Skift Take

Today’s edition of Skift’s daily podcast looks at United's new seating promise for families, trends at boutique hotels, and concerns in the metasearch world.

Series: Skift Daily Briefing

Skift Daily Briefing Podcast

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Good morning from Skift. It’s Tuesday, February 21. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.

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Episode Notes

While the pandemic battered the travel industry, it also raised the profile of the hotel boutique sector. More travelers now seek out smaller and more authentic places to stay. “The pandemic lit a big old fire under it,” said Frances Kiradjian, who started the Boutique Lifestyle Leaders Association 14 years ago. “People thought before 2009 that the boutique lifestyle was dead. Even some of the brands that big guys had eaten up decided they wouldn’t use the word ‘boutique’ anymore.”

Flash forward to today, and the industry is thriving — leading the way in hotel experience and design. And those big chains? They’re trying to claw back into the space with launches like Accor’s Handwritten Collection last month and Marriott’s expansion of Design Hotels, writes Contributor Leslie Barrie.

Frances and her daughter, Ariela Kiradjian, today run the boutique lodging association’s events and awards together. They’ve talked to all the major leaders and innovators in the segment. And they’ve pinpointed a handful of key trends for boutique hotel owners to note, including how Instagram has peaked, and design functionality replacing design for cool sake.

Next, travel metasearch sites such as Trivago and Tripadvisor fell considerably short of pre-pandemic 2019 revenue levels in 2022 while travel companies in other sectors, such as Airbnb in short-term rentals, and tours and activities provider Viator greatly exceeded their marks from three years ago.

Executive Editor Dennis Schaal writes that Trivago reached only 64 percent of 2019 revenue last year while Tripadvisor’s hotel metasearch feature climbed to just 85 percent of pre-pandemic revenue numbers in 2022. In the hotel sector, Marriott came up just short of the mark, having achieved 99 percent of 2019 revenue last year.

Airbnb; Viator, which is part of Tripadvisor; United, and Expedia Group all surpassed their 2019 revenue numbers last year. In 2022, Airbnb and Viator exceeded their prepandemic top lines by 75 percent and 71 percent, respectively. United (up 4 percent) and Expedia (2 percent) inched ahead. Expedia might have been a tad further ahead of 2019 if it hadn’t sold its corporate travel unit, Egencia, which generated $620 million in revenue that year, to American Express Global Business Travel in November 2021.

We finish today with United Airlines, which has launched a new seat map feature that dynamically finds available adjacent seats at the time of booking, while a new policy will allow passengers to switch flights for free if none are available.

Corporate Travel Editor Matthew Parsons writes that the tweak to the online seat booking engine is designed to help sit children under 12-years-old next to an adult in their party for free, and follows calls by the Biden administration to ban airlines from charging family-seating fees.

If adjacent seats aren’t available prior to travel due to last-minute bookings, full flights or unscheduled aircraft changes, United said on Monday that it will let customers switch for free to a flight to the same destination with adjacent seat availability in the same cabin. Customers won’t be charged if there is a difference in fare price between the original and new flight.

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Tags: design, guest experience, paxex, skift podcast, tripadvisor, trivago, united airlines

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