Skift Travel News Blog

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

Airlines

JetBlue Names Paris as Second European Destination

3 weeks ago

JetBlue Airways will land on the European continent next summer with new flights to Paris.

The New York-based carrier will first connect its New York JFK base to Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport, with additional nonstop flights from Boston planned in the future. The addition of the City of Lights to JetBlue’s map will come two years after it entered the transatlantic market with service to London in August 2021.

As with JetBlue’s entrance on the crowded New York-London route, the airline hopes to similarly disrupt the New York-Paris market by offering a more affordable premium option with its lie-flat Mint business class product. But Paris is different than London, La Compagnie already offers a more affordable premium product between Newark and Paris Orly; an option that was not available in the New York-London market. JetBlue also faces competition from Air France, American Airlines, Delta Air Lines, French Bee, and United Airlines, Diio by Cirium schedule data show.

“So far, it has been fantastic,” JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty said of the airline’s London flights at the Skift Global Forum in September. “Load factors have been through the roof, and I’d say it’s pretty tough to get a Mint seat flying across the pond.”

Competition won’t be JetBlue’s only challenge on its new Paris route. Production issues at planemaker Airbus have delayed the delivery of new A321LR aircraft that the airline needs for its transatlantic routes. The situation forced JetBlue to fly less optimized aircraft on select London flights this summer and fall.

Travel Technology

Spanish Hotel Software Startup Amenitiz Acquires French Business Training Tool

1 month ago

Six months after raising $30 million, a startup offering operations management software to small hotels has made its first acquisition. 

Barcelona-based Amenitiz said this week that it has acquired Ododo, a French company that offers online hotel training. 

The Amenitiz platform contains several features, including data transfer to online resellers, online booking, automation of daily tasks like payments and invoicing, and online marketing. 

The Ododo training service focuses on helping hoteliers learn how to increase bookings and become more profitable. 

Amenitiz clients will now be able to access the Ododo training for free, the company said. Especially during a tight labor market, Amenitiz said that providing the training tool is the next step in further supporting independent hoteliers

Marc-Antoine de la Rüe du Can, the founder of Ododo, will join Amenitiz as head of content. 

Following the acquisition, Amenitiz is launching The Hotel Club, a multilingual training platform through which any hotelier can access free training courses.  

In addition, Amenitiz plans to host in-person events regularly throughout Europe, with the goal of helping hoteliers expand their networks.

Amenitizp completed a Series A round of fundraising in April. The startup is part of a wave of companies offering cloud-based software to help small hotel companies sell online. Some others include Cloudbeds, Hotelrunner, Clock, Yanolja’s Ezee, SiteMinder, and Oracle Hospitality’s Opera Cloud.

Amenitiz said there are 700,000 hotels, bed and breakfasts, and vacation rentals in Europe, 80 percent of which fall under the company’s target clientele of independent properties with 50 rooms or fewer. 

Travel Technology

Faroe Islands’ National Gallery Becomes the First to Launch Artificial Intelligence Exhibit

2 months ago

The National Gallery of the Faroe Islands launched an exhibition this week containing 40 images of the archipelago developed by artificial intelligence program Midjourney, becoming the first national gallery to feature a fully produced show created by artificial intelligence. 

The exhibit, which runs from September 29 through October 30, reveals how prominent artists — such as Vincent Van Gogh, Claude Monet and Pablo Picasso — might have depicted the landscape of the remote archipelago in the North Atlantic. Visitors to the national gallery will also have the opportunity to create their own images of the Faroe Islands using Midjourney.

“When I first heard of (artificial intelligence) and Midjourney and how it is possible to create new pictures just like individual artists might have done, it immediately intrigued me,” said Karina Lykke Grand, director of the National Gallery of the Faroe Islands.

“It was fascinating to see how by giving prompts, the system can get an idea of how an artist such as Van Gogh or Picasso might have painted the Faroe Islands.”

The exhibit exploring the Faroe Islands through the eyes of prominent artists (Courtesy Visit Faroe Islands)

Tourism

U.S. Travelers Plan to Nearly Double Number of Overseas Vacations Vs. 2019

2 months ago

A new survey has found that “affluent” Americans are planning to take nearly twice as many international trips in the next 12 months, compared to before the pandemic. Some demographics are also ready to spend twice as much too.

The 2,000 respondents in a poll, called Portrait of American International Travelers and published by marketing agency MMGY, clearly feel their dollar will take them a lot further for their next trip.

The survey, the third annual national poll of its kind, looked at the travel behaviors, spending habits, preferences and motivators of the respondents, and was carried out in July 2022. However, since then the dollar has considerably strengthened against the euro and sterling.

MMGY describes “affluent” travelers as those coming from an annual household income of $100,000, and as someone who had taken at least one vacation outside of North America during the past three years, and who plans to take at least one vacation outside of North America during the next 12 months.

Those U.S. travelers now plan to take an average of 3.8 international vacations in the next 12 months, up 72 percent from 2.2 in 2019.

While overall interest in foreign travel is up, the number of destinations U.S. travelers want to visit is down compared to 2019.

Europe, the South Pacific, the Caribbean and Canada are among the top destinations cited by U.S. travelers as places they want to visit. As expected, the study noted an overall increase in interest in visiting less-crowded destinations, and those that offer a range of outdoor activities.

As well as the number of trips, the study found boomers were ready to splash out twice as much on each trip ($7,725 vs. $3,564). But millennials seem to have a little more stamina, and plan to go on more international trips than boomers, at 5.7 vs. 1.5, over the next 12 months.

On an average basis, the American travelers anticipate spending a total of $15,364 on international trips in the coming year — a 16 percent increase on pre-pandemic spending predictions.

“It’s clear that there is a willingness and growing appetite to travel internationally, but the important thing for marketers to note is that the American traveler looks and acts quite differently than they did before Covid-19,” said Cees Bosselaar, MMGY Travel Intelligence Europe managing director.

Respondents were selected randomly, and the sample was weighted based on age, gender, ethnicity, household income, geography and education to ensure the data is representative of American high-income households, MMGY said.

The study was also carried out with the United States Tour Operators Association.

Short-Term Rentals

Awaze Put Up For Sale at $2 Billion by Private Equity Owner Platinum — Report

2 months ago

The owner of European vacation-rentals business Awaze is looking for a sale, according to a media report.

U.S. private equity firm Platinum Equity created Awaze after buying a selection of rental businesses from Wyndham Worldwide in 2018. The deal was worth $1.3 billion, and its collection at the time included Novasol, Cottages.com, James Villa Holidays and Landal GreenParks.

Now Sky News has reported that Platinum Equity has appointed Goldman Sachs and Morgan Stanley to oversee a strategic review of Awaze — with a price tag of up to $2.14 billion. A sale is being sought within the next 12 months. However, in June another report suggested a sale could take place by the end of this year.

Awaze itself has been buying up other players. In 2021 it bought Bornholmtours, Amberley House and Portscatho Holidays, Quality Cottages and Quality Unearthed.

Awaze CEO Henrik Kjellberg said bookings were “holding up well over winter both in terms of volume and price,” in a Financial Times report on Monday. “Even in the event of a recession, I expect the travel industry will still perform well”.

With Airbnb among the potential suitors for the Wyndham rental brands back in 2017, could it now return to the table as the short-term rental market recovers afters the pandemic?

Business Travel

Former Kayak Exec Jan Valentin Joins Rail Tech Startup Seatfrog

3 months ago

Former Kayak Europe leader and now travel investor Jan Valentin has joined Seatfrog‘s board of directors, as the rail startup looks to move on from the pandemic by tapping into the trend for more sustainable travel.

The app, which lets train travelers upgrade their ticket at a reduced rate on the original cost by bidding, was named a Skift Top Travel Startup to Watch in 2019. Then the pandemic hit, and it lost 97 percent of its revenue.

Now the company wants to put coronavirus behind it with the appointment of Valentin, who used to be Kayak’s managing director and senior vice president in Europe. Valentin also runs ennea capital partners, which in 2020 merged with Howzat Partners to create a new $100 million fund to invest in travel startups and other digital businesses.

Howzat also invested in Seatfrog’s $1.2 million seed round, but Skift understands no extra investment accompanied Valentin’s appointment to the board.

Valentin is also a backer of Comtravo, the German corporate travel agency that was recently bought by TripActions.

Seatfrog said in a statement Valentin joins at a perfect time to support the company’s mission to reimagine the rail experience in a category that has been “trundling along without meaningful innovation for decades.”

“Governments are spending $400 billion plus in Europe to drive modal shift to more sustainable train travel, but it remains a massively under-digitized category, and the customer experience is a mess,” he said.

Seatfrog said it had recorded 1,400 percent growth so far this year, and is expanding internationally.

“We’ve delighted millions of passengers, and driven large revenue uplifts for rail companies well beyond the capabilities of the category’s legacy systems,” added Iain Griffin, CEO and co-founder of Seatfrog.

Tourism

UK Tops European Hotspot List for U.S. Travelers

3 months ago

American tourists are flocking to the UK over other European destinations, new data shows.

Post-Covid pent-up demand has collided with the strong dollar, according to the latest figures from travel agency Trip.com, with a 678 percent surge in searches for U.S. to UK flights in the first six months of 2022, compared to the same period last year.

Overall, its inbound transatlantic booking data showed actual bookings from the U.S. to Europe increased 246 percent.

Booking values are up by 37 percent.

Spain came a close second regarding consumer interest, with a 614 percent increase in flight searches from the U.S., followed by Italy (577 percent) and France (491 percent.)

Trip.com’s Americas chief said travelers appeared to be taking advantage of the weaker European currency.

“We believe the increased value of the strong U.S. dollar versus the weaker euro and fall in the value of Pound Sterling means that US travelers have so much more buying power in Europe, which has helped to mark the continent’s return once more as a major destination for the U.S. market,” said Rich Sun, Trip.com Group’s general manager for the Americas.

The difference in value translates to a 10-15 percent discount, compared to the same time last year.

Online Travel

Lastminute.com Group Names Interim CEO to Replace 2 Execs Detained by Swiss Authorities

4 months ago

Lastminute.com Group announced Monday that the board appointed Laura Amoretti as interim CEO, effective immediately, and stripped CEO Fabio Cannavale and Chief Operating Officer Andrea Bertoli of all duties at the company for three months because of the Swiss fraud investigation.

Cannavale and Bertoli have been detained by Swiss authorities over allegations that the Amsterdam-based online travel company misused Swiss-provided Covid-relief aid.

The board announced it will launch a search for a permanent CEO.

Amoretti has served as the Group’s chief customer officer since 2019.

Board chairman Laurent Foata said in a statement: “Laura is a very committed and dynamic leader with vision, energy and substantial relevant experience with our group. Her contribution will be especially precious at this juncture. We look forward to engaging closely with Laura in her new role as she will lead our business forward in this stage of our journey towards profitable growth in the field of travel.”

Airlines

Bankrupt Airline SAS and Pilots Reach Deal Ending Two-Week Strike

5 months ago

Scandinavian airline SAS and its pilot unions reached a deal late on Monday that ended a 15-day strike.

The multi-year accord includes needed cost savings and productivity improvements for the airline, SAS said. And pilots received a commitment from the carrier to rehire 450 furloughed crew members, as well as SAS’s backing of a $97 million (1 billion Swedish kroner) unsecured claim by the unions in its Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding.

But the strike came at a cost for SAS. The airline was forced to file for bankruptcy in the U.S. the day after crews walked out on July 4; a process that is expected to take up to a year to complete and does not come with the guarantee of success for SAS. In addition, the airline cancelled roughly 3,700 flights over the 15-day industrial action that cost it at least $145 million.

SAS Airbus A320 landing at London Heathrow
(Matt Kieffer/Flickr)

“With these agreements in place, the pilots are doing their part in this difficult situation,” SAS CEO Anko van der Werff said in a statement. “We now get on with the important work of progressing our transformation plan SAS Forward and building a strong and competitive SAS for generations to come … The strike has been a tough situation for our customers, for our employees, and for our company as a whole.”

Despite the agreement, SAS had cancelled 99 flights — or 32 percent of its schedule — as of 10:00 a.m. in Europe on Tuesday, according to flight tracking website FlightAware. The airline warned travelers that flight disruptions are expected to “continue during the following days” as it returns to normal operations.

Hotels

Strong U.S. Dollar Prompts American Visitors to Europe to Splurge

5 months ago

American tourists to Europe have more buying power than usual, which means that the dollar can buy 15 percent more than a year ago. Visitors are spending on everything from wine to handbags. Here are some interesting statistics from The Wall Street Journal on Monday:

“Overall, travelers from the U.S. spent 56% more money in Europe in June than they did during the same period in 2019, according to VAT refund provider Planet. Richemont, which owns Cartier and watchmaker Vacheron Constantin, reported 42% higher sales in Europe in the quarter that ended June 30.”

WSJ

The U.S. dollar’s value relative to the euro is the strongest it has been since 2002, the WSJ reported. The move by the U.S. central bank to boost interest rates has attracted some international investors, distorting currency markets.

The flip side is, of course, that the U.S. has become more expensive to most international visitors, holding back the recovery of tourism spending. The New York Times has a helpful infographic on which currencies are held back the most.

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