Today’s edition of Skift’s daily podcast looks at tour operator tech advances, JetBlue’s holiday warning, and what’s driving Arctic tourism’s growth.
Skift Daily Briefing Podcast
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Good morning from Skift. It’s Wednesday, October 26. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.
Tour operators have long struggled with technology, often using outdated software that has inhibited their ability to make bookings quickly. But those companies at last are starting to benefit enormously from large-scale advances in technology, a much-needed boost for businesses particularly hammered by the pandemic, reports Editorial Assistant Rashaad Jorden.
One of the developments Jorden cites is the advent of software platforms helping tour operators better market their itineraries. One tech executive said those programs are enabling companies to create digital brochures, a shift away from their long-time focus on physical documents. Meanwhile, travel technology company Nezasa has developed a software platform that combines the various elements of multi-day tours — including hotels and transportation options — into one customizable trip.
But Jorden writes the surging demand for post-pandemic travel is presenting tech-related challenges for tour operators, most notably hiring staff needed to manage the systems they use. Scott Rutz, the vice president of sales and marketing for software platform Travefy, said he believes tour operators have experienced a brain drain since the start of the pandemic.
Next, JetBlue Airways is recovering from challenges including labor shortages that forced it to make deep schedule cuts this summer. But the New York-based carrier acknowledges that air traffic control staffing issues could cause flight disruptions this winter, reports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a Skift brand.
JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty indicated the possibility of large-scale flight disruptions during its third-quarter earnings call on Tuesday. Geraghty described the air traffic control environment as fragile, with staffing shortages already causing thousands of flight cancellations and delays earlier this year. She added that those staffing issues have driven JetBlue to keep a large number of pilots on call in the event of delays.
JetBlue recorded a $57 million profit in the third quarter, its first since the start of the pandemic. The company’s revenue rose 23 percent from the same period in 2019.
We wrap up today in the Arctic. The remote region is experiencing a surge in visitor arrivals, but Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam writes that ongoing staffing shortages and infrastructure challenges are preventing it from hitting its full potential.
The Arctic, which includes the northernmost areas of Finland, Norway and Sweden, is seeing tourism numbers rapidly approach pre-pandemic levels, Habtemariam notes. Some tour operators running trips to the region have already recorded more bookings for the upcoming winter season than they did during the same period in 2019. Local tourism officials believe the Arctic has benefitted from its remote location, with travelers increasingly eager to visit rural destinations, a megatrend Skift has explored.
However, Habtemariam writes the region’s tourism recovery has been hampered by staffing shortages. One Arctic-based tourism executive said a lack of workers is the area’s biggest challenge. Meanwhile, Jason Susinski, the director of product for tour operator Kensington Tours, stated the Arctic doesn’t have enough tour guides to help travelers partake in popular activities such as dog sledding. Susinski added that limited physical infrastructure has made reaching the region’s most remote locations difficult.