Skift Travel News Blog

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


Middle East Tourism Surpassed Pre-Pandemic Levels Before Israel-Hamas War

3 months ago

The Middle East exceeded its pre-pandemic international tourist arrival numbers by over 20% through September this year, according to the UN World Tourism Organization’s latest data. That’s before the Israel-Hamas conflict started in early October.

UNWTO accredited the Middle East’s performance to new visa facilitation measures, the development of new destinations, new tourism-related projects and hosting large events.

Other regions are still making a recovery. Europe took up the biggest share of global tourism at 56%, having welcomed 550 million international tourists. The region hit 94% of its pre-pandemic level. Strong U.S. and intra-regional demand is driving the rebound.

Africa hit 92% of its pre-pandemic international tourism level. The Americas reached 88% thanks to strong U.S. demand for travel to the Caribbean.

Asia-Pacific reached 62% due to its slower reopening to international travel. There are large differences within the region: South Asia recovered to 95% while North-East Asia was only at about 50%.

International tourism overall recovered 87% of its pre-pandemic level in the first nine months of 2023. About 975 million tourists traveled internationally between January and September 2023, up 38% from the same period in 2022.

This year, international tourism spending is projected to $1.4 trillion in, 93% of its 2019 level.


European Commission Proposes Enhanced Traveler Rights

3 months ago

The European Commission has proposed revisions that would bolster traveler rights and protections.

Here are some highlights: 

  • Persons With Disabilities: If an airline requires they travel accompanied, the person accompanying them will fly with them free of charge.
  • Travel Package Prepayments: Travelers will pay a maximum of 25% of the price of travel packages booked up to 28 days before departure.
  • Refunds Through Vouchers: Travelers will get an automatic refund if they don’t use their vouchers before the end of their validity period and protection against travel company insolvency.

There isn’t an estimated timeline for the proposals to make it into law, if they are approved. But Europe has some of the world’s most extensive protections and rights for travelers, and the Commission has a strong track record in this area.


China Announces Visa-Free Entry for 6 Countries

3 months ago

In a strategic move to jumpstart its tourism sector, China has declared temporary exemption from visa requirements for citizens from France, Germany, Italy, the Netherlands, Spain and Malaysia.

Announcing this on Friday, the spokesperson of the Chinese foreign ministry, Mao Ning said the exemption period is set to last from December 1 to November 30, 2024.

Citizens from these six countries would be allowed to visit China for various purposes, including business, tourism, sightseeing, visiting relatives and friends, or transiting, for a period of up to 15 days without the need for a visa.

China’s recent initiatives to facilitate travel extend beyond this announcement. Just last week, the country broadened its visa-free transit policies to include 54 countries, with Norway as the latest addition. Foreign travelers transiting through China to visit a third country, can enjoy a six-day stay in specific Chinese cities without the hassle of obtaining a visa.

According to the National Immigration Administration, by the end of October, the number of foreigners visiting China had surged to 26.51 million.

China International Culture Association recently inked a three-year memorandum of understanding with online travel company Group to promote inbound tourism.

Part of this collaboration involves supporting the Nihao! China campaign, an initiative launched by the China International Culture Association. The campaign aims to cultivate and promote cultural exchanges.

In a bid to enhance the overall visitor experience, Group will also collaborate closely with Chinese cultural centers, tourism boards, and other organizations, working together to showcase the diverse and enriching tourism experiences that China has to offer. As China opens its doors, these collaborative efforts aim to position the country as a premier destination for global travelers.

Over the next three years, Group had said it plans to invest in platform technology, marketing and promotion, and product integration to accelerate the development of inbound tourism in China.


European Tourism Mostly Remains Well Below 2019 Levels: Fresh Data

4 months ago

About two-thirds of European destinations remain below their pre-pandemic number of international tourist arrivals, according to the European Travel Commission’s quarterly report released Tuesday. The report covered the first nine months of 2023.

The destinations most far off from 2019 levels were Estonia, Latvia, and Lithuania because of the Ukraine-Russia war. All three countries rely heavily on Russian tourists.

Overall, Europe is 3.2% off and 1.3% off from its 2019 international tourist arrivals and overnight stays, respectively.

Some destinations are seeing a strong comeback. One in three surpassed their 2019 international tourist numbers. Intra-European travel and American tourists have been the key drivers. The boom was most apparent in Southern and European destinations, notably Greece, Portugal, Turkey, Malta, Montenegro, and Serbia.

The European Travel Commission expects a full recovery in 2024 despite persistent inflation and geopolitical instability.


Europeans to Travel Slightly Less This Fall: Survey

4 months ago

European travelers plan to take fewer trips in the coming months, according to a survey of more than 5,000 travelers in September by the European Travel Commission.

About 68% of Europeans plan to travel between October 2023 and March 2024, down 3% from a year ago.

Around 45% of travelers have partially or fully booked their next trip.

While travelers plan to take fewer trips, they are reluctant to cut spending. About 71% of those surveyed plan to maintain or increase their usual travel budget in the coming months — despite inflationary pressures and economic troubles in several European countries.

Full survey results from the ETC, here


European Tourism Reached Decade High in First Half of 2023

6 months ago

In the first half of 2023, Europe experienced its highest number of tourist stays in the past decade, according to Eurostat, the European Union’s statistics agency. Europe recorded 1.19 billion night stays between January and June 2023, up by 0.9% and 12.9% from the same period in 2019 and 2022, respectively.

International tourism gave Europe a strong boost in the first half of 2023, according to Eurostat. International tourist night stays rose 22.5% from last year to 545 million. Domestic tourist night stays rose 5.8%.

All EU states experienced overnight stay increases compared to 2022, with the exception of Hungary, which experienced a slight decrease of 0.3% The countries that saw the biggest growth were Cyprus at 39.3%, Malta at 30.5% and Slovakia at 28.7%.

Compared to their 2019 levels, about half of EU member states have not fully recovered, according to Eurostat. Latvia was down the most at 23.8%, Slovakia at 16%, Hungry at 12.2% and Lithuania at 11.7%.


Europe Adopts Sustainable Aviation Fuel Mandates From 2025

6 months ago

The European Parliament on Wednesday approved the bloc’s sustainable aviation fuel mandates in the push to cut aviation emissions dramatically.

The mandates, which are part of the European Union’s Fit for 55 program to cut carbon emissions, require that 2% of all aviation fuel used in the bloc must be low-emission sustainable aviation fuel, or SAF, from 2025. SAF is typically defined as having at least half the lifecycle carbon emissions as standard fossil jet fuels. The sustainable fuel mandate steps up to 6% in 2030, 34% in 2040, and 70% by 2050.

Synthetic fuels, for example those derived from so-called green hydrogen, must make up 1.2% of SAF usage from 2030 and 35% by 2050.

“This is a tremendous step towards the decarbonization of aviation,” European Parliament representative José Ramón Bauzá Díaz said. “It is now time for EU governments to implement the new rules and support the industry to ensure the cost-effective deployment of sustainable aviation fuels across Europe.”

Finnair plane with sustainable aviation fuel

The mandates come amid growing calls from European airlines for financial support to achieve the SAF targets. Production of the low-emission fuels currently represent a fraction of a percent of global aviation fuel demand. Ramping up production can take years as would-be producers source feedstocks and secure the necessary approvals to open processing facilities.

“The EU should do what the United States is doing already [and] incentivize SAF,” KLM CEO Marjan Rintel told Airline Weekly in June.

The U.S., rather than mandate SAF usage, provided producers and distributors tax incentives for the fuels in 2022’s Inflation Reduction Law.

Many, however, believe that a combination of SAF incentives and mandates — the proverbial carrots and sticks — are necessary to both boost production of the fuels and bring costs down to near parity with fossil fuels. SAF typically costs several times more per gallon than conventional jet fuel.

The EU’s new mandates have been in the works for several years. The European Parliament first passed them last year but had to vote on a revised plan after tripartite negotiations with the European Commission and Council of the EU, similar to the reconciliation process between the U.S. House and Senate after they pass two different versions of the same bill.

Business Travel

Corporate Booking Platform CDS Groupe Acquires Germany’s Corporate Rates Club

6 months ago

CDS Groupe, a hotel booking platform for business travel, is expanding into the German market through an acquisition. 

The France-based company said this week that it has acquired Corporate Rates Club, the business travel segment of TourisMarketing Service GmbH. 

Terms of the deal were not disclosed. 

Corporate Rates Club will continue to operate independently with its full staff,  CDS Groupe said. The CRC tool is available through a customized online booking portal or through integrating its hotel offerings into a third-party online booking engine. 

The deal is part of what CDS Groupe says is a plan for international growth.

The company in 2022 acquired Rydoo Travel, an online booking tool, from Marlin Equity. 

The combined company said it completes about €800 million annually in hotel bookings on behalf of its clients, which include corporations and business travel agents. The acquisitions have also allowed the buyer to expand its portfolio of contracts with hotels. 

The company now has 300 employees in France, Italy, Poland, Germany and Croatia.

CDS Groupe was founded in 2001 and is managed by founding shareholder Ziad Minkara.


Americans Traveling Abroad Rose 20% in June

6 months ago

Over 10 million Americans traveled abroad in June, a 20% rise from the same period last year, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office’s latest data. June’s volume was 99% of its 2019 pre-pandemic level.

The second largest overseas market — Mexico was number one — for Americans traveling abroad in June was Europe at 2.7 million, up 19.3% from last year. Europe accounted for 26% of American trips abroad in June.

The number of International travelers to the U.S. rose 24% to 2.6 million from June last year. Compared to the pre-pandemic period, June international volume was at 79% of its 2019 level. The largest overseas tourist markets for the U.S. were the UK (276,000), India (172,400) and Germany (132,000).


IDEAS: British Tycoon to Launch Electric Plane Fleet in the UK

6 months ago

British company Ecojet plans to launch electric planes in the UK, featuring plant-based foods and no single-use plastics.

Dale Vince, founder of British green energy company Ecotricity, recently announced Ecojet’s plans to retrofit aircraft with hydro-electric power, pending approval from the UK’s aviation regulatory body, the Civil Aviation Authority.

The world’s first electric (and vegan) airline. Credit: Ecotricity

If approved, the 19-seat and 70-seat planes will launch in 2024, but the retrofitting will not begin until 2025. The decision to retrofit was a purposeful one, as the company claims repurposing planes will save 90,000 tons of carbon per year and added that the planes’ only waste will be water, which can be released at lower atmosphere.

The planes will begin flying between Southampton and Edinburgh, with the goal of expanding into mainland Europe soon after.

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