Skift Travel News Blog

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

Hotels

California Takes Aim at Junk Fees: New Law Mandates Upfront Pricing from July 2024

9 months ago

California Governor Gavin Newsom signed into law on October 7 a bill to ban mandatory hidden fees — also called junk fees — starting July 1, 2024.

“The price Californians see will be the price they pay,” said Rob Bonta, the state attorney general.

As Skift previewed, the law broadly requires upfront disclosure of any mandatory fees by hotel companies, online travel agencies, car rental companies, online concert ticket sellers, and others.

If a company doesn’t comply, a consumer could seek “at least $1,000” in damages via the state’s existing consumer protection claims processes. (See the law, embedded below.)

Junk Fee Reform

It’s unclear how California’s new law will impact companies in mid-2024.

California has the largest population of any state in the U.S., and so some big companies choose to apply its requirements nationally.

Yet there could be lawsuits from industry groups, and corporations could find workarounds to keep profitable fees. California has rules on fees for car rentals, but many online travel agencies choose to display those fees in ways that vary depending on jurisdiction.

Another wrinkle: Newsom hasn’t yet taken a position on another bill awaiting his signature, Senate Bill 537. He has until Saturday night to decide whether to let that bill pass into law. The bill would prohibit businesses that sell lodging for up to 30 days in California from displaying a room rate that doesn’t include all fees or charges (except government-imposed taxes) as of July 1, 2024.

It’s possible the Governor may feel the bill he’s signed already covers this, making a law specific to hotels unnecessary. Either way, the state’s 6,000 hotels and thousands of short-term rentals are currently facing new rules about the display of so-called junk fees, such as resort fees and housekeeping fees. 

Here’s the legislation that’s just passed:

Tour Operators

UK’s Revolut Adds Viator Experiences

1 year ago

The UK-based fintech app Revolut, which claims 30 million users, has added a in-app experiences marketplace, in partnership with Tripadvisor’s Viator.

The app now features some 300,000 tours, activities, and attractions, offering users options like “traversing the rocky Agafay Desert on camelback or taking a relaxing dip in Budapest’s Széchenyi Thermal Baths.”

The Revolut experiences marketplace, available to its UK and Europe customers, offers split bills for group trips, no booking fee, and discounts on experiences up to 10% depending on the user’s Revolut plan. 

The addition of tours and activities follows the app’s initial launch of selling accommodation in 2021 in a move described as wanting to become a Super App by offering all travel-related products. The app’s other travel products include holiday home rentals, hotels, travel insurance, and currency exchange. Revolut said it also wants to add flights and car rental bookings eventually. 

Revolut stated its customers make 400 million transactions a month, with its year-on-year data for May 2023 showing UK spending on tourist attractions was up by 9%. 

Online Travel

Trivago Gets New CEO and Leadership

1 year ago

Travel metasearch company Trivago said on Tuesday that Johannes Thomas had become CEO and Managing Director, succeeding Axel Hefer, as the company struggles to return to its pre-IPO glory days.

Thomas began at Trivago as an intern and rose to become the company’s chief revenue officer, with a specialty in business operations and strategy.

Other executive changes include included Jasmine Ezz becoming chief marketing officer and Andrej Lehnert becoming chief product officer.

At $1.20 a share on Tuesday, Trivago is in danger of seeing its share price go below $1 and becoming de-listed if it doesn’t turn around its financial trajectory.

For context, read this month's Skift article: Trivago’s Returns Take a Hit as Company Invests in Direct Connection Tool

Online Travel

UK Travel Agency On the Beach Sets New CEO Start Date

1 year ago

The UK’s On the Beach Group has now said chief financial officer Shaun Morton will take up his new position as CEO on June 30.

The confirmation follows the London Stock Exchange-listed company’s completion of its search for a new finance chief to replace him. Now Jon Wormald will be taking the role, the company announced on Friday.

On the Beach announced in December Simon Cooper was to step down, without specifying why.

Wormald joins On the Beach from e-commerce retailer THG, formerly The Hut Group. He also previously worked at the Co-operative Group Limited.

“Jon’s senior financial and operational roles will be invaluable to us at On the Beach as we continue to strengthen the brand and bring our leading customer proposition to a broader audience of beach holiday makers,” Morton said.

Cooper will move to a “founder director” role at the beach holiday specialist. Its Nomination Committee is also looking for an additional independent non-executive director.

“Once this position is filled, the board composition will remain in line with the requirements of the UK Corporate Governance Code,” the company said.

On the Beach is one of the UK’s largest online beach holidays retailers, and aims to become Europe’s leading beach holiday retailer.

Tour Operators

TUI Raising $1.9 Billion to Settle Corona State Aid Debt

1 year ago

TUI is closer to settling the substantial financial aid it received from German authorities during the pandemic. 

TUI chief financial officer Mathias Kiep said the company made an important step back to profitability by launching its intended $1.9 billion capital raise in a LinkedIn post on Friday, 24 March.

“On the back of our strong operational recovery and following an intense journey of preparation — most recently our AGM in February and the 10:1 reverse stock split thereafter. With the proceeds of the capital increase, we intend to repay the Corona state aid in full.” 

Kiep initially announced the raise plans during the company’s 2023 first quarter interim results, stating it would take place under the right market conditions after the company’s Economic Stabilization Fund debt had been recalculated from some $775 million to just short of $1 billion.    

Germany’s Economic Stabilization Fund was instrumental in ensuring the survival of German-based travel companies, including Lufthansa, with its initial lifeline stoking claims of an unfair advantage. It saw a stricter framework applied to the financial aid received by TUI.

The airline announced towards the end of 2022 that it was set to repay the balance of its state-owned debt.

Online Travel

GetYourGuide Relaunches Originals With Homepage Refresh

1 year ago

Tours and activities online booking platform GetYourGuide has unveiled a fresh look on its homepage this week, and with it, a new series of Originals by GetYourGuide.

The Originals offering, previously put on hold towards the end of 2022, was run in partnership with local operators in popular destinations. Now the operator has shifted the focus to one-of-a-kind experiences, exclusive to the platform and inspired by the exclusive ‘Turning the Lights On at the Vatican Museums‘ in 2022, which saw 15,000 people applying for a coveted seat on one of the seven tours in 2022″.

The homepage refresh is seeded across core themes such as culture, food, nature and adventure, and Originals tours are now prominently labeled. New in the series is an exclusive guided experience through the Museum of Modern Art in New York, without the crowds one hour before the regular opening hours together with a professional art historian; or the chance to experience Barcelona’s La Sagrada Família in a private twist to explore Gaudí’s masterpiece on one’s own, accompanied by the live soundtrack of the famous local organist Juan de la Rubia.

The reveal of the new site was further supported by a new Make Memories campaign launched across the U.S. and Europe, and an Artificial Intelligence study that showed for 42 percent of participants, travel experiences were one of the three most emotionally intense memories. See the artificial intelligence experiment video below.

Travel Technology

Travelsoft Acquires Travel Compositor to Expand Booking Software Services

1 year ago

Travelsoft, a company that offers software products focused on travel bookings, has added a third brand to its portfolio.

The Paris-based company said Monday that it acquired Spain-based Travel Compositor, a provider of travel booking engines, for an undisclosed price. 

Travel Compositor said its platforms handle €1 billion ($1.1 billion) worth of bookings annually and generate €11.5 million ($12.3 million) in revenue. The company is established in Southern Europe and is growing in Latin America and Asia.

Following the acquisition, Travelsoft said it will now transact bookings worth €5 billion ($5.3 billion) annually and generate revenue of over €35 million ($37.4 million). With 90 people joining Travelsoft via the acquisition, the company now has more than 200 employees globally. The company said it will also be able to invest over €5 million ($5.3 million) per year in research and development.

Travelsoft products are focused on helping the tourism industry sell travel packages by automating production and booking, handling data for marketing, and increasing conversion rates. The company works with 300 tour operators connected to 600 suppliers in more than 40 countries, mainly in Europe and the Americas.

Travelsoft also owns Germany-based Traffics, which it acquired in 2022, and France-based Orchestra. 

Traffics offers consulting, search, and booking systems for more than 6,000 travel agencies, as well as travel portals, airlines, hotels and travel suppliers. Orchestra said it allows travel professionals to produce, administrate, distribute, and manage travel packages on all distribution channel

Each of the three companies will maintain their names and brands.

“The need for booking platforms is growing and we see many opportunities for consolidation, so watch out for more acquisitions as we build the world’s leading travel SaaS,” said Christian Sabbagh, founder and CEO of Travelsoft, in a statement

Sabbagh remains the majority shareholder of Travelsoft, alongside the two founders of Travel Compositor and the two founders of Traffics. 

Shares in startups MOGU and Top Group Express, owned by Travel Compositor, will also join Travelsoft. 

The investors who participated in Travel Compositor’s only fundraising round in 2016 — including Caixa, Capital Risk, Inspirit (Didac Lee), Hotusa Ventures, and Venture Cap II — are fully exiting company ownership and multiplying their investment by 12 to 15 times, the company said. 

Hotels

Oyo Claimed to Have Outpaced U.S. Budget Hotel Recovery

1 year ago

Oyo, which advertises itself online as “India’s Best Online Hotel Booking Site for Sanitized Stays,” said it is performing well in the U.S. — after de-emphasizing its U.S. presence during the height of the pandemic.

The Oyo Las Vegas Hotel. Source: Danielle Hyams/Skift

India is Oyo’s largest market.

The company said Friday that during 2022 its revenue per available room, an important industry metric, grew 18 percent in the U.S. compared with prior to the pandemic in 2019, versus an only 6 percent rise for its budget hotel peers in the country. The latter figure comes from STR data, Oyo said.

“Coastal Oregon, Miami, Myrtle Beach, Houston and San Antonio emerged as the destinations with highest RevPar in 2022,” Oyo stated. “Travel recovery was largely led by domestic travel in the U.S.”

Oyo has a potential initial public offering in the works in India.

Oyo, which is a hotel aggregator and operator, said it attracted nearly 20 percent more bookings over President’s Day weekend (February 18-20) in 2023 versus 2021.

Travel Booking

Richard Branson’s Virgin to Launch New Experiences Offering in U.S.

1 year ago

Richard Branson’s Virgin Experience Days is betting on a thriving experiences economy, and Americans wanting to spend more time doing meaningful things together, by expanding its U.K. brand across the pond.

Carrie Keplinger, the company’s new chief commercial officer announced on LinkedIn that she would be working with its UK based management team, as part of Equistone Partners Europe, to scale the business in the U.S. market.

In July of 2021 the company launched Virgin Experience Gifts in the U.S., which has some 2,000 experiences on offer from racing adventures, helicopter rides to food tours and spa days.

Launch partners in the U.S. have yet to be revealed, but its’ U.K. counterpart works with and offers some 3,000 experiences.

Travel Booking

Pandemic Didn’t Change How Marketers Target Pre-Trip Planning: Tripadvisor Survey

1 year ago

Travelers make multiple purchases in preparation for their trip, a consideration Tripadvisor believes should be noticed by marketers. The company honed in on the purchasing intent of its audience and found that despite rising prices, plans to travel is on par with 2019 levels.

Tripadvisor’s latest research report, with some 5,000 respondents across six countries, indicates purchasing behavior of travelers and its influence across industries is being overlooked.

It’s one thing that the pandemic did not disrupt in travel.

The intent when planning a trip is broader than flights, accommodations, and activities, according Tripadvisor.

“Part of the fun for travelers is the planning (and spending!) before a trip. Consumers find travel is a great excuse to buy new clothes, special toys, or just the right gear.”

Of those surveyed, the most bought item in preparation for a trip is clothes (89 percent), followed by luggage (72 percent), and electronics (62 percent). Tripadvisor stated these are “not one-off purchases, with respondents (luggage being an exception) buying these items at least 2-3 times in the past three years before traveling.”

And while three-quarters of those surveyed do plan to reduce discretionary spending, cuts to travel plans are a no-go “with saving for future vacations the top priority.”