Skift Travel News Blog

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

Airlines

IDEAS: Qantas Introduces Travel Management Tool for Australian Businesses

3 months ago

​​A new tool has been launched by Qantas to help small and medium sized Australian businesses manage their travel requirements.

Credit: Qantas

The new service will allow users to streamline the travel management process – from booking flights and hotels to implementing travel policies – whilst providing real-time data and analytics to manage costs and prepare expense reports.

Credit: Qantas

Developed based on feedback from existing members of the Qantas Business Rewards program, the new tool will be available as part of the program in addition to the existing benefits.

“We’ve been listening to our Qantas Business Rewards members who have told us that making it easier to manage their business travel will add more value to the program,” said Olivia Wirth, CEO of Qantas Loyalty in a release. 

“The investment we’re making in Qantas Business Rewards will provide Australian businesses with a one-stop platform to manage their business travel needs and make the most of their rewards.”

The new tool was successfully trialed in August, and has now been rolled out to all program members.


Skift Ideas uncovers the most creative and forward-thinking innovations happening across travel. We celebrate innovation through our Skift IDEA Awards and hear from leaders on our Ideas podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.

Tourism

U.S. Sees India Surge to its Second Top Traveler Market

4 months ago

India was the U.S.’ s second top market for travelers outside of North America between April and June, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office’s data released Monday. Over 500,000 Indian travelers came to the America in the those three months, up from 392,000 and 498,000 for the same period in 2022 and pre-pandemic 2019, respectively.

In the first six months of 2023, over 800, 000 Indian travelers came to the U.S., making it America’s second largest’s non-North American market after the UK this year.

Nearly 60% of Indian travelers came to the U.S. for vacation, business or a conference in the first six months of this year, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. On average, Indian travelers spent $3,500 per trip in the U.S. The states they visited the most were California, New York and Texas.

In 2023, the U.S. is expected to welcome 1.4 million Indian travelers, which is 97% of their pre-pandemic volume, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. It will be the U.S.’s sixth top source overseas market in 2023, after the UK, France, Germany, Japan and Brazil. In 2019, India was the U.S. eighth-largest market.

It’s notable is that India has recovered so quickly and is rising as top source market for the U.S. despite long visa wait times at U.S. embassies, which suggests inbound travel from the country has been heavily restrained.

While the number of visitor visa approvals for Indians has “outperformed” 2019 levels, they remain over 400 days on average, said U.S. Travel Association CEO and President Geoff Freeman at Skift Global Forum. In New Delhi, for example, an Indian national would have to wait 542 days for a visa interview at the U.S. Embassy.

The visa wait times deter Indian travel into the U.S. “The message to that traveler is all but go away. This is anything but a welcoming environment,” said Freeman. 

U.S. destination marketing organizations have been investing in driving tourism from India. New York Tourism + Conventions, San Francisco Travel and Los Angeles Tourism have expanded their marketing efforts in India this year.

“We’ve invested heavily in India,” said NYC Tourism + Conventions CEO and President Fred Dixon at Skift Global Forum. “I was just there in January, we’ll be back again next January. We see a huge opportunity in the future from India. We’re excited about the airlift opportunities.”

Travel Technology

Travelport Integrates Corporate Booking Tool Following Deem Acquisition

7 months ago

Travelport has completed the integration of corporate booking tool Deem, which it acquired earlier this year

Travelport — along with its two larger competitors, public companies Amadeus and Sabre — primarily act as marketplaces to connect airlines and travel agents. 

While Amadeus and Sabre have had in-house corporate travel booking tools in recent years, Travelport has not since it sold Locomote in 2019.

The Deem tool is now part of Travelport+, the next generation of the booking platform for travel agents that Travelport has been developing over the past two years. And agencies that had been using Deem can now access Travelport data through the platform, which is still also compatible with data from Amadeus and Sabre.

The software from Deem is meant to provide travel agents a simpler, more modern experience than has been historically available for corporate travel. And the software includes a tool that travelers can use to manage their own trips. 

“It extends the vision that we set for Travelport back in 2019 or early 2020, which was we wanted to create a more modern retailing experience that was more akin to what leisure travelers might experience,” said John Elieson, chief operating officer and deputy CEO of Travelport.

“You go to a site like Travelocity or Expedia or Priceline, and you’ve just got this really intuitive, enjoyable experience. And yet in corporate travel, it’s just much clunkier.”

Travelport CEO Greg Webb said early this year that more than 80% of the company’s travel agent customers were using Travelport+ at that time, and the rest were expected to transition in the following 12 to 18 months.

Business Travel

Avianca Launches Subscription Program Just For Business Travelers

10 months ago

South America’s Avianca has rolled out a subscription program just for businesses.

The Colombian airline has partnered with Caravelo, a company that builds subscription platforms for airlines. The new program follows a similar tie-up it announced with Europe’s Wizz Air earlier this month.

Avianca Access differs, however, as it’s targeting corporate travelers only, who gain access to potentially cheaper travel without their employers having to commit to an annual quota.

There are four schemes: Access 10, for 1 to 10 travelers, which costs $10 a month or $96 a year; Access 25, for 11 to 25 travelers (at $25 a month); Access 50, for 26 to 50 travelers ($50 a month); and Access 100, for 51 to 100 travelers ($100 month.)

Employees can make unlimited date or hour changes without any penalty.

“I am happy to confirm that business-to-business-travel subscriptions are now a reality, and we have worked with Avianca to create the world’s first airline subscription program aimed at small and medium enterprises,” said Inaki Uriz, CEO of Caravelo.

The company added it had not yet been publicly launched by the airline, but has been operational since November 2022.

A public launch is expected later this year.

Avianca is currently looking to merge with Viva Air.

Business Travel

Lyft Names Former Amazon Exec as Its New CEO

11 months ago

Ride-sharing firm Lyft has appointed David Risher, a former Amazon and Microsoft senior exec, as its new CEO.

Lyft’s co-founders Logan Green and John Zimmer are stepping down from their respective roles as CEO and president, and moving into non-executive roles, the company revealed on Tuesday.

Risher was employee number 37 at Amazon, and was the retailing giant’s first head of product and head of U.S. retail. He was also a general manager at Microsoft. He has been a member of Lyft’s board of directors since July 2021.

Lyft’s business division recently reported that managed bookings have grown 60 percent year-over-year, following the return of large events and conferences. For the 2022 fourth quarter it posted revenue of $1.2 billion, 21 percent up on the same quarter in 2021.

Ride-sharing and car-pooling are expected to increase this year after the pandemic all but wiped out the concept. Now as more companies look to cut carbon emissions, car-pooling is seen as effective way to travel more sustainably. Rival BlaBlaCar last month announced it was buying Klaxit to further expand.

“Logan and I were told we were crazy to think people would share a ride in another person’s car,” said Lyft’s Zimmer. “Over a decade later, Lyft is creating economic opportunity, building a sustainable future, and helping people make meaningful connections — with the support of millions of riders and drivers. I can’t wait for what’s next, and look forward to working with our deeply-capable successor, David, to improve people’s lives with the world’s best transportation.”

Meanwhile, Hertz’s chief financial officer effective Kenny Cheung is leaving the company. He will be replaced by chief accounting officer Alexandra Brooks on an interim basis, the company said on Tuesday.

Airlines

American Airlines Begins Layoffs in Corporate Travel Department

12 months ago

American Airlines’ restructuring of its global sales team will involve the departure of three experienced senior leaders, Skift has learned.

The reorganization impacts its U.S operations and includes a number of layoffs. Other global regions are set to follow, with the cuts coming just weeks ahead of its move to shift more of its airfares to direct retail channels, including its own website.

“… I want to let you know that we are going to be a more streamlined sales team going forward, doing much more focused and deliberate work in areas where customers need us, and operating with greater efficiency and effectiveness,” wrote Thomas Rajan, vice president of global sales, in an internal memo viewed by Skift.

According to the communication, three leaders will “transition out of their roles” due to the new structure. They are Michael Albers, interim managing director, central and southwest divisions and Canada; Louis de Joux, managing director, leisure and OTA; and Shane Hodges, managing director, sales Western division and Asia Pacific.

Jim Carter, the airline’s managing director of the Eastern Division, announced his retirement last week. In January this year, American Airlines announced chief customer officer Alison Taylor was retiring.

The memo said the airline would look at the “subsequent layers of the domestic sales organization to align with our new world of work and structure.”

Rajan wrote: “To be upfront with you, that will mean reductions across the team.” Regions including Asia Pacific, and Europe, Middle East and Africa, will also be affected.

“We’re continuously evaluating how best to serve our customers’ evolving preferences. For example, a big portion of them have shown us they want to interact directly with American. Others have needs to interact with us through intermediaries,” the memo, which was dated Feb. 16, added.

American Airlines told Skift that it emailed its corporate partners on Feb. 16,  announcing it was reorganizing its North American-based sales team “to give us the ability to more quickly adapt to this evolving marketplace. This structure also allows us to deliver simpler solutions to intermediaries as well as provide a heightened focus for our customers’ entire travel ecosystem.”

Its email added: “As a result of these changes, we’re also evaluating our account management structure and will have more information to share in the coming weeks. In the meantime, please continue to partner with your dedicated account manager.”

Business Travel

Blueground Buys Corp Housing Provider Travelers Haven to Expand In U.S.

1 year ago

Greek startup Blueground has bought corporate housing specialist Travelers Haven to grow its footprint across the U.S.

Denver-based Travelers Haven sources apartments on-demand through its software and a network of vendors, giving it access to up to 20,000 U.S. cities.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but Travelers Haven reported $100 million of revenue in 2022.

Blueground focuses on urban centers, with apartments in 11 cities in the U.S. and 19 cities internationally. It said the combined organization will employ 1,200 people, and is expected to reach over $600 million in revenue in 2023.

Traveler’s Haven currently employs 100 people. “Nobody will be laid off following the acquisition, and their day-to-day work will not change as a result as the two companies will continue to operate independently for the near future,” a spokesperson said.

This acquisition is also expected to add more clients to Blueground for Business, its corporate service division for human resource and travel managers.

Business Travel

Companies Boost Spending on Flex Offices and AI, Cut Back on Travel

1 year ago

Company spending on co-working spaces is on the up, while business travel is declining, according to corporate card and expense firm Ramp.

The clear winner is WeWork, but the report also pinpoints OpenAI, the maker of popular generative artificial intelligence (AI) chatbot ChatGPT, as another fast-growing budget winner.

The latest Spending Benchmarks report from Ramp, which has tracked patterns over the last quarter of 2022, covers $10 billion of aggregate annual spend across 13,000 of its customers.

Company travel and expense spend as a percentage of total transaction volume declined from October to December. The report also said in December that as a category, travel and expense, as well as lodging, both declined on the previous month — the first time they’ve done so in six months.

T and E spending
Ramp 2022 Q4 Spending Benchmarks

This could be due to companies tightening their belts due to economic uncertainty, but also because of mass layoffs in the tech sector.

Office spending jumped 5.7 percent in the last three months of the year, making it the fifth-fastest growing bucket of spend among top categories.

“The post-pandemic office is increasingly a co-working space,” said the report.

Spending with WeWork increased 90.7 percent in 2022, and consistently ranked as the second-largest office vendor throughout the year, behind Microsoft Store, it added.

Ramp Office spending
Ramp 2022 Q4 Spending Benchmarks

“Businesses aren’t hiring, but offices are still making a comeback as organizations look for ways to drive employee productivity,” the report said.

Artificial intelligence also rears its head. “We predict hiring will remain muted in tech-oriented industries that are focused on enhancing profitability metrics,” said the report. “It will pick up in labor-intensive industries that are addressing supply chain issues and demand. Spending with AI research companies like OpenAI will grow as companies invest in tools that can help lean teams achieve more.”

Spending on OpenAI rocketed in December, and it’s likely that steep trajectory will continue as more sectors begin experimenting in the technology.

Spending on AI
Ramp 2022 Q4 Spending Benchmarks

WeWork reports its fourth-quarter results on Thursday. 

Business Travel

Business Travel Poses Biggest Challenge Globally for Hoteliers — Survey

1 year ago

Hotels have mixed feelings about business travel in 2023.

On one hand the corporate travel and groups segment is the main area of focus for hotel revenue teams this year.

But rather than staffing issues, business travel also represents their biggest challenge, according to a new Outlook & Trends 2023 Survey from revenue management software company Duetto.

When hoteliers were asked how they planned to optimize business mix in 2023, the top responses were group business (59.5 percent) followed by corporate business (51.9 percent).

Channel management (48.1 percent), online travel agencies (38 percent), then tour operator, wholesale and fully independent travelers (30.4 percent) followed.

Business travel is returning this year, but Duetto believes the fact it’s unlikely to return 2019 levels weighs heavily. for example, only half of companies located in North America are seeing international bookings recover to their pre-pandemic levels according to the Global Business Travel Association.

When it comes to the challenges hotels face in 2023, business travel came top at 60.8 percent.

Staffing followed at 55.7 percent, ahead of increased costs, government restrictions, lead times and cancellations.

As expected, seeking out sales digitally is a priority when it comes to channel management efforts — but revenue execs could be focusing on the wrong channel if they want to boost their business travel bottom line.

Their top focus for channel management in 2023 are metasearch websites such as Google, TripAdvisor or Kayak. This came out highest at 75.9 percent.

Other areas including loyalty (57 percent); online agency (55.7 percent); “own website” (54.4 percent); and global distribution systems (53.2 percent). Yet it’s these global distribution systems that are commonly used by corporate travel agencies.

Duetto’s survey was carried out from Dec. 1, 2022, to Jan. 16, 2023.

Respondents worked in leisure hotels, business hotels, casino resorts and hostels. Geographically they came from North America (39.5 percent), Europe (21.1 percent), Latin America (21.1 percent), Asia Pacific (14.5 percent), and the Middle East & Africa (3.9 percent).

Business Travel

Convene Buys UK Conference Provider Etc.venues for Reported $250 Million

1 year ago

U.S.-based meeting, event and office provider Convene has bought etc.venues, which now expands its footprint in the UK.

Convene said the deal, announced on Wednesday, makes it the “largest provider of premium meeting and event venues in the U.S. and UK.”

Terms of the deal were not disclosed, but according to reports is worth $246 million.

The combined entity will now offer 38 locations across the two countries.

“Over the next few months, we will begin taking steps to fully integrate our operations but, for now, things will continue ‘business as usual’ for our clients with no immediate changes to existing events, programming, packages, pricing, nor operations – besides, of course, the fact that we are delighted to have nearly 40 venues available for bookings across the U.S. and UK,” the company said in the statement.

Meanwhile, events and hospitality technology provider Cvent is reportedly looking into selling, with the company valued at more than $4 billion according to reports.