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We write a very large number of great stories at Skift every year. I can say that, because I get to edit them and read every one. And while my editing may sometimes leave something to be desired, my comprehension is pretty solid.
Which is why it was so hard to pull out my favorite stories from the year: there were just so many good ones. So I turned to the editors, and asked them what they enjoyed writing the most.
For those of you wondering how the selections below compare to something silly like “most viewed,” I’m afraid I can’t help you there. While we hope that people flock to our great reporting and writing we can’t guarantee it, and we certainly don’t judge the work by the clicks. If clicks were what we wrote for, we’re certain you wouldn’t be reading us right now.
[Unrelated: Our clicks are killing it. But don’t tell the writers.]
Now for the stories:
Brian Sumers, Aviation
Our aviation insider Brian Sumers chose his story about United Airlines’ new business-class seat. “My favorite story this year was, The Unexpected Micro-Revolution Behind United Airlines’ New Business Class Seat,” he told me. “I showed that the designers who created United’s new Polaris class figured out how to cram more direct-aisle access seats in a confined space than anyone else had done previously. ‘They had been told by other manufacturers that this wasn’t doable,’ one of the designers told me. The end result is a nice product, but it’s far less spacious than some of the suites offered by some other airlines. If United is going to surpass other carriers with its Polaris product, it’s going to have to be with its new service, not its seats.”
Deanna Ting, Hospitality
If you’ve ever wondered what the phrase “trial by fire” means, ask our Deanna Ting. Ting joined Skift just days prior to Anbang Insurance Group’s bid to steal Starwood Hotels and Resorts from Marriott International. In the following days, then months, she covered every in and out of the process and dominated the story as no other reporter did. You can read much of the coverage here.
Choosing the best from these stories (oh, and she also dominated on Airbnb at the same time) required the wisdom of Solomon.
“The Starwood Hospitality Legacy story, because I really enjoyed being able to look back on its history and talk to all of these people who’d worked there,” she told me. “I felt like no one else did this kind of story, either, and it was just a fitting way to mark the end of Starwood Hotels and its new beginning with Marriott.”
Hannah Sampson, Cruises
Hannah Sampson splits her duties between cruises, corporate travel, and running our podcasts. When she’s not juggling the three, as well as everything else, she thinks a bit deeper about the big issues, like what’s really up with the big cruise lines.
Her favorite story was about Royal Caribbean slowing overtaking Carnival Corp. as the world’s largest cruise line. Sampson told me, “It was the kind of story that started with a moment of fact-checking panic, then turned into a hunch, then (after reporting and number crunching) turned out to be a story that no one else had figured out. Unexpected, offbeat, and not driven by anyone’s agenda.”
Not driven by others agenda is exactly the kind of stories we like to do.
Patrick Whyte, Europe
Patrick Whyte, who runs our editorial operations in London, loves looking at company papers companies would rather he not look at. Which brought him to the status of WAYN, a travel social media brand that preceded a slew of competitors, only to slip in significance over a number of years.
When it announced its acquisition, Patrick looked beyond the press releases that everyone else ran to get at a story that was messier and more interesting.
“It always feels great catching out a company that is trying to spin you a line,” he emailed me. “The sale of social travel network WAYN to lastminute.com group was one of those stories. The deal wasn’t quite the success it was made out to be as financial documents in the UK revealed that WAYN was losing traffic and had pretty much run out of money. We’ll have to wait and see whether the $1.2 million paid for WAYN’s assets represented good value for money.”
Greg Oates, Meetings
I kind of forced Senior Editor Greg Oates to include this one; his modesty had forced him to look elsewhere. But this was the only case where I used traffic to argue my case: People loved it and they loved it because it mattered. The Manifesto for a New Generation of Meetings and Conventions explains what’s wrong with meetings now, and where it should start to find answers.
As Oates explains it: “The meetings industry is in need of a blueprint to explore the growing collaboration between tourism and economic development organizations to drive competitive advantage by leveraging the convergence of government, tech, business, and visitor industry stakeholder interests. This is the first step toward developing that blueprint.”
Andrew Sheivachman, Destinations
In June we told Andrew to pack his bags and head to Iceland and interview everyone he could about the island nation’s popularity problem. We gave him a few days to get ready. He came back with an overtourism diagnosis that was both echoed and copied by nearly every major publication in the U.S.
Because of the size of Iceland, it was actually hard to figure out which stories were plagiarism and which were reporters just interviewing the same people again. Either way the resulting story Iceland and the Trials of 21st Century Tourism set the tone for how the media is looking at successful destinations and the challenges that come with doing your job too well.
We have him working on a similar domestic story now, but we’re ready to ship him abroad at a moment’s notice if a reader sends in a half decent tip.
Sarah Enelow, Tourism
Sarah Enelow started her time at Skift as an editorial assistant this June and then ruined that position for anyone who would follow in her footsteps. Part of that ruining came from stories like The Rise of Civil Rights Tourism in America’s Deep South, which was rewritten (without attribution) by major publications across the U.S. (not just the UK’s larcenous Daily Mail).
As she said in a Slack message, “Race affects our travel choices (and opportunities, and budget, and aspirations) in big ways, and I thoroughly believe that black history is equally part of a place’s identity as music or food or art or anything else the tourism boards are touting. And I love that Alabama of all places is being so progressive about civil rights tourism. Also this article came out at such a racially-charged time: the end of our first black presidency and the beginning of a new upswing in white nationalism.”
Daniel Peltier, Marketing
Behind every story of someone wanting to live like a local are 10 or more stories of someone wanting to live not like one and see the Eiffel Tower or Empire State Building or the Great Wall of China. That’s what reporter Dan Peltier was thinking about when he started looking at which attractions people look to when it comes to travel and social media for his story Travel Brands Play It Safe on Social With Popular Attractions, Not Local Experiences.
Dennis Schaal, Digital
Our Executive Editor spent the first quarter of the year interviewing nearly three dozen founders, CEOs, and key players from the early years of online travel in order to produce a piece of reporting missing from the annals of online travel history. So when I asked him about his favorite story, he said “Really?”
So, yes. Really, this excellent story, which we called The Definitive History of Online Travel is our final pick for inclusion amongst the best stories of the year.