Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines digital trends.
For all of our weekend roundups, go here.
Facebook Removes Airbnb Host Group That Ridiculed Guests: When guests stay in short-term rentals, they shouldn’t have to worry that hosts might be sharing their intimate photos and personal information on Facebook, whether it be in nominally private groups or not. Airbnb, Vrbo, Facebook, and others need to be more vigilant so that their hosts aren’t violating privacy policies on their platforms or elsewhere.
Why Are Airline Websites So Bad at Inspiring Travel? There are floors full of marketing folks and techies at Expedia, Booking.com, United, and American Airlines who are measuring whether consumers click faster on the yellow button or the red banner. Can airline websites afford to be cheerleader, confidante, and payment processor simultaneously?
Online Travel Agency Giants Are on the Backfoot in Tours and Experiences: Expedia, Booking.com, and Ctrip are boosting the supply of sightseeing and experiences options that can be booked in merely a few clicks. But several factors are complicating any plans they may have to dominate bookings in this sector the way they have in flights and hotels.
Privacy Concerns Loom as Facial Recognition at Events Becomes More Common: A facial recognition startup has developed a new way to protect attendee data, but many people are still wary of the technology. It’s hard to blame them, considering that data breaches within the travel industry seem to be happening left and right.
Airbnb Invests in Tiqets for Experiences That Are Not, Well, Unique: Airbnb may never become a clone of its online travel agency competitors, but it will eventually go more mainstream to attract a wider range of travelers and locals, as the Tiqets investment suggests.
Kayak Is Rolling Out a New Platform for Business Travelers: Customer service is a key aspect of business travel. Kayak doesn’t do customer service so that may not go over well. That being said, the company’s massive inventory and simple user interface may help it gain traction with small businesses.
The Battle Over Tours and Activities Reservation Systems Rages On: FareHarbor and Bokun act as if they’re unstoppably on the way to becoming giants. But the market for booking systems for sightseeing and experience operators remains very much in flux.
Sykes Cottages Sold for $480 Million in a Bet on Tech-Led Short Term Rentals: The deal gives a nice return to private equity firm Livingbridge, which bought Sykes in 2015 for about $75 million. What makes Sykes Cottages stand out is that it has fully built almost all of its technology on its own and has almost 80 percent direct bookings. New majority stakeholder Vitruvian is now placing a bet on short-term rentals.
Vacasa Nets $319 Million in Backing for Vacation Rental Management: Short-term rental companies can’t believe their luck. Private equity and venture capital continue to pour into their sector despite a hot market. Vacasa has remained an investor darling, in part, because it has branched into opening real estate brokerages to help boost the supply of units.
Short-Term Rental Company Altido to Ramp Up Dealmaking as Antidote to Market Pressures: Altido, a short-term property management group based in Europe, plans to grow through bite-size mergers in 2020. Its new CEO seems right in saying that the dynamics driving the company’s strategy speak to larger dynamics in the sector.
Thomas Cook’s Nordic Business Gets New Owners: Even though Thomas Cook Group is no longer around, parts of the company live on. The Nordic business was pretty profitable, crucially has strong local brands and isn’t weighed down by an extensive store network. It’s easy to see how it can be a success in the future.
Fosun Swoops on Thomas Cook Brand Names: Given Fosun’s desire to help keep Thomas Cook afloat, the news shouldn’t come as a surprise, especially since the Chinese company’s Foliday ecosystem features the storied brand name.
Duffel Joins Wave of Startups Accelerating Efforts to Reinvent Airline Distribution: Venture capitalists are turning their sights on airline distribution. Duffel’s backing by VC firms Index and Benchmark bring hope to the sector.
Business Travelers Resist All-in-One Corporate Travel Platforms: It’s not easy to make someone change an ingrained habit, even when there’s a good reason to do so. So if companies don’t focus on majorly improving the end product for travelers, they can expect a lot of out-of-policy bookings.
All-in-One Management Platforms Need Traveler Support to Get Off the Ground: This trend is becoming more and more pronounced: The future of corporate management is going to be all about the traveler.
Sabre Predicts Clear Skies for Its Airline Distribution and Tech Businesses: To paraphrase Sabre executives, airlines in North America are too fat and happy to be bothered to mimic the experiments with direct distribution happening in Europe. They’re probably calling that right.
Fountain Raises $23 Million for Hospitality Recruitment: Travel Startup Funding This Week: This week, travel startups announced more than $437 million in funding. Blockchain-based identify management, hospitality worker recruitment, airline distribution, attractions ticketing, and short-term rental property management were some of the hot concepts attracting investors.
Omio Buys Rival Rome2Rio in Mashup of Door-to-Door Booking Sites: If search for travel looking for door-to door trip options was a massive potential market, then Expedia, Booking Holdings, Ctrip, or Google would have already snapped up these companies, which have been laboring around that premise for years. This stuff is hard to execute, as the relatively modest exit seems to show.
Can Fitbit Backed by Google’s Parent Take On Apple Watch? If Alphabet does indeed buy Fitbit, it’ll be great news for the tracking brand. To keep in step with Apple Watch, though, Fitbit will have to ramp up its innovation. Needless to say, Alphabet has its work cut out for it.