Skift Travel News Blog

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

Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb Increases Efforts to Boost Short-Term Rentals in Multifamily Buildings

2 months ago

Building on initiatives that had mixed results in the past, Airbnb is debuting an Airbnb-Friendly Apartments program to enable long-term renters in multifamily buildings where landlords permit it to list their rooms or apartments on Airbnb.

Sentral Wynwood in Miami participated in Airbnb’s new Airbnb-Friendly Apartments Program. Source: Airbnb

For both guests and hosts, one of the things the program aims to do is avoid the all-too-frequent situation where guests have to pretend they are part of the host’s visiting family or a close friend because the building doesn’t allow Airbnb rentals.

The newest incarnation of the program enables long-term renters to browse for multifamily buildings that allow Airbnb short-term rentals, get in touch with the management of the building, and, like other first-time hosts, get access to experienced hosts to help with starting out on Airbnb and listing their apartments.

“Renters interested in hosting a spare room, or their entire apartment when they’re out of town, can browse more than 175 Airbnb-friendly apartment buildings, subject to availability, in 25+ markets across the U.S., including Houston, Phoenix, and Jacksonville,” Airbnb stated as part of the announcement.

The company added that renters participating in this multifamily building program over three months hosted an average of nine nights per month and earned an average of $900 net of Airbnb and landlord fees.

Airbnb has had issues with some of these sorts of arrangements in the past. Several years ago, for example, Airbnb enabled a Miami-area developer, Niido, to use the Airbnb brand and enable tenants to host short-term rental guests, but other tenants felt blindsided by the arrangement, and Airbnb eventually sued the developer.

Short-Term Rentals

Short-Term Rental Firm RedAwning Bought Channel Manager Lexicon Travel Technologies

2 months ago

California-based RedAwning announced it acquired channel manager Lexicon Travel Technologies. Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

redawning vacation rentals
A vacation rental in the RedAwning portfolio. Source: RedAwning

Channel managers have tech systems to assist accommodations in distributing their properties to websites such as Airbnb, Vrbo and Booking, and sometimes to global distribution systems, among other outlets.

“After we made the decision to sell our business, we looked for a company that would create true synergies with our existing value proposition,” said Joel Inman, CEO and founder of Lexicon. “As I got to know the RedAwning platform, I realized they have already solved many of the technical challenges Lexicon has been facing. RedAwning brings true technology and automation to channel management that delivers value through higher conversion with essentially zero manual work.”

RedAwning has a portfolio of some 15,000 managed and independent short-term rentals in North America, and already provides channel management services as it places them on websites such as Vrbo, Booking.com, Expedia, Homes & Villas by Marriott International, and Google Travel.

RedAwning hopes to pick up the channel management client roster of Lexicon Travel Technologies, which is headquartered in Park City, Utah. RedAwning is buying Lexicon’s channel management tech.

RedAwning said most of Lexicon’s clients have already related their intentions to use Red Awning for channel management.

“The transitions will be seamless for all of our new clients, as RedAwning already supports all of the same PMS (Property Management System) platforms as Lexicon and all of the channels too, as well as many more for Lexicon clients to join,” said RedAwning CEO Tim Choate in the announcement.

Earlier this week, property management tech company TravelNet Solutions said it acquired Rented, a revenue management company focusing on short-term rentals.

Hotels

Soho House Founder to Retire From CEO Role; Company Cutting Back Growth Ambitions

2 months ago

Nick Jones said on Wednesday that he would step down from being CEO of Membership Collective Group nearly three decades since he founded the original Soho House that eventually led to the creation of the public company and owner of the Soho House chain.

Andrew Carnie, president of Membership Collective Group, will succeed Jones as CEO.

Jones battled prostate cancer earlier this year successfully but said he now wants a change of life priorities.

On Wednesday the company cut its guidance for this year’s adjusted earnings from between $70 million and $80 million to between $55 million and $60 million. The company also said it would scale back on its growth ambitions by cutting costs across all its operations, refocusing the business back to its core of Soho House properties vs other extensions such as Ned, Scorpios, its digital memberships, and most importantly cutting back on plans to open nine properties this year to instead only opening between five and seven, including delaying planned venues in Mexico City and Bangkok until next year. It is also cutting down its in-house digital content unit by 40 percent, it said.

More on its cuts, from its earnings call: ” To give members the best possible experience and to ensure reduced pressure on the organization, we are returning to our previous target of five to seven new houses a year, and this is in line with our already signed pipeline for the next three years. At the same time, our cities at houses offer will continue to provide a clear path for longer-term growth at a minimal expense to the company. As part of prioritizing the right investments for our business and our members, we are no longer pursuing the external digital membership…We are reducing our in-house operating expenses. Post COVID, we rush to get all our houses open as quickly as possible in the manner we were used to operating them. In addition, it was a tough and unpredictable labor market, which means our costs increased significantly. What we’ve learned is our members are using our houses just as much, but at different times, so we’re adjusting our cost base accordingly….we’re refocusing our G&A with targeted reductions on content, digital and other corporate expenses, without impacting the member experience. For example, we are reducing our editorial content spend by about 40% going forward. We can raise prices, but the real opportunity is to run a more efficient business.”

The group went public in 2021. Its shares lost about two-thirds of their value this year after the company’s post-pandemic recovery ran up against the pressure of inflation, unfavorable foreign exchange rates, and sudden layoffs in the tech sector.

In the third quarter, revenues at Membership Collective rose 48 percent to $266 million, while the company’s net losses widened from $77 million to $91.7 million. Its net debt rose from $326.2 million to $462.6 million.

The news of the company scaling back its growth trajectory helped to send Membership Collective shares down by roughly 18 percent.

The company owns dozens of Soho House clubs, plus The Ned hotel in London and New York, and the Scorpios beach club in Greece.

Hotels

Global Hotel Sector Is Turning a New Corner: New JLL Report

3 months ago

Operating performance at many hotels worldwide is getting closer to pre-pandemic levels, according to a Hotels Global Asset Management Report released on Tuesday by JLL Hotels & Hospitality — an investment advisory firm that helps manage more than $6.8 billion in hotel assets.

A few charts from JLL’s report stand out.

Inflation has been rising in much of the world, but hotels have been able to pass along higher rates to customers to keep nearly in sync.

Hotels have been able to keep up even though many have ramped up their capital expenditures on furniture, furnishings, and property upkeep, as this chart suggests:

Can hotels sustain the momentum and continue to price well to cover inflationary pressures? It’s possible. Levels of business travel, especially international and long-haul business travel, remain quite low relative to 2019 levels in many markets. Even in a downturn, companies want to fight for market share by sending colleagues out into the field to close deals. So there may be more room for growth, as this chart suggests:

On Monday Skift published an interview with a top JLL executive, Andrea Grigg, to learn what she’s been hearing in 2023 budgeting sessions at hotels worldwide. Grigg summarized that forecasts are broadly and cautiously optimistic. But she noted that too many hoteliers are trying to restaff to 2019 levels when that often won’t be the route to profitability. Getting better at upselling and cross-selling is a key priority for hotels next year, she said.

JLL’s Hotels Global Asset Management Report is embedded below and is available on JLL’s site.

Best Western Launches New Extended Stay Brand Home by BWH

3 months ago

BWH Hotel Group debuted on Monday its 19th brand — Home by BWH — in the midscale extended-stay segment. It’s available for developers for new construction at the start and for conversions of existing properties over time.

“The extended-stay segment has been outperforming the industry, is driving 25 percent higher revenue than in 2019, and it is showing no signs of slowing down,” said Brad LeBlanc, senior vice president and chief development officer, BWH Hotel Group.

Best Western’s brands — Executive Residency by Best Western and SureStay Studio by Best Western — cover a couple segments of the extended-stay market. But the company wanted to offer developers and customers an extra brand with different price points and a more optional, flexible approach to amenities.

“We know that extended-stay is an important market segment and there is tremendous demand for more options in this category,” said Larry Cuculic, president and CEO.

The Phoenix-based company revealed a prototype for the new brand at a convention in Cleveland. It said that the brand had a “strong pipeline,” but it didn’t specify how many partners had signed up for the brand yet.

Privately held BWH Hotel Group has more than 4,000 hotels, with hundreds more in development, across three companies: Best Western Hotels & Resorts, WorldHotels Collection, and SureStay Hotel Group.

Hotels

Loews Hotels to Promote Alex Tisch to CEO, Succeeding Cousin Jon Tisch

3 months ago

Loews Corporation said that on January 1 CEO Alex Tisch would become president and CEO of its chain of 25 luxury properties, Loews Hotelssucceeding his cousin once removed Jon Tisch, who will become executive chairman and remain co-chairman of the board.

Alex, a fourth-generation member of the family, joined Loews Hotels in 2017 and was named president in September 2020. He has sped up Loews Hotels’ growth by adding properties, including an 800-room property in Kansas City, Missouri, and developing key partnerships in Arlington, Texas. Alex also helped to boost the metabolism of its commercial group, the company said.

He’ll succeed Jon Tisch, who has been an officer of Loews since 1986.

“In his 43 years at Loews Hotels, Jon has engineered the company’s expansion and emergence as a leading hotel business,” said James Tisch, Loews Corporation president and CEO, during an earnings call with analysts on Monday. “In particular, Jon was instrumental in building Loews Hotels’ long-standing partnership in Orlando with Universal Studios while also having the foresight to develop the iconic Loews Miami Beach Hotel.’

The November opening of a 242-room Coral Gables hotel will mean Loews Hotels will have about 10,000 rooms in the South Florida market and about 16,500 guest rooms across the country.

Loews Hotels & Co’s net income for the three months ended September 30, rose $12 million year-over-year to $25 million.

“The hotel properties at the Universal Orlando Resort contributed meaningfully to the period-over-period improvement,” the company said.

Surfside Inn and Suites at Universal’s Endless Summer Resort. Source: Loews Hotels.

Hotels

President Biden Targets Hotel Resort Fees in Larger Crackdown

3 months ago

U.S. President Joe Biden commented on Wednesday that his administration would look to crack down on “surprise fees” consumers face. Biden named two examples, including “resort fees” for hotel stays and administrative fees for live events and concert tickets.

The Federal Trade Commission had begun to work on a rule last week to crack down on “unfair and deceptive fees across all industries,” Reuters reported.

Biden’s remarks came as his administration faced pressure to clamp down on inflation that has hit four-decade peaks. A recent lawsuit by Washington, D.C.,’s attorney general against Marriott International alleged that the company generated hundreds of millions of dollars from resort fees. The American Society of Travel Advisors (ASTA) has called resort fees “out of control” and the leader of Booking Holdings, Glenn Fogel, has scolded the hotel industry about the practice.

Hotels

Selina’s Delayed Stock Market Debut Now Scheduled for Oct. 21

4 months ago

More than nine months after revealing its ambitions to list on the New York Stock Exchange, at a $1.2 billion valuation, self-styled lifestyle and experiential hotel company Selina has set a date to go public, by merging with BOA Acquisition Corp — a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC).

The pair announced Monday that the registration statement filed in December last year was declared effective by the Securities and Exchange Commission on Sept. 30. It originally planned to go public in the first half.

Now, if the merger partner’s shareholders approve the deal at a special meeting Oct. 21, and other conditions are satisfied, Selina’s common stock would start trading under the symbol “SLNA” following the closing.

Selina expects to raise $54 million in PIPE (private investment in public equity) proceeds, up to $231 million in cash from BOA’s trust account and $118 million from subscriptions to the $147.5 million principal amount of 6% senior unsecured convertible notes due 2026.

The money raised will be used to fund operations and continue its plans to achieve profitability.

Selina’s been fairly active in the past few months, with new partnerships including freelancer platform Fiverr and a party thrown for potential investors just weeks ago.

In the first half of the year it has opened 3,368 bed spaces within 13 properties in Greece, Australia, Portugal, Panama, the U.S, Israel and new location Morocco.

It also signed 7,374 bed spaces within 17 new properties and expansions across Australia, the U.S., Greece, Mexico, Portugal, Panama and Israel. This brings the total count at the end of the first half to 163 open and secured locations in 25 countries.

“We continue the positive momentum to a record year ahead; we keep being true to our mission by connecting our brand to local guests, remote workers, and digital nomads. In the first half of this year, we increased our total revenue by 142 percent and occupancy by 60 percent compared to the same period in 2021,” said Rafael Museri, co-founder and CEO of Selina, which mainly targets millennial and Gen Z travelers.

Selina was founded in 2014.

Short-Term Rentals

Naya Homes Secures $5 Million to Expand Short-Term Rentals in Mexico

4 months ago

A startup whose founding team includes two former Uber staffers has secured $5 million to grow its vacation and short-term rental platform in Mexico.

Naya Homes began operations in Puerto Vallarta in August, and with the extra cash will launch in Mexico City, with a 15-unit building in Polanco in September.

It specializes in vacation and short-term rental management, and it works with both real estate investors and homeowners.

The company claims that relative to Latin America incumbents that execute master leases on larger buildings, Naya Homes is an asset-light operator that maximizes profitability for all types of properties, from individual apartments to vacation villas.

Despegar, meanwhile, is bolstering its vacation rentals portfolio in Latin America, following the closing of a 51 percent stake in channel manager Stays. Lodging startup Casai, which is based in Mexico City, is also steeping up its presence.

The funding round was led by Boston and New York City-based Flybridge Capital Partners with participation from Primary Venture Partners, Clocktower Technology Ventures, K50 Ventures, Carao Ventures, Trip Ventures, Colibri Equity Ventures, Derive Ventures, in addition to several former executives from Uber’s Latin America team.

“We believe Naya can deliver incredible value to numerous stakeholders across the residential real estate value chain at scale,” said Jeff Bussgang, partner at Flybridge Capital Partners, in a statement. “Naya’s founding team is incredibly well-positioned, having on-the-ground experience managing operationally intensive businesses in LATAM, ranging from Uber to Sonder.”

The funding follows a $600,000 pre-seed led by Primary Venture Partners in March 2022.

Short-Term Rentals

Google Is NOT Going to Kill Airbnb

5 months ago

“Google will kill Airbnb,” tweeted Nick Huber, who writes about business and real estate, owns a self-storage company, and has 247,000 followers on Twitter.

Two people independently messaged me about the tweet, which has generated a few thousand “likes,” and hundreds of retweets since Sunday.

One Skift colleague said of the tweet: “Everything this guy says in his tweet thread is wrong.”

Conversely, a superhost in Europe messaged me about Huber’s tweet: “I would have to agree. Everybody loves a direct booking (both hosts and guests), with no whopping service charges.”

A Tripadvisor vacation rental in Miami listed in Google Vacation Rentals. Source: Google

If only it were that simple.

Huber argues that hosts and guests can avoid Airbnb’s substantial fees, and both can save money with direct bookings. Actually, he claimed that Airbnb takes 25 percent of the transaction, mostly from guests, in the form of fees, which seems excessively off the mark.

After this story posted, travel industry veteran Drew Patterson tweeted that Airbnb revenue was only 13 percent of gross bookings in 2021.

One of the silliest things Huber tweets is, “All it takes is folks putting a little link to their software in the Google listing. Management co manages that directly. Way more revenue to owner and less cost to guests.”

Alas, graveyards full of startup companies from Palo Alto to Madrid and Mexico City are testimony to the fact that you can’t merely put a link on a Google business listing, and expect millions upon millions of customers to discover it, and then use it. It takes a mammoth amount of resources to attract direct bookings and for a vacation rental business to build their own brands.

Hey, direct bookings would be mostly great for hosts and, to a lesser extent, guests, but how can property owners and managers attract them?

If you look at the global hotel industry, it has done an admirable job over the last few years, spending huge sums in advertising to urge customers to book directly on their own websites, where they have the lowest rates, instead of using online travel agencies.

Hotels have made significant strides in this regard in attracting direct bookings, but the vast majority of them still rely on online travel agencies to attract price-conscious consumers who care little about whether they are staying in a Marriott or a Sofitel.

Hotel direct bookings haven’t killed Expedia or Booking.com. Travel, it is often said, isn’t a zero-sum game. There is ample room for multiple winners.

Property owners use Airbnb for a reason: Airbnb has a great brand, and attracts legions of guests who start searching for places to stay on Airbnb instead of beginning their trip-planning on Google.

How does the host with one or a handful of properties compete with that kind of market power?

Direct Bookings Have Risks, Too

And although guests can avoid Airbnb’s fees by booking direct with the host, they run the risk of having no one to turn to if the host or property turn out to be a nightmare. Whether or not they work as well as advertised, Airbnb has some insurance protections in place for both hosts and guests.

Airbnb critics will be quick to say that Airbnb’s customer service for guests can be challenging, but it’s often better than dealing with hosts who have no brand or track record to stand behind them.

On the question of Google “killing” Airbnb, the latter has for the past couple of years been able to grow while keeping the percentage of the revenue it spends on marketing — and Google — relatively low and stable.

In fact, Google’s travel vertical has a vacation rentals feature, and it hasn’t really distinguished itself or put much of a dent in Airbnb’s growth precisely because Airbnb, and other big vacation rental brands, have shunned offering their homes and apartments through Google vacation rentals. So Google is hardly usurping Airbnb on that front.

Google has certainly damaged the businesses of innumerable travel companies because of its near-monopoly in search and the way it preferences its own travel advertising features. Curiously, although most of the far-out theories about Google taking over the travel industry tend to say that Google will transition from an advertising to a booking platform and would become an online travel agency — a switch that Google has shown little appetite for — Huber isn’t even making that argument.

Instead, he’s arguing that Google will serve as a listing platform, and build advertising around it, and that hosts, with an assist perhaps from property managers, would see direct bookings flow like lava down a hillside because these offers are inherently the best and cheapest deals for both hosts and guests.

Both Google and Airbnb Face Headwinds

Google killing Airbnb begs the question of which of the two has momentum versus the other. Both face big antitrust or regulatory challenges, and it’s hard to choose which one has the more daunting obstacles.

A little deeper into his twitter thread, Huber retreats a bit from his Google killing Airbnb opener, and pleads for “nuance.”

“Of course Airbnb will always have users,” he tweeted. “But over time many guests will go on google, find a vacation rental in an ideal location, click through to that website & book w/o paying hundreds in fees. 20 yrs from now ABNB will be a glorified lead generator.”

When it comes to predicting the future of companies two decades from now, I’ll pass on that one, considering it is difficult to look even two or three years ahead to see what the business world would look like.

So, alas, in Huber’s view, his talk of Airbnb’s death was apparently bombast.

When a twitter user tells Huber he downplayed the importance of factors like trust and reliability when considering direct bookings versus reservations through Airbnb, Huber retreats a bit further, tweeting:

“I think there will be an increased number of guests going directly. You can do all of those things without giving a huge chunk to Airbnb.”

Finally, that’s something we can agree with: There are many hosts doing everything they can to generate direct bookings, and they’ll likely have a degree of success. But I don’t believe “Google will kill Airbnb,” or that Airbnb will close shop anytime soon.

Note: This story has been updated to include additional information on Airbnb’s take rate. It also clarified Google’s role in the travel industry.

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