Tourism expanded globally, airlines and rental car companies faced consolidation, guidebook brands were sold off, and travel tech got better: We don't expect these major stories to disappear in the next year and plan on covering where they lead us just as carefully.
The Skift team has lived and breathed travel industry news for the past 365 days — since our public launch — and shared our insights with our readers through more than 10,000 posts, and 17,526 tweets. In light of our one-year anniversary, we’ve taken a look back on the year and the biggest news stories that we covered and the world watched unfold.
A milestone was reached halfway through Skift’s first year when more than one billion travelers crossed borders in 2012. Increased globalization, travel, and reached previously quiet corners of the earth and the locus of travel continued its journey away from the Western Hemisphere and towards the east.
Chinese tourists spent $102 billion on foreign trips in 2012, a 41 percent increase over 2011 and $18 billion more than American and German travelers each spent in 2011. China is the fastest growing tourist source market, but tourists from other growing economies including Brazil and Russia also increased spending in 2012.
American Airlines and US Airways announced their merger on February 14 and started on the track towards creating the world’s largest airline. Skift kept track of every moment through its live blog. The merger came one month after Skift broke news of American’s new design that was ill-recieved by many in the aviation community.
Emirates and Qantas‘ groundbreaking long-haul partnership launched on March 31, 2013 and was a considered a major shake-up for the industry, which appears to be moving away from traditional airline alliances. The tie-up also led to the first time two commercial A380 flew together in (a stunning) formation.
The now infamous Carnival Triumph kept passengers at sea for five days without electricity and working toilets. The event came as a blow to the cruise industry during its peak season one year after a Costa Concordia ship capsized in Italy. Instead of signaling the end of the industry’s troubles, the event seemed to spark a series of unfortunate events including Silversea’s failed health inspections, power lost onboard the Carnival Splendor, and a fire onboard Royal Caribbean Grandeur of the Seas.
Priceline, the world’s largest travel company, agreed to acquire travel meta-search company Kayak for about $1.8 billion in November 2012. Kayak was public for one quarter before the acquisition, which was completed in May 2013 when Kayak ceased being a public company and became an independent subsidiary. The acquisition kicks off the next stage in competition among global travel companies that have added travel metasearch to their once standalone hotel business.
Google bought ITA Software and Zagat before tapping Frommer’s for a boost of content in August 2012. Drama followed the acquisition as Google laid off Frommer’s online staff, added its reviews to Google Plus, and then ceased production and publication of the print guidebooks. Ultimately, Arthur Frommer regained the right to publish the guidebooks and run the travel website that bears his name.
Skift broke the story in March 2013 that the storied guidebook publisher Lonely Planet was about to be sold to a Kentucky billionaire. BBC confirmed the almost $70 million sale two weeks later. Most recently, Lonely Planet’s new owners NC2 Media announced staff reductions with plans to create new jobs in its headquarters of Nashville, Tennessee.
The FAA grounding of all U.S. airlines’ Dreamliners in January 2013 was followed with groundings in Europe, Japan, and India. The grounding cost airlines from Qatar to Japan Airlines millions of dollars. Boeing resumed 787 deliveries in May only for a fire onboard Ethiopian Airlines‘ 787 jet to close Heathrow in early July. See a full timeline of Boeing’s Dreamliner troubles here.
Google Maps for iPhone launched in early December 2012 after Apple’s iOS mobile software removed Google’s built-in maps app in September. Apple replaced Google’s mapping software with its own, which was heavily criticized for its poor sense of direction.
The larger story isn’t so much about Avis and Zipcar as it is about the consolidation that happened this year while new players like Zipcar and its copycats gained an audience. In addition to Avis’ acquisition of Zipcar, it also bought Payless, Hertz closed its deal to buy Thrifty, Enterprise bought Zimride, Virgin considered buying Advantage, Enterprise bought car-share I-Go, and so on and so on.
For now Google Glass is a fanboy’s indulgence, but people behind wearable tech advances see how smartphones changed how we live, and they’re ready for round two. Already the device shows promise in travel, if only we can get rid of the jerky movements, strange words, and goofy looks that are enough to make pocket protectors look groovy.
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Photo credit: Year One at Skift, a year of great milestone developments in the global travel industry.