Skift Travel News Blog

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

Online Travel

India’s EaseMyTrip Acquires Majority Stake in Hotel Booking Marketplace CheQin

2 days ago

Indian online travel agency EaseMyTrip announced this week that it has acquired a 55 percent stake in hotel booking marketplace cheQin, owned by Gleego Innovations, for around $370,000.

The online travel agency said the acquisition would help strengthen its hotel channel.

“With this, EaseMyTrip is in a great position to give its customers a wide range of innovative hotel booking options at the most competitive prices,” the company said.

In a stock exchange filing, EaseMyTrip called cheQin a marketplace which connects travellers and hoteliers in real time and empowers hoteliers to have an access to live booking requests and manage bookings.

Speaking to Skift earlier, Prashant Pitti, the co-founder of EaseMyTrip, had said that the company is now looking to grow its non-air business by acquiring companies that are profitable, tech driven, asset-light and disruptive.

EaseMyTrip will diversify its hotel booking experience through technology support, said Nishant Pitti, CEO and co-Founder of EaseMyTrip. “cheQin provides unparalleled options in all segments and has the potential to scale and strengthen cross-selling.”

In December, the company had acquired a 75 percent stake in Nutana Aviation Capital for around $185,000.

Nutana Aviation Capital leases charter aircraft and provides charter services both within India and outside .

While the company has not yet shared its earnings for the October-December quarter, in the July-September quarter, EaseMyTrip posted gross booking revenue of $243 million, which the company said was its highest-ever in any quarter.

The company posted a profit before tax of $5 million.

This week, EaseMyTrip also announced the launch of its franchise business through which it aims to provide a retail store experience to its customers.

With EaseMyTrip Franchise, the company is tapping a new set of offline customers to expand its reach.

The business model will allow customers to have an in-store retail experience, the company said in a statement.

Airlines

India’s Vistara Reports Profit for First Time Since Inception

6 days ago

Indian carrier Vistara reported its first-ever net profit for the quarter ending December 2022, according to statement from the airline on Monday.  

The full-service carrier, a joint venture of Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, reported break even for the first time since its inception in 2015 as it crossed the $1 billion revenue mark and remained earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization positive in the current fiscal year.

In 2022, Vistara reported that it grew its international network by over 180 percent adding seven routes including three new destinations Muscat, Jeddah and Abu Dhabi.

The airline said that it grew its domestic network by over 50 percent, by adding six new routes and two new destinations Coimbatore and Jaipur.

While the airline did not share numbers, but for the quarter ending December 2022, it reported a 37 percent growth in capacity and a passenger increase of 47 percent compared to the same period last year.

Since July 2022, the airline has maintained its position as the second largest domestic airline in India, flying more than 11 million passengers in the calendar year 2022.

Vistara also registered a 11 percent year-on-year growth in the member base for its frequent flyer program Club Vistara.

The airline currently operates close to 8,500 flights per month.

“With significant network and fleet expansion and sustained growth over the last few months, 2022 has been a phenomenal year for Vistara, in terms of our operational and financial performance,” Vinod Kannan, Vistara CEO, said.

Speaking earlier to Skift in an interview, Kannan had mentioned that the element of revenge travel has worked for the airline.

Vistara is also getting ready for a merger with Air India, the erstwhile Indian state carrier, that had been acquired by Tata Sons, via its subsidiary, Talace, early last year as part of a $2.4 billion deal.

The Vistara-Air India merger is said to be completed by March 2024, following which Air India shall be India’s largest international carrier and second largest domestic carrier with a combined fleet of 218 aircraft.

Tourism

Chinese Cite Financial Impact From Covid for Not Wanting to Travel Abroad

1 week ago

Chinese travelers cite financial constraints over the last three years as the leading reason for not wanting to travel abroad even as China decided to end its zero-Covid policy by easing travel restrictions, according to a report.

Chinese marketing solutions firm Dragon Trail International published a report on Thursday following a survey of more than 1,000 Chinese travelers between January 4 and 7 to gauge the consumer sentiment around outbound travel.

More than one-third of travelers said they would be staying at home because of time constraints, or because of the inconvenience of applying for a passport or visa.

China had stopped issuing passports at the start of the Covid pandemic in early 2020. Following the easing of restrictions, the administration had said it would start taking passport applications from January 8.

Even as more than 60 percent of survey respondents said they wanted to travel outside of mainland China this year, travel spending will be somewhat constrained for many in the aftermath of Covid.

Around 45 percent of those surveyed said they would keep travel budgets within $3,000.

In 2019, Chinese tourists took 150 million trips overseas per year while spending $255 billion.

Of those who plan to travel overseas, 71 percent said they would do so for 5-10 days – a point to consider when creating travel products for the Chinese market in 2023.

Another interesting insight that the survey highlights is the increasing relevance of social media platform Xiaohongshu, more popularly known as the Chinese version of Instagram, not just for travel inspiration, but also for planning.

Skift Megatrends 2023 has also highlighted how short-form video content has become such a dominant format, particularly for destination storytelling.

Recovery of outbound travel in China is expected to pick up in the second half of the year with July witnessing a strong comeback.

The survey expects a bumper 8-day Golden Week holiday from September 29-Octover 6 for mid-autumn festival and China’s National Day.

However, Chinese travelers will be travelling closer home as the most popular outbound destinations in 2023 are all in Asia with Hong Kong leading the way, while Thailand is by far the most popular foreign country.

Online Travel

Oyo Still Keen to Pursue IPO Setting Mid-February Deadline for Refiling

2 weeks ago

Keen to pursue its long-anticipated initial public offering (IPO), hospitality tech company Oyo has said it would be refiling its draft red herring prospectus with the Indian stock market regulator Securities Exchange Board of India (SEBI) by mid-February.

While the company refused to offer any estimation of the time it expects SEBI to take for the approval, a source close to the company said Oyo hopes to get the approval by April 2023.

“After the approval comes in, Oyo will gauge market conditions and the path to profitability and then decide on launching the IPO,” the source said speaking to Skift.

Asked to hint at a timeline for the launch of the Oyo IPO, the source said it would well be within this year.

The market regulator had on December 30 asked Oyo to refile the draft prospectus, updating all the relevant sections such as risk factors, key performing indicators, outstanding litigations and basis for offer.

The company had earlier indicated that the process of refiling the document could take up to 2-3 months.

Oyo’s last submission to SEBI was the updated financial results of the first half of financial year 2022-23.

Updating its draft red herring prospectus with results for the first half of the 2023 financial year in November, Oyo had reported that its adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization for the second quarter grew eight times from $860,000 in the first quarter to $7 million primarily driven by a 23 percent quarter-on-quarter rise in gross booking value per hotel.

The letter from the market regulator to Oyo read, “The disclosures contained in the present draft red herring prospectus do not take into account the material changes/disclosures arising from updated financial statements as filed through
addendums leading to revised period for disclosures which in turn leads to necessities to make material updates in risk factors, basis of offer price, outstanding litigations and update other relevant sections of the prospectus.”

Sharing the progress on the refiling exercise, an Oyo spokesperson said, “We are working on updating all key sections simultaneously. Responsibilities have been divided among different teams,
with senior company leaders driving the collaboration with the book running lead managers, essentially the initial public offering bankers, the lawyers and the auditors. We are keen on refiling the draft prospectus by mid February if not earlier.”

The Indian market regulator’s move seems to be in line with its expectation of higher levels of transparency in the initial public offering process.

Lately, it has asked companies to share additional key performing indicators and the basis for pricing of IPOs. In its meeting with bankers in December 2022, SEBI had also shared steps it is taking to reduce the IPO processing time which has increased to 113 days.

Tourism

Dubai Scraps 30 Percent Tax on Alcohol to Woo More Tourists

4 weeks ago

In a further liberalization of regulations to attract more tourists, Dubai has scrapped the 30 percent municipality tax on alcohol.

Also, tourists and expats will no longer need to pay a fee to secure a personal liquor license to purchase alcoholic beverages. However, an Emirates ID, or passport for tourists, will still be required.

However, all alcohol sales will continue to attract a 5 percent value-added tax. Also, the United Arab Emirates will be introducing a 9 percent federal corporate tax from June.

The scrapping of the alcohol tax is said to be in place for a trial period of one year, until December 31, 2023, according to local media.

Dubai is looking to position itself as a leading tourism destination in the Middle East in the face of increasing competition from destinations like Saudi Arabia and Qatar that are also looking at tourism as key to diversifying the economy.

Last month, United Arab Emirates launched a national tourism strategy that intends to attract 40 million hotel guests by 2031.

The change that came into effect from Sunday, was confirmed by Maritime and Mercantile International, one of the biggest alcohol retailers in the United Arab Emirates and a subsidiary of the state-owned Emirates Group.

Calling the emirate’s approach dynamic, sensitive, and inclusive, Maritime and Mercantile International, stated, “These recently updated regulations are instrumental to continue ensuring the safe and responsible purchase and consumption of alcoholic beverages in Dubai as well as boost the dynamic hospitality industry.”

The alcohol retailer also confirmed that prices in its 21 stores across Dubai have decreased by 30 percent.

The legal age for alcohol consumption in the United Arab Emirates is 21 years and above, and alcohol can only be consumed privately or in licenced public places.

Dubai has been progressively updating its restrictions on alcohol sale and consumption, allowing the sale of alcohol in daylight during the holy month of Ramadan and approving home delivery of alcoholic beverages during the Covid lockdown.

In September 2020, Abu Dhabi had announced that residents as well as tourists would be allowed to buy and possess alcohol from shops and consume it within hotels, clubs and other outlets without having to purchase a special licence.

Tourism

India Makes Covid Test Mandatory for Arrivals From China and 5 More Asian Countries

1 month ago

India is making a PCR Covid test mandatory for inbound arrivals from China, Singapore, Hong Kong, Thailand, Japan, and South Korea, from January 1.

Passengers arriving in India from any of these six countries would be required to upload results of tests not older than 72 hours before departure along with a self-declaration on the Air Suvidha portal.

However, at the time of writing this story, the Air Suvidha portal was still not functional and the message reads, “You no longer need to complete the Air Suvidha Form.” 

Launched in August 2020 for international passengers to submit a self-declaration of their health status, the Air Suvidha portal, a digital health and travel document, had been discontinued in November this year.

Fearing another Covid surge, India had been conducting random tests of around 2 percent of international passengers flying into the country.

On Wednesday, officials at the Indian health ministry informed that of the nearly 6,000 passengers tested over the last three days, 39 were found to be positive.

Hotels

Macau Casino Companies Pledge Over $13 Billion Investment on Non-Gaming Activities

1 month ago

Six casino companies have agreed to invest a total of $15 billion in Macau over ten years, with more than 90 percent of the money pledged to non-gaming activities.

In line with the easing of Covid quarantine rules for inbound arrivals, Macau has renewed the casino licenses of six companies — MGM China, Galaxy Entertainment, Sands China, Melco Resorts, Wynn Macau and SJM Holdings — for the next 10 years.

Genting Group lost the bid even as reports earlier had stated that the Malaysian goup was a strong contender for a new license promising the biggest shakeup in Macau in over two decades.

As the new contracts come into effect on January 1, the casino firms have promised to spend almost $13.5 billion on “exploring overseas customer markets and developing non-gaming projects,” the government said.

The investment on gaming projects would only be around $1.2 billion.  

Macau has been looking to diversify its tourism offerings for some time, looking to position itself as not just a hub for the gaming industry.

In recent years, almost 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic product has come from the gaming sector.

However, the casino closures as a result of China’s zero-Covid policy dealt a blow to operators who had been losing millions of dollars a month since March 2020.

Doing away with its institutional quarantine, Macau announced last week that inbound arrivals would have to quarantine at home for five days while restricting outbound travel movements for another three days.

Earlier, travelers had to institutionally quarantine for five days in addition to three days of home quarantine.

Airlines

AirAsia to Now Launch a Low-Cost Carrier in Cambodia

2 months ago

AirAsia Aviation Group on Friday announced a joint venture with Cambodia-based Sivilai Asia to launch a new low-cost carrier — AirAsia Cambodia.

The airline, in which AirAsia will be the majority partner, expects to commence operations in late 2023.

Cambodia is the fifth Southeast Asian destination that AirAsia will be foraying into after Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Speaking to the media, Tony Fernandes, CEO of Capital A, AirAsia’s parent company, said all of the group’s future airlines would be based in the region as this is an area they know best and have a strong brand presence.

In 2020, the aviation group shut down operations of AirAsia Japan and last month the company announced that it has sold off its remaining 16.67 percent stake in AirAsia India to Tatas-owned Air India.

AirAsia plans to touch pre-Covid levels by the second quarter of 2023 and in true Tony Fernandes style the Capital A CEO said he’s confident AirAsia Cambodia would be profitable “from the get go.”

“Cambodia is a market that is familiar to us and where we have deep infrastructure in place,” Fernandes said.

AirAsia Aviation Group is the largest foreign airline and the second largest airline group overall operating into Cambodia in terms of capacity, according to group CEO Bo Lingam.

Pre-pandemic, AirAsia operated 90 weekly flights from Malaysia and Thailand to Cambodia and is currently flying about 49 weekly flights.

“The value of AirAsia’s network is an insurmountable asset; it will be another flag of extensive connectivity in Cambodia and into the region, namely China, India and North Asia,” Fernandes said.

Currently, there are no direct flights between India and Cambodia.

Reacting to earlier reports of a proposed merger of AirAsia and AirAsia X, Fernandes had clarified on Monday that the group proposed to form a separate aviation group comprising all its airlines.

Tourism

Hong Kong Eases Testing for Inbound Arrivals

2 months ago

A day after China announced some major changes to its controversial zero-Covid policy, Hong Kong on Thursday announced that inbound arrivals would need to undergo daily rapid antigen tests for five days, instead of seven days.

However, international travelers coming into the city would still need to take a polymerase chain reaction test on landing and on the third day and remain in home isolation for three days with limited movement.

Hong Kong has also shortened the isolation period for Covid-19 patients and their close contacts to five days from seven days, provided they test negative on the fourth and fifth day.

This rule would also be applicable for unvaccinated people, who were earlier required to spend 14 days in quarantine.

However, the outdoor mask mandate and other anti-epidemic measures will continue to stay for the next two weeks till December 28.

“Over the last week the number of daily infections has still been increasing and Wednesday’s figure of 14,373 has been a record high,” Hong Kong authorities said in a press briefing.

With Christmas and New year round the corner, health undersecretary, Dr Libby Lee Ha-yun, said there will be immense pressure on healthcare facilities as result of which the government does not look to relax the anti-epidemic measures further for now.

“We are reviewing our strategies based on science, targeted anti-epidemic measures, proper management of risks as well as citizen-focused facilitation,” authorities said during the press briefing.

Airlines

AirAsia Parent CEO Wants to Pull Its Airlines Into an IAG Model

2 months ago

Malaysia’s Capital A will not be merging its airlines, but will instead move all the carriers under one existing structure, similar to how British Airways, Iberia Airline, and Aer Lingus operate under the International Airlines Group umbrella, said CEO Tony Fernandes on Monday.

AirAsia X will be renamed AirAsia Aviation Group and there will be six airlines under it — AirAsia Malaysia, AirAsia Thailand, AirAsia Philippines, and AirAsia Indonesia, as well as AirAsia X Malaysia and AirAsia X Thailand.

“We are just injecting AirAsia airlines into AirAsia X’s listing status, there is no merger,” Fernandes told the media.

He said that each airline would continue to operate independently.

Fernandes made the statement to the media on the sidelines of the launch of Capital A’s upgraded subscription service — Super +.

AirAsia had earlier launched the flight subscription service in March to provide unlimited flights to destinations across Southeast Asia. Monday’s launch will now include destinations in Japan, Korea, Australia, India, Maldives, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia.

Capital A has launched two versions of the subscription service — Super+ Lite, which covers unlimited flights across all Southeast Asian destinations very similar to the version launched in March, while the Super+ Premium includes all countries operated by the AirAsia airline group, including long-haul destinations.

The lite version is priced at $203, while the premium option comes at $524.

“Till date, over 100,000 Super+ subscribers have redeemed over 500,000 flight seats across Southeast Asian destinations,” Capital A said in a release.

While flight bookings opened from Monday, the earliest flights that subscribers could opt for was from January 1, 2023.

“This is what we have been preparing for — the return of travel, and we are excited about the reopening of markets like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and more to come in the near future,” Fernandes said.

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