Skift Take

Today's edition of Skift's daily podcast looks closer at online travel agencies’ cash flow, Saudi Arabia’s tourism investments, and Virtuoso’s sales boom.

Series: Skift Daily Briefing

Skift Daily Briefing Podcast

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Good morning from Skift. It’s Wednesday, August 16. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.

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Episode Notes

Airbnb and Booking.com have delivered strong cash flow over the past year, giving them the flexibility for acquisitions and other transactions, reports Executive Editor Dennis Schaal in his Online Travel Briefing.

Schaal looked at the companies’ free cash flow conversion, which measures how efficiently companies convert revenue into free cash flow after interest payments. 

A key factor in their favor: They are all asset light businesses, meaning they don’t own the hotels or short-term rentals that they offer. The companies’ high levels of free cash flow provides the needed resources for a range of investment, including acquisitions and product development. 

Next, global luxury travel network Virtuoso has seen a sales boom driven by surging interest in private experiences, writes Travel Experiences Reporter Selene Brophy. 

Brophy notes that Virtuoso guests are spending between $10,000 to $50,000 per trip on average. Virtuoso’s platform has a network of 20,000 luxury travel advisors and they are seeing growing demand for exclusive experiences, wellness travel and yacht bookings. 

We end today looking at Saudi Arabia’s big investment in its tourism industry. Associate Editor Rashaad Jorden examines why the kingdom is investing so heavily in the sector using Ask Skift, our artificial intelligence chatbot. 

Ask Skift provided four reasons why Saudi Arabia is planning to spend more than $1 trillion beefing up its tourism industry over the next decade. That investment is a key part of its strategy to wean away from its heavy reliance on oil revenue. Jordan writes that Saudi tourism officials are heavily targeting Chinese travelers, with the goal of attracting roughly 4 million visitors from the country annually by 2030. 

Saudi Arabia is also investing heavily in sports tourism, a sector that is expected to be worth more than $3 billion in the country by 2024. Saudi authorities view sports as a key part of its strategy to boost the kingdom’s profile. The country has hosted several major sporting events in recent years, including its first-ever Formula One Grand Prix race in 2021. 

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Tags: airbnb, expedia, expedia group, middle east, saudi arabia, skift podcast, Virtuoso

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