Skift Travel News Blog

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

Tour Operators

CultureTrip Sold To CEO and Is Now Trying To Sell Itself After Failing At Everything Else

5 months ago

The story of Culture Trip is sordid, and in the scheme of things, an inconsequential blip on the face of heavily funded travel startups.

What was at some point was an SEO-fueled destination content factory that had raised a lot of money and failed to create enough revenues, it tried to pivot into being an online travel agency and failed at that, the company somehow pivoted into being a small-group tour company — a reseller of tours from the likes of Intrepid Travel and others — in the last year and no one noticed.

Now, after raising as much as $175 million in equity and debt (see the details from its UK Companies House filing, the screenshot posted above) over the 12 years of its existence, it announced Tuesday that the company did a management buyout led by CEO Ana Jakimovska recently and has also put up the company for sale, or investment. Clearly the majority investor PPF Group lost its shirt in this deal, that’s for sure.

“At the beginning of 2022, Culture Trip launched an exciting new strategy, selling unique curated trips to digital savvy millennials using their digital content to acquire customers. The business has undergone rapid growth since this pivot, achieving an impressive 30% quarter-on-quarter growth and 78% year-on-year growth,” the company touted in the release Tuesday.

OK, lets unpack that: According to the financial filings, it made a whopping $1.9 million in revenues in 2021 with losses of $23.5 million for the year. And if we take the company figures at face value, that its revenues increased by 78 percent in the last year, even being generous its revenues for 2022 were around $3 million (see screenshot below), even if, as the company claimed, its losses have narrowed.

The company, which according to our estimates has gotten rid of most of its employees during 2022 (it had about 130 or so in 2021), is now trying to sell itself. It also announced Tuesday that it has hired advisory firm Lazarus Consulting to start a sale process or get an investment.

With little to no brand value, any residual SEO value quickly deteriorating and little revenues to boast of, and likely being unprofitable as a business, it is hard to see any good outcomes from here.


IDEAS: SOTC Travel Introduces Three Regional Languages to Website

5 months ago

SOTC Travel has introduced three new regional languages to its website – Hindi, Gujarati and Tamil, in addition to English – in order to target the growing customer market within Regional India-Bharat and provide a more accessible guest experience.

In addition to the new language offering, SOTC has also curated a collection of holidays designed to cater to the diverse regional needs of customers. An example being the recently launched ‘Gurjar Vishwadarshan holidays’, that offer vegetarian and Gujarati meals across key destinations like Europe, South East Asia and other destinations.

“We are delighted to announce the launch of our website in Hindi, Gujarati and Tamil languages. Regional India is a critical market for us and making our website available to customers in a language of their choice, builds reassurance and deepens our customer connect. We aim to deliver exceptional experience customer experience and this starts right from research and booking on our regional language website,” said Daniel D’souza, president & country head – holidays, at SOTC Travel.

At Skift, we are looking to unearth the most creative and forward-thinking innovations in travel through our Skift Ideas Franchise, which includes the Skift IDEA Awards, Skift Editorial Hub and the Skift Ideas Podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.

Travel Technology

Software Developer Makes AI Travel Itinerary Tool

10 months ago

During her Christmas holiday, a software developer created a tool to generate and map travel itineraries using generative artificial intelligence (AI). 

The Australia-based developer, Katrin Schmid, posted on Linkedin about the tool she made, called Journeai. It is powered by the generative AI chatbot, ChatGPT, released last year by OpenAi, a San Francisco-based AI research lab that has gotten at least $2 billion in investment.  

This new subset of AI can generate a new, unique product based on specific rules it’s given, a big leap ahead of the limited way AI has historically used existing datasets to draw conclusions and make predictions. 

OpenAi’s ChatGPT can already create a personalized travel itinerary within seconds. The Journeai tool uses that capability and adds the interactive mapping component through Google Maps — showing how easy it can be to solve a notable issue with generative AI, which is the lack of details like time, date, and geolocation. 

Despite the bugs with generative AI that users continue to point out, this is an early example of how the technology is expected to shake up the travel industry, starting with travel marketing, travel agents, and tour operators. 

There is more to come. 

“By the end of the year, you won’t be able to tell the difference between human production and AI production,” said travel industry consultant Peter Syme in a recent interview with Skift

“Every single tourism business, from a hotel to a tour operator to the most prominent companies, has access to the same power from a content production point of view. Therefore, tour operators should adopt quickly and not lag to ensure the biggest advantage.”


Vacation Drama of White Lotus Adds Murderous Spike to Sicily Tours Demand

12 months ago

Sicily is turning to out to be every bit as seductive as the hit HBO satire series White Lotus makes it out to be. 

Interest in Italy and its charming towns have seen web searches up over 50% following the series’ record-breaking finale in December. This is according to Alessio Virgili, co-founder and CEO of Sonders & Beach.  

Quiiky, an Italian LGBTQ+ Tour operator and subsidiary of Sonders & Beach, saw its new White Lotus tour sell out in record time earlier in the year. Virgili said they anticipate high demand for 2023 – with registration only set to open in January.

A feather in the tour’s itinerary is a two-night stay at the Four Season‘s San Domenico Palace in Taormina.  

Fans can’t seem to get enough of the destination or the luxury hotel, which hosted the eccentric cast of characters, with the psuedo White Lotus resort also sold out before it reopens in 2023. And what’s not to love about its beautiful beaches and lavish vineyards that set the backdrop for characters of Aubrey Plaza, Will Sharpe, Theo James, and Meghann Fahy in the series. 

Destination appeal thanks to hugely popular TV shows or movies has been an ongoing trend for almost a decade. Season 1 filming location Maui also saw a boost in visitors. In addition, the epic Game of Thrones’ Westeros added some $200 million in tourism spend to Croatia between 2013 and 2018. 

HBO confirmed the third season of White Lotus would go ahead but the destination remains undisclosed.

Tour operators should ask themselves what the next smash hit series is and where it will be filmed.

Online Travel Adds Klook To Its Roster of Activities Providers

1 year ago expanded the geographic reach of its tours and activities offerings in Asia by entering a long-term strategic partnership with Klook, announced Monday.

Madame Tussauds Singapore source Merlin Entertainments
The set of a Bollywood movie at Madame Tussauds Singapore. Travelers can buy tickets to this attraction and have their reservations instantly confirmed via Klook, an online travel agency that specializes in experiences. Madame Source: Merlin Entertainments

“Klook experiences are now live in over 175 cities, across over 30 markets on, and the majority of these are available in Asia and Oceania,” stated as it cited Klook as “the category leader for experiences in Asia.” is headquartered in Amsterdam, and Klook is based in Singapore. already had provider agreements with TUI’s Musement, based in Europe, and Tripadvisor’s Viator, which is headquartered in the U.S. sister company Priceline last week announced that it, too, hooked up with Musement to access tours and activities.


Macau Announces November Return of Mainland China Tour Groups

1 year ago

Macau plans to reopen to tour groups from Mainland China in November, the city’s government announced on Saturday.

Macau Chief Executive Ho Iat-seng said China’s central government approved the city’s request to welcome mainland tour groups again. Their return should be an enormous boost for Macau, a gambling hub that’s been hit hard by China’s strict Covid travel restrictions. The city’s gaming revenue decreased in half in August from the same month last year due to a substantial decrease in Chinese visitors.

The Macau government aims to double the number of daily visitors to 40,000, but said it would tighten travel restrictions if Covid outbreaks reoccur.

Online Travel

Travel Planning and Booking Platform TrovaTrip Raises $15 Million

1 year ago

TrovaTrip, a Portland, Oregon-based startup that connects social media content creators and travelers, has raised $15 million in a Series A round led by the Madrona Venture Group.

TrovaTrip, which offers more than 150 experiences in 48 countries, enables travelers to participate in activities such as hiking in Patagonia and doing yoga in Bali. Creators establish the price for experiences they’re leading while TrovaTrip sets up a page for hosts to promote their trips, which are run by certified tour operators. TrovaTrip plans to use the investment for its expansion plans.

The company, which was founded in 2017, has raised $20 million in funding to date. The Series A funding round follows TrovaTrip’s $5 million seed funding that was announced in August 2021.

Online Travel

FareHarbor Acting CEO Ted Clements to Step Down

1 year ago

Ted Clements, FareHarbor’s acting CEO who served as chief operating officer for the last three years, will step down from these positions in September, Skift has learned.

A small group tour of the Vatican. Source: Viator

Staff was informed of the move Tuesday, and no replacement has been named. Clements plans to stay in Amsterdam, headquarters for sister company, and may pursue new opportunities, according to the announcement.

Rob Ransom, senior vice president, global strategy and business development for Booking Holdings, made the internal announcement, and said he would play a more active role in FareHarbor.

FareHarbor more than doubled its revenue during the years Clements served as chief operating officer, according to the announcement.

Tours and activities are key to Booking Holdings’ connected trip strategy, which aims to provide a hassle-free travel experience throughout the journey.

Booking Holdings acquired FareHarbor, a tours and activities technology and distribution platform, in 2018 for $139 milliion net of cash acquired and $110 million in stock.

FareHarbor co-founders Lawrence Hester and brother Zachary Hester left Booking Holdings in July 2021. Max Valverde, who served as FareHarbor CEO from 2019 to 2021, likewise left Booking at that time.

FareHarbor’s strategy has evolved over the last few years, evolving from an exclusively build-your-own strategy model in the early days under Booking Holdings to include FareHarbor outsourcing some of that work to partners such as TUI’s Musement and Viator in recent years.

The changing of the guard at FareHarbor comes as Google is getting more aggressive in building its own “things to do” business with an emphasis on big attractions. Booking engines such as FareHarbor and Peek participate in Google’s offering.

Watch out for updates.

Travel Agents

Reposite Raises $7.5 Million to Simplify Group Travel Bookings

1 year ago

Reposite, a maker of software for travel agents and advisors, has raised $7.5 million.

The company wants to establish itself as “the definitive group travel tool that fuels discovery and simplifies coordination for travel planners.”

The New York-headquartered startup was founded to address the needs of the group travel market, and in particular it wants to simplify it by leveraging data to consolidate planning.

Its supplier marketplace aids planners in finding new suppliers and receive proposals for their active trips. As well as activity providers it connects to restaurants, hotels, venues and transportation, and can notify them of trips happening in their area, so they can proactively connect with planners to win new business.

Current customers include Virgin Holidays, TUI, Bloomingdales, Major League Baseball and Brazilian steakhouse chain Fogo de Chao.

“We believe that group travel planning is ready for a data-driven refresh,” said Reposite co-founder Alexa Berube.

The round was co-led by returning investors Liberty City Ventures and Greycroft, with participation from MATH Ventures and BDMI. In 2020 it raised $2.5 million in funding.

Tour Operators

Rival Tour Operators G Adventures and Intrepid Travel Launch Ad Campaigns on the London Underground

1 year ago

You know travel is back when….arch rival tour operators G Adventures and Intrepid Travel have both unveiled new ad campaigns targeting commuters across London’s transport systems. 

G Adventures’ “When was the last time you felt like this?” campaign, in which the company aims to showcase the joys of small-group adventures, features digital posters in London Underground stations and escalators. The month-long promotion, which is taking place while rail strikes disrupt travel in the United Kingdom, is targeting prospective customers who have returned to their offices.

“With London office workers quickly returning to our capital, that sense of ‘Groundhog Day’ was starting to set in,” said G Adventures Marketing Director Ant Stone.

London’s free newspapers, the Evening Standard and Metro, will also feature weekly content from G Adventures.

Meanwhile, Intrepid Travel has posted ads in London Underground stations and on buses, among other places, featuring the slogan “Travel Is Back For Good.” It’s the company’s first-ever big brand campaign in the UK.




Clear Filters