Skift Travel News Blog

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


IDEAS: Inuit Heritage Center to Drive Cultural Awareness in Canadian Arctic Destination

1 year ago

Danish architecture firm Dorte Mandrup has been announced as the winner of an international competition to design the Nunavut Intuit Heritage Centre in Nunavut, Canada.

Credit: MIR

The center, which is due to be completed in 2027, both blends into the tundra landscape and also offers functional protection from its arctic environment. It aims to provide a place for individuals to foster a deeper understanding and appreciation of Inuit culture and traditions through objects and interactive experiences.

We recently sat down with Geetika Argarwal, CEO & Founder of Vacation With An Artist, for the latest episode of the Skift Ideas Podcast, in which we discussed the value of integrating community led experiences within tourism. You can listen here.

Credit: Dorte Mandrup

Having worked with Architect of Record Guy Architects, LEES+Associates, Adjeleian Allen Rubeli, EXP, Pageau Morel, Altus Group, as well as indigenous consultants Kirt Ejesiak and Alexander Flaherty, Dorte Mandrup has developed a design that draws ‘inspiration from the patterns formed in snowdrifts by the prevailing wind, kalutoqaniq, which has long served as a natural wayfinding system for Inuit.’

Credit: MIR

The building will nestle seamlessly into the rocky hillside overlooking Iqaluit, with the roof set to be covered in rock and turf, blurring the lines between the building and the surrounding terrain.

Alongside the exhibition spaces, the center will also feature a café, workshop area, hostel, and offices, all linked to outdoor spaces that will provide opportunities for engaging in traditional practices, including carving, kayak building and tool making. 

Credit: Dorte-Mandrup

“The Nunavut Inuit Heritage Centre is an extraordinary project that we are very proud and humbled to have been selected to be part of. Working within this context requires both extreme sensitivity and consideration of landscape and its cultural significance. The community has been working tirelessly for a long time to establish a place for Inuit to collect precious heritage and share unique, specialized knowledge that remains imperative for future generations and is in severe risk of vanishing. We are looking very much forward to listen, learn, and be the link between thought and form,” says Founder and Creative Director, Dorte Mandrup.

At Skift, we are looking to unearth the most creative and forward-thinking innovations in travel through our Skift Ideas Franchise, which includes the Skift IDEA Awards, Skift Editorial Hub and the Skift Ideas Podcast.

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


WestJet Closes Sunwing Deal

1 year ago

Canada’s WestJet completed its purchase of Sunwing and Sunwing Vacations on Monday, part of WestJet’s larger strategic pivot towards leisure travelers.

Sunwing will continue to operate as independent airline for the foreseeable future, but could be integrated into WestJet or its budget subsidiary Swoop in the future. Sunwing Vacations is to become part of the WestJet’s Vacations Business.

“Investing further in leisure and sun flying across Canada is a critical driver for growth,” WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech said in a statement. “It brings me great pleasure to welcome Sunwing to the group … Together, we will strategically enhance our sun and leisure offerings to bring even more affordable and accessible travel opportunities to Canadians.”

A Sunwing plane in Santa Clara, Cuba

Speaking on the airline’s new strategy with Airline Weekly in April, Von Hoensbroech said: “We have decided that we need to refocus WestJet on those things that made WestJet successful in the first place. And this is everything that is centered around Western Canada, this is everything centered around leisure flying for all of Canada, for East and West, and it’s around being a low-cost brand and low-cost airline.”

Sunwing boosts WestJet’s presence on routes to leisure destinations in the Caribbean and Mexico from Canada’s big eastern cities — Montreal, Ottawa, and Toronto — according to Diio by Cirium schedules. These are markets where WestJet has retrenched during the past year as part of its pivot towards more flying in Western Canada.

In the second quarter, WestJet and Swoop together, and Sunwing each have a 22 percent share of airline seats between Canada and the Caribbean and Mexico, Diio data show. Canada’s largest carrier, Air Canada, has a 24 percent share. The merger will give WestJet a 44 percent share of this lucrative market.

The value of WestJet’s acquisition of Sunwing was not disclosed.


International Travel Volume to the U.S. Rose 93 Percent to Over 4 Million in January

1 year ago

Total inbound International visitation to the U.S. amounted 4.8 million in January, up 93 percent year over year and about 82 percent of January 2019’s volume, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office’s latest data. This was the twenty-second consecutive month that international visitor volume grew year over year.

Canada, Mexico, the UK, South Korea and Brazil were January’s top source markets and they accounted for around 70 percent of pre-pandemic January 2019’s visitor volume. Overseas volume, i.e. not from Canada and Mexico, amounted to 1.9 million, up 91 percent year over year.

Total outbound travel from the U.S. amounted to 6.4 million, up 60 percent year over year and representing 99 percent of pre-pandemic January 2019’s volume. Mexico and Canada combined made up 54 percent of U.S. visitor departures, while overseas made up 46 percent. Mexico was the top outbound market, followed by the Caribbean.


International Travel Volume to the U.S. Set to Rise 20 Percent to Over 62 Million in 2023

1 year ago

The U.S. will receive 62.8 million international visitors in 2023, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office. That’s a 21.2 percent rise from 51.8 million in 2022, but it’s still below its 2019 level of 79.4 million.

Next year, international visitor volume will be around its pre-pandemic level. The National Travel and Tourism Office forecasts it will hit 79.9 million in 2024, slightly up from its pre-pandemic 2019. Volume will surpass 2019 levels and be fully recovered with 82.4 million in 2025. By 2027, the total will reach 91 million.

At its current recovery pace, the Commerce Department will exceed its strategic goal to have 90 million international visitors by 2027. The National Travel and Tourism Office sits under the Commerce Department.

Inbound travel from the U.S.’s overseas markets, which excludes Canada and Mexico, will be 29.2 million in 2023, down from 40.4 million in 2019. Overseas volume won’t reach its pre-pandemic volume of 40.3 million until 2027.

The U.S.’s top inbound market recovery speeds will vary. Canada’s, the U.S.’s top inbound market in 2019, for example, won’t exceed its 2019 level of 20.7 million until 2025. India, in contrast, will exceed its 2019 volume next year with 1.5 million, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office.


Geopolitical and Economic Turmoil Is Reordering Where Travelers Go in 2023

2 years ago

A mix of international tensions, economic turmoil, and political tension is causing many travelers to rethink the destinations they’re prioritizing on their “bucket lists” in 2023, according to an article on Wednesday in Toronto’s The Globe and Mail.

The most obvious example is Russia, which many Western tourists have avoided since its 2022 invasion of Ukraine. Some reasons are practical. Foreign bank cards may not work locally, and flights into and out of the country are limited for residents in North America and Europe.

China continues to raise question marks in the minds of some travelers. The Globe and Mail quotes a frequent traveler who has visited 40 countries who had previously wanted to visit China but has been put off in the short-term by the country’s alarming policies. The arbitrary detention of two Canadian travelers soured China’s reputation among some Canadians.

Bruce Poon Tip, founder of tour company G Adventures, said customer demand has shrunk in the past few years for several destinations, including Iran, Myanmar, Turkey, and Sri Lanka.

Beirut, which had been a party city for many jetsetters, has lost its appeal because of Lebanon’s economic collapse.

But it’s not all bad news. Some countries are gaining interest from travelers. Canada’s appearance as a safe, stable destination may help it attract visitors. Colombia, Egypt, South Korea, and Costa Rica have also seen rising demand.

Click the link for the full article from The Globe and Mail.

A Shrinking Map for Tourists


WestJet’s Proposed Sunwing Deal Raises Competitive Concerns

2 years ago

Canada’s Competition Bureau has potentially thrown cold water on WestJet’s proposed purchase of leisure and tour competitor Sunwing Airlines.

In its report Wednesday, the regulator said the deal “would likely result in increased prices, less choice and decreases in service for Canadians.” It identified 31 routes between Canada and the Caribbean and Mexico where competition would likely decrease as a result of the merger.

WestJet responded Wednesday by thanking the Competition Bureau for the report, and emphasizing the fact that it is only “advisory and non-binding.”

“We look forward to bringing this transaction to life for the benefit of Canadian travelers, communities and employees,” the Calgary-based airline said.

Canada’s Minister of Transport, Omar Alghabra, will issue a final decision on the deal.

Two Sunwing aircraft at the Guatemala City airport
(Roberto Zuñiga/Flickr)

WestJet has said that, if the deal is approved, it would keep the Sunwing brand while merging Sunwing Vacations and WestJet Vacations into a new vacation division. And since announcing the transaction in March, WestJet has unveiled plans to shrink in eastern Canada — where Sunwing is strongest — and focus its own operations in western Canada.

WestJet hopes to close the purchase of Sunwing by next spring.

Read the Competition Bureau Report


Canada’s Travel Bans Were Ineffective at Stopping Covid — Study

2 years ago

A review into Canada’s strict travel restrictions imposed during the pandemic has claimed they did little to prevent the spread of the Covid-19 virus.

The report, called Evaluating Canada’s Pandemic Border and Travel Policies: Lessons Learned, was written by four Canadian doctors specializing in infectious diseases and pandemic management, and was published just days before the country said it would lift all entry restrictions from Oct. 1.

It said that mandatory arrival and departure testing, quarantines, travel advisories, and other border restrictions did not materially reduce the spread of variants of concern across Canada.

The report echoes a review carried out in July into the UK’s “traffic light” system of travel restrictions, on which the government spent $585 million. The UK government, ultimately, did not know whether the system worked or whether the cost was worth the disruption caused, according to the Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons.

However, it’s worth noting that this latest study may be self-serving; it was commissioned by the Tourism Industry Association of Canada in partnership with the Canadian Travel and Tourism Roundtable.

However, they argue that with the benefit of hindsight — namely more than two years of analysis — there was no scientific basis to apply stricter health measures to travel and tourism than to other industries.

“Enough time has passed for us to make a scientific assessment as to whether the travel restrictions introduced by the federal government were successful in containing the spread of the virus and its variants,” said Dr. Zain Chagla, Infectious Diseases Physician and Associate Professor at McMaster University.

“At best, travel restrictions are estimated to delay the impact of a variant of concern by a few days,” the report stated.

It also found there was no convincing evidence that pre-departure and on-arrival testing and surveillance had a significant impact on local transmission in Canadian communities.

Alternative measures, such as community wastewater testing, were also deemed to be more accessible surveillance mechanisms to identify variants without inconveniencing travelers and requiring significant government and industry resources.


Canada to Lift Last Covid, Mask Restrictions

2 years ago

Canada will end all entry restrictions on October 1, with major national airlines Air Canada and WestJet welcoming the change.

Gone are requirements that certain travelers provide proof of vaccination, undergo pre- or post-arrival testing, or quarantine or isolate after arrival, the Canadian government said on Monday. Fully vaccinated travelers have not been subject to most of these rules since March 1. The country also lifted mask requirements for planes and trains.

Toronto CN Tower Skyline
(Can Pac Swire/Flickr)

“Air Canada welcomes the removal of these restrictions,” Air Canada Chief Operating Officer Craig Landry said. “We believe it will greatly facilitate travel, help to continue stabilizing the country’s air transport sector and support Canada’s economy.”

WestJet CEO Alexis von Hoensbroech echoed Landry’s comments in a separate statement, adding that the “announcement aligns with the travel policies of other major nations.”

International airline seats to Canada is down 19 percent compared to 2019 in September, according to Diio by Cirium schedules. For comparison, international seats to the U.S. — where travel restrictions were eased months ago — are down just 15 percent.


Taiwan to Resume Visa-Free Entry for Canada, U.S. and Allies from Next Week

2 years ago

Taiwan will be reinstating visa-free entry for visitors from U.S., Canada, New Zealand, Australia, Europe and its “diplomatic allies,” from September 12.

However, visitors would still need to quarantine at home for three days and would need to get tested on arrival. The current cap of 50,000 inbound passengers per week would also remain in place. The prevention measures issued by the Taiwan government also includes four days of self-health monitoring for inbound arrivals.

Taiwan plans to extend the visa exemption to more countries. Inbound group tours are still not allowed in the country.

In June, Taiwan shortened the duration of home isolation to three days from seven days, while increasing the cap on inbound arrivals to 25,000 per week. From August 15 onwards, the country lifted its requirement for a pre-arrival polymerase chain reaction test from inbound arrivals. 

Monday’s announcement of the resumption of visa-free free entry by Taiwan’s Central Epidemic Command Center signals the country’s efforts to relax restrictions put in place during Covid while keeping pace with reopening mesaures of Asian destinations.

The center highlighted the need to balance disease prevention efforts and promotion of economic and social activities.

The decision has been made after a comprehensive assessment and in light of the fact that most countries in the world have opened their borders, Victor Wang, head of the Central Epidemic Command Center, said during a press conference on Monday afternoon.

“Border control measures and epidemic prevention measures would be adjusted in a rolling manner depending on the changes in the epidemic situation,” the Taiwan government noted in a statement.

Even as Taiwan has been slowly relaxing restrictions for inbound arrivals, escalating differences with China has had a bearing on its tourism industry.

Sparked by U.S. House of Representatives Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taiwan last month, China, in its biggest-ever military drills in the Taiwan Strait, had deployed scores of planes and fired live missiles near Taiwan.

Some airlines had cancelled flights to Taipei and rerouted others using nearby airspace that had been closed to civilian traffic during these military exercises. While the airspace involved had been comparatively small, but the disruption had hampered travel between Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia.

An earlier Skift story had also highlighted that the Taiwan tensions could drive up travel costs significantly.