Skift Take

Here's what the industry's top leaders told us in 2016.

Whether it’s our annual event, our weekly podcasts, or our daily news coverage, we speak to the leaders in the industry who can best explain what’s happening right now. Sometimes that’s a front-line player or an analyst, and sometimes its all the way up the chain to the CEO.

In 2016 we spoke with over five dozen top CEOs for one-on-one interviews, and each one brought us unique insights both into their companies and the industry as a whole. While each one stood out in its own way, the selection below helps highlight the breadth of thinking throughout the industry and is an excellent place to familiarize yourself with before the new year.

While the interviews below tell you a great deal about what was happening in travel this year, you can also understand more in our in-depth interviews from the stage of Skift Global Forum, as well as backstage at the event with Skift Take Studios interviews.

But the best place to start? The two-dozen-plus interviews with the men and women who were instrumental in the creation of Expedia, Priceline, orbitz, Travelocity, and more online booking sites twenty years ago. Our Definitive Oral History is the ultimate industry Q&A.

Passenger Experience

Willie Walsh, CEO of IAG.

Interview: IAG CEO on Protectionism, Low-Cost Competition and Passenger Experience

Willie Walsh is not afraid to make decisions that anger employee unions and disappoint some passengers. That may seem like poor strategy, but it’s a big part of the reason that International Airlines Group is in better shape than most of Europe’s other airlines. Sometimes, an executive must make unpopular decisions to ensure the long-term success of a business.

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Emirates CEO Interview: Tim Clark on the Next Generation of Fees

Emirates may be among the world’s most innovative airlines, but even it is focused on the bottom line. And since fares have been falling, coach passengers may need to get used to the idea that Emirates will start charging for extras, just as other airlines do.

>> Read More

Interview: Ryanair CEO on How Low-Cost Carriers Can Help European Airlines Prosper Again

We believe that a partnership between Norwegian and Ryanair makes sense and could take off with few complications. But we don’t believe converting long-term rivals to new friends is done easily in aviation.

>> Read More

Jetstar CEO Interview: Running the World’s Most Unique Low-Cost Carrier

What Jetstar Group has done is nearly impossible. It has taken five different airlines in five countries, most with different investors, and operating them as one brand. So far, it’s worked out pretty well.

>> Read More

Etihad CEO Interview: The Incredible Value of Service

James Hogan has built Etihad into one of the world’s most influential airlines. But Etihad still has plenty of challenges ahead as it deals with global pandemics, wars, and economic malaise.

>> Read More

Guest Experience

J. Allen Smith, CEO of Four Seasons.

Interview: Four Seasons CEO on the U.S. Election, Loyalty and Scale

Four Seasons Hotels and Resorts’ approach to the luxury market is a little bit different from its peers, and our conversation with president and CEO J. Allen Smith gives you a bit of a glimpse into that approach.

>> Read More

Marriott CEO Interview: Buying Starwood and Its $13 Billion Bet on Loyalty

That didn’t take too long now, did it? In all seriousness, however, this mega-merger was certainly a long one in the making, filled with plenty of twists and turns. Now, we hope, comes the even more interesting part in the next chapter of the story.

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Hyatt CEO Interview: Bigger Isn’t (Always) Better and Loyalty Is More Than Points

As anyone in media knows right now, scale is not always the solution and confidence in what you do well is rarely a bad idea. Hyatt’s rethink of both loyalty beyond points and branding beyond the nightly stay will help it differentiate its product.

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AccorHotels CEO to the Hotel Industry: ‘You Have an Obligation to Be Bold’

There’s nothing like a contrarian, outspoken hotel CEO to keep things interesting.

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Onefinestay CEO Interview: ‘The Full-Service Hotel Is Dead’

Whether or not you agree with Marsh’s take on some established tenets of the hospitality business, his progressive, disruptive viewpoints are worth more than just a look.

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Interview: Virgin Hotels CEO on Why He’s in the Entertainment Business

Virgin Hotels is attempting to find the right design and programming balance that caters to people within different age groups who share the same lifestyle values.

>> Read More


Jane Sun, CEO of Ctrip.

Exclusive: Ctrip CEO on Global Ambitions, Skyscanner Buy and the Priceline Relationship

In its short history, Skift has talked about the balance of power in travel heading East, whether it is the influence of Chinese travelers, the rise of Ctrip and Alibaba, or the emergence of the Gulf carriers with their luxury long-haul flights. Ctrip’s acquisition of Skyscanner is one of those moments that mattered in 2016 and Ctrip’s global ambitions are a manifestation of what we have been talking about.

>> Read More

CEO Interview: The 15-Year-Old Corporate Travel Company That Wants to Be a Startup

Deem will try to become more relevant by reducing its product offerings and adopting a more focused approach to developing travel solutions. But in an extremely crowded marketplace, it may be a case of too little, too late.

>> Read More

CEO Interview: Paul English on Going Mobile-Only in Travel Booking

English envisions a travel booking experience where users can simply talk to their phone and have the perfect trip planned for them. Questions remain, however, about how exactly Lola’s technology will enable customer service professionals to become indistinguishable from experienced travel agents.

>> Read More


Taleb Rifai, Secretary General of UNWTO.

Interview: UNWTO Secretary-General on the World-Changing Power of Travel

If you want to understand what’s happening right now in global tourism, the first person you should listen to is the UNWTO’s Taleb Rifai.

>> Read More

Interview: Visit California CEO on the Rise of Food Tourism Video

Visit California’s video content strategy around food tourism incorporates multiple channels targeting different guest profiles.

>> Read More


Interview: Royal Caribbean CEO on Launching the World’s Biggest Cruise Ship

Royal Caribbean has been in the “world’s-largest-ship” business for several years now. We’re curious to know what they will come up with next.

>> Read More

MSC Cruises CEO Interview: Translating a European Brand for America

With a huge TV marketing push and new land products in the Middle East and Caribbean, MSC Cruises is finding success by doubling down on its distinctly European brand identity.

>> Read More

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Tags: ceo interviews

Photo credit: Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International, spoke to Skift immediately after his company's merger with Starwood, and then again a few days later at Skift Global Forum. Skift / Skift

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