Good morning from Skift. It's Wednesday, February 16, in New York City. Here's what you need to know about the business of travel today.
Skift Daily Briefing Podcast
Listen to the day’s top travel stories in under four minutes every weekday.
Today’s edition of Skift’s daily podcast discusses Marriott’s massive payday, Hertz’ investment in electric vehicles, and Lonely Planet’s digital investment.
Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.
Marriott managed to avoid a major hit from the Omicron variant at the end of the year as the strong demand in leisure travel propelled the hotel giant to more than $1 billion profit for all of 2021, writes Hospitality Reporter Cameron Sperance.
That enormous figure — a huge reversal from its reported $267 million loss in 2020 — was far from the only good news the world’s largest hotel company revealed on Tuesday. Marriott beat analyst expectations to record a $468 million fourth quarter profit, compared to a $164 million loss during the same period in 2020. Company leaders attributed its strong 2021 to not only the surge in leisure travel demand but also higher daily rates and strong demand in international markets such as the Middle East. In addition, Marriott executives believe more countries reopening for tourism will accelerate its recovery.
However, one destination that didn’t provide Marriott a boost during the fourth quarter was China. Lockdowns and travel restrictions enacted after a surge in Covid cases in the world’s most populous country help keep Marriott’s Chinese performance at 27 percent below 2019 levels.
Next, Hertz has taken another step in becoming a bigger force in the electric vehicle market. The car rental giant and one of its major owners, Certares, have made a major investment in UFODrive, a rental service for electric vehicles, reports Senior Travel Tech Editor Sean O’Neill.
Hertz and Certares co-led a $19 million financing round in UFODrive, and Hertz intends to use the rental service’s fleet management technology to enhance its offerings of electric vehicles. The London-based UFODrive utilizes onboard computers that help guide drivers to the nearest charging station, a feature that should go a long way in helping Hertz interim CEO Mark Fields accomplish his company’s goal of making electric vehicle rentals easier.
The investment follows Hertz ordering roughly 100,000 Teslas last October as part of its plan to electrify its rental car fleet.
We finish today with news about Lonely Planet’s big acquisition. The guidebook publisher has bought Elsewhere, a website that links travelers with local experts who assist in trip planning, to help expand its digital reach, reports Editorial Assistant Rashaad Jorden.
Lonely Planet President Philippe von Borries told Skift that as the company works to create a more personalized experience for customers, it needs to better understand travelers and their mindsets. Von Borries said he was attracted to Elsewhere due to the large number of connections the startup’s owners have as well as their experience in creating an easy-to-use platform. Lonely Planet’s website will likely feature more information about trip planning, von Borries added.
The acquisition comes while Lonely Planet is struggling to hit pre-Covid figures. January 2022 saw the publisher hit 75 percent of book sales from the same month three years earlier.
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