Skift Take

Today's podcast looks at Marriott and Hilton's franchise fee battle, Skift's take on Google's latest AI tools, and Spirit's latest strategy for profitability.

Series: Skift Daily Briefing

Skift Daily Briefing Podcast

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

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Episode Notes

Marriott and Hilton are in fierce competition regarding the growth of their portfolios and loyalty programs. But Marriott is the clear winner in terms of fees earned from services for hotel owners, writes Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill in this week’s Early Check-In. 

Hotel groups charge owners fees for managing or franchising hotels. Marriott generated $1.24 billion in gross fee revenue last year while Hilton generated $773 million. While Hilton’s fee revenue is growing faster than Marriott’s, O’Neill notes that Marriott’s lead is so large that it would take Hilton 40 years to catch up if current trends remained the same. 

Next, Google recently launched AI-driven search capabilities as well as a more advanced Gemini AI model. Skift CEO and founder Rafat Ali provided his take on the new offerings. 

Ali writes that AI Overview stands out as a key feature in Google Search, and provides comprehensive summaries for complex travel queries. One query – “What’s the best time to visit London?” – generated a curated overview with suggested itineraries, travel tips and related multimedia content. 

The travel information landscape is now infinitely more complex, as Google is pulling results from across many different media and display formats. Reddit as a source of competition for any travel information query is the biggest new change in search in 2024.

Finally, Spirit Airlines has joined fellow ultra-low-cost carrier Frontier in dropping change and cancellation fees, writes Airlines Reporter Meghna Maharishi. 

Maharishi reports Spirit appeared to quietly remove most change and cancellation fees from its website this past weekend. Spirit now doesn’t charge any fare classes, except for group bookings. The company had charged between $69 and $119 to change or cancel a reservation, depending on the number of days before departing. 

Spirit said the move was part of its strategy to return to profitability. Spirit and Frontier are among a growing number of U.S. carriers that have eliminated change fees in recent years. American, Delta and United all scrapped change fees during the pandemic, except for the cheapest and most restrictive fares. 

Producer/Presenter: Jane Alexander


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Tags: ai, google, hilton, marriott, skift podcast, spirit, spirit airlines

Photo credit: Exterior of a Hilton Garden Inn in New York City. Skift

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