Skift Take

Today’s edition of Skift’s daily podcast looks at inflation in the tours space, TUI’s DIY focus, and South Korean temple tourism.

Series: Skift Daily Briefing

Skift Daily Briefing Podcast

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Good morning from Skift. It’s Thursday, August 11 in New York City. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.

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Episode Notes

Inflation has been a major concern in the travel industry this summer, with executives debating how to spark their businesses’ recovery without passing on higher prices to customers. Tour operators particularly are worried about how long they can absorb rising costs, reports Editorial Assistant Rashaad Jorden.

Although the Consumer Price Index revealed on Wednesday the rate of inflation fell last month from a 40-year high, tour operators acknowledge they’re heading into an uncertain future. Matt Berna, Intrepid Travel’s North American Managing Director, admitted his biggest concern about rising prices was their impact on community-based tourism. When asked to elaborate, he listed consequences of inflation — including soaring airfares and rising fuel prices — as factors that would reduce travelers’ spending power.

Berna said Intrepid has taken steps to cut expenses, including tightening its schedule to limit unnecessary costs between trips. He emphatically stated that Intrepid can’t expect consumers to cover all of its increasing costs.

Next, staying with tour operators, the world’s largest, TUI, is also taking steps to protect itself in the event of an economic downturn. The company is selling more trips consumers can build on their own instead of pre-packaged trips, reports Corporate Travel Editor Matthew Parsons.

TUI Chief Financial Officer Sebastian Ebel said during the company’s second quarter earnings call on Wednesday that it’s having success with so-called dynamic packing, in which customers can build their own trips rather than buy pre-packaged tours. A quarter of TUI’s sales in Germany last week came from dynamic packaging, Ebel added. In addition to showcasing more brands, TUI wants to protect itself from adding too many of its pre-packaged tours in its itineraries. That could be costly if the company is hit hard by inflation, Parsons notes.

We conclude today by looking at one of South Korea’s most popular tourism products. The country’s temple stay program is poised to see a visitor surge amidst the growing emphasis on improving mental health, reports Contributor Mary Ann Ha.

The program, in which visitors can experience firsthand the life of Buddhist practitioners, has been a boon for South Korea’s tourism industry, Ha writes. Launched in 2002 to take advantage of tourists coming for soccer’s World Cup that year, the temple stay program has grown from 33 participating temples to 141 at the end of 2020. It’s also attracted a large number of foreign visitors. Sixteen percent of the program’s roughly 300,000 participants in 2019 came from outside of South Korea.

As the country lifted its mandatory quarantine for fully vaccinated inbound travelers in April, temples are likely to welcome even more international visitors. The Korea Tourism Organization has heavily marketed the opportunity to eat plant-based temple food, which has grown in popularity substantially after being featured in the Netflix series Chef’s Table in 2017.

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