Skift Travel News Blog

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


Asia Pacific Travel Search Volume Rose Over 50 Percent in Fourth Quarter, Expedia Says

1 month ago

Travel search volume in the Asia Pacific region rose over 50 percent year over year in the fourth quarter last year, according to Expedia Group. The region’s strong performance led global travel search volume, which rose by 10 percent year over year.

Asia Pacific’s search volume boost in the fourth quarter was likely driven by China, Japan, South Korea and other countries in the region relaxing restrictions, according to Expedia. China relaxed its Covid-19 restrictions in December. For three years, China was absent from the global tourism economy.

Longer booking windows were also more popular in the Asia-Pacific in the fourth quarter. Booking windows of 61-to 90-day windows grew by 30 percent quarter over quarter. Booking windows of 31-to-60 day windows grew by 25 percent quarter over quarter.

Asia Pacific travelers also stayed at destinations longer. Average length of stay increased by nearly 5 percent year over year. For the month of December alone, Asia Pacific traveler stays rose nearly 30 percent year over year.

Travel Technology

AI Firm Buys Legacy Hong Kong Travel Agency in More Signs of Life for China Travel

2 months ago

Abel Zhao, co-founder & CEO of FreeD Group, a technology innovator that specializes in proprietary enterprise application solutions, has acquired 75-year-old Connexus Travel from the parent company of Cathay Pacific, Swire Group. Financial details of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Founded in 2015, FreeD Group is a travel technology startup offering proprietary SaaS solutions for sales and marketing. The company uses AI [artificial intelligence], big data and machine learning technologies to deliver end-to-end digital solutions connecting platforms, brands and service providers.

“We see tremendous growth potential for Connexus because of its long history of excellent services and the synergies that will be generated between Connexus and FreedD,” said Zhao in the press release. “The positive outcomes we envisage include business opportunities spanning travel services, e-commerce, marketing services and brand loyalty programs, all of which will be underpinned by a comprehensive range of digitalized services and solutions. Ultimately, we anticipate Connexus Travel to follow in the footsteps of FreeD Group and transform into a global brand.”

Headquartered in Hong Kong, FreeD has over 250 professionals from 22 different regions across the globe and operates in more than 10 markets globally. FreeD clients and partners include major names such as Google, BMW, FIFA World Cup, Samsung, China Mobile and LG.

The startup raised a $15 million Series B in June 2022, led by Daiwa ACA APAC Growth Fund and ACA Partners Pte. Ltd. Investors also included Hong Kong property developer Chinachem Group, Hong Kong Science & Technology Parks’ Corporate Venture Capital Fund, Radiant Tech Ventures and startup accelerator SOSV’s Select Fund.

The acquisition of Connexus Travel follows the startup’s strategy for targeting expansion in Seoul and Shanghai. Established in 1948, Connexus Travel was to first travel management company (TMC) to be registered in Hong Kong, offering services from hotel and travel packages to ticket bookings and visa applications for both domestic and foreign tourists. The company has offices in Beijing and Shanghai and obtained a local licence in Beijing in 2009. After 70 years of operation, Connexus Travel has become a trusted name for corporate, leisure and MICE travel.

“We will leverage our position as a market leader and the development plans with FreeD to expand our services not only in Hong Kong and China, but also to the markets where FreeD currently operates,” said Eric Lau, general manager of Connexus Travel.

The startup also plans to expand its digital solutions to reach the Americas, Europe and the Middle East.


China’s Fosun Looks to Club Med Resorts Recovery After Profit Warning

2 months ago

Chinese conglomerate Fosun International is hoping its vacation business segment will pull it out of a slump.

Fosun, which owns the Club Med chain of resorts and the Thomas Cook brand, issued a warning on Jan. 20, saying profit for the year ended Dec 31, 2022 is expected to decrease by 80 percent compared to the year before.

It also revealed revenue was expected to climb 10 percent on the prior year in the preliminary assessment. It will likely publish the results in March.

Fosun blamed the “recurrent outbreak of Covid-19 pandemic in 2022 and the turmoil and downturn of the international capital markets, resulting in high business costs and an increase in floating losses in secondary capital market investment.”

However on Monday the company said its domestic Club Med resorts were mostly exceeding pre-pandemic levels, with occupancy in some properties fully occupied. It attributed the recovery to easing of restrictions, and demand for travel due to the Spring festival.

From Jan. 21-27, average occupancy rate at Club Med Lijiang for six nights was 95 percent, and the average occupancy Club Med Guilin 90 percent. Club Med Joyview Anji and Club Med Joyview Qiandao Lake also topped 95 percent. Average occupancy rate of its ski resorts in Beidahu, Yabuli and Changbaishan was 85 percent.

During the New Year vacation, South China Sea resort Atlantis Sanya saw average occupancy rate reach 97.4 percent, with “business volume” exceeding pre-pandemic levels.

“In 2023, I believe that the family-oriented consumer sector that Fosun is engaged in will gradually see an increase in demand, and our offline retail and tourism businesses will be among the first to snap back,” said Guo Guangchang, chairman of Fosun International.

A Fosun-led consortium bought Club Med in 2015 for about $968 million. It recently played down reports it was looking to sell it to reduce debts.

Earlier this month it sold off stakes in four industrial companies for almost $1 billion.

Fosun is also doubling down in Europe with its Cook’s Club lifestyle hotel brand. It is opening a property in Rhodes, Greece, in May, marking its 10th hotel. It opened two earlier this year.

The Hong Kong-listed company acquired the Thomas Cook brand in November 2019.

Fosun’s tourism business sits in its “Happiness” segment of companies.


Airplane Wastewater Study Reveals UK Travel Restrictions Didn’t Halt Covid Spread

2 months ago

A laboratory study has cast doubt on the effectiveness of the UK’s travel restrictions last year.

Scientists at Bangor University in Wales tested wastewater on planes to monitor coronavirus infections and the general health of passengers coming into the UK from other countries.

Almost all aircraft arriving at the three monitored UK airports (Heathrow, Edinburgh and Bristol) between March 8 and March 31, 2022 had the virus in their wastewater, according to the study, published in medical journal PLOS Global Public Health.

“Despite all the intervention measures that the UK had in place to try to stop people with the illness getting on flights to the UK, almost every single plane we tested contained the virus, and most of the terminal sewers, too,” said professor David Jones of Bangor University’s School of Natural Sciences, reported Lab Manager.

“That might have been because people developed symptoms after testing negative, or were evading the system, or for some other reason. But it showed that there was essentially a failure of border control in terms of Covid surveillance.”

Wastewater sampling has been cited as a better method to monitor travelers coming from China, rather than requiring negative pre-departure Covid tests. Airports Council International Europe has argued this can shift the focus to genomic sequencing to identify new variants.

The British government spent around $585 million on implementing a traffic light system as part of its wider response to manage travel during the Covid-19 pandemic, but a Public Accounts Committee of the House of Commons review in July last year found that it was unable to tell if it worked, or whether the cost was worth the disruption caused.

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

Bangor University helped track the spread of Covid in early 2020 by testing wastewater in major cities. Scientists at the university hope wastewater sampling will extend beyond coronavirus, allowing the UK government to establish an “infectious disease transmission surveillance network” for any future viruses, Lab Manager also reported.


Rail Journeys Surge Past 100 Million Trips During China’s Spring Festival Build-Up

2 months ago

Chinese tourists have flocked to train stations over the past two weeks, with 109.5 million journeys made between Jan. 7 and Jan. 21 in the build-up to Lunar New Year celebrations, which took pace on Jan. 22.

That figure is a 27.3 percent increase on trips made during the same 15 days in 2022, local media reported, citing data from national railway operator China State Railway Group.

The increase is attributed to the sudden easing of Covid-related travel restrictions.

The total number of passenger trips for the 40-day Spring Festival travel rush is expected to reach 2.1 billion, which is twice as much as last year, or 70 percent of 2019, the report added.

The modernization of the country’s train stations also played a role, Global Times reported, with the number of stations carrying out online food delivery services increasing from 55 to 76.


Europe, Middle East to Reach Pre-Pandemic Tourism Levels in 2023: UNWTO

2 months ago

Both the Middle East and Europe are on track to reach their pre-pandemic levels in 2023 , according to the UN World Tourism Organization. Last year saw a stronger than expected recovery for the global tourism economy.

In 2022, more than 900 million tourists traveled internationally, double from 2021 but 63 percent of 2019 levels. International tourism receipts rose across most destinations. The UN World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) cited increases in average spending per trip due to longer stays, traveler willingness to spend more at destinations and higher travel costs due to inflation.

International tourists arrivals could reach between 80 to 95 percent of pre-pandemic levels in 2023. The potential economic slowdown, the Ukraine war, Asia Pacific’s recovery timeline and other factors will play a role in how quickly international travel returns to its pre-pandemic level.

The Middle East had the best comeback of all the regions last year. The region reached 83 percent of its pre-pandemic level. Europe reached around 80 percent. Africa and the Americas received around 63 percent of their pre-pandemic level. 

Asia Pacific had a rough year. The region reached only 23 percent of its pre-pandemic volume due to stronger pandemic restrictions, according to UNWTO. China’s zero-Covid policy was a big driver. For most of 2022,  the policy effectively shut China out of the global tourism economy. 

Tourism leaders have repeatedly said China’s absence has dragged the global recovery. “We look at Greater China, the zero Covid policy has continued to dampen recovery in a meaningful way,” said Marriott International CEO Anthony Capuano at World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit.

With China now relaxing its policy, Asia Pacific and the world have made a significant step toward recovery. UNWTO said the availability and cost of air travel, visa regulations and COVID-19 related restrictions will shape how the recovery will play out.  At least 32 destinations have imposed travel restrictions on Chinese tourists. The U.S., for example, requires Chinese tourists to test negative for Covid no more than two days before departure.

Travel demand from the U.S., however, will continue to be strong in 2023 thanks to the strength of the American dollar, according to UNWTO. Europe in particular will enjoy strong travel flows because of the euro’s relative weakness compared to the dollar.


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

3 months 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.


Hong Kong Eases Testing for Inbound Arrivals

4 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.


Beijing’s International Airports Remove Negative Covid Test Requirements — Reports

4 months ago

Beijing Capital International Airport will no longer require proof of a negative Covid result for entry into its terminals, Reuters has reported, quoting Beijing News, a newspaper owned by the Chinese Communist Party.

However, it is unclear if passengers need to show negative tests prior to boarding.

The relaxed rules come as the government steps down other restrictions, including parks, supermarkets and offices. The city’s other airport, Beijing Daxing International Airport, has also reportedly lifted its negative test requirement. At the end of November Beijing shut parks, malls and museums due to a spike in Covid cases.

This latest easing follows a series of protests against the state’s “zero Covid” policy.

Beijing Capital International Airport, the country’s largest, used to be one of the world’s top 10 busiest airports, and is a hub for Air China, China Eastern Airlines and Hainan Airlines.

It handled more than 100 million passengers in 2019, and was the second busiest airport in the world, according to the Airports Council International. In 2020 it handled 35 million passengers, while in 2022 did not make the top 10 ranking.

Online Travel Jumps on Buy Now Pay Later Bandwagon

5 months ago

China’s has struck two new partnerships, covering the UK and Asia Pacific, to give customers the opportunity to delay or spread out payments for their purchases.

In Asia has joined forces with Atome, while in the UK it will use Klarna. bookers in the UK will see Klarna as an additional payment option when they arrive at check-out, where they’ll be able to choose one of three payment options: pay the full amount immediately, pay the full amount within 30 days, or pay in three installments over 60 days.’s Atome partnership will first only be available in Singapore, before other Asia Pacific regions in 2023.

In the face of a squeezed household budgets, buy now pay later schemes are becoming more popular. They tend to be common when buying bigger ticket items, like a vacation, but even food delivery platforms are looking to split payments for customers.

Klarna claims its short-term, interest and fee and fee free credit products deliver positive outcomes for consumers, with extremely low default rates of “well below 1 percent”.

“Klarna assesses a consumer’s ability to repay on each purchase, taking a real time view of someone’s financial circumstances which means using Klarna is never guaranteed,” it said.The company restricts the use of its services if consumers miss a payment to prevent debt building up. offers 1.2 million hotels and flights from 480 airlines.




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