Skift Breaking News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Hotels

IHG Sees Full Recovery in the Americas Region

44 mins ago

Another quarter, another step in the right direction for IHG Hotels & Resorts, which is “very close” (or 10.5 percent) to global pre-pandemic RevPAR — or revenue per available room, a key industry metric.

But recovery in demand and pricing across its hotels in the Americas has led to group profit more than doubling versus 2021, with profitability now ahead of 2019 for that region, said CEO Keith Barr in a statement Monday, as it posted its interim 2022 first-half results.

For its second quarter, Americas RevPAR was up 3.5 percent on the 2019 second quarter.

Europe, the Middle East and Africa saw an “excellent improvement in performance” but Greater China had a “tough period” due to Covid-related travel restrictions.

“We have since seen a strong recovery in the most recent months, although risk of further volatility in trading in the region still remains,” Barr said.

IHG, which now operates 6,028 hotels, reported group revenue of $1.794 billion for the six months ended June 2022, which is a 52 percent increase on the $1.179 billion in the 2021 first-half.

Operating profit soared from $138 million in the second half of 2021 to $361 million in this year’s second half, an upswing of 162 percent.

That’s up 2.6 per cent on the comparable period in 2019.

Check back later today for more updates

Cruises

Norwegian Cruise Will Drop Covid Test Requirement

12 hours ago

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd will no longer require vaccinated travelers to take a Covid test before sailing on its cruises, effective September 3. Unvaccinated travelers will have to provide proof of a negative Antigen or PCR test no more than 72 hours prior to boarding.

“The relaxation of protocols coupled with continued easing of travel restrictions and the reopening to cruise in more ports around the globe are meaningfully positive for our business as it reduces friction, expands the addressable cruise market, brings variety to itineraries and provides additional catalysts on the road to recovery,” said Norwegian Cruise Lines President and CEO Frank Del Rio in the announcement.

Norwegian will become the latest major cruise line to drop the Covid testing requirement. Royal Caribbean and Carnival dropped theirs in August. The requirement removals follow the CDC’s announcement last month to stop tracking Covid outbreaks on cruise ships. 


Airlines

Colombia’s Viva Air Officially Seeks Merger With Abra

14 hours ago

Colombian budget airline Viva Air has officially applied to regulators to become part of Abra, the new airline group being formed by the merger of Avianca and Gol.

Under plans unveiled in May, Viva would become one of four airlines in Abra if its joint application with Avianca to Colombia’s civil aviation regulator, Aerocivil, Monday is approved. Avianca and Viva announced plans to combine but continue to operate separately shortly before the Abra deal.

(Viva Air)

Abra aims to become a multinational South American airline group akin to International Airlines Group or the Lufthansa Group in Europe. The four-way merger would create a regional competitor Latam Airlines Group, which is the largest in South America. Recently restructured Avianca and Gol in Brazil will be the anchor airlines of Abra and joined by Viva, as well as a minority stake in Chilean discounter Sky Airline. Together, the carriers would have significant shares in the Brazil, Chile, Colombia, Costa Rica, El Salvador, and Peru markets.

“The rapid approval of this integration and therefore the incorporation of Viva into Grupo Abra is vital for the sustainability and development of our company in the future,” Grupo Viva CEO Félix Antelo said in a statement translated with Google Translate.

Antelo did not mention a timeline but asked Aerocivil for a “prompt” decision. The application comes a day after Colombia’s new leftist president, Gustavo Petro, was sworn in to office.

Travel Technology

Sabre Buys Payment Tech Firm Conferma Pay in Bet on Virtual Cards for Business Travel

19 hours ago

Sabre acquired payments technology vendor Conferma Pay based in the UK, on August 3, the travel tech company confirmed in a statement to Skift. The travel technology company based in Southlake, Texas, didn’t reveal deal terms.

“Sabre has had a successful partnership with Conferma Pay for many years, and Conferma Pay is the basis upon which its Sabre Virtual Payments proposition is built,” a spokesperson said.

Conferma Pay provides software and commercial deals to help the travel industry move to virtual cards, where a business traveler buys each thing with a separate virtual number. So-called virtual cards can provide more secure authentication than traditional processes and more easily adapt to mobile wallets, such as India’s Paytm and China’s Alipay. (Skift has covered this in its recent megatrend Travel Payments Find Path to Painless.)

During the pandemic, Conferma Pay signed many deals and created integrations to help spread the adoption of virtual payments. In late 2020, it helped Visa launch Visa Commercial Pay, a suite of business-to-business payment solutions that strive to replace most manual processes.

Business Travel News Europe was the first to report on the acquisition.

Startups

Inspirato’s Luxury Travel Subscription Revenue Doubled in Q2

20 hours ago

Inspirato, a Denver-based travel startup, said that it generated $36 million in subscription travel revenue in the second quarter — up by half year-over-year. The company’s full quarterly revenue was $84 million. 

The company’s Netflix-like subscription service, Inspirato Pass, had 3,600 subscribers in the quarter. For about $2,500 a month, Inspirato’s Pass lets travelers stay at about luxury vacation homes and hotels it partners with for specified lengths of stay.

In a concerning sign, growth in the company’s longstanding club-based program — Inspirato Club, where people pay a fee for access to discounted travel — grew only 4 percent to 12,100, year-over-year.

In another eyebrow-raising statistic, losses increased instead of shrunk. The net loss for the second quarter of 2022 was $7.2 million compared to a net loss of $0.6 million in the second quarter of 2021. Management attributed the rising losses to “increased corporate operating expenses.”

The company said it forecast that its loss for the full year will be between $15 million and $25 million on an adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization basis. The company anticipates generating positive adjusted earnings for the full year 2023.

See Inspirato's earnings

Tourism

Australia Struggling to Balance Inbound Visitor Void With More Local Tourists

4 days ago

The number of Australians leaving for international trips has been more than 80 percent above the number of incoming visitors to the country.

Reporting on Friday, The Australian (paywalled) said:

Australian Bureau of Statistics data showed in May 420,110 people traveled abroad for a short-term trip, 81 percent more than the 231,480 short-term arrivals. The gap was more than double that of May 2019, when the number of outbound travelers was 39 percent greater than visitors.

The Australian quoting tourism data from the ABS.

The pattern creates a problem for domestic tourism destinations, who are not only losing foreign visitors but also domestic travelers going abroad instead.

The problem is of a manageable size and hopefully short-term. When viewed in context. Inbound travelers were now at 34 percent of pre-pandemic levels, while outbound travelers were at 45 percent of pre-pandemic levels.

But the international visitor gap is still a real problem for businesses struggling to hold on for the rebound now beset with rising costs for labor, supplies, and energy.

See the Australian Bureau of Statistics tourism data here.

Short-Term Rentals

Australia’s Alloggio Expands Short-Term Vacation Rental Network

4 days ago

Alloggio, a short-term rental property manager based in Australia, has invested $11 million ($16 million Australian) since its November initial public offering. The small company has acquired rights to manage properties and getting its own channel manager by acquiring Aabode.com, reported The Australian.

The company is strengthening its position as one of the country’s managers of short-term rentals and vacation homes through a series of acquisitions of companies, including Great Ocean Road Holidays, Best of Magnetic, Prestige Holiday Homes, First National Magnetic Holiday Rent Roll, and The Edge Holiday Rent Roll at Coffs Harbour.

Alloggio now manages about 1,950 holiday homes in the country. For fiscal year 2022, it expects to generate revenue of at least $14 million ($21.5 million Australian) and earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization of at least $7 million ($10.5 million Australian).

Airlines

U.S. Airline Hiring Slowed in July With Nearly 7,000 New Staff

4 days ago

The U.S. air transportation sector added 6,800 jobs in July as the airline industry continues to staff up from Covid-19 pandemic lows.

The pace of hiring slowed from June when the sector, which includes airlines as well as others, added 11,000 new employees, according to new data from the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics released Friday. Air transportation companies employed 567,900 people at the end of July, an 8 percent increase from July 2019, before the pandemic hit.

Airlines have struggled with staffing, from pilots on down to airport ground crews, as travel has rebounded dramatically in the U.S. While most carriers say they now have the staff they need, onboarding new employees has created its own challenges.

“The chief issue we’re working through is not hiring but a training and experience bubble,” Delta Air Lines CEO Ed Bastian said in July. At the time, the airline had “thousands in some phase of hiring and training process.”

Training bottlenecks aside, U.S. airlines are still struggling with hiring skilled staff — particularly pilots and maintenance technicians. The pilot shortage is primarily hitting smaller airlines, like Republic Airways and SkyWest Airlines, with few expecting the situation to completely ease for several years due to the long lead time training and certifying new cockpit crew members.

(Delta Air Lines)

Airlines

Majority Owner of India’s SpiceJet Looks to Sell Part of His Stake

4 days ago

Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director of Indian carrier SpiceJet, is said to be in talks with a Middle Eastern carrier and an Indian conglomerate to partially sell a portion of his stake in the budget airline.

Singh holds around 60 percent stake in the airline.

“The company continues to be in discussions with various investors to secure sustainable financing and will make appropriate disclosures in accordance with applicable regulations,” a SpiceJet spokesperson said.

A major Middle Eastern airline has expressed interest to pick a 24 percent stake and a board seat in SpiceJet. An Indian business conglomerate has also approached Singh for a stake in the airline, IANS reported while quoting a source.

With two carriers — Akasa and Jet 2.0 — set to debut in India this year, the stake sale would help bring much-needed equity infusion into SpiceJet, India’s third largest airline by market share.

The airline posted a net loss of $158 million in the April-December period of 2021, and is yet to declare financial results for the January-March period of 2022.

Last year, Indian aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) noted that SpiceJet had been operating on “cash and carry” method and approved vendors were not being paid on regular basis.

On August 2, SpiceJet stated that it had entered into a full and final settlement with the Airports Authority of India and has cleared all outstanding principal dues of the airport operator. “With this, SpiceJet will no longer remain on “cash and carry” at AAI run airports across the country and will revert to advance payment mechanism for daily flight operations,” a statement from the airline read.

Last year, SpiceJet had also announced its plan to transfer its cargo and logistics services on a slump sale basis to its subsidiary SpiceXpress to help the company raise funds independently. “The proposed hiving off of SpiceXpress is proceeding as per plan,” the airline spokesperson said.

Last month, DGCA issued a show-cause notice to Spicejet after its aircraft were hit by at least eight incidents of technical malfunction since June 19. The incidents included crack in the aircraft’s windshield, engine catching fire, weather radar malfunction and fuselage door warning.

On July 27, the airline was asked to operate only 50 percent of its approved flights for summer schedule for eight weeks.

Tourism

International Inbound Travel to U.S. Still Just 2/3 What It Was Pre-Pandemic

5 days ago

Around 4.3 million international visitors came to the United States in May, amounting to 64 percent of its May pre-pandemic volume, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. This volume was reported for May, the last month before the U.S. lifted its testing Covid requirement for inbound international travelers.

Canada (1.3 million), Mexico (1 million), UK (327,000), India (149,000) and Germany (130,000) were the U.S.’s top source markets in May. These source markets accounted for 67.2 percent of total international arrivals. 

Times Square
Times Square. Unsplash: https://unsplash.com/photos/k4nVp1I84Dc

The top 20 source markets in May 2022 saw a change in their makeup compared to pre-pandemic May 2019.  Chile, the Dominican Republic and Peru placed in the top 20, while China, Taiwan and Switzerland did not.

Outbound international travel totaled 6.9 million, up 87 percent from May 2021 and amounting to 80 percent of its May pre-pandemic volume. Mexico was the top travel destination for U.S. citizens with 2.7 million visits. Combined year-to-date, over 60 percent of departures were for Mexico and the Caribbean, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office.