Skift Travel News Blog

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

Travel Technology

Travel Counsellors Acquires Travel Sales Platform Planisto

2 months ago

Travel Counsellors, a UK-based tech platform for travel agents, has acquired Planisto, a similar company that specializes in trip planning and booking. 

Terms and acquisition price were not disclosed. 

Travel Counsellors provides a platform that home-based leisure and corporate travel agents can use for trip planning and booking. Users who make bookings through the platform earn 60% of the profit, while the company gets 40%, according to the website. 

The company said it has more than 1,900 agents worldwide. 

Belgium-based Planisto offers travel sellers with tools to plan trips, create itineraries, and book travel on behalf of clients. The platform was established by travel tech development company EURAM.

Three of Planisto’s developers are also joining the Travel Counsellors team, the buyer said.

The acquisition is part of the company’s plan to invest £15 million in tech and AI this year, according to a post on Linkedin by Travel Counsellors CEO Steve Byrne.

Travel Counsellors made its first acquisition in May 2023 when it bought UK-based Holidaysplease, a similar tech platform for travel agents. 

Private equity firm Vitruvian Partners acquired Travel Counsellors in 2018.

Travel Technology

Travelport Integrates Corporate Booking Tool Following Deem Acquisition

7 months ago

Travelport has completed the integration of corporate booking tool Deem, which it acquired earlier this year

Travelport — along with its two larger competitors, public companies Amadeus and Sabre — primarily act as marketplaces to connect airlines and travel agents. 

While Amadeus and Sabre have had in-house corporate travel booking tools in recent years, Travelport has not since it sold Locomote in 2019.

The Deem tool is now part of Travelport+, the next generation of the booking platform for travel agents that Travelport has been developing over the past two years. And agencies that had been using Deem can now access Travelport data through the platform, which is still also compatible with data from Amadeus and Sabre.

The software from Deem is meant to provide travel agents a simpler, more modern experience than has been historically available for corporate travel. And the software includes a tool that travelers can use to manage their own trips. 

“It extends the vision that we set for Travelport back in 2019 or early 2020, which was we wanted to create a more modern retailing experience that was more akin to what leisure travelers might experience,” said John Elieson, chief operating officer and deputy CEO of Travelport.

“You go to a site like Travelocity or Expedia or Priceline, and you’ve just got this really intuitive, enjoyable experience. And yet in corporate travel, it’s just much clunkier.”

Travelport CEO Greg Webb said early this year that more than 80% of the company’s travel agent customers were using Travelport+ at that time, and the rest were expected to transition in the following 12 to 18 months.

Ideas

IDEAS: SOTC Travel Introduces Three Regional Languages to Website

8 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.

Hotels

Leisure and Hospitality Job Growth Slowed in April

10 months ago

The leisure and hospitality sector was among the largest job gainers in the U.S. in April, but the 31,000 jobs it added amounted to a deceleration from March, when it added 40,000 positions to the workforce.

Latelier restaurant florida
Credit: L’Atelier de Joël Robuchon Miami

The vast majority of the additions in April were not in hotels, but in food service and drinking establishments, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics‘ monthly jobs report Friday.

“The average wage in the industry now averages $20 an hour, well above minimum wage — a key indicator that the H-2B program, on which many travel businesses rely, does not take jobs from U.S. workers,” said Tori Emerson Barnes, executive vice president of Public Affairs and Policy, U.S. Travel Association. 

Leisure and hospitality, which employed 2.4 percent fewer workers in the U.S. in April than it did in pre-pandemic February 2020, grew at a considerably faster pace during the prior six months when it added 73,000 jobs per month on average.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics reported all of these figures in its April jobs report on Friday.

There were 16.54 million people employed in leisure and hospitality in April. The unemployment rate in the sector was 5 percent, higher than the the 3.4 percent nationally for non-farm employees.

The air transportation sector in the U.S. added a modest 3,300 jobs, bringing its ranks to 537,400, the report found.

Travel arrangement and reservations services boosted its workforce by 800 jobs, bringing the entire roster of travel agents and similar roles to 179,400.

Travel arrangement and reservation services increased by 10,400 over the previous 12 months, and increased from 178,600 in March 2023 to 179,400 in April 2023.  

Skift’s Dennis Schaal contributed to this report.

Travel Agents

Travel Agency Pangea to Double Revenue on Retail Store Model

11 months ago

The conventional wisdom back in 2015 was that travel agencies were a shrinking business. But that year, Spanish entrepreneur David Hernández thought he saw a whitespace for creating a fast-growing travel agency business, and he launched plans to create Pangea.

Fast forward to 2022, and his “travel store” invoiced close to 50 million euros in sales, Hernandez told the Spanish publication Time on Monday. In the first quarter of 2023, Pangea doubled its revenue year-over-year. This year, it expects to generate close to $75 million (€70 million).

What factors are enabling Pangea to grow quickly, having now served more than 20,000 travelers in only a few years?

In 2019, Hernandez raised an approximately $11 million (€9 million) round of venture funding, led by led by Axon Partners. The funding helped the company survive the pandemic and open four stores: in Madrid, at 1,500 square meters; in Barcelona, at 1,700 square meters and with a restaurant; in Bilbao, with three floors; and in Valencia, in the heart of the city.

The physical stores have attracted a new generation of travelers, just as some online-first direct-to-consumer brands like eyewear maker Warby Parker have opened physical stores as a marketing technique. Pangea’s Madrid store last year had a turnover of about $35 million (€30 million). Roughly a fifth of its customers were walk-ins.

“People fill out an online questionnaire, and based on their interests and characteristics, we find the best advisor for them,” Hernández said. “We have expert professional advisors in diving, volcanoes, safaris… anything you can imagine.”

Hernández doesn’t neglect technology. But he sees it as supplemental rather than the full offering — mainly as a way to make back-end and routine processes more efficient. His services are within a rounding error of the cost of fully booking trips online but save customers time, Hernández claimed.

“We have been developing a global technological tool for a year that aims to help further digitize the sector,” Hernández said, who aims to launch the tool at the travel trade fair Fitur early next year.

“Who thinks Booking.com, to name one, has no margins?” Hernández said. “That you always find the cheapest on the internet is not always true. For a difference of five or ten euros, it is not worth giving up the after-sales service, the security, the customization that we offer… We [as travelers] don’t have enough time to spend more than 50 hours preparing a far away and complex trip, like Costa Rica, Japan, Tanzania, the USA, or the Maldives. .. In an agency, they solve it for you in 30 minutes with all the guarantees and professional advice.”

—David Hernández, CEO of Pangea
Read about Hernández's Pangea travel store in Spain, via Time

Travel Technology

Travelsoft Acquires Travel Compositor to Expand Booking Software Services

12 months 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. 

Travel Technology

Mondee Doubled Revenue and Net Loss in Its Year Going Public

12 months ago

Mondee has been going through a lot of changes over the last year, and the numbers shared during its latest earnings call reflect that.

Mondee more than doubled annual gross revenue in 2022 to $2.2 billion. The company also had a net loss of $87 million in 2022, compared with $39 million in 2021, because of various one-time expenses mostly related to the way the company went public in July 2022. 

Adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization was $16 million in 2022, an increase of more than $20 million.

Mondee provides travel agents access to a marketplace for booking on behalf of their customers. Travel agents access that marketplace, as well as ancillary software products to manage their business, through a Mondee software platform. 

As the company continues to focus on expanding its services and geographical footprint, it projects net revenue growth of 47 percent for 2023.

About 80 percent of Mondee’s bookings are for flights, the rest comprised of hotels and car rentals. The company plans to soon expand offerings to include cruises, theaters, theme parks, sporting events, and other ticketed events. 

Historically focused on North America, Mondee is working to expand in Latin America, India, and Europe, in that order. 

Mondee earlier this year acquired Orinter, a similar company based in Brazil, for $40 million as part of its expansion to Brazil and Latin America. 

“We plan to continue aggressively executing a targeted, accretive acquisition strategy, which will help accelerate our growth and expansion into new geographies as well as offerings of new products and services,” Prasad Gundumogula, chairman and CEO of Mondee, said during the call Tuesday morning. 

Gundumogula said he believes that demand by younger generations for more tech-forward options is a significant driver of the company’s growth, and that will help mitigate headwinds like inflation, high fuel costs, and economic uncertainty. 

The Mondee stock price was at $11.29 late Tuesday morning, up 10.9 percent year to date.

Travel Technology

Software Developer Makes AI Travel Itinerary Tool

1 year 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.”

Airlines

Qantas Offloads Stake in Australian Travel Agency Helloworld for $22 Million

1 year ago

Qantas has sold its remaining 12.4 percent shareholding in Australian travel agency Helloworld Travel Limited for $22 million.

The airline made the decision as it “sharpens its focus on post-Covid recovery,” and it had been reducing its stake over several years.

“We’ve announced some major investments this year as we focus on what is core to the group going forward, including fleet renewal, growing our network and a successful expansion into the e-commerce holiday booking space with TripADeal,” said Qantas Group chief financial officer said Vanessa Hudson.

The sell-off was confirmed in a statement to the stock exchange.

Qantas will continue to have a strong relationship with Helloworld as a trade partner, she added.

The national airline has held a stake in Helloworld since 2008, when it was spun off from a merger of Qantas Holidays and Jetset Travel.

Qantas also sold 14 hectares of industrial land near its Mascot headquarters in Sydney for $535 million in late 2021.

Corporate travel agency CTM bought Helloworld’s business travel division for $127 million at the end of last year.

Travel Agents

Travel Agency Fora Raises $13.5 Million With Aim to Attract More Prospective Agents

2 years ago

Fora, a New York-based travel agency that launched last year, announced on Thursday it raised $13.5 million.

Venture capital companies Heartcore Capital and Forerunner co-led the Series A funding. Fora, which has raised a total of $18.5 million to date, aims to use the funding to invest heavily in infrastructure, including its own booking management system. Co-founder Evan Frank said the funds will also help the company recruit more prospective travel agents, as nearly half of U.S. travelers plan to use agents coming out of the pandemic. Fora estimates that 97 percent of its roughly 500 advisors had never previously sold travel.

“We are looking to create an environment to empower thousands — hundreds of thousands — of people to participate in the travel industry in a way not previously was not possible,” said Frank. “We want to welcome the next 100,000 travel agents into the industry.”