Skift Travel News Blog

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


Australia Reopens to Chinese Group Tourism

2 months ago

Australia has recommenced visa processing for Chinese group travel, Australia’s Ministry of Trade and Tourism announced on Monday.

The visa processing restart follows China’s lifting of pandemic-era restrictions last month on outbound group tours to Australia, the U.S., Japan and multiple other countries.

Australia reopened its borders to international travel in March this year. Since its reopening, Chinese tourism has slowly returned. In July, it reached 79,040, which was 50% of its pre-pandemic level.

Before the pandemic, China was Australia’s largest inbound tourism market in terms of spend. In 2019, Chinese group tours spent $581 million, which was about one-third of all Chinese travel spend in Australia.

“The resumption of Chinese group tour travel will provide another welcome boost for Australia’s hard-working tourism operators,” said Australia Minister for Trade and Tourism Don Farrell.


Australia’s Travel Sector Caught in Crosscurrents of Conflicting Trends

12 months ago

It’s good news and bad news for the travel sector in Australia, as the country heads off into a summery Christmas holiday. Some tailwinds are lifting the sector while other headwinds are buffeting it.

A report on Friday from John O’Shea, a senior research analyst on the Ord Minnett research team, highlighted a couple of telling charts.

International Airline Capacity Australia Is Growing But Remains Constrained

Source: Ord Minnett.

Presently, airfares are above average because demand is exceeding supply. Airlines have left some money on the table by not having enough capacity. But they’re increasing seats and routes.

  • As one looks at the planned capacity increase out to March 2023, Ord Minnett expects it to reach about 75 percent of March 2019 levels.
  • “That is why when one looks further out to airfares quoted at or past the middle of next year airfares offered have come down dramatically,” O’Shea writes.
  • The firm expects a return to pre-Covid levels of flight volume by the end of 2024.

Another chart shows that surging interest in outdoor domestic tourism has so far been more than a pandemic fad. During the Australian winter, the domestic tourism spot of Tropical North Queensland and Newcastle saw the highest visitation in five years.

“Many have discovered the quality and depth of local destinations/attractions for the first time, and they are liking what they see,” O’Shea writes.

What about rising interest rates? O’Shea offers the following take, emphasizing the potential for industry consolidation. He writes:

  • Many listed and unlisted travel corporates have “survived the pandemic but are unable to thrive due to a shortage of capital.”
  • For those with strong balance sheets that recapitalized during the pandemic, this means they are likely to be shown some incredible opportunities.
  • The larger Australian listed travel stocks have relatively strong balance sheets compared to their global peers (excluding and Airbnb, of course)
  • Expect consolidation to accelerate at some point with some transformational opportunities.   

Tour Operators

G Adventures Invests in Restorative Tourism Platform Reforest

1 year ago

Adventure travel specialist G Adventures has made a “significant financial investment” in Reforest, a digital platform that connects travelers with local communities that are restoring their ecosystems using reforestation.

Reforest, which is based in Brisbane, Australia, said it enables travelers to give back by having their own trees planted in places where community tourism relies heavily on the preservation of the local environment.

The platform then provides travelers with tangible, visible, scientific data measuring the positive impact of the trees planted on their behalf — including drone-based footage and satellite imagery.

“I’ve never been a fan of carbon-offsetting,” said Bruce Poon Tip, founder of G Adventures, who recently spoke at Skift Global Forum in New York. “The idea that you can have a negative impact in one place and do something positive somewhere else, and that somehow balances the scale, is not science to me, and most of all it doesn’t change people’s behaviour.”

The stake G Adventures has taken not been disclosed but Daniel Walsh, Reforest’s co-founder, said the investment gave the company the means to improve its technology, and expand its offering by marketing the platform more widely within the global travel industry.

“Together we will also create a showcase example of restorative tourism at work as we build the G Adventures’ tree-planting programme together over the coming month,” he said in a statement.


Qantas Offloads Stake in Australian Travel Agency Helloworld for $22 Million

1 year ago

Qantas has sold its remaining 12.4 percent shareholding in Australian travel agency Helloworld Travel Limited for $22 million.

The airline made the decision as it “sharpens its focus on post-Covid recovery,” and it had been reducing its stake over several years.

“We’ve announced some major investments this year as we focus on what is core to the group going forward, including fleet renewal, growing our network and a successful expansion into the e-commerce holiday booking space with TripADeal,” said Qantas Group chief financial officer said Vanessa Hudson.

The sell-off was confirmed in a statement to the stock exchange.

Qantas will continue to have a strong relationship with Helloworld as a trade partner, she added.

The national airline has held a stake in Helloworld since 2008, when it was spun off from a merger of Qantas Holidays and Jetset Travel.

Qantas also sold 14 hectares of industrial land near its Mascot headquarters in Sydney for $535 million in late 2021.

Corporate travel agency CTM bought Helloworld’s business travel division for $127 million at the end of last year.

Online Travel

Australian Online Travel Agency Travello Raises $6 Million

1 year ago

Travello, a Brisbane, Australia-based online travel agency, has raised $6.3 million ($10 million Australian) in a Series B round led by Queensland Investment Corp.

CEO and co-founder Ryan Hanly said Travello, which is largely focused on selling tours and activities to travelers between the ages of 18 and 36, will use the funding to expand further in Australia and New Zealand as well as make inroads in the United States and Asia.

“Our view is the youth market is hugely underserviced at present with brands like STA closing down during Covid,” Hanly said. “They also spend significantly more than most people think and typically they spend it on experiences.”

Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Mark Cantoni said between only 5 and 10 percent of the company’s sales prior to the pandemic had come from Australian travelers. But he added Travello is seven times bigger than it was pre-Covid largely because of the growth it’s seen in its domestic market.

Travello, which was founded in 2016, has raised $13.9 million ($22 million Australian) to date.

Uluru sunset
Travello aims to use its injection of funding to expand Source: Weyf/Wikimedia Commons

Short-Term Rentals

Guesty Buys Two Hospitality Software Companies as Acquisition Spree Continues

1 year ago

Guesty, a startup that simplifies the operation and marketing of short-term rental and vacation rentals, said on Wednesday it had acquired two companiesKigo and HiRUM — to expand the brand’s position in Southern Europe and Australia.

Guesty, based in the U.S. and Israel, didn’t disclose the transaction details.

Kigo and HiRUM have “thousands of customers” using their tools for property management and operations. For example, HiRUM’s customers include Palazzo Versace Gold Coast, Wyndham Hotels & Resorts, Ramada by Wyndham, and Grand Mercure Hotels & Resorts.

The deal extends Guesty’s “capabilities for flexible inventory management, allowing operators to handle traditional hotel listings, serviced apartments, holiday homes, and short-term rentals from one dashboard,” the company said.

Guesty has been on a shopping spree since August, when it revealed a $170 million Series E funding round. Earlier this month, Guesty bought Yield Planet, a hotel-focused revenue and distribution management platform.

Business Travel

Flight Centre’s Agency Supergroup Adds Business Specialists

1 year ago

Flight Centre Travel Group’s new invite-only agency member group has expanded.

Link Travel Group, which Flight Centre owns the majority of — alongside Goldman Group and Spencer Group of Companies — launched in May this year. The joint venture aims to combine forces of individual agencies to leverage buying power, while providing access to its own product and distribution capabilities “at a time when considerable change is taking place.”

In other words, staffing shortages persist, and airlines are gaining an upper hand in selling directly, meaning fewer kickbacks.

Since May, the new group has added Reho Travel, Platinum Travel Management, Entourage Travel Group, Mobilise Travel, Mosman Travel and Mary Rossi Travel.

However, this month it announced Eden Corporate Travel had joined, according to reports. Travel Beyond Group will join in 2023.

Flight Centre has been on a roll of late, growing its corporate business, while last month it was forced to quash rumors of an acquisition.

Its home base of Australia is also poised for recovery, after more than two years of tough trading conditions. Rival Corporate Travel Management even managed to make a profit this year.

Business Travel

Flight Centre Travel Group Plays Down Rumors It’s Buying U.S. Agency Altour

1 year ago

Flight Centre Travel Group has rebuked “media M&A speculation” that it is poised to buy U.S. travel management company Altour.

“Flight Centre Travel Group (FLT or Company) is aware of media speculation in The Australian newspaper claiming FLT is considering the potential acquisition of a corporate travel business in the USA,” it said in a statement to the Australian Securities Exchange on Aug. 30.

“While it is company policy to not respond to media speculation, the company has had, and continues to have, various discussions with a number of parties regarding strategic opportunities.”

Last week the group boasted its FCM Travel division was the only global alternative to the legacy travel management companies. However, the intention to consider acquisition opportunities to complement organic growth was outlined in the company’s recent results, where it reported a loss of $127 million for 2022.

A U.S. division would make sense to expand its footprint. Australia’s Corporate Travel Management, for example, said it reaped the benefits of its own U.S. acquisition, Travel and Transport, in its most recent results that saw it record a full-year profit of $41.4 million.

Altour is part of the Internova Travel Group, which is owned by Certares, which is also an investor in American Express Global Business Travel, via a group of investors it leads. Amex GBT listed on the New York Stock Exchange in May this year.

Skift contacted Internova for comment.

Business Travel

Corp Travel Agency CTM Finally Returns to Yearly Profit

1 year ago

Australia’s Corporate Travel Management has managed to convert the recovery in global business trips into a small profit, after more than two years of tough trading conditions.

It was boosted in particular by winning large accounts off rival agencies, according to CEO Jamie Pherous, and three pandemic-era acquisitions, the most recent being 1000 Mile Travel Group, an all-share transaction worth $1.3 million carried out last month.

The Brisbane-headquartered agency reported a 2022 full-year profit of $41.4 million on an underlying earnings before interest, taxation, depreciation, and amortization (or EBITDA) basis. That’s for the 12 months up to June 30, 2022, and follows total transaction value of $3.51 billion — more than three times the $1.12 billion recorded in 2021. Revenue was $269.1 million.

In 2021 it made a loss of $5 million, on an EBITDA basis.

New Wins

Speaking during an earnings call on Tuesday, Pherous said new clients were contributing to its results, with those clients having moved from its competitors, rather than previously having had unmanaged travel programs.

“We’re winning a lot of business and most of it’s off peers,” he said. “A lot of peers are in difficult positions and can’t reinvest in technology or people at the moment.”

In its 2022 first half, which covers the six months to Dec. 31, 2021, it won $3.27 billion of new corporate business. That amount equates to how much those companies spent on travel during 2019.

“We’re one of the very few (agencies) that can demonstrate we can convert recovering activity into revenue and profit before tax,” he added.

The CTM boss also played down any concerns over staffing levels. It recruited 950 employees in the 12 months, and more than doubled staff in its recently acquired Helloworld division from 125 to 285 people.

Pherous also said that CTM had an “out of the box” recruitment strategy.

“We’re finding people from outside the industry, and put them through our academy. Our senior executives talk about their youth and exuberance,” he said. “We’re nearly at the resources we need. We think it’s critical, we’re not in that race to barter and bargain for staff.”

Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb House Party Tech Steers Some Guests Toward Hotels and Private Rooms

1 year ago

Life is often a series of tradeoffs, right? Such is the case for Airbnb, which is testing new anti-house party technology in the U.S. and Canada that would steer some potential guests barred from booking whole homes toward private rooms and hotel stays instead.

Kevin Krejci A house party at an Airbnb rental in San Francisco on April 23, 2013 for Mesh San Francisco. Source: Kevin Krejci/Flickr

“This anti-party technology is designed to prevent a reservation attempt from going through,” Airbnb stated in its press announcement about the technology, which had been piloted in Australia since 2021. “Guests who are unable to make entire home bookings due to this system will still be able to book a private room (where the Host is more likely to be physically on site) or a hotel room through Airbnb.”

 House parties have been a huge problem for Airbnb — and communities — for years.

Airbnb bans them and has for the last couple of years been conducting manual reviews of guests younger than 25 who might have few positive reviews from hosts on the site, or may be booking a home near where they live for just one night or two, for example.

With the tech that Airbnb has is testing in the U.S. and Canada, the manual review still happens after a booking is made, but Airbnb’s tech now looks at additional signals, may review people older than 25, and redirects many of them to optionally book hotel rooms, and private rooms in homes.

Many hotels, of course, wouldn’t welcome guests intent on conducting parties, but there is usually more security and other personnel to ward off problems than there is in a vacation rental where the host is usually not present.

Hosts apparently wanted less of a sledgehammer blocking all these types of potential house-party bookings, and the ability to accept bookings where the chance for a house party would be greatly reduced, such as when hosts are present during the stay.

“We have seen a 35 percent drop in incidents of unauthorized parties in the areas of Australia where this pilot has been in effect,” Airbnb said. “We are now ending the pilot phase in Australia and codifying this product nationwide. We are hoping for similar success as we begin testing this in the U.S. and Canada.”




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