Skift Travel News Blog

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

Airlines

Lufthansa Makes Official Bid for Italy’s ITA Airways

1 week ago

The Lufthansa Group has made an offer to buy a 40 percent stake in Italy’s state-owned ITA Airways, it said Wednesday. The bid comes after a multi-year process, or “beauty contest” as it has been called, to find a strategic partner for ITA, and a dramatic change of fortune for Lufthansa after being counted out last August.

Financial terms of the offer were not made public but Lufthansa said Wednesday that its initial offer for a minority stake includes taking full control of ITA in the future. Italian daily Corriere della Sera has previously estimated the value of the offer to be between $250-260 million (€230-240 million). The German airline group and Italy’s Ministry of Economy and Finance must next agree to a memorandum of understanding, which would allow exclusive negotiations over the final terms of the deal to begin.

The Lufthansa Group has submitted a bid for Italy’s ITA. (Airbus)

“For Lufthansa Group, Italy is the most important market outside of its home markets and the U.S.,” the airline said in a statement. “Italy’s importance for both business and private travel lies in its strong export-oriented economy and status as one of Europe’s top vacation spots.”

Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr has previously called the group the “natural home” for ITA.

The bid is a change of fortune for Lufthansa. In August, the previous Italian government selected a bid by private equity firm Certares and including commercial agreements with Air France-KLM and Delta Air Lines for ITA. However, the new government of Italian Prime Minister Giorgia Meloni failed to reach a deal with the Certares-led group before the exclusivity period expired on October 31. Air France-KLM has since shifted its takeover interest to TAP Air Portugal.

ITA replaced Alitalia as Italy’s national carrier in October 2021.

Travel Technology

Private Equity-Backed Cendyn Names New CEO to Lead Hotel Tech Company

3 weeks ago

Cendyn, a software company that offers customer relationship management, digital marketing, and operations tools to hotels, has hired a new chief executive. 

The company said Monday that Jack Blaha has taken the role for the Florida-based company. He replaces Tim Sullivan, who had started as CEO in June 2020, a year after the company gained new ownership.

Accel-KKR, a technology-focused private equity firm based in Silicon Valley, became the majority owner of Cendyn in June 2019 through an undisclosed investment. 

Cendyn acquired Rainmaker, a hotel revenue management service, shortly after with that financial support. It acquired NextGuest, a long-time rival, in February 2021. Cendyn also in the last year merged with Pegasus, a central reservation system that had merged in 2019 with Travel Tripper with backing from Accel-KKR

And Cendyn acquired DigitalHotelier last year to expand its distribution and eCommerce capabilities. 

In addition to those business deals over the past couple of years, Cendyn said it has expanded in India and Asia Pacific. Cendyn said it has tens of thousands of customers in 143 countries

Blaha has previously worked for tech companies including Khoros, Lone Wolf Technologies, PeopleAdmin, and Aptean.

Cendyn said that Blaha will lead plans for continued strategic growth as hotels, resorts, and casinos invest in integrated technology and digitization.

Travel Technology

Mastercard to Invest in Fintech Company Conferma Pay

2 months ago

Mastercard is planning to make a minority investment in Conferma Pay, a fintech company acquired earlier this year by Sabre Corporation.

The new partnership with Mastercard will allow Conferma Pay to expand the use of virtual cards for business-to-business travel payments.

Sabre acquired Conferma Pay for $72.5 million in August 2022, according to a filing in September with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

UK-based Conferma Pay provides software and commercial deals to help the travel industry move to virtual cards, through which account information is issued for one-time use in an effort to shield the buyer’s identity when making online purchases and prevent fraud. Virtual cards also allow travel buyers and suppliers to more easily track and reconcile payments. 

(Skift has covered this in its recent megatrend Travel Payments Find Path to Painless.)

Conferma Pay said it connects issuers to more than 700 travel management companies, all the major global distribution systems, and more than 100 online booking tools. The company said it is fully integrated with all the major card brands and works with more than 50 banking partners, allowing them to issue virtual cards in nearly 100 currencies.

Conferma Pay will continue to operate independently. Sabre’s Virtual Payments platform integrates the Conferma Pay services. 

“The payments industry is in the midst of a revolution and there is an increased need for travel companies to better manage the whole payment experience,” said Roshan Mendis, chief commercial officer for Sabre Travel Solutions, in a statement. “Companies in the travel space — including travel management companies, travel agencies, corporations, issuers, and technology partners — need sophisticated solutions and seamless connections. Sabre is taking strategic steps to fulfill the needs of our industry, beginning with the acquisition of Conferma Pay.”

Airlines

Air India-Vistara Merger to be Completed by March 2024

2 months ago

Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines have agreed to consolidate Air India and Vistara by March 2024.

As part of the merger transaction, Singapore’s flag carrier shall also invest $250 million in Air India for a 25.1 percent share, according to a media release on Tuesday.

Tata Group owns a 51 percent stake in Vistara with Singapore Airlines owning remaining 49 percent.

With this consolidation, Air India shall be India’s largest international carrier and second largest domestic carrier with a combined fleet of 218 aircraft.

Air India had earlier announced its plans to increase its fleet size to 143 by the end of 2023 and also introduce Premium Economy seating. Intrestingly, Vistara is the only airline in the country offering Premium Economy seats.

Post the merger, Air India would offer both full-service and low-cost service across domestic and international routes, said N Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons.

Air India, the erstwhile Indian state carrier, had been acquired by Tata Sons, via its subsidiary, Talace, early this year as part of a $2.4 billion deal.

Singapore Airlines said it intends to fully fund this investment with its internal cash resources, which stood at $13 billion as of September 30.

The two companies have also agreed to participate in additional capital injections, if required, to fund the growth and operations of the enlarged Air India in financial year 2023 and 2024.

Based on Singapore Airline’s 25.1 percent stake post-completion, the airline said that its share of any additional capital injection could be up to $615 million, payable only after the completion of the merger.

The actual amount would depend on factors including the progress of the enlarged Air India’s business plan, and its access to other funding options.

Speaking earlier to Skift, Vistara CEO Vinod Kannan, while not totally denying reports of a merger between the two airlines, had said, “I tell my team that no matter what, the 54 aircraft that we have will have to be serviced, sold and operated. Until we are told otherwise, we will maintain that we will be operating independently.”

Travel Technology

Hotel Tech Company Sceptre Hospitality Resources Acquires Booking Engine

2 months ago

A U.S. hotel tech company with equity backing has acquired a booking engine based in Ireland. 

Houston-based Sceptre Hospitality Resources said Thursday that it has acquired Avvio

The private equity firm Serent Capital made an undisclosed “significant investment” in Sceptre Hospitality Resources in 2020. The Avvio acquisition was funded through that investment, Sceptre said. 

Sceptre provides hotel tech including symptoms for central reservation, customer relationship management, and revenue management. The company works with more than 1,500 hotels, driving 6.6 million bookings each year.  

Founded in 2002, Avvio launched its artificial intelligence-powered booking engine in 2017. The company also offers digital marketing and website design services. The booking engine, allora.ai, provides tech to more than 500 hotels globally and handles more than 400 million bookings each year. 

The deal will integrate the allora.ai tech into the Sceptre systems, the companies said. 

“Together, they will deliver an incredibly personalized customer purchase journey at every stage in the customer lifecycle,” said Rod Jimenez, Sceptre CEO, in a statement. 

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.

Travel Technology

Bus Ticket Marketplace Busbud Makes 2nd Acquisition of 2022

3 months ago

Busbud, an online marketplace for bus and other ground transport tickets, is now offering more software services to operators in that industry following a company acquisition. 

Montreal-based Busbud has acquired Toronto-based Betterez, according to LP Maurice, CEO and co-founder of Busbud. 

The deal was made with a mix of cash and equity, Maurice said. As part of that deal, the group that made undisclosed investments into Betterez in 2017 and 2018 are now investors in Busbud. 

That means Amadeus Ventures is now a “key investor” in Busbud, along with JetBlue Ventures, Porter Airlines CEO Michael Deluce, and Donald Carty, former CEO and chairman of AMR Corporation. Angel Gallego, executive vice president of travel distribution for Amadeus, is joining the Busbud board as an observer. 

“As part of that transaction, they became shareholders into Busbud — pretty significant shareholders,” Maurice said. 

Further details about the deal price and terms were not disclosed.

The Busbud marketplace allows consumers to compare and buy tickets for intercity busses, trains, and other forms of ground transportation from nearly 4,000 companies in 16,000 cities across more than 80 countries.

Betterez is a reservations and ticketing management software platform, enabling mobile ticket sales and more for ground travel operators. 

Betterez is used by about 50 of the 4,000 bus companies that sell tickets through Busbud, Maurice said. 

“We could take what we think is a pretty good piece of software, a reservation system, and really introduce it to either folks that don’t have any — which is actually surprisingly often — and also people who have legacy systems but may not have all the range of functionality that Betterez offers,” Maurice said. “And they can become a lot more innovative and drive a lot more sales.” 

Busbud acquired Recorrido, a Chile-based intercity bus marketplace, earlier this year to support  expansion plans in Latin America. Busbud also raised $11 million earlier this year, bringing its total to $44 million raised. 

The company now employs more than 150 people worldwide and is hiring. 

Busbud has quadrupled net revenue year-over-year in 2022 and is now “significantly above” 2019 levels, Maurice said. 

He attributes much of that growth to increased demand for travel post-pandemic. And he is confident Busbud will continue doing well even as some consumers have less disposable income.  

“We’re actually seeing a lift in people taking the bus and not driving,” Maurice said. “Most of them are actually leaving their car at home because of gas prices.” 

Travel Technology

Accor Subsidiary D-Edge Acquires Digital Marketing Company to Expand Services

3 months ago

The hotel tech services company owned by hotel giant Accor is strengthening its offerings through the acquisition of a digital marketing agency. 

Accor-owned D-Edge said this week that it has acquired Equaero, a Paris company that uses a proprietary software platform for marketing campaign tracking and reporting. 

Equaero is now a wholly owned subsidiary of D-Edge. It will continue being led by its founder and CEO, Jean-Dominique Brivet, who will report to D-Edge CEO Pierre-Charles Grob. All Equaero employees are expected to maintain their roles, according to a D-Edge spokesperson.

Terms of the deal were not disclosed.

D-Edge’s hotel offerings include central reservation software, a guest management system and more. The company has historically offered some digital advertising services to hotels through a partnership with Equaero. With the acquisition, those capabilities will become in-house services that D-Edge offers. 

Equaero has experience in digital strategy for very large accounts, which will be helpful as D-Edge further develops services for hotel chains, the company said. 

“As online sales continue to grow in the hotel industry, D-Edge — through its website development and digital media offerings — is already helping hoteliers drive more traffic to their websites and convert this traffic into more direct bookings,” D-Edge said in a statement. “By adding new capabilities and talents, D-Edge completes its service offering — [search engine optimization] to name just one — and provides hoteliers with an exhaustive, multi-channel digital marketing range of services.”

Accor formed D-Edge five years ago after two acquisitions. Grob said earlier this year that D-Edge roughly doubled its number of independent hotel customers during the pandemic, from 6,500 non-Accor hotels in July 2019 to more than 12,500 in April.

Airlines

Colombia Blocks Avianca and Viva Air Merger

3 months ago

The Avianca and Viva Air merger has hit a major roadblock with Colombian authorities objecting to the proposed combination. The move could be a blow to Avianca’s plan to create a pan-South American airline group with Brazil’s Gol.

Colombia’s Civil Aeronautics Authority, or Aerocivil, said Tuesday that the merger of the country’s first and third largest airlines could reduce competition and hurt consumers. It could also increase the barriers faced by competitors in the market. In addition, Aerocivil said the financial situation at Viva Air, which the airline’s claimed required expedited approval of the merger, was not so bad as to “affect its viability in the market.”

An Avianca aircraft in Miami. (ERIC SALARD/Flickr)

“We are concerned about the direction of the decision, as it … ignores the potential effect that the disappearance of Viva would have on users and the market,” Avianca CEO Adrian Neuhauser said in a statement on the decision. “At Avianca, we reiterate our willingness to actively participate in rescuing Viva.”

Avianca first announced plans to acquire Viva Air, but not merge with it, in April. However, in August the airlines requested expedited antitrust approval from Aerocivil for a merger that was “vital for the sustainability and development” of Viva Air. In an October interview, Viva Air CEO Felix Antelo said the airlines planned to continue operate as separate brands but would coordinate schedules and fares in order to offer travelers better flight options.

“It will provide for us a financial muscle way stronger and better than what we had before,” he said. “We are going to keep the [low-cost] model around, we’re going to keep the brand around, [and] we’re going to keep the low fares around.”

Antelo also said that “staying independent in aviation in the 2020s is not an option.”

The Avianca-Viva Air merger is the first step in the creation of Abra, a new South American airline holding company created by the merger of Avianca and Gol. The group also has the option to take at least a 42 percent stake in Chile’s Sky Airline.

Aerocivil said it would reconsider the deal if Avianca and Viva resubmit their merger application and offer “remedies” to boost competition.

Updated with comment from Avianca CEO Adrian Neuhauser

Airlines

AirAsia India-Air India Merger by 2023 as AirAsia Sells Off India Stake to Tatas

3 months ago

Budget carrier AirAsia India is likely to be merged with Air India Express by the end of 2023. An operational review process is underway to integrate the two carriers, Air India said in a statement this week.

The merger news follows Malaysia-based AirAsia Aviation Group’s announcement on Wednesday that it has sold off its remaining 16.67 percent stake in AirAsia India to Tatas-owned Air India.

The agreement that will fetch AirAsia $18.83 million, also states that AirAsia India can continue to use the ‘AirAsia’ brand name for 12 months.

Aimed at having a single low-cost carrier for the Air India group, following the merger the entity will be branded as Air India Express, a statement read.

In June, Indian watchdog Competition Commission of India had approved the proposed acquisition of the entire shareholding of AirAsia India by Air India.

Following the acquisition of Air India and Air India Express in January, the Tata Group now owns four airlines — Air India, Air India Express, AirAsia India and Vistara. Vistara is a joint venture with Singapore Airlines.

In a recent interview with Skift the Vistara CEO when asked about a possible merger between the airlines under the Tata fold had said that there are certain discussions that have been happening which he is not privy to.

Commenting further on AirAsia selling off its remaining stake to Air India, Group CEO of AirAsia Aviation Group, Bo Lingam, said Covid has allowed them to re-examine priorities, and the group feels it is best suited for AirAsia to develop an Asean-only business with airlines in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

“We will use the experience and knowledge we have gained from operating in the Indian domestic market to grow the Asean-Indian market in logistics and passenger services to a far greater extent,” Lingam added.

Launched in 2014, AirAsia India currently flies to 18 destinations with a market share of 5.9 percent.

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