Skift Take

The global travel industry still faces uncertainty in its recovery. But one thing is certain from all the interviews (and sometimes opposing viewpoints) at Skift Global Forum: How the world travels won't look like it did two years ago.

Skift Global Forum last week generated hours of insightful conversations about where travel is heading after an unspeakable 18 months of despair. The in-person and online event was not without its memorable sound bytes. We’ve compiled some of those for you here.

“I get a lot of ‘How do you feel about all this?’ questions. It’s semi-joking, semi-not. I usually say I’m 80 percent completely excited and about 20 percent terrified.” — Robert Jordan, executive vice president and incoming CEO of Southwest Airlines on his new role.

“We were spending $800 million on a run-rate basis, mostly on Google ads … and we’ve now realized we don’t have to return to that.” —Brian Chesky, CEO of Airbnb, on how a drastically smaller marketing budget hasn’t impacted traffic to the vacation rental platform

“There is this enabling to prepare for the next great migration, in winning people over in the war for talent — that should inform some of the industry’s decisions … This is what is happening now — the demateralizing of everything and that’s going to enable mobility, but it’s up to us to build all of this to unlock that future.” —Parag Khanna, founder and managing partner of FutureMap, on a “great migration” trend of remote workers, borne from the pandemic, that can benefits the travel industry.

“Nobody wakes up and says ‘I’ve got to get some biometric identity today’.” — Caryn Seidman Becker, Clear CEO, on her company’s screening technologies for travel.

“It’s almost like that Paula Abdul song — one step forward, two steps back — in terms of planning and understanding what’s next with our industry, but I think the positives outweigh the negatives in terms of being able to ramp up again.” – Elliott Ferguson, CEO of Destination DC.

“My wife, I found this out, she doesn’t like housekeepers [coming into a guest room] during a stay … [But] I like it … The truth of the matter is there are people on all sides. Part of it is due to Covid. Part of it is just that some people don’t want other people in the room. So, we’re not taking it away. We’re just giving them the choice and control. You have the choice, and you control if you want it. We won’t decide for you.”— Chris Nassetta, Hilton CEO, on the company’s new policy of guests needing to opt in for daily housekeeping during a stay.

“As Haben Girma, a deaf blind lawyer and advocate has said ‘accessibility is not charity.’” “As one human being to another, this shouldn’t be something to simply check off a list either. Rather, this is a human right.”Marlene Valla, deaf traveler and founder of Deafinitely Wanderlust.

“It’s like going to a convenience store and getting a Slurpee … Broadly speaking, the travel train is moving quickly in the right direction, so we’re investing in a growing business.”—  Tyler Morse, MCR Hotels CEO, on the company’s acquisitions spree of 41 hotels in 18 months and his travel outlook.

“I don’t think it’s hard. That’s just sort of a cop out. I would challenge the CEOs and board members of multinational companies to take a hard look at how they are addressing DEI whether it’s accessibility, ethnicity, gender. ‘It’s so hard’ is used as a way to sort of delay having to make any changes and then when you look up a year later nothing has actually been done or it’s just been these performative layers of activity. The key is to keep the foot on the neck, keep sending emails, keep knocking on doors, keep crashing Skift conferences you know, that kind of thing.”Naledi Khabo, CEO of Africa Tourism Association on how travel companies need to address diversity.

“Food. You’re very comfortable at home, but one thing that is more comfortable in the office is food. You don’t need to cook yourself. The Japanese food truck showed the highest attendance, so we used that data point and rolled out more attractive food options.” — Alex Hefer, CEO of Trivago.

“I’ve been at the helm of this company for the past eight years, and I’ve been trying to wake up a sleeping giant, which Accor has been for a number of years.” — Sebastien Bazin, CEO of Accor.

“Climate, community, equity, they’re 100 percent linked and none of them can be achieved without the other. So to me, what we’re really talking about is a whole new model of tourism consumption and production that will drive us forward and this kind of model requires that we don’t just look at this through our limited perspectives.” – Jeremy Sampson, CEO of The Travel Foundation.

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Tags: accor, airbnb, clear, hilton, sgf2021, skift live, southwest airlines, trivago

Photo credit: Caryn Seidman Becker, CEO of Clear speaking with Skift Senior Travel Tech Editor Sean O'Neill at Skift Global Forum on Sept. 23, 2021. Matt Matieiscu / Skift

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