Skift Travel News Blog

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

Tourism

U.S. Travel Launches Website Spotlighting Visa Delay Damage

1 week ago

The U.S. Travel Association has launched a website to highlight the negative impact of long visitor visa interview wait times—which now exceed an average of 400 days—is having on global travelers and U.S. businesses. Called USVisaDelays.com, the website lists stories of those affected, loss in industry spending, visitor wait times, impacted markets and a policy fact sheet. 

Users can also submit their own story as a traveler or a business owner. “There are no better voices to tell the personal toll of America’s de facto border closure than the people, families and American businesses directly impacted by egregious visa wait times,” said U.S. Travel Association President and CEO Geoff Freeman. 

The U.S. is projected to lose nearly $7 billion in travel spending in 2023 and not see a full recovery in international inbound travel until 2025, according to U.S. Travel.

The website also calls on the Biden administration to take action and provides policy recommendations. “The Biden administration must focus on what is in its control and take immediate action to lower wait times, “said Freeman. “We simply cannot afford to give travelers any reason to avoid visiting the United States.”

U.S. Travel will launch custom versions of the website in both English and Portuguese next week.

Tourism

U.S. Senior Official Defends Government’s Lack of a Tourism Agency

2 weeks ago

A senior U.S. official found himself explaining to world leaders how tourism works within the U.S. government.

Brand USA Global Marketplace Sponsor Pavilion
One part of Brand USA’s new “global marketplace” where sponsors can interact with customers. Source: Brand USA.

While the World Travel and Tourism Council Global Summit, held in Saudi Arabia this week, welcomed tourism ministers from around the world, one speaker defended his country’s political approach.

Speaking during the “Reducing the Footprint of Travel & Tourism” panel, Mark Keam, deputy assistant secretary for travel and tourism Industry, International Trade Administration, was asked if the country would benefit from a cabinet level specific tourism/culture person?

“The U.S doesn’t have a tourism minister,” Keam replied. “I have the role as deputy assistant secretary for travel and tourism in the United States government, which is the functional equivalent of the ministry of tourism, but we don’t call it that, because in the U.S. we don’t have ministries.”

The assistant secretary was quizzed following an earlier remark by a panelist during the summit that the U.S. was “difficult to engage” with.

“But the reason I think we have it in somewhat better shape is that we’re part of the U.S. Department of Commerce, which is a government and private sector-facing agency,” Keam continued. “But we’re also part of the International Trade Administration, which is about bringing international travelers into the U.S. to raise money.”

Earlier in the day, Greg O’Hara, founder and senior managing director at travel investor Certares, was probed by CNN’s Richard Quest on why the U.S. tourism industry, which was “so crucial,” punches at a relatively low weight when ministers sit around cabinet tables.

“They don’t even have a tourism minster. They don’t have a secretary of tourism in the United States. It’s difficult to find people to talk to,” O’Hara replied. “Other people have tourism ministries, but they’re not allocated capital.”

But speaking later, Keam said that travel and tourism was discussed at the highest level.

“Having different boxes within the government is less important than what the functionality is,” the assistant secretary said. “From my perspective, the fact we are talking about travel and tourism at the highest level in our government is important enough. Frankly, the travel and tourism industry is such a big part in the U.S., at 2.9 percent of our gross domestic product, that across the board we hire so many people. It doesn’t matter which box of the agencies you’re in.”

The U.S. does have Brand USA, a public-private partnership to promote international visitation, which was founded in 2010 when there was no such promotional body on a national level. 

Tourism

Japan to Continue Nationwide Travel Discount Program in 2023

2 weeks ago

The Japanese government announced on Friday it’s planning to resume its domestic travel discount program in the new year.

Tourism Minister Tetsuo Saito said the government will decide when exactly to relaunch the program, which was initially expected to conclude on December 28, after monitoring Covid cases in the country. Participants in the program, a campaign the government hopes will resurrect a tourism industry battered by the pandemic, are required to have received at least three Covid vaccine doses or test negative for the virus. The Japanese government relaunched the travel discount program in October after pausing it during the heart of the pandemic.

Meanwhile, discounts offered in the program will be reduced next year, with the discount rate to drop to 20 percent from the current 40 percent. The maximum discount amount available for travelers in tour packages, including public transportation services, will also decrease from $58 (8,000 yen) to $36 (5,000 yen).

An image from Asakusa
Japan is extended its nationwide travel discount program to boost a tourism industry that struggled during the pandemic (Flickr/Caribb)

Tourism

Philadelphia Attracts 34,000 Visitors During Phillies’ Run to the World Series

3 weeks ago

The Philadelphia Phillies came up short in the World Series this month against the Houston Astros, but the city’s tourism industry emerged as a big winner from the team’s unexpected postseason success.

Philadelphia attracted 34,000 overnight visitors during the Phillies’ three-week playoff run, representing 35,000 hotel room nights, according to data provider Tourism Economics. The average hotel occupancy rate in Center City Philadelphia hit 90 percent during the World Series, a number the Greater Philadelphia Hotel Association said is a 20 percentage point increase from its usual figure in late October and early November.

“This was a big win for Philadelphia and its tourism and hospitality sector, especially the city’s restaurants, staff, and their staff who were positively impacted by the Phillies postseason run,” said Larry Needle, executive director of PHL Sports, a business development arm of the Philadelphia Convention and Visitors Bureau.

The organization announced on Thursday that the eight playoff games the Phillies hosted this postseason at Citizens Bank Park injected $78 million into Philadelphia’s economy, including $49 million in direct spend in the city.

Citizens Bank Park in Philadelphia
The Philadelphia Phillies’ unexpected run to the 2022 World Series packed Citizens Bank Park, and filled hotel rooms in the city. (hao$/Flickr)

Travel Technology

Bus Ticket Marketplace Busbud Makes 2nd Acquisition of 2022

1 month 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.” 

Tourism

Disney Parks Posts Record Quarterly Revenue Even With Some Closures

1 month ago

The Walt Disney Corporation announced on Tuesday during its fourth quarter earnings call that its theme park division generated $7.42 billion worth of revenue, a division record and a 36 percent increase from the same period last year.

Disney’s theme parks posted record revenue for the quarter ending Oct. 1 despite Hurricane Ian forcing the closure of all Walt Disney World parks in Florida for two days in September and Shanghai Disneyland’s strict entry rules limiting the number of visitors. Disney Parks’ quarterly operating income of $1.5 billion was more than double last year’s figure. In addition, Disney also said its theme park division also set all-time records in both revenue and operating income for a full year.

However, Disney reported weaker than-expected-quarterly earnings in large part due to its streaming business losing $1.47 billion during the period. The company’s recorded $20.2 billion worth of revenue for the fourth quarter. Analysts had projected Disney to generate $21.27 billion of revenue.

Disney World entrance
Disney Parks posted record revenue for the fourth quarter despite the brief closure of Disney World in September. (Jrobertiko/Wikimedia Commons)

Tourism

Irish Inbound Tourism Set to Regain 75 Percent of Pre-Pandemic Level

1 month ago

Ireland’s overseas inbound tourism level for the year is set to hit 75 percent of 2019 levels, CEO of Tourism Ireland Niall Gibbons told The Sunday Times (London).

Tourism Ireland forecasts the sector will fully recover by 2025. In 2019 Ireland welcomed 11.3 million tourists, generating approximately $6.1 billion (€5.9 billion) in revenue.

The strong U.S. dollar has benefited Irish tourism. But the strong euro relative to the British pound has dampened inbound tourism to the Republic of Ireland from the UK. (Tourism Ireland does marketing for the full island.)

Hotel supply is a top headwind for Irish tourism, Gibbons said.

“Latest official figures show that more than 20 percent of hotel rooms are being used for non-tourism-related reasons, including housing Ukrainian refugees and the homeless,” The Times reported.

“This year Tourism Ireland has a budget of about $69.8 million (€70 million) to spend on marketing Ireland,’ The Times reported. “The majority will go on television advertising.”

The marketing project he is most proud of since Gibbons became CEO in 2009 is the annual Global Greening, where hundreds of landmarks worldwide light up in green to honor St Patrick’s Day.

The Sunday Times

Tourism

Saudi Top Tourism Developer Rebrands to Red Sea Global and Plans 16 New Resorts

2 months ago

Saudi Arabia’s flagship tourism project developer has rebranded to Red Sea Global (RSG) and said it would open three resorts in 2023 and 13 more in 2024, reported Al Arabiya on Tuesday.

Formerly known as The Red Sea Development Company (TRSDC), Red Sea Global has long been working on a project along the Red Sea and Amaala, a resort being constructed on Saudi Arabia’s northwest coast. Both efforts are part of the country’s efforts to diversify its economy by boosting new sectors such as tourism while using renewable energy.

On Tuesday, the developer said its mandate had expanded to oversee up to a dozen projects stretching the length of the Red Sea coast of Saudi Arabia, with the potential to expand beyond the kingdom. It plans to open 16 resorts between now and 2024.

Red Sea Global is a closed joint-stock company owned by the Saudi Public Investment Fund.

Travel Technology

Ad Software Company Clinch Expands Into Travel Industry Via Sojern Tie-Up

2 months ago

A company that helps advertisers streamline modern ad campaigns is moving further into the travel industry through a new partnership. 

Clinch, headquartered in New York City, said this week that it had started a “new relationship” with Nebraska-based Sojern

Clinch’s so-called “flight control” software suite is meant to help advertisers more easily build data-driven, personalized ad campaigns. 

Sojern is a travel-focused digital marketing platform that uses consumer data to help hospitality companies secure bookings. The company, founded in 2007, has driven more than $15 billion in bookings for thousands of partners, according to its website.

The companies say that the partnership allows Clinch users to access Sojern’s capabilities. 

“The ability to personalize and auto-optimize campaigns to match both environmental and user-based situations is paramount for this sector,” said Charel MacIntosh, head of business development and partnerships for Clinch, in a statement.  

Tourism

India’s Jammu and Kashmir See Highest Number of Tourists Since Colonial Rule Ended 75 Years Ago

2 months ago

The historically strife-torn regions of Jammu and Kashmir in India welcomed 16.2 million visitors so far this year, the most since British colonial rule ended in 1947, Reuters reported.

Largely driven by local tourists after Covid restrictions were lifted earlier this year, the tourism high mark was applauded by India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government as a great stride forward.

Tso Kiagar, Ladakh, Kashmir Source: Debarup Mukherjee, VisualHunt

Modi withdrew Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir’s special rights in 2019, stripping it of its status as a state, a move that he said was about integrating the region with the rest of the country.

Tourism has always been an important part of Kashmir’s economy even when violence and danger were deterrents, as Skift reported in 2019.

India’s trade and tourism minister, Piyush Goyal, was ecstatic over the new tourism surge.

Foreign tourists still need a special pass to visit most parts of Jammu and Kashmir, according to the Reuters report.

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