Skift Travel News Blog

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

Tour Operators

TUI Teams Up With National Geographic to Expand Small-Group Day Tours

3 months ago

European tour operator TUI’s tours and activities division, TUI Musement, has expanded its collaboration with National Geographic Expeditions, launching 40 new NatGeo Day Tours. 

Previously only available as part of a cruise itinerary package, travelers can now independently book a mix of one-day and half-day itineraries. According to a partnership update released by TUI, these NatGeo tours specialize in beach and city experiences in destinations like Barcelona, Cancun, Crete, Paphos, New York, Naples, and Tenerife.

The tours, led by National Geographic-trained guides, are conducted in small groups of about 8 to 15 people and follow the TUI groups’ Global Sustainable Tourism Council criteria, it said.

NatGeo tours include exploring Miró’s diverse artworks and creations in Barcelona, Spain, guided by architectural and art restoration specialists in the Homage to Miró experience. Another example is embarking on coral reef conservation with marine biologists and oceanographers in Cancun, Mexicoas part of the National Geographic Pristine Seas project in the Unveiling the Importance of Reef Restoration tour.      

An exclusive and educational sailing and snorkeling NatGeo tour to identify bleached corals and understand reef restoration and sustainable marine practices. Source: TUI Musement.

Peter Ulwahn, CEO of TUI Musement, previously shared TUI’s tours and activities strategy as a key growth sector with Skift. He noted that city destination experiences offered as shore excursions notably increased along with the group’s cruise sector revival, seeing a 69% year-on-year growth for TUI’s cruise products between April and June this year, compared to the same period in 2022.

The booking of TUI Collections in city destinations has seen a 90% increase year-on-year. From October 2022 to September 2023, TUI Musement facilitated over 1 million direct bookings, added Ulwahn.

“National Geographic Day Tours are once-in-a-lifetime experiences. These are carefully crafted tours that tell stories of their destinations, honoring the National Geographic legacy and providing top quality, authentic, local experiences,” said Ulwahn.

Tour Operators

TUI Relaunches First Choice Travel Brand

5 months ago

TUI-owned FirstChoice.co.uk has relaunched as a new travel and experiences booking platform as the brand looks to strengthen its position with the flexible, independent traveler.

First Choice, originally well-known for its package holidays, now offers an array of travel options tailored around the needs and unique points of interest of today’s travelers, according to TUI UK and Ireland managing director Andrew Flintham.

Offering close to 200 destinations in over 60 countries, travelers can choose from various accommodation types and price points, from guesthouses and hostels to 5* luxury hotels and resorts. 

Additionally, travelers can enhance their trips with extras like cooking classes in Crete or paddleboarding in Majorca. There is also a weather guarantee for specific destinations through a partnership with Sensible Weather.

“New destinations and hotels will be picked based on what’s trending, the latest industry insider knowledge, and where budgets stretch furthest,” said Flintham, “First Choice has been helping holidaymakers choose their perfect trips for nearly 30 years, first on the high street and later as part of the TUI Group. But in 2023, travelers’ needs are changing, and so is First Choice.”

First Choice managing director Bart Quinton Smith added, “People will be able to plan their holidays around their interests or our destinations. Go via plane, or thanks to our partnership with Byway, by train. Dine in or dine out. Add an experience, upgrade, or save some cash. It’s up to our travelers to decide what makes a choice perfect.”

Tour Operators

TUI Adds Juniper Travel as New Experiences Distribution Partner

6 months ago

TUI, one of Europe’s leading tour operator groups, has extended its tours and activities distribution through Juniper Travel Technology.

Juniper, a travel tech company offering travel booking and management solutions, will integrate TUI’s portfolio of 88,000 excursions, activities, and attraction tickets in 100 countries, making it available for its clients of 270 travel and tourism companies.

The integration with Juniper Travel will “reach new customers based on their needs through seamless integration”, said Nishank Gopalkrishnan, chief business officer of TUI Musement. It expands TUI’s business to business strategy, both with companies in TUI’s established source markets such as the United Kingdom and Germany, and also with Juniper partners in southern Europe and LATAM as new markets for TUI.

TUI Musement reported a 33% increase in sales in the group’s third-quarter financial results. In 2022, TUI sold over seven million experiences.

Juan Mateos, Juniper Travel general manager, said its clients would have “frictionless access” to TUI’s experiences, initially available as a standalone catalog. In the future, it will be part of Juniper’s packaging and call center modules.

Hotels

TUI Expands Branded Hotel Portfolio in Zanzibar

7 months ago

The TUI Group has kickstarted investment via its hotel fund, launched last year with Luxembourg-based Hansainvest, to acquire the 5-star “Emerald Zanzibar Resort & Spa” on Zanzibar in Tanzania.

TUI will take over the running of the hotel and all existing bookings at the beginning of 2024, bringing its branded hospitality offering in the East African country to four hotels.

The acquisition was the first investment made by the fund, according to Peter Krueger, group head for strategy and merger & acquisitions, who stated that TUI is set to add more hotels.

“The next concrete investment opportunities are already being pursued,” Krueger said, “The fund also intends to acquire a hotel property from TUI’s portfolio. This is currently operated by a TUI hotel brand and will continue to be run as such in the future by means of a management contract.”

TUI sees its hotel division as a key growth driver, having seen positive results over several quarters, with underlying earnings before interest and taxes for the last four quarters exceeding pre-Covid 2019 performance.

The company is set to release its third-quarter results on Wednesday, 9 August.

Tour Operators

TUI’s Musement Doubles Experiences Bookings and Plans Expansion

10 months ago

TUI Musement continues to carve its place in the growth flywheel of parent company TUI Group, with the launch of its digital TUI experiences platforms to take the brand beyond Europe and into the world.

Sebastian Ebel, chairman and CEO of TUI Group, said TUI’s activities segment continues to support the group strategy of bringing new customers into the TUI ecosystem during an earnings call on Wednesday. Musement, which saw +185 percent year-on-year growth for business-to-customer experiences sold in quarter two of 2023, will continue to build its own unique experiences across 100 key cities.

Ebel outlined how its digital platform rollout would also support its TUI Blue asset-light growth, with the ongoing development of its own product.

TUI’s acquisition into Musement saw great investment in Milan, Spain and France, but the company would now be rolling out products for Germany, England, and the Far East, for example.

“We are targeting a hundred key cities at the moment in the world so that you don’t only get the best offers in Majorca but also when you are in Berlin,” said Ebel. “We are building more and more of our own products because we can sell as a merchant, but it’s more attractive if we produce the products on our own or make them unique through special relationships and to build further the Tui Collection.”

TUI’s tours and activities reported a near doubling in the number of excursions and activities booked during the second quarter ending March 31, with 1.3 million experiences sold and an estimated 0.7 million more than in the prior-year quarter.

Musement has reduced its underlying earnings before interest and taxes (EBIT) loss to -$13.9 million in the period under review, compared to -$19.92 million in the prior year. TUI Musement also benefited from increased guest transfers, with a total of 3.4 million transfers in destinations. You can read more about TUI’s focus on dynamic packaging and second-quarter earnings here.

Airlines

KLM Wins Court Battle Against Dutch State Over Schiphol Airport Flight Caps

11 months ago

KLM has won its court case against the Dutch government, which proposed cutting flights at Schiphol Airport from 500,000 a year to 440,000 a year to reduce noise pollution.

The court stated the government did not comply with European rules, which specify a flight cap can only take effect after all measures to limit noise nuisance had been considered.

The District Court of Noord-Holland’s preliminary proceedings were brought by KLM and other airlines, including Delta Air Lines, easyJet, TUI and Corendon.

Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith earlier this year said any flight cap would also disrupt planning for the arrival of efficient new jets better able to curb emissions. The Franco-Dutch airline group said it had invested heavily in newer planes based on foreseeable capacity at KLM’s hub only to see the goal posts move abruptly.

Dutch businesses and citizens have also campaigned against the limiting of flights to Schiphol, arguing it will simply divert the traffic to other airports, and do little to reduce aviation emissions. Some 84,000 jobs could also be jeopardized if Dutch air travel was weakened, they added.

Schiphol Airport meanwhile plans to axe late-night flights over the next two years.

Online Travel

Booking.com Adds Klook To Its Roster of Activities Providers

1 year 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.

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 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

2 years 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.