Skift Travel News Blog

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


The Venetian Resort Las Vegas Will Relaunch Its Loyalty Program

5 months ago

The Venetian Resort Las Vegas is revamping its loyalty program in March, replacing its Grazie Rewards program.

The new loyalty program, Venetian Rewards, will let travelers earn points on gaming and spending on hotel stays, dining, entertainment, and spa services. Potential rewards will include room upgrades, free suite nights to share, free valet service, and priority access to resort amenities.

The move comes as rival MGM Resorts has inked a partnership with the Marriott Bonvoy loyalty program.

The Venetian has just finished a $1 billion redevelopment and the opening of Sphere at The Venetian Resort Las Vegas.


U.S.’s National Travel and Tourism Office Names Deputy Assistant Secretary

5 months ago

Alex Lasry has been sworn in as the new deputy assistant secretary for travel and tourism at the U.S. Department of Commerce.

Lasry oversees the National Travel and Tourism Office, in the International Trade Administration’s industry and analysis division in the Commerce Department.

Lasry has begun to help lead the Biden-Harris Administration’s national travel and tourism strategy. The goals are to improve the competitiveness of the U.S. in attracting its fair share of inbound visitors and sustaining the country’s spot as a popular destination for foreign visitors. A key objective is to attract 90 million international visitors a year by 2027.

Previously, Lasry was senior vice president of the Milwaukee Bucks basketball team. He also led Milwaukee, Wisconsin’s successful bid to host the 2020 Democratic National Convention.

Online Travel

India’s TBO Acquires Booking Platform Jumbonline

5 months ago

TBO has acquired Jumbonline, an online booking system by Jump Tours Group. TBO Co-Founder Gaurav Bhatnagar made the announcement on LinkedIn on Monday. Based in India, is a travel distribution platform.

Jumbonline is a Spain-headquartered distribution platform for wholesalers and tour operators. Under the acquisition, TBO will have access to Jumbonline’s content, technology, clients, and talent, said Bhatnagar.

“This acquisition gives us access to great supply across Europe, the Caribbean, and North Africa amongst other destinations,” said Bhatnagar. “We also get access to Jumbo’s extensive client portfolio across Europe.”

Earlier this year, TBO fully acquired Switzerland-based BookaBed, a business-to-business accommodation wholesaler. The acquisition deepened TBO’s footprint in Ireland and the UK, the company told Skift.


Accor Names New CEOs for Luxury Hotel Brands Orient Express and Fairmont

6 months ago

Accor said on Thursday it would appoint Gilda Perez-Alvarado as CEO of Orient Express, its luxury hotel brand, effective January 1.

Just last month, Perez-Alvarado became the chief strategy officer for the Paris-based hotel giant group, a role she’ll retain. Previously, she was global CEO of the hotel brokerage firm JLL Hotels & Hospitality. 

Accor added that Omer Acar would, on January 1, become the CEO of Fairmont while remaining CEO of Raffles as well.

Acar replaces Mark Willis, who will become an advisor to Sébastien Bazin, the group’s chairman and CEO. Skift profiled Fairmont’s luxury hotel strategy earlier this year.

Acar spoke on-stage at Skift Global Forum in New York in September about Raffles’ evolution.


Accor’s Hotel Owner-Operator May Get More Indebted to Hedge Fund Sculptor

7 months ago

AccorInvest, a hotel owner-operator company that global hotel group Accor created in 2017, is seeing a rising share of its outstanding debt owned by one player, the hedge fund Sculptor, Bloomberg News reported on Tuesday.

Sculptor “bought about half of the €270 million ($290 million) of loans previously owned by UniCredit SpA in recent weeks,” Bloomberg reported on Tuesday.

AccorInvest wants to sell more than $2 billion of hotels in Europe and Latin America and extend the maturity of more than $4 billion of debt.

AccorInvest is a hotel owner and operator that, as of September, runs about 750 hotels. Accor, on the other hand, creates and manages brands and a loyalty program while also offering technology and other services.

Hedge Fund Sculptor Buys More Loans From Sofitel Hotels Owner Ahead of Refinancing


Los Angeles to Drop Ballot Measure That Would Require Hotels to House Homeless

7 months ago

Los Angeles’ city council appeared this week to have reached a political compromise with the local hotel workers’s union about a controversial plan to mandate that hotels temporarily house the homeless.

At issue is a long-running dispute. Earlier this year, LA’s powerful hotel union, Unite Here Local 11, successfully pushed the city’s council to put an initiative on the ballot for voters in March 2024. One of the initiative’s most controversial proposals was to mandate that hotel operators take part in a city program to place the homeless in otherwise vacant hotel rooms temporarily.

Hotel operators would have to report daily on their vacancy rate and had to accept temporary housing vouchers to cover the cost of temporarily housing the homeless.

The idea sparked outraged LinkedIn commentary. But more importantly, the hotel industry’s array of lobbying organizations, including the American Hotel & Lobbying Association, led a campaign against the idea with a mix of editorials in publications like The Hill and appearances in news programs tied to a survey of locals opposing the effort that AHLA sponsored.

The Center For Union Facts ran a TV ad called “Hotel Hell.”

Hoteliers argued that the mandate was unfair.

Others were nervous about reports of hotels receiving damage when participating in the voluntary effort. LA’s boutique 294-room Mayfair Hotel claimed to suffer significant acts of vandalism and damage during six months of participation in a different effort, called Project Roomkey, which transformed whole properties into temporary shelters, as the Los Angeles Times reported.

As of Friday, a proposal that removed the homeless mandate was still two votes short of passage in the L.A. City Council, reported the Los Angeles Times, but political insiders said they were optimistic. The California Hotel & Lodging Association and the Hotel Association of Los Angeles supported the compromise, which they helped facilitate along with council member Traci Park, Council President Paul Krekorian, and others.

Unite Here Local 11 said it considered the deal a victory. The pact includes the City Council promising to okay a set of fresh regulations on hotel development that would tighten the standards for the approval process to link hotel creation with the parallel creation of residential housing construction. Other criteria include vetting whether there is enough demand to support the hotels and what side effects development may have on the local demand for childcare and other city services.

“We have said all along that our contract campaign has been about two things: housing for our members where they work and a living wage,” said Kurt Petersen, the union’s co-president, in a statement.

An L.A. Times report on the proposed political deal related to hotel and the homeless.


India’s Ambuja Neotia Acquires Boutique Hotel Group Tree of Life

7 months ago

Ambuja Neotia, a real-estate developer and operator in Kolkata, has bought Tree of Life Resorts and Hotels, a collection of 14 boutique hotels across India with about 200 rooms that Skift recently profiled.

The companies didn’t disclose the price or terms of the deal.

Tree of Life, based in Gurugram, has seen quick growth from five resorts pre-pandemic to 14 now.

Ambuja Neotia, based in Kolkata, began as a real estate developer but has since become a small conglomerate with multiple interests. In the hospitality space, it is part of a few hotel ventures with about 700 rooms in total in Eastern India, such as The Ffort Raichak and Swissotel Kolkata Neotia Vista (managed by Accor). It also manages about a half dozen properties for Indian Hotels Company Limited (IHCL).

Himmat Anand had led the Tree of Life for about 15 years. Ambuja Neotia has named Vinoth Ram as the new CEO.

“The Tree of Life brand architecture is perfectly poised to cater to the discernible shift in leisure travel trends, said CEO Vinoth Ram. “My primary objective is to expand the brand’s presence throughout this vast and diverse country, providing an array of unique and exceptional experiences.”


Accor CEO Advises Young Hotel Entrepreneurs on Scaling Up: WTTC Summit Video

7 months ago

If you want to enter the hospitality sector, start small and get financial support. But be aware that scaling up beyond a certain threshold can be tremendously hard.

That was the advice from the head of one of the world’s largest hotel groups, Accor chairman and group CEO Sébastien Bazin.

“If it’s your dream or passion, just do it and make sure somebody actually helps you financially to do it, Bazin said. “Start with three, four, or five six bedrooms. Be authentic, be sincere, be warm, and welcoming.”

Bazin was speaking on Thursday on a panel at The World Travel & Tourism Council’s Global Summit in Rwanda.

“The difficulty is not to start but to scale,” Bazin said. “To go from one hotel to 12 hotels.”

Accor’s leader said that it’s quite difficult for entrepreneurs to scale up hotel businesses above a certain level, partly because they need to rely on third-party middlemen for distribution to fill their rooms.

“They don’t have the size, and the tendency is to go to the online travel agencies, and they’re going to be eating your lunch,” Bazin said. “Then you have the big gorillas like me knocking on the door, and you’re going to end up working for Accor.”

“Many people have [created regional hotel groups] but could not grow them further,” Bazin said. “It’s a tough business in which you have some tough big guys who really don’t like you to grow that much.”

Advice to Hoteliers, Too

Bazin was also asked about what was something he “hates” about the hotel industry from the personal perspective of being a traveler. He said it was the trouble the hotel sector had in giving its young employees the resources, training, and support they need to thrive in their front-line and behind-the-scenes jobs.

“I was staying at a hotel, and this morning I went to check out, and there was a very young, nice gentleman,” Bazin said. “He must have been 22 or 23 years old — impeccably dressed. And he was in a total panic.”

“He just didn’t have the proper training,” Bazin said. “I don’t like it when people in front of you lose their self-esteem because they cannot operate the way they should operate, and it’s not their fault.”

“We as industry leaders should be better equipping and training our people and giving them what expertise they need,” Bazin said. “Our industry will be stronger if we have hundreds of thousands of different young people who probably never went to college, and we give them chances in life.”


Dallas Hotel Boom: 80 Projects to Begin Construction Within Next Year

7 months ago

The Dallas area has topped national rankings for hotel development for more than a year as the Texas capital enjoys a hotel building boom.

The Dallas area hit a pipeline record, with roughly 80 hotels with a total of 9,021 rooms slated to begin construction in the next year, according to research firm Lodging Econometrics. For context, the U.S. as a whole has opened roughly 40,000 rooms in the past year.

“Dallas also leads the top five U.S. markets with the greatest number of projects in the early planning stage at the end of the third quarter,” Lodging Econometrics said.

Upcoming openings include Loews’ $550 million hotel in nearby Arlington and the luxury Bowie House in Fort Worth.

After the Dallas area, Atlanta has the most new hotels in the construction pipeline. Nashville is close behind, with 122 projects.

It’s unclear if Dallas has the momentum to overtake recent national champions for hotel openings, New York City and Atlanta.

See the full report from Lodging Econometrics


Choice Hotels Claims Wyndham Merger Would Have ‘Clear Path to Completion’

7 months ago

Choice Hotels on Wednesday called on Wyndham Hotels & Resorts to return to merger talks while publicly responding to concerns Wyndham executives had raised about “execution risk” — including questions about regulatory scrutiny.

Meanwhile, Wyndham issued a statement saying its board of directors remains confident that its “standalone growth prospects offer superior, risk-adjusted returns. It once again rejected the hostile merger, which would value Wyndham at $7.8 billion (plus debt),

One issue in dispute is whether U.S. antitrust watchdogs would balk at consolidation. Choice Hotels has a 16% share of the branded U.S. economy hotel market, while Wyndham has 36%, the FT reported.

Executives at Choice said they had received advice that a merger would receive regulatory approval. (Choice is paying for legal advice from Willkie Farr & Gallagher.)

“Independent hotels comprise nearly two-thirds of the economy segment and close to 40% of the midscale segment,” said Choice Hotels.

On Wednesday, data from CoStar’s STR came up with a somewhat different figure, saying that “half of U.S. economy-class hotel rooms are unbranded.”

Choice Hotels executives also noted that major hotel groups such as Hilton, Hyatt, and Marriott have this year announced new brands to compete in the premium economy and midscale segments. This fresh rivalry would add to the competitive landscape already featuring Best Western, Extended Stay America, G6 (Motel 6), Oyo, Red Roof Inn, and Sonesta.

Choice Hotels’ comments came on the same afternoon that Wyndham executives issued a release reiterating their disinterest in talks. It also came a day ahead of Wyndham’s earnings call.