastructure within its parks. In addition, the Grand Canyon National Park received $27.5 million in federal funding to electrify its bus shuttles. 
7/27/20233 minutes, 13 seconds
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Hilton’s Mega Ad Blitz: What Happened

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Hilton Worldwide launched a major international marketing campaign exactly a year ago on Tuesday that focused on its ability to provide travelers with reliable lodging experiences. So has it been a success? Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill finds out.  O’Neill reports Hilton has seen an increase in sales and market share following its largest marketing push in six years. While it’s uncertain if the ad blitz led to the gain, O’Neill noted other boosts Hilton has received in the last year. Company representatives said they saw an increase in consumers searching for “Hilton” and more travelers considering the brand for leisure travel.  O’Neill adds that Hilton also bet much more heavily on TikTok and its account has attracted 20,000 new followers since the launch of a 10-minute video that featured Paris Hilton.   Next, accommodation provider Sonder announced this week it’s asking shareholders to approve a reverse stock split in order to stay listed on Nasdaq, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Schaal notes that Sonder was warned by Nasdaq in April that its shares could be delisted because its price had dropped below $1 per share for 30 trading days in a row. He adds that a reverse stock split wouldn’t in itself impact Sonder’s valuation, but would get its share price much higher than $1 per share.  Finally, the United Arab Emirates was the second fastest-growing international arrival destination in 2022, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia in this week’s Middle East Travel Roundup.  Bhutia writes that the United Arab Emirates trailed only Austria in the list of fastest-growing destinations for international arrivals last year. Skift’s State of Travel report for 2023 revealed that the United Arab Emirates was also the most visited country in the Middle East in 2022, attracting a little more than 22 million visitors. India and Russia were the top two source markets for the United Arab Emirates last year.  Bhutia adds that while international travel in most regions still trails 2019 levels, the Middle East is the only region to see a full recovery of international travel in the first quarter of 2023. 
7/26/20233 minutes, 16 seconds
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Sonder Unveils New Hotel Collection

Episode Notes Travelers might be uncertain if Sonder is a short-term rental operator like Airbnb or a hotel operator. Now, the company is launching its first hotel collection, writes Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Schaal reports that Powered by Sonder includes 23 Sonder-operated properties in 13 markets. The company said those hotels are different from other hotels and multi-unit apartments in that they’re boutique hotel-oriented. In addition, Schaal notes the Powered by Sonder properties have their own design elements and features, such as onsite food and drinking facilities.  Patrick Mitchell, Sonder’s vice president of marketing and distribution, said the boutique hotel experience at those Powered by Sonder properties appeal to millennials and Gen Z travelers.  Next, the lifestyle hospitality brand Ennismore has launched a loyalty program that features no need to earn points as well as no tiers to climb. It’s an attempt to distinguish itself from complex loyalty programs run by rivals, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy. Ennismore is calling the concept “Dis-loyalty,” and the company’s Chief Brand Officer Martina Luger said it’s meant to encourage exploration of new venues and experiences. Members can start using their benefits, which include half off all new hotel openings, as soon as they sign up for the program, which launches July 27 with a monthly subscription fee of $18 Ennismore has 15 openings planned for the next 12 months. Brophy also reports that members qualify for discounts across the 75 participating Ennismore hotels and 10 of its participating brands.  Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill said the lack of a tier-based model may signal a broader upheaval in hotel loyalty programs.  Finally, India is poised to become a bigger force in the global travel industry in years to come. How big in fact? The country’s outbound tourism market is expected to reach a little more than $44 billion by 2032, writes Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh. Ghosh notes a recent report outlined the sector’s projected growth. The report also featured recommendations for growing outbound tourism from India, including issuing tax rebates and collaborating with destinations and airlines. International leisure flight bookings from India have jumped by 40% for trips between June and August compared to the same time in 2022, according to travel software company RateGain. 
7/25/20233 minutes, 33 seconds
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The Missing Piece for Full U.S. Tourism Industry Recovery

Episode Notes Hotel companies will report earnings over the next several weeks. So what will industry insiders be paying close attention to? Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill explains in this week’s Early Check-In column.  O’Neill writes investors will look closely to estimate when sector revenues may return to pre-pandemic levels. The American Hotel and Lodging Association doesn’t expect U.S. hotels to hit their pre-Covid sales figures until 2024. O’Neill adds that analysts are eager to find out if hotel companies are still considering expansion. One analyst said the pace of hotel supply growth is noticeably below the historical average.  Next, the U.S. travel industry is continuing to make enormous progress in its rebound from the pandemic as Americans travel in huge numbers this summer. Yet, the industry still hasn’t made a complete recovery. Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden delves into the reasons why with answers provided by Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot, and further research.  Jorden cites the decrease in visitors from China, a major market for the U.S. tourism industry, as one factor in the U.S.’ inability to make full recovery. Although U.S. tourism boards have unveiled plans to increase marketing efforts in China, their efforts are complicated by the inability to restore flight schedules between the two countries to pre-pandemic levels. In addition, U.S. Travel Association CEO Roger Dow said a full complete travel company depends on reopening international markets. The U.S. welcomed 51 million overseas visitors last year, about 64% of its 2019 mark. Dow’s organization projected international inbound travel to the U.S. would hit three-quarters of its pre-Covid volume this year.  Finally, Icelandair rode a surge in transatlantic travel to record profits in the second quarter. However, the company might see a drop in travel demand in Europe later this year, writes Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift publication.  Icelandair CEO Bogi Nils Bogason said during its earnings call on Friday that economic turbulence across Europe could stunt the company’s revenue growth in the second half of 2023. Bogason had acknowledged earlier this year that inflation would impact travel demand. However, Russell notes economic uncertainty hasn’t affected the company’s forecast of a 4-6% operating margin for the year.  Icelandair reported a $21 million operating profit in the second quarter, its highest quarterly profit since 2016. The company also generated roughly $414 million worth of revenue during the quarter. 
7/24/20233 minutes, 46 seconds
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North American World Cup Host Cities Need Money for Tourists

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Destinations across the U.S., Canada and Mexico are ramping up their preparations to welcome soccer’s World Cup in 2026. And they’ll need a substantial influx of money to make hosting the event a success, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Officials at this week’s Destinations International Annual Convention addressed the challenges of welcoming thousands of visitors for the World Cup. Each of the 11 U.S. host cities is responsible for finding ways to pay for tournament-related expenses. Monica Paul, executive director of the Dallas Sports Commission, said the U.S. federal government doesn’t assume most of the cost of major international sporting events, unlike in other countries.  Visit Kansas City CEO Kathy Nelson acknowledged the difficulties of securing the funding for World Cup-related operations. Nelson said the organization has to appease governors from both Kansas and Missouri, adding that it’s the most contentious issue she’s ever experienced.  Next, several vacation rental markets that experienced a major post-Covid boom are feeling the effects of oversaturation. That’s causing rental rates to plummet and driving investors to sell their properties, writes Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman.  Kalyanaraman cites Palm Springs, California as one destination where the surge of licensed vacation rental properties has helped contribute to falling rental rates. She also notes that a growing number of investors in short-term rental properties are looking to exit the sector. Christopher Ledwidge, executive vice president of wholesale mortgage seller TheLender, said supply for rentals went up, and there was a slight drop in demand. Ledwidge also acknowledged that the cost of operating rentals has increased.  Finally, American Airlines has raised its earnings outlook for 2023 after reporting a strong second quarter, writes Reporter Jess Wade. The company now expects to earn between $3 and $3.75 per share, an increase from its previous forecast of between $2.50 and $3.50. American said on Thursday it generated a little more than $14 billion in revenue during the second quarter, its highest-ever quarterly revenue. The company also recorded a $1.4 billion profit that Wade notes was made possible in part by a 35% decline in average jet fuel prices. 
7/21/20233 minutes, 13 seconds
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Free Airline Wi-Fi for Loyal Passengers Only

Episode Notes The travel industry is continuing to make substantial progress in its recovery from the pandemic, but what challenges is it still facing? Skift Research answers that question and more in its newly released State of Travel 2023 report. The report contains more than 250 data slides documenting the current state of travel and trends shaping the industry’s future. For example, Americans are increasingly looking to vacation abroad as international travel has become easier. Skift Research compiled the data appearing in the report through its own research and information from third-party sources. The first section of the report delves into the travel industry’s performance as well as the wider economic landscape while the second is devoted to trends in the industry.   Next, more airlines are offering travelers free Wi-Fi in an attempt to increase sign-ups to their loyalty programs, writes Reporter Ajay Awtaney.  Awtaney cites Singapore Airlines and Delta Air Lines as two carriers that offer complimentary Wi-Fi to members of its loyalty programs. A Delta spokesperson said requiring SkyMiles membership for Wi-Fi access enables it to offer travelers a personalized experience different from what other airlines provide.  Awtaney adds that some airlines are looking at complimentary Wi-Fi as a reward for being a frequent flier. Emirates earlier this year started offering all of its Skywards members some form of free connectivity, including free app messaging services during their flights.  Finally, Mondee has released an updated version of its travel booking platform to include a mobile app and generative artificial intelligence chatbot, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  Dawes reports a chatbot named Abhi can provide users planning trips information such as links for booking flights, hotels, and more. Mondee’s updated booking platform also includes a shopping cart so users can save different aspects of a trip and then purchase them all together. Dawes adds that people from a group planning a trip can see the cart and book everything simultaneously instead of having to book individually.  Mondee’s vice chairman Orestes Fintiklis said the update is the culmination of three years of work and a series of acquisitions that took place during the pandemic. The update comes exactly one year after the company went public.
7/20/20233 minutes, 7 seconds
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Singapore Has the Best Passport for Global Travelers

Episode Notes Singapore has overtaken Japan as the country with the world’s most powerful passport while the U.S. dropped two spots in recently released rankings, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy. Citizens of Singapore have visa-free access to 190 destinations, according to the Henley Passport Index. The Index ranks the world’s passports by the number of destinations their holders can travel to without needing a visa. The U.S. passport is now tied with Lithuania for the world’s 8th most powerful, providing visa-free access to 184 destinations.  Brophy notes the U.S. has seen a decade-long decline in passport power. A U.S. passport currently provides visa-free access to 12 more destinations than it did in 2013. Meanwhile, a Singaporean passport has obtained visa-free access to 25 more destinations over the past 10 years.  Next, United Airlines is moving to take advantage of the Asia-Pacific region’s booming travel demand. The Chicago-based carrier unveiled on Tuesday three new routes serving the region, writes Reporter Jess Wade.  Wade reports those routes will include direct flights from San Francisco to Manila as well from Los Angeles to Hong Kong and Tokyo-Narita. United will also become the only U.S. airline to fly nonstop to Manila. A company executive said demand for transpacific travel is as strong, if not stronger, than transatlantic travel. Wade notes that the new routes, which start service in October, will result in United’s transpacific network being 50% larger than all other U.S. airlines combined.  Finally, Thailand is increasingly targeting the Middle East as a major source market for tourism. Thai authorities aim to attract 400,000 visitors from the region this year, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia in Skift’s Middle East Travel Roundup. Bhutia writes Saudi Arabia is expected to surpass the United Arab Emirates as Thailand’s largest market. Thailand anticipates welcoming 150,000 visitors from Saudi Arabia this year following the resumption of direct flights between the two countries. Saudi Arabia accounted for a little more than a quarter of the visitors from the Middle East to Thailand in the first half of 2023.  A Thai official said flight schedules between Thailand and the Middle East are currently 80% of pre-Covid levels. The Thai push to increase visitor numbers from the Middle East comes as Thailand expects tourist numbers from China, a major market for the country, to fall short of projections.  
7/19/20233 minutes, 42 seconds
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Twitter Rival Threads Is Attracting Destination Marketers

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Twitter has increasingly lost its relevance as a tourism marketing tool in recent months. And now, a growing number of destination marketing organizations are turning to its new rival Threads, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Habtemariam cites Destination Toronto, Visit Orlando and Visit Utah as some of the destination marketing organizations that have signed up for the direct competitor to Twitter. The brands have been able to grow their audiences quickly on Threads in large part due to the vast reach of Threads’ parent company Meta, which also owns Facebook and Instagram. Paula Port, Destination Toronto’s vice president of marketing, said the organization added most of its 10,000 followers on Threads in a short period of time.    Habtemariam notes some destination marketing organizations haven’t posted anything on Threads yet while others like Visit Orlando have posted regularly. He adds any strategies they might develop for Threads will depend on the platform’s evolution.  Next, people who made plans to travel this summer likely noticed the price of hotels and flights increasing. So why has travel gotten more expensive? Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden delves into the reasons why using responses provided by Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot, and additional research.  Jorden found three reasons for why going on trips has gotten pricier — booming travel demand, overall inflation and airlines’ surging operational costs. Italy’s Minister of Enterprises Adolfo Urso recently blasted Italian airlines for raising airfares in response to Italy’s travel boom. Sky-high travel demand is one of the reasons airfares to and across Europe have jumped substantially this summer.  Meanwhile, Skift Senior Research Analyst Seth Borko wrote last month that most hotel owners are increasing prices to keep pace with the rising cost of items such as food, fuel and heating. In addition, the aviation industry has been hit by an ongoing pilot shortage and aircraft delivery delays. With travel demand surpassing the supply of seats, airfares have risen. However, the trend is beginning to reverse: U.S. airfares dropped 8% in June from the previous month.  Finally, Marriott International announced a licensing deal with MGM Resorts on Monday. Marriott Bonvoy loyalty members will be able to earn points during stays at 17 MGM resorts throughout the U.S. from October, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.   Members of both companies’ loyalty programs would be able to exchange MGM Rewards points for Marriott Bonvoy points and vice versa. Bookings at 40,000 of MGM’s Las Vegas rooms will be available through Marriott’s site and app by the end of the year. O’Neill writes Marriott’s move represents its first attempt to make inroads in the gaming resort sector. Las Vegas has long been a difficult market for Marriott to crack because of the dominance of gaming resorts. 
7/18/20234 minutes, 11 seconds
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Artificial Intelligence Is Coming to Hotel Pricing

Episode Notes Some hotel executives have expressed concerns about the security and reliability of today’s generative artificial intelligence. However, industry experts are confident that AI will make room pricing more profitable, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Former IHG executive Jeff Edwards said revenue management would be the perfect use for the technology because it is too complex for humans to manage in real-time. Future tech could also enable dynamic pricing for individual rooms. O’Neill notes an extra-spacious room appearing frequently on social media could, in theory, command higher rates. Ryan King, an executive at hotel software services firm Shiji Americas, said revenue management software platforms could assign specific rates for certain rooms based on perceptions of those rooms.  O’Neill also writes that today’s revenue management systems often struggle to handle non-room revenue, including spending in hotel restaurants and spas.   We head to San Francisco next. Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam writes the city’s struggling downtown is holding back its tourism recovery.  Although some neighborhoods outside of San Francisco’s downtown have seen an increase in visitors, Habtemariam reports several tour operators aren’t enthusiastic about taking groups to the center of the city. One tour operator, G Adventures, said it now starts tours in Las Vegas instead of San Francisco and that it has reduced the time its tours spend there. Another tour operator said he avoids group trips to the city.  Local officials recently launched a global marketing campaign called “Always San Francisco” in an attempt to counter the city’s negative reputation. San Francisco Travel Association Chief Marketing Officer Lynn Bruni-Perkins said the organization wants to remind the public that the majority of visitors to the city last year said they wanted to return.  We finish today in India, the host of the Cricket World Cup this fall. The country is racing to have budget hotels ready for the start of the event in October, writes Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh. The rush to provide cricket fans more budget accommodation options comes as event organizers expect to see an enormous demand for tickets. Budget hotel operator Oyo said it will add 500 hotels in host cities to its portfolio over the next three months. An Oyo executive said the hotels will be located near tournament venues. In addition, India-based online travel company MakeMyTrip has unveiled plans to increase its inventory of homestay properties during the cricket season. 
7/17/20233 minutes, 19 seconds
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Delta's Revenue Bump Is Thanks to International Traveler

Episode Notes Delta Air Lines saw a significant revenue bump during the second quarter thanks to a major surge in international travel to Europe and Latin America, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift publication Airline Weekly.  Delta President Glen Hauenstein said the company’s international revenue recorded a 61% increase while domestic revenue was only up 8%. Hauenstein added that Europe and Latin America were Delta’s strongest regions, with Russell noting the return of international travel is a big deal for global airlines. Although some long-haul international markets have recovered from the pandemic, Russell writes Delta doesn’t anticipate a full global recovery in passenger numbers until next year. Meanwhile, Delta expects an 11-14% increase in revenue during the third quarter.  Next, the Grand Canyon National Park recently got a major boost in its efforts to go greener. The park secured $27.5 million in federal funding from the National Park Service to electrify its bus shuttles, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. The park will replace its current fleet with 30 new buses as well as install charging infrastructure to support them. Habtemariam reports that national parks have been looking to reduce their carbon footprint. Zion National Park in Utah also received federal funding in recent years to electrify its fleet. Although electric vehicle adoption has been slow in the U.S., the Biden administration has set aside billions to help states and businesses invest in charging stations. Finally, India’s government has changed its tax rules for international tour packages four times in the past five months, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia.  Bhutia writes the flip-flops have left the industry frustrated and confused, with one executive describing the frequent changes as “amateurish.” Another executive said the policy changes are an inconvenience for companies trying to expand their outbound travel business. However, Bhutia notes industry leaders view the changes as more than an inconvenience — they believe the new taxes could put their companies at a disadvantage. She adds that a special tax on Indian tour operators could encourage travelers to book with international companies. 
7/14/20232 minutes, 58 seconds
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Expedia Cuts Ties With Hopper

Episode Notes Expedia Group terminated its relationship on Wednesday with online travel agency Hopper over practices that Expedia considers anti-consumer, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Expedia had supplied rival Hopper with hotel and short-term rental inventory for several years. An Expedia spokesperson said the company cut ties with Hopper because it believes Hopper’s content confuses customers, leading them to purchase services they neither need nor completely understand. Schaal notes Expedia also has a competitive motive for terminating the relationship. Hopper is considered the third largest online travel agency in North America behind Expedia and Booking.  Schaal writes it’s unclear how Expedia’s decision will impact Hopper. A Hopper spokesperson said Expedia’s move to end their relationship wouldn’t affect Hopper, adding that Expedia was one participant among many in Hopper’s marketplace. Schaal notes that Expedia might be supplying close to half of Hopper’s hotels.  Next, three airlines — American Airlines, Lufthansa and EasyJet — and the Federal Aviation Administration are joining Google on an advisory committee to develop a model for reporting the climate impact of flights, reports Executive Editor Schaal in his weekly Online Travel Briefing.  Schaal writes the committee could help provide travelers, travel agencies and corporations with more reliable data on flight emissions. Its goals include assessing the impact of non-carbon dioxide flight emissions and comparing emissions from flights to other transportation methods like trains. James Byers, who leads Google’s travel sustainability team, said the three airlines on the committee were selected for their mix — two network carriers and one low-cost carrier — and geographic balance.  Finally, a growing number of people in India are making travel plans. And a recent survey reveals many of them are looking to make their trips more affordable, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia.  Nine in 10 travelers said in a survey by flight search engine Skyscanner that the rising cost of living will influence their plans for 2023. Bhutia writes that might mean choosing cheaper destinations or non-peak travel periods. The Skyscanner report also found that many Indians are willing to increase their travel budget to see live cricket matches. The country hosts the Cricket World Cup later this year. 
7/13/20233 minutes, 11 seconds
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Delta Air Lines’ Late Expansion in Austin

Episode Notes Delta Air Lines is launching two routes this fall that will serve Austin. But that expansion may come too late for Delta to overtake the market share of rivals American and Southwest in the city, reports Edward Russell, editor of Skift Airline Weekly.    Delta will connect Austin, one of the U.S.’ fastest-growing cities, to Las Vegas and Orlando daily beginning on October 9. Russell notes those routes follow frequency additions on seven existing Delta routes from Austin. The Atlanta-based carrier will operate up to 39 daily departures from Austin by August, a jump from 31 a day in May.   However, Russell asks if Delta’s new service to Austin is a case of too little, too late. Delta trails both Southwest and American by double-digit percentage points in terms of market share in Austin. Russell adds that Delta is a long way from matching and setting itself apart from Southwest and American’s offerings in the city. American will offer close to double the number of seats from Austin this year as it did in 2019.  Next, Sojern, a business-to-business marketing platform for travel brands, is expanding into hotel tech via its newest acquisition. Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes explains what Sojern is looking to accomplish.  Sojern announced on Tuesday it acquired VenueLytics, a company that provides guest management and communications software for independent hotels. Dawes reports the tech from VenueLytics will power the new Sojern Guest Experience Solutions business. In addition, the new technology coming on board includes an artificial intelligence chatbot that can automatically send pre-stay greetings as well as automate guest interactions. Dawes notes desk staff at hotels should be freed up to perform more complicated duties.  Sojern Chief Solutions Officer Kurt Weinsheimer said the company has seen hotels reduce front desk calls by up to 70% by implementing an AI-powered concierge.  Finally, Middle Eastern carriers are playing a leading role in the aviation industry’s global recovery, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia in Skift’s Middle East Travel Roundup.  Airlines in the region saw traffic in May reach 17% above 2019 levels, according to a report by the International Air Transport Association. Middle Eastern carriers also saw a 31% traffic increase in May compared to the same month last year. Bhutia adds international aviation traffic in May hit 96% of pre-pandemic levels. 
7/12/20233 minutes, 40 seconds
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U.S. Push to Attract Chinese Tourists Faces Flight Limit Hurdle

Episode Notes U.S. destination marketing organizations are eager to increase their marketing activities in China later this year. So how successful will those efforts be? Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam writes that any success depends on flights between the countries returning to pre-pandemic levels.  Gloria Lan, CEO of tour operator Tour America, said a lot of destination marketing organizations are planning to travel to China to start soliciting business. Habtemariam cites Visit California as one travel brand sending representatives to China in the near future. However, weekly flights between the two countries are far below 2019 levels. Habtemariam adds some destination marketing organizations don’t plan to invest heavily in China until air connectivity improves, citing Meet Boston as one example. We turn next to a comparison between hotel giants Marriott and Hilton. Skift Research’s new report examines the fierce competition the two companies are engaged in, especially in areas such as net unit growth. Senior Research Analyst Pranavi Agarwal writes Skift Research compares Marriott and Hilton and analyzes the differences in net unit growth, segment mix and profit margins coming into the second half of 2023. While Marriott is the largest branded hotel in the U.S., Agarwal notes its pipeline isn’t growing as fast as Hilton’s.  Finally, India’s aviation industry is poised for a major hiring surge, writes Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh in Skift’s India Newsletter.  Ghosh reports that Air India recently announced it would hire more than 1,000 pilots to support its fleet expansion. That comes after its low-cost subsidiary Air India Express hired more than 280 pilots and 250 cabin crew during a recruitment drive across three major cities. In addition, India’s civil aviation ministry has created more than 1,200 new jobs — close to 800 of which are to help overcome a shortage of air traffic control officers. 
7/11/20233 minutes, 5 seconds
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Accor’s Drive to Boost Its Tech Game

Episode Notes Accor executives have been hard at work to boost the Paris-based hotel company’s digital operations, but what does that entail exactly? Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill provides answers in this week’s Early Check-In column. O’Neill delves into what he considers the most notable findings from presentations Accor recently held for investors. The company runs a “digital factory,” which brings together roughly 800 developers, product managers and others to tackle the problems of hotel guests and operators. Chief Digital Officer Alix Boulnois said the Accor has the only digital factory at scale in the hospitality industry.  And O’Neill writes that Accor wants to sell more than just rooms. The company has launched All Food, a platform for booking meals at its restaurants in select markets — including France.  Next, India has unveiled plans to substantially improve its cruise infrastructure. It’s part of the government’s plan to generate nearly $5 billion in revenue from the industry by 2041, writes Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh. Ghosh reports that Indian authorities want to build three new international cruise ports by 2024 as well as attract 4 million cruise passengers annually by 2041. India is already home to 12 major and 200 minor ports. Ghosh notes that the country faces some noticeable hurdles in its quest to boost cruise tourism, such as its current tax policy and lack of coordination among government agencies.  In addition, one India-based travel executive acknowledged much of the country’s cruise infrastructure is outdated.  Finally, the U.S. hotels registered a modest increase in job growth last month. However, the hotel industry still has a way to go to reach pre-Covid employment levels, reports Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden. The Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed in its latest jobs report released on Friday that hotels added roughly 5,500 jobs in June. The sector had added only 1,300 jobs the previous month. American Hotel and Lodging Association CEO Chip Rogers expressed optimism that hotels would continue to attract job seekers. But he said a lot more has to be done to increase employment in the hotel industry. 
7/10/20233 minutes, 25 seconds
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Air New Zealand’s Taylor Swift Move

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Taylor Swift is heading to Australia next February for her Eras Tour — but not New Zealand. However, Air New Zealand is boosting capacity for the thousands of Swifties eager to travel to Australia for her shows, writes Reporter Jess Wade. Wade reports 10,000 Kiwis have booked flights on Air New Zealand coinciding with the concert dates. One Air New Zealand executive said the surge is one of the greatest it’s ever seen for travel between the two countries. Wade adds the airline recently announced it’s adding 2,000 new seats from three major New Zealand cities to Melbourne and Sydney.  Australia airlines have also seen enormous demand for Swift-related travel. Virgin Australia registered a more than 600% jump in bookings to Melbourne and Sydney during Swift concert dates.  Next, the U.S. tourism industry is continuing to make strides in its recovery from the pandemic. International travel to the country hit 83% of pre-Covid figures in March, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  More than 5 million overseas visitors came to the U.S. in March, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office’s latest data. That number is 83% percent of pre-pandemic levels. International visitor volume also topped 80% of pre-Covid levels in February of this year. Habtemariam notes the U.S.’ top overseas markets in March — outside of Canada and Mexico — were the UK, Germany and Japan.  Finally, financial concerns are driving Europeans to modify their travel plans, writes Reporter Jess Wade. Wade reports a recent survey by the European Travel Commission is highlighting a shift in consumer behavior toward cheaper options. As 24% of European travelers worry about the overall rise in trip costs, the commission’s president Miguel Sanz said many people are looking for more affordable experiences or considering off-peak travel to stretch their budgets.  The study found that 17% of travelers aim to travel off-season to get better prices while 14% plan to vacation in destinations they consider more affordable. 
7/7/20233 minutes, 9 seconds
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Hospitality Execs Look to Catch Up at HITEC

Episode Notes Today we present an excerpt from the latest episode of The Skift Podcast, featuring Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill interviewing Travel Tech Reporter Justin Dawes about his experience last week at the Hospitality Industry Technology Expo and Conference—better known as HITEC, "the world’s largest hospitality technology show.” You can listen to the full interview detailing Justin’s take aways about the conference and the state of hospitality tech on The Skift Podcast. Find all of Justin’s excellent reporting from Hitec at Skift.com, including comments from industry executives and videos of the cutting edge technology that was on display.
7/6/20236 minutes, 49 seconds
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TripAdvisor Vs. GetYourGuide: Which Comes Out on Top?

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry: Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Hotels are increasingly viewing wellness as a way to attract travelers placing a greater emphasis on their physical and mental well-being. So what strategies are hotel brands taking? Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill reports in this week’s Early Check-In column that a recently published report is providing some answers. O’Neill writes a report by consultancy firm RLA Global is a rare effort to quantify wellness trends in hotels. That report analyzed data at more than 2,500 properties worldwide with some wellness, which include gyms, spas and yoga classes. O’Neill notes the report indicates hotels need to make significant investments in wellness activities for the sector to be profitable. He adds an extensive wellness offering typically translates into higher occupancy, higher average daily revenue gains and higher profit.  Next, Tripadvisor’s Viator brand and GetYourGuide are two of the biggest players in the tours and activities sector. So after GetYourGuide recently announced a nearly $195 million investment round, how does it match up against Viator? Executive Editor Dennis Schaal looks for answers.   Schaal acknowledges that it’s tough to say definitively if Viator is growing faster than GetYourGuide. While Tripadvisor is worth close to $2.5 billion, GetYourGuide is a private company that doesn’t publish its financial records. Although a source close to GetYourGuide argued that it’s larger than the standalone Viator brand, Schaal writes the edge in number of bookable tours and activities appears to go to Tripadvisor. Meanwhile, a partner at Tourpreneur, a company that provides advice to tour operators, said he believes Tripadvisor is likely leading in the U.S. while GetYourGuide holds the top spot in Europe.  Finally, major airlines are getting a major boost from advances in the increasingly lucrative in-flight entertainment industry, reports Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden. Jorden writes that carriers such as American Airlines and JetBlue Airways have teamed up with streaming services in recent years. American offers the use of an Apple Music subscription to stream inflight without the purchase of Wi-Fi. Meanwhile, JetBlue will provide passengers the opportunity to stream content from Peacock starting this summer. A JetBlue executive said travelers with a Peacock account will be able to stream all of the platform’s content from their own devices during flights.  Jorden adds that airlines’ efforts to enhance their in-flight entertainment options have gotten a helping hand from improved aircraft designs. Hawaiian Airlines and United Airlines are introducing new in-flight entertainment systems on aircraft that will start flying in the next two years. 
7/5/20233 minutes, 52 seconds
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United Airlines' Big Weather Headaches

Episode Notes Airlines flying out of the New York City area have had a terrible recent stretch, with severe weather and a shortage of air traffic controllers contributing to thousands of flight disruptions just before the Fourth of July. But perhaps the hardest hit carrier was United Airlines — especially at its hub Newark, reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift publication.  Newark was the only airport where United saw triple digit flight cancellations through Wednesday this week. So what helped cause the large number of disruptions? Russell notes New York City-area air travel was bound to face significant distress this summer. The Federal Aviation Administration acknowledged earlier this year it had a shortage of air traffic controllers. It even allowed airlines to reduce schedules by up to 10% at the three major New York City-area airports this summer.  Russell notes the measure aimed to limit disruptions from severe weather while noting it was only a question of when those storms took place.  Next, the U.S. government has invested billions of dollars to upgrade the country’s infrastructure. However, MGM Resorts International CEO Bill Hornbuckle believes too much of that infrastructure spending has been focused on aviation, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Hornbuckle said in an interview with Skift that ground transportation is more important than air in most destinations and for more travelers. He added he wants to see ground transportation get a fair share of already approved budget money. Hornbuckle noted that at least $110 billion out of the federal money earmarked for infrastructure projects could be used to benefit tourism.  O’Neill writes a U.S. Transportation Department had identified about 100 roads, railways and bridges that needed improvement to support tourism nationwide. Fifteen of them were deemed essential.  Finally, advances in hotel technology took center stage at this week’s HITEC travel tech conference in Toronto, reports Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes in this week’s Travel Tech Briefing. Dawes reports that while property management systems and new door locks are critical for businesses, those aren’t the displays drawing crowds. He writes that robots and holograms are most popular. The conference showcased, among other products, an artificial intelligence-powered robot that could deliver wine directly to a guest’s room. 
6/30/20233 minutes, 4 seconds
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Setting a New July Fourth Summer Vacation Record

Have a question about the business of travel? Get your answer at Ask Skift. Episode Notes Inflation is still a major concern for many American travelers, but rising prices aren’t putting a dent in travel demand. More than 50 million Americans are expected to travel for this year’s Fourth of July, reports Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden.  Travel organization AAA projects the number of Americans traveling for this year’s holiday will surpass the record set in 2019. A AAA executive said consumers are still looking to travel in large numbers despite concerns about inflation. Roughly 64% of respondents to a survey by travel news site The Vacationer said surging prices were affecting their travel planes. Jorden notes the U.S. airline industry is also optimistic about a banner Fourth of July weekend. The TSA projects more than 17 million travelers will fly for the holiday. In addition, the agency anticipates setting a single-day record for screenings on June 30.  Next, Priceline has become the latest online travel agency to enter the world of artificial intelligence. The company has released an AI-powered platform as well as an AI chatbot, writes Reporter Jess Wade.  Wade writes Priceline’s new AI platform Trip Intelligence provides travelers a list of personalized hotel recommendations and enhanced payment security among other features. Meanwhile, Priceline’s AI chatbot — named Penny — can be used as a local guide, help desk contact and 24/7 concierge. The company added that Penny can complete bookings within the chatbot interface.  Priceline’s announcement came shortly after Booking.com unveiled an AI-powered trip planner as part of its Genius travel rewards program. We end today with a look at the occupancy levels for short-term rentals. Are they up or down? Short-Term Rentals Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman writes the answer depends on what data you’re looking at.  Short-term rental firm platform Beyond reported that occupancy levels for this July were roughly 5 percentage points under the figure from the same month last year. However, short-term rental data provider AirDNA found occupancy levels were a little more than 5 percentage points above 2019 levels in May of this year. The company also said demand for short-rentals increased roughly 12 percentage points in May 2023 from the same month a year ago.  Kalyanaraman writes there are several reasons for the discrepancies, including base-year comparisons and seasonal changes. 
6/29/20233 minutes, 18 seconds
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U.S. City Tourism Boards Want Suburban Visitors Back

Episode Notes Several major U.S. cities are facing a similar challenge in their quest to make a full recovery from the pandemic — the absence of suburban residents. Urban destination marketing organizations acknowledge they need the critical group to help boost visitor numbers, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Habtemariam reports that prior to the pandemic, suburban residents often commuted to the city for work and then attended various events. Those activities kept businesses running and cities vibrant, which benefited local tourism industries. However, destination marketing organizations admit to having to counter negative perceptions about crime in their cities. In addition, the rise of remote work has made promoting activities more difficult to suburbanites making fewer trips downtown.  Habtemariam writes some cities are launching campaigns to convince suburban residents to frequent urban attractions, citing Chicago and Minneapolis as examples. He adds that suburbanites can be ambassadors for nearby destinations, often helping encourage travelers to spend time in major cities.  Next, executives from Amazon Web Services are bullish on artificial intelligence transforming how travel companies offer personalized customer service — possibly as early as next year, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  Amazon Web Services representatives at this week’s HITEC travel tech conference in Toronto explained how they’re working with major travel brands eager to incorporate advanced AI into their operations. Amazon Web Services has found only 15 percent of travel companies are using AI at an advanced level. But one executive said she expects to see more hyper-personalized content in the travel industry. Amazon Web Services has already worked with Hyatt to help the hotel giant make personalized recommendations for customers, including specific hotels that matched their interests.   Dawes adds that hyper-personalization means companies will be able to present images and text based on detailed data customers provide.  Finally, Booking.com is rolling out on Wednesday an artificial intelligence-powered trip planner as part of its Genius travel rewards program. But that trip planner will use OpenAI’s ChatGPT as its base instead of Google Bard, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Schaal writes Booking.com’s decision is somewhat surprising considering its long relationship with Google. Booking.com is one of Google’s largest travel advertisers. However, Schaal notes critics have largely held OpenAI’s ChatGPT in higher regard than Google Bard. Booking.com said its own AI Trip Planner will field questions on its mobile app from travelers about destinations and accommodation options. 
6/28/20233 minutes, 50 seconds
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Carnival Turns Away From China

Episode Notes China was a major market for Carnival Corporation prior to the pandemic. But despite Beijing lifting the country’s strict travel curbs earlier this year, the cruise line isn’t returning to China in the near future, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Carnival CEO Josh Weinstein said on Monday the company’s strong second quarter did not reflect a return to China, and added the company would “be on the sidelines” for a few years. Roughly 1 million Carnival guests came from China in 2019.  Meanwhile, Weinstein described the company’s onboard revenue as “off the charts.” Habtemariam reports more than a third of Carnival’s onboard revenue over the 12 months have been booked in advance. However, despite that higher consumer spending, the company’s shares fell 10 percent, after Carnival executives noted rising labor and fuel costs. Carnival Chief Financial Officer David Bernstein said the company incurred $13 million in higher fuel costs.  Next, speaking of China, strong performance over the country’s most recent national holiday is a major sign international travel is rebounding, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia.  Bhutia writes China’s three-day Dragon Boat Festival holiday revealed a noticeable rebound in outbound travel. International border crossings during the holiday period hit 65 percent of 2019 levels, according to government officials. Bhutia notes that Hong Kong was the most popular destination for travelers living in Mainland China, with hotel bookings made by Mainland Chinese for Hong Kong trips recording a substantial increase from last year.  China had the largest outbound travel market in the world before the pandemic, both in terms of number of trips and total spend.  Finally, delays in Europe visitor visas are driving more Indian travelers to book trips closer to home, reports Asia Editor Bhutia and Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh. As one India-based travel executive admitted those delays are concerning to those looking to visit Europe, online travel company MakeMyTrip said Indian travelers are increasingly interested in Asian destinations. The company notes Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia are among the top five choices for Indian travelers. In addition, 92 percent of travelers expressed a desire to explore domestic destinations, according to a recent survey by budget hotel operator Oyo.
6/27/20233 minutes, 30 seconds
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One More Step to Easing Indians' U.S. Visa Pain

Episode Notes Hong Kong-based carrier Cathay Pacific said on Friday it expects to turn a profit in the first half of 2023 after years of losses. But the company’s slow recovery is a concern in the airline industry, reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift publication. Cathay Pacific’s expected profit comes after it posted a roughly $320 million dollar loss in the first half of last year. Russell writes Cathay Pacific was hit hard by the Hong Kong government’s strict Covid-era travel curbs, most of which were only lifted last December. Those restrictions severely limited Cathay Pacific, an airline with no domestic market to serve.  Although Cathay Pacific has seen a surge in travel demand, Russell adds it still lags behind regional rival Singapore Airlines. He notes that Singapore Airlines used the pandemic to accelerate plans to streamline its operations while Cathay Pacific is still focused on rebuilding its network.  Next, the U.S. has unveiled plans to open consulates in the Indian cities Bengaluru and Ahmedabad. U.S. officials believe those consulates could help expedite the visa application process for Indian travelers, writes Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh. Ghosh reports visa delays represent the single biggest impediment to growth in travel between the U.S. and India, with India emerging as the U.S.’ second-largest visitor source market outside of North America. U.S. lawmakers have urged the Biden administration to tackle the issue of lengthy visa wait times. There has been some improvement: Wait times for visitor visas at some U.S. consulates in India have recently decreased in half, from more than 600 days.  Finally, the owners of the Spain-based Hotel Finca Cortesín have opened a new propertylocated inside a 17th century palace, reports Contributor Leslie Barrie. Barrie notes the Mallorca-based Gran Hotel Son Net is the second hotel venture from the team behind the Finca Cortesín. Finca Cortesín Hotels Managing Director Rene Zimmer is adamant the new property isn’t a boutique hotel or resort. But Zimmer said it will have plenty of local touches, including serving mostly Mallorcan wine and food grown on the island. Barrie writes the Gran Hotel Son Net’s staff believes its focus on local themes will resonate with guests. 
6/26/20233 minutes, 24 seconds
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Luxury Travel Companies' Push for Extreme Experiences

Episode Notes A growing number of affluent travelers are seeking extreme adventures, but are they pushing the boundaries for those popular excursions too far? Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy seeks answers from executives responsible for organizing those trips.  Carl Shephard, co-founder of travel company Insider Expeditions, said safety is always the priority, but added that the industry is providing valuable experiences. He said companies like his should push the boundaries. Virgin Galactic, a long-time Insider Expeditions client, recently took a group of 30 future astronauts on a trip to a remote island centered around a one-minute solar eclipse.  Brophy notes she scheduled interviews for the story before the OceanGate submersible, the Titan, went missing while taking passengers to explore the Titanic wreck. The five passengers on board are believed to have died. Next, much of the discussion around artificial intelligence in travel has centered around how the technology can help increase bookings. But Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes reports in his Travel Tech Briefing that hotel tech startups are using AI to combat an ongoing labor shortage.  Dawes cites HiJiffy as one tech company that’s gotten a boost from hotels struggling with staffing issues. Founder Tiago Araújo said the startup grew 150 percent during the pandemic due the industry-wide labor shortage, a challenge many hotels still face. The company said its so-called “pre-stay” product is able to quickly answer roughly 80 percent of guest questions about the hotel.  Araújo added most of HiJiffy’s clients are doing well in terms of revenue. But he acknowledged many are having difficulties regarding staffing, which is driving them to automate as many processes as possible.  We end today in Bhutan. The country is lowering its sustainable development fee — used to offset the carbon footprint of tourists — to encourage longer stays, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia.  Bhutia writes Bhutanese authorities relied on feedback from the country’s travel executives to develop options for longer stays. Garab Dorji, CEO of travel company Truly Bhutan, said the reduced fee will give tourists an opportunity to explore more of the country. Bhutan’s tourism department estimates the South Asian nation attracted roughly 52,000 tourists between late September 2022 and mid-May. Bhutia adds the country aims to hit pre-pandemic tourism figures by the end of 2024. 
6/23/20233 minutes, 16 seconds
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How Big Sports Events Turn Fans Into Tourists

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry. Ask Skift Your Questions Episode Notes Canadian travel brands took on large amounts of debt during the pandemic to weather the Covid-induced slowdown. But with those companies still struggling due to the country’s sluggish recovery, Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam writes Canada’s travel industry could face business shutdowns in the near future.    Tourism Industry Association of Canada CEO Beth Potter said a large number of travel companies are worried they’ll have to close up shop. A survey by the organization found nearly a third of businesses had more than $250,000 in outstanding debt. In addition, more than half of companies said they weren’t confident about making debt payments due in the next two years. Habtemariam notes a large portion of those debts are to the Canadian government, with the country’s businesses receiving loans from Ottawa to stay afloat during the pandemic.  The tourism association is calling on the government to move payment deadlines, among other requests. About 45 percent of Canadian travel businesses said they could shut down within the next three years without government help.  Next, a growing number of travel brands are turning to major sporting events to upsell and market their core services, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy. Mark McLaughlin, CEO of Dublin-based ticket distribution platform Coras, said travel companies can use sporting events to increase customer engagement. McLaughlin, whose company has partnered with some of Europe’s elite soccer clubs, added that fans visiting Barcelona consider going to a game as much of a bucket list item as seeing the city’s other major attractions. He also described sporting event tickets as high volume compared to the number of trips a tour operator can sell daily.  Finally, India saw a 166 percent year-over-year increase in foreign visitors from January to April this year, writes Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh in Skift’s India Travel Daily. India’s Tourism Minister G Kishan Reddy said the country expects inbound travel to reach pre-pandemic levels later this year. India welcomed more than 6 million foreign tourists last year. The country’s tourism boom has also resulted in India’s revenue from the sector more than doubling in 2022 from the previous year. Indian authorities have also unveiled plans for marketing campaigns targeting international travelers. 
6/22/20233 minutes, 8 seconds
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Global Travel Recovery Sustains its Momentum

Episode Notes The global travel industry is making consistent progress in its recovery from the pandemic. Skift Research’s Travel Health Index for May 2023 projects the industry’s travel performance will soon surpass 2019 levels.  Research Analyst Saniya Zanpure reports the Index’s average global score in May hit 100 percent of pre-Covid levels, 2 percentage points higher than the previous month. Although that’s a 1 percentage point drop from April, Zanpure notes all regions except Europe have made a full recovery. And Europe is close to a complete rebound at 98 percent of 2019 levels.  Fourteen out of the 22 destinations Skift Research has tracked have made complete recoveries from the pandemic. Zanpure adds Skift Research expects the others to do so soon, with the exception of Russia and Hong Kong.   Next, Indian airlines are continuing their massive aircraft ordering spree, with the country’s largest carrier IndiGo picking up 500 Airbus jets this week. But those huge orders present a big risk for Indian airlines eager to expand internationally, reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a publication.   IndiGo CEO Pieter Elbers said the order reaffirms the country’s confidence in an aviation boom in India, optimism that Russell writes is warranted. Elbers told Airline Weekly earlier this month that IndiGo would double in size by the end of the decade. However, Russell notes that numerous airlines have failed to tap the Indian market’s enormous potential, adding that infrastructure constraints are a persistent challenge. In addition, aviation data firm IBA has questioned whether the Indian market can accommodate the growing number of aircraft.  Meanwhile, Elbers has outlined a three-part internationalization plan that includes new destinations and partnerships. Russell writes IndiGo will serve more international destinations by the end of the summer than it did before the pandemic.  We end today with a look at the Urban Cowboy brand of boutique hotels, which Contributor Leslie Barrie says is looking to maintain a sense of community even while it expands.  Urban Cowboy co-founder Lyon Porter admitted he didn’t have a real plan when the company opened his first hotel in Brooklyn in 2014. But Barrie writes Porter and fellow co-founder Jersey Banks have found their groove in building communal environments for “magical moments.” Urban Cowboy’s property in the Catskills in Upstate New York offers activities such as ax throwing and mushroom foraging. In addition, the brand’s Dive Motel in Nashville frequently hosts parties. 
6/21/20233 minutes, 53 seconds
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The Taylor Swift Tourism Bump

Episode Notes Chicago’s tourism industry has recently gotten a big boost from events like three sold out Taylor Swift concerts at Soldier Field. Local authorities hope the success of her shows can be the antidote to the city’s negative reputation, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Habtemariam reports 45,000 people came to Chicago over a June weekend when it hosted a large oncology conference in addition to the Swift concerts. One local hotel industry official said it was the best weekend for hotels in Chicago’s history. In addition, Chicago tourism chief Lynn Osmond said there were no major incidents downtown despite the huge crowds, a sign she believes the Windy City is well prepared to host major events.  However, Habtemariam writes the city — and its tourism industry — has had to confront public crimes that have made nationwide news. In response to concerns about crime, Osmond wrote a letter to industry partners informing them the city was taking steps to address public safety. Next, luxury travel lodging company Habitas is planning to create a so-called hotel circuit in Saudi Arabia through a $400 million fund, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  O’Neill writes Habitas aims to transfer guests around locations in Saudi Arabia, where the company is looking to add six properties to its portfolio. Habitas already operates two properties in the kingdom. A Habitas representative said the fund would be anchored by the Saudi Tourism Development Fund. Saudi officials have expressed a desire to attract 100 million tourists annually by 2030.  Finally, Australia’s flag carrier Qantas recently unveiled the cabin design of its Airbus A350 jets, which will feature a wellness zone, reports Contributor Jessica Wade.  Wade writes the cabin design represents a significant milestone in Qantas Project Sunrise, the title for its new nonstop routes from Sydney to London and New York. Qantas said it’s the first airline worldwide to develop a unique Wellbeing Zone on its aircraft. The zone includes a guided on-screen exercise and a hydration station.  The nonstop flights from Sydney to London and New York are scheduled to take off in late 2025. Qantas also recently resumed service to New York for the first time in more than three years, with flights from Australia to New York via New Zealand.  Australia’s flag carrier Qantas has resumed flights to New York City for the first time in more than years. 
6/20/20233 minutes, 32 seconds
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Why Surging Hotel Rates Isn’t Price Gauging

Episode Notes Travelers will likely notice that hotel room rates are up this summer travel season compared to last year, leading to charges that hotel owners are raising prices to take advantage of pent-up vacation demand. However, Senior Research Analyst Seth Borko argues that surging rates aren’t a case of price gouging. Borko acknowledges that the average price of a U.S. hotel room rose 13 percent in May from the same month last year. But he reports that jump doesn’t account for inflation, adding the price of everything rose during the pandemic. Hotel owners in particular have seen the cost of items such fuel, food and laundry supplies increase. Borko notes inflation data suggests that most hotel owners are raising rates to keep pace with their surging costs.  He also writes that if hotel owners aren’t making more profits from the increased rates, that’s not price gouging.   Next, more travel brands are turning to artificial intelligence tools to help users make bookings, with many companies believing the growing technology will help them operate more efficiently. But Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes writes not all of those booking tools will be successful. Dawes notes most companies want a virtual travel agent that can make bookings based on customers’ highly personalized preferences. Vacation rental listing platform HomeToGo is one company planning to release an AI booking tool. But Dawes writes it’s uncertain how small companies with limited data can compete against larger, wealthier rivals. He adds that the platforms that succeed will likely need to solve a unique problem or create a recognizable brand, feats many companies won’t be able to do.  Finally, Australia’s flag carrier Qantas has resumed flights to New York City for the first time in more than three years. It’s another sign of airlines returning to normal after the pandemic, writes Jay Shabat, senior analyst at Airline Weekly, a Skift publication.  Shabat reports that Qantas is initially flying to JFK Airport from Australia via Auckland, New Zealand three times a week. The company will increase that number up to four in October, a month that coincides with the start of Australia and New Zealand’s peak summer tourist season. Qantas views Auckland stopover as an interim measure until it receives a new set of ultra-long-range Airbus jets, possibly in 2025. CEO Alan Joyce said the company has seen enormous demand for the flights since they went on sale last year. 
6/16/20233 minutes, 16 seconds
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What U.S. Tourism Needs for a Full Recovery

Ask Skift Is the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry. Try It. Episode Notes The U.S. tourism industry has gotten a boost from the Biden administration lifting its vaccine requirement for inbound travelers in May. However, a prominent U.S. tourism official believes the industry won’t make a full recovery without the large-scale return of Chinese visitors, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Brand USA CEO Chris Thompson said at a U.S. Senate hearing this week that dropping the vaccine mandate has helped boost visitor numbers. But he acknowledged that the eased travel curbs won’t be enough to compensate for the lack of Chinese tourists. The U.S. welcomed over 540,000 Chinese travelers in April, a 81 percent drop from the same month in 2019. China reopened its borders earlier this year for international travel after more than two years of restrictions. Next, the short-term rental industry is poised to benefit enormously from the boom in summer travel, writes Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman A study by short-term rental data company AirDNA found the sector should see growth this summer thanks to strong travel demand. Kalyanaraman reports that this year’s summer travel season is expected to be extended as travelers seek off-season rates. She adds that lower house prices and sustained high demand for rental properties have contributed to an increased housing supply. More homeowners are choosing to rent out their properties rather than sell in a market with low interest rates. Finally, the U.S. Department of Commerce is looking for help in staffing the office for the newly-created assistant secretary for travel and tourism, a position Congress created last December. So what assistance is the department requesting? Roughly $3.5 million, writes Global Tourism Dawit Habtemariam.  National Travel and Tourism Office Director Brian Beall said at a Senate hearing this week that the agency needs the money from Congress to be able to carry out its duties. The office’s responsibilities include developing strategies to help meet the U.S. tourism industry’s goals, including increasing visitor numbers. Congress hadn’t included funding for the office upon passing legislation to create it. Meanwhile, the assistant secretary position hasn’t been filled yet. 
6/15/20233 minutes
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Highest Paid Airline CEOs in 2022

Try the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry Episode Notes Travel demand among Chinese citizens has surged since Beijing eased the country’s strict Covid-era curbs in January. So how can travel brands tap into one of the world’s most lucrative markets? Skift Research examines in a new report what strategies companies should take to attract Chinese travelers. Senior Research Analyst Varsha Arora writes Skift Research explored various stages of the Chinese travel journey, including planning and booking. The report also touches on the general economic outlook for Chinese travelers, including their widespread optimism. The report concludes with key takeaways for destination marketing organizations, which Arora notes provide valuable tips on how to engage Chinese travelers.  Next, a growing number of real estate investors are looking to combine hotels with members clubs. However, Gansevoort Hotel Group President Michael Achenbaum warns blending a hotel with a club is more difficult than it seems, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Achenbaum acknowledged the challenges while speaking at a recent hotel conference, citing his own experiences with the members club model. He said investors shouldn’t focus on finding the coolest people for members clubs, which usually charge an annual fee for access to co-working spaces and food and beverage offerings. Achenbaum said that investors should instead concentrate on finding the right people who will truly use the various spaces.   Achenbaum also noted another challenge of blending a hotel with a members club: Determining access for facilities, adding that not giving hotel guests access to certain spaces can be a problem.  We end today looking at the highest-paid U.S. Airline CEOs for 2022, a year that featured a new twist for calculating executive salaries. United Airlines’ Scott Kirby took the top spot, bringing home $10 million, reports Contributor Kristin Majcher.  Kirby replaced Delta Air Lines chief Ed Bastian as the highest paid U.S. CEO in 2022, both in terms of total pay package and a new method for determining executive salaries. A new U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission rule requires major, public companies to disclose a “compensation actually paid” figure. Majcher writes the new measure reflects the changing value of company shares, which usually represent a significant portion of an airline CEO’s compensation. 
6/14/20233 minutes, 28 seconds
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Formula 1 Tourism Comes to GetYourGuide

Try the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry Episode Notes Airfares in India have been soaring recently, and a new report finds the country registered the highest increase in airfares in the Asia-Pacific region, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia.  A study conducted by Airports Council International attributed the surging airfares to factors such as rising fuel prices and pent-up travel demand. The report noted that fuel prices have jumped 76 percent compared to 2019. The CEO of India-based travel agency Nomad Travels said fares for routes such as Mumbai to Delhi have almost doubled. The study also found the airfares have increased elsewhere in the Asia-Pacific region, including Indonesia, Saudi Arabia and Japan.  However, one airline industry expert said rising airfares are unlikely to stall the surge in Indian aviation, with the country’s major airlines having recently announced record profits for the 2022 financial year.  Next, tours and activities platform GetYourGuide announced on Monday it’s launching a tour devoted to Formula 1 icon McLaren Racing. It’s part of the company’s strategy to take advantage of the surging interest in sports-themed tours, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy.   Brophy reports the McLaren’ Originals tours will be available on a first-come, first-served basis starting on July 6. Jean-Gabriel Duveau, GetYourGuide’s vice president of brand, said the company has seen an explosion in demand for sports experiences. GetYourGuide’s booking data revealed demand for sports tours recorded a more than 130 percent year-over-year jump in the first half of 2023. Duveau added the company is working to develop behind the scenes tours of famous sporting venues.  Finally, real estate investment firm Black Swan has acquired former short-term rental operator Lyric in an attempt to revive the brand, writes Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman.  Kalyanaraman writes Black Swan has bought Lyric’s domestic and international trademark rights as well as the lyric.com domain. Lyric was operating roughly 600 units in 17 markets during the first quarter of 2020 before closing many of its units early in the pandemic. The new Lyric is set to launch this summer, with Kalyanaraman noting that Black Swan’s real estate strategy will be to acquire trophy assets in key markets. 
6/13/20233 minutes, 31 seconds
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Istanbul Projects Huge Boost from Champions League Final

Try the AI Chatbot for the Travel Industry Episode Notes Saturday’s Champions League final, perhaps soccer’s most prestigious annual event, drew tens of thousands of visitors to Istanbul. But local officials believe the action on the field is secondary to the boost the game will give the city’s tourism industry, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  While Dawes writes that visiting fans will surely inject a lot of money into Istanbul’s economy, he adds the event’s true value is the advertising power. Turkish Hotel Association President Muberra Eresin said this year’s Champions League final could enhance Istanbul’s reputation as a sought after destination for future events. The city has hosted several major sporting events in recent years, with Dawes noting that sports tourism is one of the fastest growing sectors of tourism.  Next, spending by visitors to the U.S. in April surpassed that of Americans traveling abroad for the first time in seven months, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  The National Travel and Tourism Office revealed that international travelers spent more than $17.3 billion on travel-related activities to and within the U.S. in April. Habtemariam reports international visitor spending has gone up 25 consecutive months. Meanwhile, Americans traveling abroad spent roughly $17.2 billion.   Finally, Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill examines in this week’s Early Check-In column an issue that is causing sleepless nights for hotel executives. What is it? The rise of fintech. O’Neill writes industry leaders at two major hotel conferences admitted that they’re worried about fintech’s growth. Marriott’s Chief Financial Officer Leeny Oberg said there’s a tremendous amount of capital in the sector, with O’Neill adding it’s difficult to determine the possible impact of fintech players selling travel. Alex Cosmas, a partner at financial firm McKinsey, said the hotel industry has never previously competed directly with tech giants.  However, O’Neill notes that some hotel executives believe the industry will rise to the occasion. Accor Deputy CEO Jean-Jacques Morin acknowledged that a lot of industry figures believed that online travel agencies and Airbnb would disrupt hotels. But he said hotels handled the increased competition very well. 
6/12/20233 minutes, 19 seconds
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Airline CEOs Downplay Recession Concerns

Episode Notes Airline executives acknowledged this week they could be in the midst of a recession. But they’re largely unconcerned about an economic downturn impeding the industry’s ongoing recovery, reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift publication. Leaders speaking at a major aviation conference in Istanbul expressed optimism about aviation’s boom continuing. International Air Transport Association Director General Willie Walsh said the airline industry is making progress in terms of profitability. The organization expects to record a more than $22 billion profit this year, a seven-fold increase from its forecast last December.   However, Russell writes behind those optimistic projections is a turbulent backdrop, citing in particular the stalled corporate travel recovery. Corporate travel revenue has plateaued in the U.S. at between 75 and 80 percent of 2019 levels according to executives from several major U.S. airlines. United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby admitted the U.S. is experiencing a business recession. But the company’s Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella said if airlines are in the middle of a recession, it’s the best recession the industry has ever seen.  Next, Iceland’s tourism industry is getting a major boost from a new segment of tourists — hardcore music fans. It’s part of the country’s strategy to diversify its visitor base coming out of the pandemic, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Habtemariam reports several recent concerts, including shows by bands such as Wilco and the Disco Biscuits, have helped bring thousands of American travelers to Iceland. An executive at Business Iceland said those concertgoers are the kind of visitors the organization wants, noting they’re eager to explore Iceland beyond Reykjavik and tend to spend a lot of money. Habtemariam adds that Icelandic officials are looking to take advantage of travelers increasingly seeking nature over urban experiences. The country is building more accommodation outside of Reykjavik. In addition, tour operator Intrepid Travel recently developed a one week camping trip that takes travelers to Iceland’s less crowded locations, including its national parks. Finally, U.S. legislators are calling on the White House to prioritize reducing the visa waits Indian travelers looking to visit the U.S. have endured, writes Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh in Skift’s India Travel Daily.  Ghosh writes visa delays are the single biggest impediment to boosting Indian visitor numbers to the U.S. Although the U.S. has made progress in reducing visa wait times at some consulates in India, the average wait was roughly 330 days in early April, according to the U.S. Travel Association. 
6/9/20233 minutes, 32 seconds
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Google’s New Airline Emissions Measurement Push

Episode Notes The short-term rental industry has experienced a major boom coming out of the pandemic. But Laurence Tosi, founder of investment firm WestCap, believes the sector’s enormous growth is slowing down, reports Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden.  Tosi said that future growth for travel will moderate during a discussion at the Skift Short-Term Rental Summit on Wednesday. He also told Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali that companies like Sonder and Vacasa aiming to become profitable need to focus on having sustainable business models.  Tosi also touched on the rise of artificial intelligence in travel, urging travel brands to proceed carefully with how they use the technology. He cited Hopper as one company that has used AI extensively.  Next, several airlines are removing first class seats from long-haul international routes. However, Emirates Airlines isn’t getting rid of the luxury offering, reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift publication.  Emirates President Tim Clark said at a conference in Istanbul this week that long-haul first class is very important for the company. He added that more than 80 percent of its long-haul aircraft has first class seats. However, Russell notes that long-haul first class is a gradually disappearing product. Indeed, Qatar Airways recently announced that it wouldn’t install first class on its future long-haul jets. Russell adds that airlines increasingly believe the necessary investment in the product isn’t often worth the cost.  But some carriers have unveiled plans for first class seats on their longest flights, including Qantas Airways and Lufthansa. Russell writes those investments are driven in part by the increase in premium leisure travelers coming out of the pandemic.  Finally, the European Union and Google are teaming up to create a reliable measurement for flying’s climate impact, which has long been challenging for the travel industry, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. The European Union Aviation Safety Agency and Google announced on Wednesday they are teaming up to develop a framework for measuring a flight’s emissions impact. Schaal writes that finding accurate measurements has been a thorny issue because the science is inexact. He adds the collaboration will help Google and partners develop its Travel Impact Model, a publicly accessible model for measuring flight emissions per passenger.  The Lufthansa Group has agreed to provide data for the emissions calculations. An executive at the safety agency said he believes the information will help travelers determine which flights may be more environmentally friendly.
6/8/20233 minutes, 25 seconds
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Hotel CEOs Are Bullish on Continued Boom

Episode Notes Hotel executives expressed optimism this week for a continued boom despite inflation and a possible recession, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Accor CEO Sébastien Bazin said at an event organized by New York University that the future for the hotel industry has never been as strong as it currently is. Bazin added that hotel rates in Paris have been 50 percent above 2019 levels for the past six months. O’Neill writes a limited supply of travel lodging has boosted the pricing power of existing hotels, with one executive describing low supply as music to her friends.  O’Neill adds that hotel CEOs are bullish on a surge in travel from Asia, noting that Chinese travelers still haven’t returned en masse. In addition, Bazin said he envisioned India emerging as a major source of business, with the country’s rapidly expanding middle-class increasingly looking to travel abroad. Next, as short-term rentals sit at an inflection point after several years of enormous growth, Skift Research takes a deep look at what lessons industry giant Vacasa can provide the sector after its own boom. Senior Research Analyst Seth Borko writes Vacasa, the largest branded property manager in the U.S., is an important bellwether for short-term rentals that can help answer questions about the sector’s trajectory. Borko notes that Vacasa is a publicly traded company involved in practically every aspect of the industry. Despite experiencing a surge in occupancy rates compared to 2019 levels, Skift Research also found that Vacasa has seen demand cool down, with the period of pandemic-fueled growth coming to an end.  Finally, Indian budget carrier IndiGo is closing in on a record deal to buy 500 jets from Airbus, according to Reuters. That’s the latest in a series of massive aircraft orders by Indian airlines, writes Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh in Skift’s India Travel Daily. Ghosh reports that Airbus is the frontrunner for an order that would surpass Air India’s purchase of 470 jets this February. The projected $50 billion deal comes as India — the world’s third largest aviation market — has seen a strong travel rebound coming out of the pandemic. Furthermore, IndiGo CEO Pieter Elbers recently said international expansion is on the horizon for the company. IndiGo is one of Airbus’ largest customers and had already ordered a total of 830 jets from the Europe-based plane maker.
6/7/20233 minutes, 35 seconds
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U.S. Experiences a ‘Business Recession’

Episode Notes Travel companies across the U.S. have seen an enormous boom in leisure travel demand coming out of the pandemic. However, United Airlines CEO Scott Kirby believes the U.S. is in a “business recession,” reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift publication.  Kirby said at a conference in Istanbul on Monday that while consumer spending is strong, the same can’t be said for businesses. Russell writes that the downturn has contributed to a slower business travel recovery than many had expected. United Chief Commercial Officer Andrew Nocella acknowledged that business travel demand at United has plateaued while declining to state how much it’s recovered. Russell adds the state of corporate travel is a major concern for airlines, noting the business travelers represent a significant portion of revenue — especially during periods of slower leisure travel.  Next, Marriott is making another foray into the extended-stay sector. The company is launching a brand geared toward price-conscious travelers seeking stays between seven and 30 days, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Marriott announced on Monday that it would expand into the “affordable midscale” hotel category with the yet-to-be named brand. O’Neill writes the new brand — Marriott’s 32nd — will be the company’s most affordable cost-per-room hotel brand in the U.S. and Canada. Marriott’s other brands with mostly long-stay guests are largely geared toward luxury travelers. O’Neill adds Marriott expects to open the brand in late 2024 or early 2025.  Finally, roughly 90 percent of LGBTQ+ travelers in India consider their personal safety as an important factor when booking travel, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia and Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh.  A recent Booking.com survey found that the percentage of LGBTQ+ travelers in India prioritizing safety had jumped 20 percentage points from last year. Roughly 80 percent of respondents said destinations they perceived to be unfriendly to LGBTQ+ travelers were off their travel radar. Bhutia and Ghosh did note that India’s travel industry has made progress in becoming more inclusive for members of the country’s LGBTQ+ community. The survey also revealed 91 percent of respondents feel more comfortable while traveling. 
6/6/20233 minutes, 30 seconds
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American Travelers Boost UK Tourism Recovery

Episode Notes Tourists from the U.S. are boosting the UK’s tourism recovery, with more Americans traveling to the country in 2022 than prior to the pandemic, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  A little more than 4.5 million Americans traveled to the UK last year, a 2 percent jump from 2019. In addition, American visitors were spending more and staying longer in the country. Americans spent a record $7.45 billion in the UK in 2022, according to national tourism board VisitBritain. That’s a 42 percent increase from 2019 levels. Tracy Halliwell, an executive at Visit London, said the UK saw a large number of American visitors immediately after the country lifted travel restrictions.  However, Habtemariam notes tourism to the UK still hasn’t made a full recovery from the pandemic. Britain welcomed 31 million visitors last year, a 24 percent drop from 2019.  Next, Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden takes a look at the challenges female business travelers face, nearly a decade after Skift Research reported travel companies were increasingly taking steps to meet their needs.  Jorden reports safety is still a major concern for female business travelers. A survey by the Global Business Travel Association found 83 percent of women traveling for business had experienced safety-related issues in the previous 12 months. The organization also discovered that only 18 percent of corporate travel policies specifically addressed the security of female business travelers. One travel executive said women who experience issues on their business trips often don’t report them to their organizations.  However, Jorden notes some advances that have significantly benefited female business travelers. All medium and large U.S. airports have been required since 2018 to provide private spaces in each terminal for lactating mothers, which another executive said was a godsend for women traveling on business after maternity leave.  Finally, hotel industry expert Cindy Estis Green argues that too many hotel companies have yet to find the most profitable customers for their businesses, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill in this week’s Early Check-In column.  Green, the CEO of data benchmarking service Kalibri Labs, believes hotel companies are too focused on boosting occupancy rates instead of maximizing total revenue. She also noted many hotel industry leaders have outdated approaches for running a business. Green said that their belief they’d automatically be better off with more guests just isn’t true.
6/5/20233 minutes, 26 seconds
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The Top Short-Term Rental Companies

Episode Notes The short-term rental industry has seen an enormous boom over the last decade. And ahead of Skift’s Short-Term Rental Summit in New York next week, Skift Research has unveiled the Skift Short-Term Rental 250, a list of the 250 most prominent companies in the industry. Head of Skift Research Wouter Geerts writes the detailed look at the sector comes four years after its seminal report on the short-term rental ecosystem. He adds that Skift Research divided the 250 companies into three distinct sectors. The new report also delves into Airbnb’s dominance of the short-term rental industry. Next, India-based low-cost carrier Indigo had a banner financial year, flying over 86 million passengers, a 72 percent year-over-year jump. And the company believes an enhanced loyalty program will attract more customers, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia. Indigo CEO Pieter Elbers said in an interview with Skift that the Indian market is ready for a loyalty system unlike 10 ten years ago. However, he added the company isn’t sure what features its planned loyalty program will include. Indigo had introduced in 2019 the Ka-Ching card in 2019, a cashback system that Elbers had described as a form of loyalty without classical tiers.  Bhutia adds that international expansion is on the horizon for Indigo. It’s the world’s sixth largest carrier in terms of market size despite its low presence outside of India. Roughly 90 percent of its passengers are domestic travelers. The company is looking to fly into Nairobi and Jakarta among other destinations with its current fleet.  We end today with a look at the hotel industry’s highest paid CEOs in 2022. Most major hotel CEOs actually ended the year with less overall compensation than they originally expected, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Rob Goldstein at the Las Vegas Sands Corp. was 2022’s highest paid public hotel company CEO, taking home $40 million. He was immediately followed by Choice Hotels International CEO Patrick Pacious, who received $27 million in total compensation. However, O’Neill writes those figures weren’t the most noteworthy detail in hotel CEO pay. A new rule requires U.S. companies to more clearly state the equity awards that represent the pay packages for top executives. That new disclosure showed CEOs took home less money than anticipated.  O’Neill adds European-based hotel companies weren’t required to disclose compensation in the same manner as U.S. companies. The CEOs of IHG and Accor received less compensation on average than their U.S.-based counterparts. 
6/2/20233 minutes, 35 seconds
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Travel CEOs Talk Artificial Intelligence

Episode Notes Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern recently accused rival online travel agency Agoda of undercutting the nightly rates posted on official hotel websites, and that’s anathema to hotels. So how has Agoda been able to discover cheaper rates? Executive Editor Dennis Schaal explains how in his weekly Online Travel Briefing.  Schaal includes a video of then-Agoda CEO John Brown at Skift Forum East in 2019 detailing his company’s mindset on hotel prices. Brown said the company has the responsibility to customers to find the cheapest hotel rates found online even though that caused friction with hoteliers. A spokesperson from Booking Holdings, Agoda’s parent company, said Agoda gets many different rates by contact from its partners. But Kern of Expedia said many hotels don’t realize how their rates are being mishandled. Schaal adds that Expedia has a tech tool that helps hotels weed out rates appearing in unauthorized outlets. smart_toy Next, generative artificial intelligence — which includes the creation of images, audio and video — could fundamentally change travel. So how do prominent executives in the travel industry view this emerging form of technology? Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes features several companies’ plans for generative AI in his weekly Travel Tech Briefing. Airbnb CEO Brian Chesky is among the growing group of travel executives bullish on the potential for generative AI. He said the company could use the technology to learn more about prospective guests in a personal manner. In addition, Damian Scokin, the CEO of Argentina-based online travel agency Despegar, said his company sees opportunities for generative AI in areas such as software development and customer service.  Finally, Miami-based vacation rental software platform Hostaway has raised $175 million in funding, with the aim of expanding globally, writes Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman.  Kalyanaraman reports that Hostaway also plans to use the funds to increase staffing and seek opportunities to expand market share. Hostaway recently launched a GhatGPT-powered artificial intelligence tool, which the company aims to manage listings. It also signed a distribution partnership with global travel technology provider Amadeus earlier this year. 
6/1/20233 minutes, 16 seconds
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Chinese Outbound Travelers Target the Middle East

Episode Notes Destinations across the Middle East are poised to get a major tourism boost from China — or more specifically, China’s wealthiest citizens, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia in this week’s Middle East Travel Roundup.  More than 20 percent of Chinese millionaires plan to visit the Middle East in the next year, according to a recent report from luxury consulting firm Agility. Bhutia writes Middle Eastern destinations have been wooing Chinese travelers ever since Beijing resumed outbound group tours for its citizens on February 6. Dubai has launched a “China Ready” strategy and run campaigns in the country. Meanwhile, Saudi Arabia has included China in its e-visa program as part of its aim to attract 4 million Chinese visitors annually by 2030.  Next, the ground transport sector worldwide has struggled to innovate in recent years, with many bus and train companies still forcing travelers to use paper tickets, for example. However, a growing number of companies are working to modernize the industry, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes. Dawes highlights three companies helping ground transport operators digitize operations. Nairobi, Kenya-based startup BuuPass provides software to long-distance bus operators that enables them to track sales and sell tickets digitally. BuuPass co-founder Sonia Kabra said before using its software, some customers had been losing up to $3,000 daily because of manual tracking.  In addition, Dawes profiles Omio, a Berlin-based ground transport ticketing platform that is working to simplify the booking process for travelers. Omio enables digital ticketing for more than 1,000 transportation providers, mostly trains, buses and cars. The company is also looking to provide ground transport ticketing data to travel sellers like online travel agencies.  We end today with a look at one of North America’s fastest growing online travel agencies, Hopper. Skift Research examined the rise of Hopper in its latest report, which features interviews with company executives.  Senior Research Analyst Pranavi Agarwal writes that Skift Research takes a deep look into how Hopper has distinguished itself from its rivals as well as the factors behind its enormous boom. It became the most downloaded travel app in the U.S. in 2021. The report includes figures such as Hopper’s gross bookings and revenue in addition to Skift Research’s projections for Hopper’s growth. As Hopper is a private company, Agarwal notes much of the data presented in the report hadn’t been published in such detail before. 
5/31/20233 minutes, 47 seconds
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Arlo Hotels Decides Bigger Is Better Than Small

Episode Notes Independent hotel brand Arlo Hotels had emphasized smaller rooms in its properties when it launched as part of its appeal. But the company is moving to larger rooms due to a shift in consumer demand, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Real estate development firm Quadrum Global recently announced it’s planning to bring Brookyln’s The Williamsburg Hotel under its Arlo Hotels brand by September. O’Neill writes rooms at The Williamsburg are considerably larger than the ones at the first Arlo properties. He adds Arlo has been shifting to properties with larger rooms after its first two hotels welcomed more affluent guests than projected. Arlo CEO Oleg Pavlov said the brand had originally focused on attracting millennials.  Next, Montana recently passed a law banning all personal use of TikTok in the state in response to allegations China is using it to spy on Americans. However, while they wait for legal challenges to play out, Montana’s tourism boards are still active on the popular social media platform, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Destination Missoula and Glacier County Tourism are two tourism boards in the state still using TikTok. Glacier Country Tourism Racene Friede said the agency is taking a wait and see approach before making any firm decisions about its TikTok account. Habtemariam writes TikTok has grown in popularity in travel marketing in recent years, with tourism boards increasingly producing content on the platform.  Montana is part of a wave of states that have enacted bans on government agencies using TikTok. But it’s the first to outright prohibit all personal use of it within state borders. The state had released a memo last December banning agencies like the Montana Tourism Office from using TikTok.  Finally, a growing number of hotels are hiring cultural managers, employees responsible for helping immerse staff and guests in local history and traditions, reports Contributor Carley Thornell.  Thornell writes the rise in cultural managers is a response to surging consumer interest in cultural tourism. The United Nations World Tourism Organization found cultural tourism is a goal of roughly 40 percent of international tourist trips. Thornell cites Hawaii’s Four Seasons Resort Hualalai as one property that’s made heavy of cultural managers. The hotel has a different cultural manager for specialities such as hula dancing, music and weaving. Thornell adds many activities are free for guests.
5/30/20233 minutes, 16 seconds
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The Travel Industry Surpasses 2019

Episode Notes Skift editorial events producer Jane Alexander is joined by Skift’s head of research, Wouter Geerts, P.H.D., and research analyst, Saniya Zanpure, to discuss a the travel industry's complete recovery from the pandemic. They discuss how this past April the Skift Travel Health Index average score surpassed that of 2019 for the first time, the weaknesses that still exist and the opportunities for growth. You can read an outline of the report and see supporting charts and graphs in the story Tourism Triumphs: Skift Travel Health Index Reaches Record High.
5/26/202311 minutes, 58 seconds
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Is Choice + Wyndham a Good Idea?

Episode Notes A recent report in the Wall Street Journal said Choice Hotels International is considering buying Wyndham Hotels & Resorts. However, hotel industry analysts are skeptical, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. O’Neill writes a Choice Hotels-Wyndham merger could create the largest hotel franchisor in the U.S. But he cites two analysts who explained why it’s unlikely to happen in a Truist Securities research report. Choice Hotels would have to add more budget properties to its portfolio, which might undermine its strategy of boosting its collection of high-end properties. In addition, a merger might face pushback from antitrust authorities. The two companies combined already have a more than 50 percent share of the U.S. economy hotel market.  Still, O’Neill adds that a merger might make sense in some ways. He notes that bigger is better is a general rule in hotel marketing, franchising and management.  Next, Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman profiles a&o hostels, a Berlin-based company that has reused dirty, run down buildings as part of its quest for net zero carbon emissions.   A&o CEO Oliver Winter said the company, which aspires to be Europe’s “zero-emissions hostel chain” by 2025, scours cities for dirty, ugly buildings that can be repurposed into hostels. Kalyanaraman writes that’s a huge part of its net-zero goal since it allows the company to open a new property with a zero carbon footprint. Winter adds that a&o’s strategy is appealing to Gen Z consumers increasingly looking for greener travel.  Winter also said that using refurbished buildings is substantially more economical for a&o considering the enormous costs it would face if it constructed new properties. Finally, the percentage of U.S. adults planning Memorial Day travel is set to jump from last year despite widespread concerns about inflation, reports Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden. A recent survey by travel news site The Vacationer found roughly 64 percent of American adults intend to travel during Memorial Day weekend, a nearly 5 percentage point jump from 2022. Eric Jones, co-founder of The Vacationer, said that increase indicates a strong summer for the travel industry.  However, Jones acknowledged that inflation could make travel during the upcoming holiday weekend difficult for some people. About 66 percent of respondents in The Vacationer’s survey said inflation was affecting their Memorial Day travel plans. Jones added some people eager to travel will stay home because can’t they afford the surging prices.
5/25/20233 minutes, 38 seconds
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Travel Makes a Complete Recovery

Episode Notes The travel industry has reached a significant milestone in its recovery from the pandemic. Skift Research’s Travel Health Index for April 2023 reveals the industry is performing better than it did prior to the pandemic. Research Analyst Saniya Zanpure reports the Index’s average global score in April hit 101 percent of pre-Covid levels, 2 percentage points higher than the previous month. Skift Research uses data from 22 partners to track the travel industry’s performance. Latin America, the Middle East and Africa are among the regions that have seen their travel industries make a complete recovery from the pandemic.  However, Zanpure notes not all countries have fully recovered, citing Hong Kong and Russia as two destinations yet to hit even 80 percent of pre-Covid levels. Nine of the 22 countries Skift Research tracked haven’t surpassed 2019 levels as of April 2023.  Next, Airbnb executives recently expressed concerns amid falling stock prices about a slowdown in bookings compared to 2022. But Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman writes the company shouldn’t be worried about such a drop, with summer travel demand surging. Short-term rental data provider Key Data found the number of nights booked in the second quarter worldwide is up 16 percent from the same period last year. In addition, occupancy rates have risen nearly 16 percent globally. Kalyanaraman cites the United Kingdom and Europe as two destinations that have seen significant year-over-year increases in both average daily and occupancy rates in the second quarter.   Finally, Hilton Worldwide has become the latest hotel company to make a big move in the rapidly booming extended-stay sector. It announced on Tuesday it’s opening an extended-stay brand, reports Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden.  Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta expressed optimism that the yet-to-be named brand, assigned the working title Project H3, could efficiently serve the growing number of travelers seeking longer stays. Jorden notes Hilton joins a list of hotel giants unveiling extended-stay projects recently. Hyatt and Wyndham in particular have announced the names of new extended-stay brands during the last several months. 
5/24/20233 minutes, 24 seconds
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10 Highest-Paid Online Travel Execs

Episode Notes Skift senior media producer Jose Marmolejos speaks with Skift executive editor Dennis Schaal about his latest article on Skift.com covering the 10 highest-paid online travel execs in 2022. They discuss who topped the list, how executive pay has trended in the last few years, and whether these large compensation packages are necessary to recruit top-notch talent. In other Skift news, Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden reports that hotels are increasingly developing locally themed experiences to appeal to travelers. Jorden writes hotels believe they can attract guests and boost revenue by featuring local art and food, with more travelers looking for destination-based experiences.   Next, a U.S. District Court judge recently ordered JetBlue Airways and American Airlines to end their Northeast Alliance, which enabled the two companies to sell tickets on each other’s flights. Edward Russell, editor of the Skift publication, Airline Weekly, delves into the implications of the judge’s decision, including what it means for JetBlue’s pending merger with Spirit Airlines.  Finally, Columnist Colin Nagy looks into the rise of membership clubs, with New York and London, among other cities, welcoming a flood of new entrants. Nagy touches on some of the strategies new membership clubs are taking, including their plans to enhance their guests’ culinary experiences. 
5/23/202311 minutes, 36 seconds
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Hotels’ Extended Stay Play

Episode Notes Hotel giants like Marriott, Hyatt, and Hilton have unveiled plans in recent weeks to open extended-stay brands. They’re betting the segment will continue to grow in popularity in years to come, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano said in a recent earnings call that his company would be launching an extended-stay product in the near future. Hilton CEO Chris Nassetta said it would debut an extended-stay brand soon while Hyatt unveiled a new brand last month as part of its entry into the sector.  So what’s driving the enormous interest in extended-stay brands? O’Neill cites the ongoing housing crisis in the U.S. as one factor, noting that home construction has failed to keep up with demand in many U.S. markets. He adds the resilience of blended leisure and business travel could boost extended-stay brands for years to come.   Next, the Soho House chain of membership clubs is eager for its members to increase spending. However, it’s not necessarily looking for more traffic in its properties, reports Senior Hospitality Editor O’Neill. O’Neill writes Soho House is focused on upselling members. It’s rolled out an updated menu of food and beverage times that it hopes is more locally relevant. CEO Andrew Carnie said its goal is to boost spending while not necessarily wanting more footfall in its properties. O’Neill adds the Soho House is looking to generate at least $1 billion in total revenue this year.  Soho House total membership rose 38 percent in the first quarter from the same period last year. But it was in the red, posting a $16 million net loss during the first quarter.  Finally, India is poised for a major aviation boom, with domestic bookings recently surpassing pre-pandemic levels, writes Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia, and Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh in Skift’s India Travel Daily newsletter. Travel technology provider Sabre attributes the surge in domestic traffic in part to the rise of low-cost carriers in the country. India’s low-cost carriers flew a little more than 26 million travelers in the first quarter of 2023. That’s a 14 percent jump from the same period in 2019.  In addition, Indian authorities have pledged to make major improvements to the country’s aviation infrastructure. As India aims to open 70 more airports by 2025, the government has announced plans to invest $12 billion in infrastructure upgrades. Prominent Indian airlines, including Air India and Akasa Air, have also made large aircraft orders recently. 
5/15/20233 minutes, 36 seconds
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Google Travel Moves Focus from Inbox to Calendar

Episode Notes Google Travel eliminated the feature that allowed Gmail users to view summaries of their past, present and future trips on google.com/travel, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  A Google spokesperson said the tech giant decided to scrap the free feature in Google Travel because it didn’t attract enough users to justify the resources required to maintain or further develop it. However, the list of travelers’ past and future trips will still appear on Google calendar. Schaal writes that Google Travel will continue to focus on services such as flights, hotels and vacation rentals.  Next, Booking.com’s latest Sustainable Travel Report reveals a large appetite among Indian travelers for greener ways to travel. Nearly three-quarters are seeking regenerative travel, which aims to leave destinations in a better condition than prior to a visit, reports Middle East and Asia Reporter Amrita Ghosh in Skift’s India Travel Daily newsletter. Booking.com found a greater percentage of Indian travelers are partaking in greener travel than they did last year. Fifty-five percent said they use their towels more than once, a 21 percentage point jump from 2022. In addition, 57 percent of Indian travelers brought their own reusable water bottles on trips, 12 percentage points higher than last year.  Finally, Worldia, a booking platform for travel agents, recently raised a little more than $27 million, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes in this week’s Travel Startup Funding roundup.  The Paris-based company plans to use the funding to expand in Europe and North America as well as increase hiring and improving its tech platform. Dawes writes Worldia’s business-to-business tech platform enables travel agency websites to offer one-stop travel planning and booking services. The company said it has access to 16,000 hotels in more than 80 destinations. 
5/12/20232 minutes, 48 seconds
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JetBlue Gives Its Loyalty Program a Boost

Episode Notes People who want knowledge about the travel industry on Wednesday got a valuable new resource to obtain critical information. Skift unveiled Ask Skift, an artificial intelligence chatbot that will answer your questions focused on the travel sector, says Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali. Ali writes that a user can ask questions on Skift’s website such as “How is Airbnb planning to leverage AI?” or “Who is IHG’s CEO?” Ask Skift has been trained on the entirety of Skift archives over the last 11 years, including daily stories and research reports. The chatbot will also provide other specialized travel industry content and data in weeks to come. Ali said the emergence of generative AI is enabling Skift to have a question and answer-based relationship with readers that wasn’t feasible before.  Next, JetBlue Airways believes it’s taken a big step to boosting revenue. The company has made major updates effective Wednesday to its already lucrative loyalty program, reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift publication.  JetBlue’s updated loyalty program includes new elite Mosaic tiers and perks, including free business class upgrades and free helicopter transfers between JFK Airport and Manhattan. Russell writes that the driving force behind JetBlue’s loyalty updates is the opportunity to earn more revenue. The New York-based carrier generated $100 million in loyalty-related revenue in the first quarter. That’s a 14 percent year-over-year increase.  Finally, the Hawaii Tourism Authority is continuing to market the Aloha State despite not being allocated funding from the state legislature for the next two years. The agency is planning to award a huge contract to market Hawaii to the U.S. mainland, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Habtemariam reports Hawaii Tourism Authority executives decided at a recent board meeting to award a marketing contract worth up to $51 million. The organization also plans to move forward with a $34 million contract for destination management as well as a nearly $3 million contract to market the state to Canadian travelers. Habtemariam adds the contact winners will be selected on May 22. 
5/11/20233 minutes, 13 seconds
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Uber Goes Deeper Into Travel With Hopper

Episode Notes Uber is gradually beefing up its travel portfolio. The company has entered into a partnership with online travel agency Hopper that provides its UK-based users the opportunity to book flights and buy fintech products, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Schaal notes that Uber is introducing the flight booking feature to a small percentage of its UK users in mid-May while planning a full rollout by this summer. In addition, several Hopper services, including the ability to cancel flights for any reasons or get refunds in the event of flight disruptions, will likely be available for Uber’s UK consumers.  Next, despite rising prices, U.S. travelers largely aren’t eager to cut their travel budgets. Skift Research’s newly released U.S. Travel Tracker report reveals that many consumers are protecting travel from spending cuts they may be making because of inflation. The latest survey from Skift Research finds 70 percent of U.S. travelers had experienced higher travel prices while booking trips. However, only 5 percent of respondents said they would or had cut their travel spending. Senior Research Analyst Varsha Arora writes that although a growing number of Americans believe the country’s economy will worsen in the next year, more than half believe their personal financial status will improve in the next 12 months.  Arora adds that nearly 60 percent of Americans traveled in March 2023, a 4 percentage point increase from last December.  Finally, Choice Hotels has seen bookings surpass pre-Covid levels despite widespread pessimism about the U.S. economy. Why is the company enjoying so much success recently? Choice attributes the surge in bookings to the rise in blended business and leisure travel, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. CEO Patrick Pacious said during Choice Hotels’ first quarter earnings call on Tuesday that remote work is helping fuel its strong performance. O’Neill notes the company benefited from travelers extending their trips into shoulder days of the weekend more than they did pre-Covid. Choice Hotels saw a 2 percentage point jump in occupancy growth on Thursday and Sundays compared to 2019 levels.  Choice Hotels generated a net income of nearly $53 million during the first quarter. 
5/10/20233 minutes, 13 seconds
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Destination Influencers’ Impact on Tourism Marketing

Episode Notes For today’s special episode, Skift senior media producer Jose Marmolejos is joined by Skift Global tourism reporter Dawit Habtemariam to talk about his article that was published on Skift about tourism boards and influencers.  Now in other Skift News, Asia editor Peter Bhutto . Travel Marketplace Skyscanner found that eight of the world’s top ten trending destinations for travelers are located in Asia.  Now in other Skift News, Asia editor Peden Bhutia, reports that Asia’s tourism industry has made an enormous recovery. Travel Marketplace Skyscanner found that eight of the world’s top ten trending destinations for travelers are located in Asia.  Next, the number of women occupying leadership positions in the hospitality industry is continuing to rise. However, contributor Carly Thornell writes Women fighting to land executive roles at major hotel companies still face enormous challenges. Finally, Air France-KLM is looking to expand in South America, and the group believes acquiring Tap Air Portugal might be the way to go. Reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a skift publication. Although, Russell writes Air France KLM is just eyeing a deal with TAP for now. Air France KLM CEO Ben Smith notes Tap’s extensive service to Brazil is very attractive to his company.
5/9/20238 minutes, 14 seconds
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IHG CEO Keith Barr Leaves Post

Episode Notes Social media influencers have become more powerful in marketing in recent years, with a growing number of companies looking to tap into their sometimes-enormous reach. That list includes destination marketing organizations, or tourism boards, that are developing more sophisticated marketing strategies for influencers as part of their plans to attract tourists, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Habtemariam writes what influencers say about travel can have more clout than other types of advertising. San Francisco Travel CEO Joe D’Alessandro said the words of an influencer are more trustworthy for many people than an ad the organization may air. A 2022 Pew Research survey found 53 percent of social media users purchased something after seeing an influencer they follow post about it.  Habtemariam notes destinations are increasingly shopping for suitable influencers instead of just waiting to receive pitches from them. Discover Puerto is launching a request for proposal for an agency to assist with its influencer marketing strategy. Chief Marketing Officer Leah Chandler said the quality of influencers is much higher than compared to five or 10 years ago. Meanwhile, the U.S. national tourism marketing agency Brand USA has a program that loans out trusted international influencers to partner destinations.  Next, InterContinental Hotels Group CEO Keith Barr announced on Friday he’s stepping down after six years at the helm, Skift co-founder Jason Clampet and Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy report. Barr cited family as the reason why he’s leaving his post at the UK-based company. He said during IHG’s first-quarter earnings call that the time was right to return to the U.S. considering his daughters will be studying in the country. Barr, who joined IHG in 2000, added he has been living outside the U.S. for roughly 20 years. IHG’s Americas CEO Elie Maalouf will succeed Barr effective June 30.  IHG reported that its first-quarter revenue per available room, an important industry metric, was up nearly 7 percent from 2019 levels. The company received a boost from its average daily rates rising 10 percent from pre-Covid levels. Finally, the Hawaii Tourism Authority will have fewer resources for its marketing effortsamid widespread frustration in the state with the industry. The agency has been excluded from the state budget, writes Global Tourism Reporter Habtemariam.  Habtemariam reports the Hawaii Tourism Authority now has to request funds from the state’s budgeting and finance department. The governor and legislature will have to approve any funding requests. Habtemariam adds the state government will ensure the agency focuses more on destination management instead of marketing. Lawmakers in the Aloha State recently came close to passing a bill that would have dissolved the Hawaii Tourism Authority.
5/8/20233 minutes, 51 seconds
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Tripadvisor’s Plans for the Future

Episode Notes Travel technology vendor Sabre is the latest major company in the tech industry to shed staff. Sabre announced on Thursday it’s cutting around 1,000 jobs, 15 percent of its workforce, writes Travel Technology Reporter Justin Dawes.  Dawes reports Sabre’s move is part of an effort to save $200 million annually and help improve its business operations. Chief Financial Officer Mike Randolfi said most of the job cuts will occur before the end of the second quarter. Sabre reported that it had nearly 7,500 people on staff at the end of 2022. The announcement came during the company’s first quarter earnings call.  Sabre generated a little more than $740 million in revenue during the first quarter, a roughly 27 percent year-over-year increase.  Next, Tripadvisor is making changes to its products, but what will the new Tripadvisor look like? CEO Matt Goldberg explained Tripadvisor’s strategy at its first quarter earnings call on Thursday, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal.  Goldberg said the Tripadvisor is introducing new content formats to boost monetization and user engagement. He acknowledged the company monetizes only a small portion of its audience. Goldberg added that Tripadvisor may incorporate generative AI — technology that includes the creation of images, audio and video — in its efforts to improve planning tools. However, Schaal notes that Goldberg’s remarks about generative AI were mostly aspirational.  Tripadvisor generated roughly $370 million in revenue during the first quarter, a 42 percent jump from the same period last year. However, it posted a $73 million net loss.  Finally, corporate travel agency Navan believes it’s taken a big step to help expand its market share. The company has unveiled an updated version of its AI chatbot Ava that it feels will help corporations save money, writes Reporter Selene Brophy.  Brophy reports Ava can help finance teams condense complex spend data as well as provide insights on managing travel budgets. Navan said Ava’s new capabilities include analyzing travel spending to recommend ways to save money, such as changing hotel criteria. Brophy adds Ava is able to write and send an executive summary of its results in several languages. Skift AI Travel Newsletter: AI coverage across travel sectors that’s focused on separating trendy moves from good ideas – in your inbox every Friday. Sign up here
5/5/20233 minutes, 16 seconds
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Airbnb's AI-Driven Revolution

Episode Notes Airbnb is on the cusp of an artificial intelligence-driven revolution, with the technology poised to radically transform the company’s operations, it says. So what might change at the short-term rental giant by next year? CEO Brian Chesky explains Airbnb’s plans in an interview with Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali. Despite recently unveiling a series of launches yesterday at its annual May product update event, Ali writes Airbnb hasn’t yet announced exactly how it plans to use AI. But Chesky said the technology will be the driving force behind a totally new Airbnb, adding the company would use AI to rebuild its app. Chesky also said that Airbnb would eventually have more AI-augmented customer service.   Next, cruise line Lindblad Expeditions saw its occupancy rate soar in the first quarter — in large part due to its savvy marketing strategy, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Lindblad’s occupancy rate hit 81 percent during the quarter, a 15-percentage point jump from a year ago. Company executives expect the figure to continue its rise this year but not fully recover to pre-Covid levels in 2023. Habtemariam cites Lindblad’s substantial investment in digital marketing as a factor in the company attracting more first-time guests. Lindblad’s marketing in the past primarily included brochures and direct mail to prospective guests.  Lindblad generated roughly $143 million in revenue in the first quarter, a significant year-over-year jump. The company did record a net loss of about $400,000 during the period.  Finally, the Lufthansa Group, Europe’s largest network carrier, is optimistic about a banner 2023. The company expects to achieve record summer revenue this year, reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift publication.  Russell writes travel demand remains robust, Lufthansa expects to get a boost from the rise in premium leisure travel. Although the airline posted a more than $500 million net loss during the first quarter, CEO Carsten Spohr said it’s on the verge of its strongest summer in terms of passenger revenue. Russell writes Lufthansa’s bumper summer forecast isn’t solely the result of torrid demand. Decreased aircraft availability will result in carriers flying less, helping increase airfares. 
5/4/20233 minutes, 16 seconds
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U.S. Will Drop Vaccine Requirement for International Flyers

Episode Notes International travelers will soon no longer need proof of vaccination to enter the U.S. The White House announced this week the vaccine requirement for inbound international flyers will end on May 11, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  The Biden administration cited the decrease in Covid cases and hospitalizations as a reason for its decision. Habtemariam notes the White House had implemented the vaccine requirements to help slow the spread of the virus. U.S. travel authorities applauded the government’s removal of the vaccine mandate, a move that could lead to an increase in international visitors. Next, VisitBritain is the latest tourism board to jump on the artificial intelligence bandwagon. The organization has created a game using AI voice technology for a campaign targeting American tourists, reports Contributor Samantha Shankman.  VisitBritain is using the rapidly emerging technology to play around with regional UK accents as part of its campaign. Prospective visitors are invited to try those accents, which AI scores, and share the results on social media. A VisitBritain executive said the organization created AI speech technology that can judge Americans’ impressions of UK accents.  Shankman writes VisitBritain believes the content can push test takers toward booking travel to the UK. Skift examined how generative AI — technology that includes the creation of images, audio and video — could fundamentally alter travel marketing in a 2023 Megatrend.  We end today with a look at Qantas Airways new CEO, Vanessa Hudson. She faces the difficult task of living up to the legacy established by her predecessor, reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift publication.  Hudson, who will take over from longtime CEO Alan Joyce in November, will inherit an airline that has emerged stronger out of the pandemic. Russell writes Joyce turned Qantas into a profitable aviation powerhouse during his 15 years at the helm. The company posted a more than $1 billion operating profit during the first six months of its 2023 fiscal year. Qantas expects a profit for the full fiscal year ending in June. Russell adds that Hudson, Qantas’ current chief financial officer, will need to manage the airline’s international partnerships. Its joint venture with American Airlines is one of them, which Russell writes grew in importance during the pandemic. 
5/3/20233 minutes, 27 seconds
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Marriott Won't Hide Resort Fees Anymore

EPISODE NOTES Marriott International has announced plans to disclose its resort fees in its total prices by May 15. That’s the result of a settlement with the State of Pennsylvania requiring the company to include those charges in upfront total prices, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.   Many travelers express outrage when hotels such as Marriott charge them resort fees at the lobby front desk that are separate from the room rate. Travelers sometimes consider them gotcha fees. O’Neill writes Marriott is one of the first major hotel groups to make the change, which relates to extra fees for services offered during a stay. Online tool ResortFeeChecker revealed many travel companies are far from transparent regarding the those additional fees for services or amenities at some properties. President Joe Biden called out companies earlier this year for not disclosing what he described as frustrating charges. The White House said more than a third of hotel guests claim to have paid resort fees.    Marriott has reportedly made at least $206 million off the practice from self-managed resorts since 2012.  Next, Norwegian Cruise Line's strong onboard passenger spending in the first quarter demonstrates that the pent-up desire to cruise that people had during the pandemic hasn't dissipated one bit, reports Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam. Although the cruise line lost $159 million during the first quarter, executives took heart in the fact that gross onboard revenue per passenger cruise day was nearly 30 percent higher than its comparable period in 2019. Norwegian ties that progress to focus on attracting more higher-spending guests, enhancing its bundled offering and increased guest touch points, starting at the time of booking to capture more revenue and prepayment prior to cabin selection. Finally, Tel Aviv, Israel-based property management company Guesty bought vacation rental tech platform StaySense, writes Short-Term Rental Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman. Kalyanaraman reports Guesty will use StaySense’s technology to facilitate direct bookings as well as provide marketing tools for its customers. Guesty’s acquisition of StaySense, a Nashville-based company that provides marketing and tech solutions to vacation rental managers, is its seventh overall. Although Guesty and StaySense didn’t disclose details of the deal, StaySense CEO David Angotti confirmed it was financed by the $170 million it raised last August. 
5/2/20233 minutes, 35 seconds
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Cross-Border Credit Card Spending Is Booming

Episode Notes Hyatt wants to improve its position in the luxury sector. The company announced plans on Friday to acquire UK boutique hotel booking site Mr & Mrs Smith for about $66 million, reports Corporate Travel Editor Matthew Parsons.  Parsons writes the deal could double the number of boutique and luxury properties that Hyatt offers. In addition, Hyatt Chief Commercial Officer Mark Vondrasek said the company would be able to introduce its World of Hyatt loyalty program to a wider audience. The acquisition includes properties in more than 20 countries where Hyatt lacks a boutique presence, including Fiji, Croatia and Iceland.  Hyatt said the transaction is anticipated to close in the second quarter. The company also plans to add direct booking access to properties in Mr & Mrs Smith’s platform through Hyatt’s website and mobile app.   Next, Bentley and Fabergé have long been renowned in the world of luxury. And those two iconic brands are branching out into selling travel to help attract new customers, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy. Bentley recently launched a set of curated trips named Extraordinary Journeys, which Brophy notes are designed around once-in-a lifetime road trips. Customers can choose among three destinations, namely Scandinavia, New Mexico and the United Kingdom. The UK trips provide guests private entry to Bentley’s factory as well as access to its headquarters.   Likewise, the jewelry house Fabergé is teaming up with the Regent Seven Seas Cruises to launch a new ship, the Seven Seas Grandeur. It is expected to set sail in November 2023. Regent Seven Seven President Andrea DeMarco said the collaboration would provide guests access to Fabergé experiences and experts.  Finally, Visa and Mastercard are reporting a massive jump in cross-border spendingcompared to pre-Covid levels, reports Corporate Travel Editor Parsons.  Mastercard said cross-border volumes in April more than 170 percent of 2019 levels. Meanwhile, Visa reported that travel to Latin America and the Caribbean has more than surpassed pre-Covid levels in the first three months of this year. Parson writes cross-border payments are transactions where the person paying and the person receiving the money are in different countries. He adds they’re a good indicator of travel and entertainment spend.  Visa said during its recent second quarter earnings call that international travel from the U.S. is at 150 percent of 2019 level. However, travel to the U.S. is less than pre-Covid levels, in part due to the strong U.S. dollar. 
5/1/20233 minutes, 21 seconds
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American Airlines Gets a Huge Boost From Blended Travel

Episode Notes American Airlines has seen the rise in blended travel upend its business. Not only are travelers who combine work and leisure trips driving changes in its strategy, the segment is also emerging as one of the company’s most lucrative areas, reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift publication.  American said during its first-quarter earnings call on Thursday that this mashup of blended travel represents 35 percent of the company’s bookings. Russell adds those same travelers are also behind the significant growth in its loyalty program, AAdvantage. In addition, Russell notes blended travelers’ demand for more control over their trips drove American in part to implement distributing its products to travel agencies through the so-called New Distribution Capability, a technology that gives airlines more power over their content. American generated roughly $12 billion in revenue during the first quarter, a 37 percent year-over-year jump.   We turn next to Fiji’s new tourism campaign. The South Pacific nation is showcasing happiness as a way of life for its citizens instead of a trait reserved for tourists, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia. Bhutia writes Fiji leverages a happiness vibe to pay tribute to its citizens, culture and natural environment in its “Where Happiness Comes Naturally” advertising campaign. Tourism Fiji’s outgoing Chief Marketing Officer Emma Campbell said happiness lives within Fiji’s people, regardless of whether tourists are around. That tone represents a shift from a previous Fiji tourism campaign, which Butia writes was heavily criticized for perpetuating stereotypes about the country being a happy brown paradise. That marketing effort featured Australian Rebel Wilson.  Campbell said the “Where Happiness Come Naturally” campaign felt like a natural evolution to tell Fiji’s story from the perspective of its citizens. She added that resilience and a strong sense of community helped Fiji survive the pandemic.  Finally, Wyndham executives don’t see the ongoing U.S. banking crisis damaging its hotel pipeline, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill. Wyndham, the world’s largest hotel franchisor, said during an earnings call on Thursday that it wasn’t worried about March’s collapse of Silicon Valley Bank, which contributed to a tightening of lending in the U.S. Chief Financial Officer Michele Allen said the company is optimistic about its 2023 financing situation, adding the company believes there’s a significant amount of capital still available. Wyndham executives also argued many of its franchised hotels have long-standing relationships with regional banks.  Wyndham generated roughly $67 million of net income during the first quarter. The company also saw its global revenue per available room, a key industry metric, rise 11 percent compared to 2019 levels.
4/28/20233 minutes, 39 seconds
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Hilton’s Ambitions for a Hotel-Apartment Hybrid

Episode Notes Hilton appears prepared to launch a new apartment hotel brand, just the latest expansion into more affordable offerings. This decision comes amid significant levels of activity in both the extended-stay and long-stay hotel spaces due to a shortage in the U.S. supply, reports Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  Chris Nassetta, Hilton’s president and CEO, told analysts that the new brand will be like a hybrid between an apartment efficiency and a hotel. He wants Hilton to build “hundreds and hundreds” of these hotels, which will have an average length of stay of probably 20 to 30 days on average. Next, experts forecast that 2026 will bring the likely return to pre-pandemic levels of travel spending. But some markets seem to be recovering faster than others, with India, Britain, the U.S., and Australia showing particular signs of growth, writes Skift reporter Andres Buenahora.  Buenahora breaks down varying instances of recovery in different regions, citing insights from industry experts and data points from The Global Business Travel Association regarding travel spending across global markets. Finally, some major cities are placing more value on tourism as in-person office vacancies continue to be replaced by the hybrid work model. For instance, New York is poised to benefit financially over the next decade from rising tourism even if its commercial districts are slower to recover, writes Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam.  Habtemariam covers how the mayors of many cities are urging larger employers to establish the necessary mandates to require their employees to return to the office. As remote work continues to extend its value to companies post-pandemic, the worker spending gap appears more and more prevalent in impacting city economies. So cities may turn to their destination marketing organizations to boost tourism to compensate.
4/27/20232 minutes, 44 seconds
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Sonder's New Stock Market Challenges

Episode Notes Premier Inn is looking to expand its brand through mergers and acquisitions. Specifically gearing towards growth in the German market, the hotel chain provides competition to rival brands such as Ibis, B&B, Motel One and Best Western, writes Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill.  O’Neill examines Premier’s acquisition of six hotels in Germany totaling about 900 rooms — each of the properties are being converted into the Premier Inn brand. This transaction means Premier, already the UK’s largest hotel chain, would offer more than 50 hotels and around 9,000 rooms in Germany. O’Neill also relays vital information from conversations with research analysts and travel executives about Premier Inn’s strategy to scale operations and seek market share gains.  Next, Sonder received an official delisting notice from Nasdaq due to recent financial struggles. Short-Term Rentals Reporter Srividya Kalyanaraman breaks down the situation and writes that Sonder has the next 180 calendar days to regain compliance with Nasdaq’s minimum required share price. Kalyanaraman describes the alternate option is Sonder can elect to transfer to the Nasdaq Capital Market as a means of receiving an additional 180-day grace period.  Kalyanaraman also notes how the potential delisting of Sonder could be a sign of concern for other publicly traded companies struggling to hit financial benchmarks.  Finally, Saudi Arabia is planning to continue its trend of major hotel development, which currently leads the Middle East and Africa for the largest amount of hotel construction. Standing at 42,033 hotel rooms, Saudi Arabia is poised to create the necessary infrastructure to meet the region’s tourism goals, reports Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia.  Doma Bhutia also writes in second place in the Middle East and Africa region in terms of hotel construction is the United Arab Emirates with 22,324 rooms, as per March 2023 pipeline data report from STR. 
4/26/20233 minutes, 3 seconds
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A New Kind of Walking Tour in NYC

Episode Notes Companies delivering walking tours of Manhattan often deliver stereotypical tours with no originality. So Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy writes about an initiative in New York that helps entrepreneurs develop compelling and original walking tour experiences.   Brophy reports the Alliance for Downtown New York is in the final stages of its Walking Tour Incubator Grant Program. Five walking tour businesses have been chosen to receive grants of up to $12,500. Brophy adds the money for creating more diverse walking tours of Lower Manhattan is set to launch in the summer of 2024.  Nikki Padilla, one of the program’s mentors, said diversity in product is important, noting that many tours are mi