Skift Travel News Blog

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

Airlines

Jetstar Asia’s New CEO Is Qantas Veteran John Simeone

5 months ago

Jetstar Asia, the low-cost carrier based in Singapore, has appointed John Simeone as its new CEO. Barathan Pasupathi, the outgoing CEO who led the airline for 12 years, will step down from his role on March 1 to “pursue other opportunities.”

Simeone, currently serving as the senior vice president for Asia at the parent company Qantas, brings over 30 years of aviation experience to his new role. Jetstar Asia Chairman Dennis Choo acknowledged Simeone’s extensive knowledge of the Singapore and Asian aviation markets.

Commenting on his appointment, Simeone stated, “My focus will be to continue the exciting journey we’ve started, building capacity and connectivity out of Changi Airport so we can keep offering great low fares to amazing destinations across the region.”

Last month, Jetstar Asia announced the launch of flights from Singapore to Wuxi in China’s Jiangsu province, establishing itself as the sole airline operating this route from Singapore.

Barathan Pasupathi had previously emphasized the significance of the Chinese market for Jetstar, with the airline also expanding its presence by introducing flights to Haikou early last year.

In addition to the focus on China, Jetstar Asia witnessed the reintroduction of popular destinations in Japan and responded to growing demand by increasing weekly flights to popular hubs such as Bangkok, Bali, and Phuket.

Tourism

Nepal to Host First-Ever LGBTQ+ Tourism Conference in January

5 months ago

Nepal will be hosting its inaugural LGBTQ+ tourism conference next month with the goal of establishing the country as an inclusive and welcoming destination for sexual minorities.

Scheduled for January 18 in Kathmandu, the two-day conference follows a landmark decision last month, making the Himalayan nation the first in South Asia to legalize same-sex marriage.

According to the latest data available from the Nepal Tourism Board, in the first 10 months of 2023, Nepal welcomed around 810,000 tourists. 

Tourism plays a crucial role in the Nepalese economy, serving as a significant source of foreign exchange and revenue. Approximately 6.7% of the country’s GDP is attributed to the contributions of the tourism industry.

The LGBTQ+ Travel Market

Prior to the pandemic, the global value of LGBTQ+ travelers was estimated at a staggering $218 billion. 

Sunil Babu Pant, Asia’s first openly gay former parliamentarian and a prominent LGBTQ+ rights activist, expressed Nepal’s standing as a champion for LGBTQ+ rights in South Asia and emphasized the nation’s readiness for LGBTQ+ tourism.

Pant highlighted the potential to attract visitors and create job opportunities, particularly for individuals facing challenges securing employment abroad due to their distinctive identity.

Pant emphasized the importance of tapping into markets like China and India, both having substantial LGBTQ+ populations that often encounter social, cultural, and political discrimination.

Role of Travel Companies

The LGBTQ+ travel research conducted by Booking.com, in June this year, had highlighted how travel companies play a crucial role as allies in creating inclusive environments and implementing inclusive policies for LGBTQ+ travelers.

Shedding light on both the progress made and the recent setbacks faced by these communities in terms of travel experiences, the research showcased how concerns about attitudes, discrimination, and violence towards LGBTQ+ individuals have had a significant impact on their choice of travel destinations.

Tourism

Sri Lanka Launches First Global Tourism Campaign in 16 Years

6 months ago

Sri Lanka has finally announced its plans to roll out its global tourism marketing campaign urging tourists “You’ll Come Back For More,” marking the first such campaign since 2007.  

Skift had earlier highlighted the country’s 16-year gap in robust tourism promotion. The country had developed a comprehensive consumer campaign in 2021, which had then been shelved.

The new campaign is set to unfold in phases, initially focusing on communicating the restoration of stability in the country and its readiness to welcome tourists, this will run through February. Subsequent stages will elaborate on the central theme of “You’ll come back for more,” targeting key source markets of Sri Lanka Tourism.

Ogilvy, the creative agency behind the campaign, based its strategy on insights revealing that over 30% of tourists visiting Sri Lanka are repeat travelers.

The government has also urged the private sector to play a pivotal role in attracting tourists, with Tourism Minister Harin Fernando emphasizing that the government’s responsibility was restricted to ensure an enabling environment.

Tourism Targets

This year’s target for tourist arrivals in Sri Lanka is 1.5 million, a goal viewed by some as modest given the destination’s capacity and potential.

According to the latest tourism data, Sri Lanka had welcomed 1.3 million tourists by November, with India leading as the largest contributor with almost 260,000 arrivals, followed by Russia with 168,000 tourists.

The country plans to welcome 2.5 million tourists next year.

Free Tourist Visas

As part of a broader strategy to rejuvenate the tourism sector and achieve a target of 5 million arrivals by 2026, Sri Lanka announced issuing free tourist visas until March for visitors from seven countries — India, China, Russia, Japan, Thailand, Indonesia, and Malaysia.

The backdrop to these efforts includes last year’s wave of anti-government protests, beginning in April, triggered by severe shortages of food, fuel, and medicines. The country declared a state of emergency, facing what is considered its most significant economic crisis.

Tourism

Palestine’s Tourism Executive Has a Message for Tourists

7 months ago

A Palestinian delegation was at ITB Asia tourism trade show in Singapore, despite the war and humanitarian crisis at home.

“Palestine is a tourism destination and a political state with a significant historical background,” said Majed Ishaq, director general of marketing for Palestinian ministry of tourism. “Come to our country through Palestinian tour operators. Spend money in Palestine and help to contribute towards our economy.”

Ishaq told Skift that the ministry had previously decided to attend the trade show and didn’t want to back out. “We had already booked a space and paid for the construction of the stand, making it impossible to cancel our participation.”

Ishaq said many tour operators from Southeast Asia work with Israeli tour operators to visit Palestinian areas and he also wanted to establish direct collaborations with these operators.

Ishaq expressed hope for a peaceful resolution and a gradual return to normalcy. Since the war between Israel and Hamas began earlier this month, travel to the region has shut down, with most major airlines suspending service.

Online Travel

Trip.com Group Offers Cash Bonuses to Employees Who Have Kids

11 months ago

Trip.com Group, the largest online travel company in the world, looks to address China’s population decline and aging demographic by offering cash incentives to employees to have kids.

Recognizing the need for a supportive working environment and the challenges posed by the population decline, the company has introduced a childcare subsidy program for its employees.

Under this program, employees who have been with the company for three years or more will receive an annual cash bonus of $1380 (RMB 10,000) for each newborn child from the child’s first birthday until the age of five.

This initiative, with a budget of $138 million (RMB 1 billion), aims to support employees in their family planning journey while promoting a healthy work-life balance.

The shift in perspective reflected by Trip.com Group signifies a broader awareness in China regarding the demographic imbalances and future challenges.

During the Skift Megatrends event in New York City in January, Skift had highlighted the significant implications for the travel industry as India surpasses an aging China as the world’s most populous country this year.

James Liang, the executive chairman of the Board of Trip.com Group and a prominent demographer in China, emphasized the importance of this childcare benefit in empowering employees to pursue both their professional ambitions and their aspirations of starting or expanding their families.

After years of advocating its one-child policy, China now grapples with the significant challenge of population decline and an aging population.

Demographers, including Liang, express concerns about the imbalance between an increasingly aged population and a diminishing number of young people, which could potentially disadvantage China in international competition.

Government projections estimate that by 2035, 30% of China’s population, or 400 million people, will be age 60 and over.

In 2019, 254 million people in China were aged 60 years or older.

In January, China’s National Bureau of Statistics indicated that the country’s population stood at 1.4 billion at the end of 2022, marking a decrease of 850,000 from the previous year.

The decline in China’s population, the first in nearly 61 years, has become a reality. The burden of supporting an expanding elderly population falls on a diminishing number of young people, raising pressing concerns about elderly care, Liang noted in a blog post earlier this year.

Moreover, a decline in the young population can hinder economic innovation and lead to a decline in entrepreneurial activities and creativity, similar to Japan’s experience, he said.

Furthermore, a shrinking young population can impede economic innovation, entrepreneurial activities, and creativity, as seen in Japan’s experience.

Various regions in China have introduced initiatives and incentives to address the population decline. These include cash rewards, extended leave, loans, tax breaks, housing subsidies, and increased paid marriage leave days.

Da Bei Nong Group, an agricultural technology company in Beijing, had announced cash rewards and extended leave for expecting parents.

While these measures aim to encourage childbirth and alleviate financial burdens, Liang emphasizes the need for long-term strategies and more comprehensive measures.

Cash subsidies alone may not be sufficient to encourage childbirth, he wrote, adding that to address the population decline effectively, reducing the costs associated with raising children, such as tax exemptions, subsidized mortgages, and affordable childcare and education, is crucial.

Additionally, overhauling the education system and reducing academic competition pressure can foster a greater willingness among young couples to have children, noted Liang.

Ideas

Trip.com Group to Power Digital Journey of Cambodia’s New Airport

12 months ago

Online travel company Trip.com Group has joined hands with flag carrier Cambodia Angkor Air to position the new Angkor International Airport as a smart airport in the region.

As part of the agreement, Trip.com Group will contribute to enhancing the digital services of the new airport scheduled to commence operations in October 2023.

The partnership also serves to position Cambodia’s competitiveness as a global destination as it aims to strengthen collaboration in various tourism sectors. This would extend to marketing campaigns, hotel development, travel visa services, and tourism talent training programs in both countries.

Angkor Wat, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia
Angkor Wat, Krong Siem Reap, Cambodia. The temple remains the face of tourism for Cambodia.

Expressing the significance of the new Angkor International Airport in Cambodia’s global tourism strategy, Tekreth Samrach, chairman of Cambodia Angkor Air, said the collaboration with Trip.com Group to enhance services and construct a smart airport presents an opportunity for global tourism revival.

Cambodia is estimated to have lost $3 billion of tourism revenue to the Covid-19 pandemic.

Cambodia’s New Airport Worth $880 Million

China’s Yunnan Investment Group, parent company of Siem Reap-Angkor International Airport has invested in the new airport project valued at $880 million.

A steering committee for the construction of Siem Reap Angkor International Airport led by Samrach had announced in March that the airport would be ready in time for its October launch.

Once ready, the airport that would be able to handle long-haul aircraft with the capacity to receive about seven million passengers per year initially, 10 million by 2030, and 20 million by 2050.

China is a significant source of inbound tourism for Cambodia, with Chinese tourists accounting for approximately 36 percent of the 6.6 million foreign tourists arriving in the country in 2019.

Cambodia launched the “China Ready” strategy in 2023 to attract more Chinese tourists.

As of mid-May 2023, Ctrip, a Trip.com Group sub-brand, had reported that the number of users from the Chinese mainland searching for Cambodian tourism products had increased by more than 233 percent compared with the same period last year.

In 2022, Cambodia welcomed 2.28 million foreign tourists, according to the ministry of tourism.

Online Travel

Oyo Looks to Expand UK Presence to Over 200 Hotels This Year

1 year ago

Budget hotel chain operator Oyo has announced its intention to expand its UK presence with plans to increase its number of hotels to over 200 by the end of this year.

As part of this expansion, Oyo will be adding more than 50 properties to its portfolio in the country by 2023, including in Leeds, Brighton, and Plymouth.

Oyo is currently in advanced-stage negotiations with over 30 hotels as it plans to bring more hotels into its platform this year, said Puneet Yadav, head of Oyo UK.

The company presently operates over 150 small hotels in 65 cities throughout the UK, with Otterburn, Folkestone, Worcester, Swansea, Crewe, Kidderminster, Solihull, Peterhead, and Boston as its latest additions.

In 2022, the company’s UK operations generated revenue that surpassed 2019 levels, with a 140 percent increase from 2021. Additionally, Oyo observed a 50 percent rise in revenue per available room compared to 2021.

Last year, the company expanded its platform in the country by adding 40 hotels. London, Birmingham, Torquay, Great Yarmouth and Manchester are its top markets in UK, according to Oyo.

The company currently has 27 hotels in London region on its platform and 38 in the Midlands region.

Talking about the interest from hotels owners, Gautam Swaroop, CEO of OYO International, said, “Our result-oriented tech stack has been a draw for many entrepreneurs in the UK who are looking to improve and scale their hotel business,”

Swaroop said the expansion would enable many small businesses in the region to manage their business with ease.

Oyo has presence in over 35 countries globally. It owns a vacations home business in the European Union called Oyo Vacation Homes, which operates legacy brands such as DanCenter and Belvilla.

Strengthening its portfolio as a full-stack vacation homes provider, last year the company acquired Croatia-headquartered Direct Booker and Denmark-based vacation rental operator — Bornholmske Feriehuse.

Rating agency Moody’s Investors Service stated this week that Oyo is expected to maintain sufficient liquidity buffers to sustain its operations until it becomes cash flow positive over the next 12 to 18 months, supported by a robust recovery in travel demand and cost optimization measures.

Tourism

Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea Global Mulls 2026 Public Market Offering

1 year ago

Red Sea Global, a company fully owned by Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund, is exploring the possibility of a public market offering, with plans to launch as early as 2026.

The company is currently examining various options for a public market event, including an initial public offering or the establishment of a real estate investment trust (REIT), CEO of Red Sea Global, John Pagano, stated in an interview with Bloomberg.

Even as he did not provide specifics on advisers, banks, or valuation, Pagano said the company is currently holding preliminary discussions with banks and stakeholders.

He said the company plans to go public by 2026 or 2027, after the hotels have been in operation for around two years, with a proven record of occupancy, cash flow, and profitability. The priority for the company now is to create a revenue stream that supports its value.

Pagano said the concept of public real estate companies has mostly disappeared from a property markets standpoint on a global scale. Instead, real estate investment funds are becoming increasingly popular because of their tax efficiency and accessibility to a wider range of investors.

Flagship Projects for Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030

Red Sea Global was formed by merging two state-controlled developers by the Saudi sovereign wealth fund in 2021, where Amaala was taken over by the Red Sea Development Company.

Formerly known as The Red Sea Development Company, Saudi Arabia’s flagship tourism project developer rebranded to Red Sea Global last year.

Speaking to Skift earlier, Pagano had called the Red Sea Project and Amaala, the flagship projects for Saudi Arabia’s Vision 2030. He said the developments would be instrumental in opening the country up to global visitors.

By 2030, the two projects are expected to create 120,000 jobs — 70,000 direct and 50,000 indirect.

Amaala is expected to span over 4,000 square kilometers and house 25 hotels and around 900 luxury residential villas, apartments, and estate homes upon its completion in 2027.

The first phase of development is anticipated to conclude in mid-2024 and offer over 1,300 hotel rooms across eight resorts.

During the Skift Global Forum East in Dubai last year, Nicholas King, the group chief development officer of Red Sea Global, had revealed that the first three hotels at the Red Sea Project would open in 2023, followed by the next 13 in 2024.

Tourism

Chinese Shift from Short Holidays to Plan Longer Breaks for Labor Day

1 year ago

Outbound travel from mainland China during the Labor Day holiday period reached a three-year high this year, according to data released by travel technology company Travelport.

Also, unlike the rest of the year, the Labor Day period shows a notable increase in the length of travel with holidays lasting longer than 10 days, which could explain the popularity of long-haul destinations during this time.

Among the top 10 destinations during this period, long-haul stops like the UK and Canada have gained popularity, with the U.S. claiming the second spot, Travelport data showed.

Travel bookings for the Labor Day period increased 470 percent this year compared to 2022, while outbound bookings from mainland China in the first quarter increased by 331 percent compared to last year, said Travelport

Labor Day in China, which falls on May 1, is an annual public holiday. The period has been expanded to include a three-day break, making it one of the most popular times of the year for travel.

April 24 through May 7 (the week of Labor Day and the week prior) tend to be the most ideal dates for travelers to get away.

The five-day break starting Saturday will be the first long public holiday for Chinese travelers since the Lunar New Year.

Travelport observed that for the rest of the year, tourists from mainland China are taking shorter holidays as most trips span between two and four days.

As a result, Hong Kong and Macau are the top two destinations this year for which mainland Chinese travelers have made the highest number of bookings, according to Travelport.

According to the South China Morning Post, hotel room rates in Hong Kong have risen significantly in anticipation of the upcoming Labour Day holiday, even though reservations remain lower than pre-pandemic levels.

Meanwhile, the number of visitors to Macau in March increased by 271 percent compared to the same period last year, reaching 1,956,867, according to the Statistics and Census Service.

The majority of visitors, 1,242,358, were from Mainland China. From January to March, there were 4,948,358 arrivals with the average length of stay remaining stable at 1.2 days.

Emphasizing the trend for shorter trips, Travelport’s data also revealed that of all the flight options available from mainland China, the majority (71 percent) are bound for Asia Pacific.

Low Flight Capacity

China is currently facing challenges with flight capacity. A sentiment echoed by Trip.com Group while announcing its fourth quarterly results.

Even as Chinese carriers raised international capacity by 44 percent in April, adding 935,000 seats between March and April, the current international airline capacity is only 37 percent of what it was in April 2019, according to airline data firm OAG.

Moreover, international airline capacity constitutes only 4 percent of all Chinese airline capacity.

On December 27, when China made its much-anticipated announcement removing the quarantine requirement for inbound travelers, outbound flight bookings from mainland China increased by 247 percent when compared to the same day the previous month, Travelport noted.

Pent-up demand for outbound travel from mainland China is massive, with 40 percent of respondents in a McKinsey survey wanting to travel and prioritize international destinations for their next trip.

China has been the largest source market in the world for outbound tourism since 2012.

Chinese tourists made 166 million outbound international trips in 2019, spending $277 billion on global tourism.

Tourism

Marriott’s India Operator Samhi Hotels Refiles Draft Papers, Cuts IPO Size

1 year ago

India-based hotel ownership and asset management platform Samhi Hotels has refiled draft papers with the Indian stock market regulator Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI) to raise an initial public offering (IPO) of around $120 million.

The Goldman Sachs-backed company that operates hotel chains like Marriott, Hyatt and IHG in India, had earlier filed a draft red herring prospectus with SEBI in September 2019 to raise around $238 million.

Samhi had obtained the markets regulator approval in November 2019, to float the initial share-sale, but the company at that time did not go ahead with the launch.

Last week, while reporting the Yatra earnings, Skift had talked about the subdued sentiments in the Indian stock market, as a result of which many companies wanting to launch their IPOs were said to be in a “wait-and-watch” mode.

Hospitality platform Oyo too disclosed last week that it is reducing the size of its proposed initial public offering to between $400-$600 million, a steep reduction from its earlier plan of $1.1 billion.

The company would be using net proceeds from the IPO towards the repayment of debt of the firm and its subsidiaries, payment of interest and other general corporate purposes.

As of February 2023, Samhi Hotels has the third-largest inventory of operational keys (owned and leased) in India. The company has a portfolio of 3,839 keys across 25 operating hotels in 12 cities, including Bengaluru, Hyderabad, National Capital Region, Pune, Chennai and Ahmedabad.

The company is also the largest owner of the Fairfield by Marriott and Holiday Inn Express brands in India. For the financial year ended March 2022, the company reported an increase of 90 percent in revenue to $40 million, as against $21 million in the previous fiscal.