Skift Travel News Blog

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

Travel Technology

Software Developer Makes AI Travel Itinerary Tool

2 weeks 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.”

Tourism

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

2 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

Booking.com Adds Klook To Its Roster of Activities Providers

4 months ago

Booking.com expanded the geographic reach of its tours and activities offerings in Asia by entering a long-term strategic partnership with Klook, Booking.com 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 Booking.com, and the majority of these are available in Asia and Oceania,” Booking.com stated as it cited Klook as “the category leader for experiences in Asia.”

Booking.com is headquartered in Amsterdam, and Klook is based in Singapore.

Booking.com already had provider agreements with TUI’s Musement, based in Europe, and Tripadvisor’s Viator, which is headquartered in the U.S.

Booking.com sister company Priceline last week announced that it, too, hooked up with Musement to access tours and activities.

Tourism

Macau Announces November Return of Mainland China Tour Groups

4 months 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

5 months 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

5 months 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 Booking.com, 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

6 months 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

8 months 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.

Online Travel

TourRadar and Lastminute.com Partner on Bike Tours in Tandem With Tour de France Sponsorship

8 months ago

Just in time for next month’s Tour de France, where it is the official travel sponsor, Switzerland-based Lastminute.com debuted multi-day bike holidays powered by adventure-booking platform TourRadar.

Amsterdam bikes
City bike tour in Amsterdam

“Travel like the locals do on a bicycle adventure,” a promo on Lastminute.com reads. “Ride off-the-beaten-track through the hills of Northern Thailand, glide past the sweet-scented fields of Provence or let the aromas of Tuscan vineyards delight you after a long days’ ride. From mountain biking to road cycling, a tour on two wheels invites you to experience a whole new world – whether it’d be cruising through the sunlit trails of Vermont or when conquering a steep ascent on Nepal’s mighty cycling routes.”

TourRadar specializes in a variety of adventure tours, and the company is based in Vienna.

The 21-stage Tour de France will take place in Denmark, France, Belgium, and Switzerland July 1-24.

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