Skift Travel News Blog

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

Tourism

Saudi Sovereign Wealth Fund to Pick 30 Percent Stake in Almosafer

5 months ago

Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund has proposed to acquire a 30 percent stake in Riyadh-based travel firm Almosafer — a subsidiary of Seera Group — for $412 million.

As part of the pact, Seera’s destination management company — Discover Saudi and its Hajj and Umrah travel operator — Mawasim will fall under Almosafer.

The Seera Group, in a statement to the Saudi Stock Exchange where it is listed, stated that the capital infusion would be used to scale its inbound, outbound, religious and domestic tourism operations.

The company said this would help to strengthen its credentials as a “national champion of travel and tourism services in Saudi Arabia.”

Almosafer recorded the best quarter in its history for consumer travel bookings for the quarter ending June 30, 2022 exceeding pre-pandemic levels in June 2019 by 27 percent.

The travel company reported a 89 percent growth in gross booking value to $346 million in the second quarter, up from $240 million in the second quarter of 2021. Almosafer’s consumer travel unit achieved its highest ever quarterly gross booking value registering an increase of 175 percent compared to the same period last year.

The company had mentioned in its earnings that Almosafer’s consumer travel segment is on track to achieve $1 billion gross booking value by the end of 2022. 

The Public Investment Fund plays a pivotal role in realizing Vision 2030, Saudi Arabia’s economic transformation program, as it strategises to diversify the national economy and reduce the reliance on oil.

As it seeks to diversify is portfolio, the Public Investment Fund, which manages around $620 billion in assets, had earlier invested $464 million in Google’s parent company Alphabet, around $474 million in Microsoft, $507 million in Zoom and $373 million in Booking Holdings.

Last month, the sovereign wealth fund along with the London-based Cain International announced an investment of $900 million in the Swiss hospitality brand — Aman Group.

Hotels

Aman Hotels Now Valued at $3 Billion After $900 Million Fresh Investment

6 months ago

Aman Group has received a $900 million investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Cain International, the London-based privately-held real estate investment firm.

The transaction now values the Swiss hospitality brand at $3 billion, said Cain in a press statement.

The investment will be used to enhance the existing portfolio, drive the construction pipeline of new Aman and Janu-branded properties, and support the acquisition and development of additional sites, a release from Cain stated.

Calling the investment in line with Public Investment Fund’s strategy to invest in promising sectors to achieve sustainable, attractive returns in Saudi Arabia and globally, Turqi Alnowaiser, deputy governor and head of international investments division, said in a tweet, “Our investment in Aman Group reflects our belief in the current potential of the hospitality and tourism industry, both internationally and in Saudi Arabia.”

Aman Group has 34 hotels in 20 countries, including 12 branded residences, and another nine properties under development, including in Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Earlier this month, Aman opened its New York hotel and private residences in Manhattan, touted to be the most expensive hotel in the city, according to Bloomberg. The hospitality brand is set to expand further in the U.S. with Aman Miami Beach set to open in 2024, followed by Aman Beverly Hills in 2026.

As the hospitality landscape continues to evolve, Cain expects to see a growing desire for travellers and investors alike to prioritize experiences supported by preeminent brands like Aman, said Jonathan Goldstein, CEO and co-founder of Cain International.

“This investment represents a unique opportunity to further enhance this portfolio of unrivalled destinations,” Goldstein said.

In June, Cain announced Aman as the flagship operator of One Beverly Hills, the 17.5-acre mixed-use urban resort it is developing in Beverly Hills.

“My long-term strategic vision has been to continue to grow the Aman brand in key markets, all with Aman Branded Residences, as well as creating an ultra-luxury ecosystem which offers the complete Aman lifestyle,” said Vlad Doronin, owner, chairman and CEO of Aman Group.

Online Travel

Thai Energy Giant PTT Will Invest in Traveloka

7 months ago

Thailand-based public firm PTT Oil and Retail Business (PTTOR) is set to invest in Indonesian travel superapp Traveloka, through its subsidiary, PTTOR International Holdings Singapore.

While the value of the investment has not yet been disclosed, the retail arm of Thailand’s state-owned energy giant PTT, through its collaboration with Traveloka, aims to provide additional lifestyle solutions to its customers in line with its strategy to become a one-stop solution for all lifestyle needs.

Having so far raised a total of $1.2 billion in funding, Traveloka was said to be in talks for another funding round of more than $200 million, after its plans to go public through a special acquisition company failed to take off.

Last valued at $3 billion, there had been speculations that the online travel and lifestyle company could go public via a traditional initial public offering in the U.S. instead.

The Indonesia-based online travel unicorn that has its presence in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Philippines has since been seeking new investment opportunities.

Besides offering travel, tourism and accommodation options, Traveloka has now developed into a superapp allowing users to book healthcare, financial services products and food delivery.

With PTT Oil and Retail Business’ expertise, Traveloka aims to capture the demand and provide enhanced solutions to its customers, while also creating new opportunities for its merchant-partners in Thailand and the region.

“We see immense value from the collaboration as we see the region growing at a rapid pace, leading to greater opportunities in the industry,” Ferry Unardi, co-founder and CEO of Traveloka, said.

As tourism is one of the major economic contributors to the Thai economy, PTTOR aims to strengthen its focus on the sector through this initiative while providing growth opportunities for small and medium enterprises in the travel sector.

“Given Traveloka’s position as a leading online platform for travel and lifestyle services in Southeast Asia, as well as its strong technology capabilities, I believe there is a range of areas we can explore together with Traveloka, to further enhance our tech capabilities,” Jiraphon Kawswat, president and CEO of PTTOR, said. 

Hotels

Hotel Tech Vendor Mews Launches Investment Arm

7 months ago

Salesforce-backed Mews has launched a dedicated investment arm called Mews Ventures.

The company, which provides enterprise software to hotels with what’s commonly known as a property management system, or PMS, said it wants to help shape the future of hospitality.

Mews Ventures will focus on three areas: transformation, partnerships and product boosts.

Mews founder Richard Valtr said the new venture reflected its series of acquisitions over the past two years, which includes Cenium, Hotel Perfect and Bizzon.

“By bringing together the brightest minds in tech, hospitality and beyond, we aim to fuel growth and innovation,” he wrote in a blog post.

The new investment arm will “accelerate the technological transformation of our industry by consolidating past leaders as well as boosting new and interesting ideas in hospitality, connecting the best people and technology with the growing Mews community.”

Mews employs 600 people in 15 locations around the world.

Hotels

Asia-Pacific Hotel Investment Volumes Rose to $7 Billion in First Half of 2022

7 months ago

Investment in the hotel sector in Asia Pacific continued to recover as investment volumes totaled $6.8 billion in the first six months of 2022, according to real estate brokerage firm JLL’s report.

Capital deployment into the region’s hotels sector showed a return to pre-pandemic levels, registering a 12 percent increase compared to 2019.

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to experience a fast pace of recovery in the second half of 2022, Skift Research noted recently in its Asia Pacific Accommodation Sector Market Estimates 2022.

In terms of investment volume Japan received the maximum capital —  $1.8 billion, followed by Korea’s $1.7 billion, and Greater China, including Hong Kong ($1.6 billion).

A strong domestic and international tourism demand and the recent devaluation of the Japanese Yen would drive investors to acquire hotel assets in Japan, JLL noted.

JLL also expected further price reductions of hotel assets and forecasts China’s hotel transaction volume to total approximately $2 billion in 2022.

Strong recovery was witnessed in countries like Singapore ($899.7 million), Maldives ($205.5 million), and Indonesia ($159.6 million).

The activity was more subdued in Australia ($145.5 million) and Thailand ($37.7 million), however, JLL noted that these countries would witness greater investment in the second half as numerous marque deals would be closing.

More hotels are entering the Thai market as sellers are under pressure to sell, noted JLL and forecast that transaction volumes would reach close to $300 million this year.

While the 75 transactions in the first half of 2022, were down 33 percent compared to the first half of 2019, the 19,822 rooms transacted during the first half of 2022 was 30 percent higher compared to the first half of 2021 and 9.4 percent compared to 2019.

“The increase in deal activity was influenced by a spike in portfolio transactions as institutional investors sitting on dry powder seek to deploy their capital more efficiently,” the report noted.

However, according to JLL, ongoing momentum will likely be challenged by growing macroeconomic and geopolitical headwinds in the second half of 2022.

“We remain steadfast in our conviction that total Asia Pacific hotel investment volume will cross the $10 billion mark despite the scarcity of assets coupled with macro and geopolitical headwinds that will continue to influence capital activity,” said Mike Batchelor, CEO, Asia Pacific, JLL Hotels and Hospitality Group. 

Online Travel

Online Travel Agency Kiwi Receives $105 Million in Investment

8 months ago

Kiwi.com, an online travel agency based in Brno, Czechia, said on Wednesday it had received an investment of $105 million (€100 million) from an unnamed “preeminent global institutional investor.”

The company didn’t disclose the terms of the deal. General Atlantic had invested in the company before the pandemic.

One of Kiwi.com’s signature offerings is “virtual interlining,” where it pieces together itineraries from different airlines that may not have formal code-sharing agreements. It offers insurance and other assistance to help knit together the trips and handle service complaints when things go awry. But the company also offers other trip components for sale, such as hotel stays and bus trips.

Kiwi.com reported rapid growth before the pandemic, but when Covid struck, many online forums lit up with complaints about the company’s customer service. The company has said it has put better procedures in place to handle customer needs, and it also says that it has returned to growth.

See the press release

Luxury

Certares and Knighthead Invest $225 Million in Global Blue in Bet on Duty-Free Shopping

9 months ago

Have you ever claimed your value added tax back for things you bought during a trip to Europe? Then you probably used a Global Blue Tax Free Shopping service. Global Blue, a payments specialist for 300,000 partner stores primarily in the European Union, is now on the rebound.

It has agreed to receive $225 million in investment, subject to shareholder approval, from CK Opportunities, an investment fund co-managed by Certares, a global travel, tourism and hospitality investment firm, and Knighthead, a credit investment management firm.

The news comes shortly after Global Blue reported its first notional profit since the pandemic began, as measured by positive adjusted earnings, before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.

Certares was founded as a private equity firm in 2012 in New York and has gone on to invest heavily in travel companies — most prominently American Express Global Business Travel, Hertz Corp., airline group Latam, and Liberty Tripadvisor Holdings.

One of the broad themes of Certares’ recent travel investments is that luxury or premium travel will prove to have long-term resilience despite other headwinds that might buffet the travel sector. Global Blue processes payments and has made particularly inroads on facilitating purchases made by international travelers on luxury good purchases at airports. In a non-pandemic year, Global Blue manages 35 million transactions. (See Skift’s coverage of Certares, here.) 

Recovery led by US travelers in Europe is especially strong. Spending by U.S. travelers of which Global Blue is managing the VAT refund was up 166 percent in April compared to pre-Covid levels.

Global Blue is a Silver Lake portfolio company that went public in 2020.

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