Skift Travel News Blog

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

Tourism

Brand USA CEO Chris Thompson to Step Down

7 months ago

Chris Thompson will step down as president and CEO of Brand USA, effective May 31, 2024. Brand USA is the U.S. ‘s destination marketing organization. Brand USA’s board of directors will work with an executive search firm to find a successor.

Thompson is retiring after more than 30 years in the industry. He has served as president and CEO of Brand USA since 2012. Prior to joining Brand USA, he was president and CEO of Visit Florida.

“It has been an incredible privilege to serve as President and CEO of Brand USA,” said Thompson. “I am immensely proud of what we have accomplished together, and I am confident that the organization will continue to thrive under new leadership.”

Short-Term Rentals

Google Adds Last-Minute Rentals Platform Whimstay as Latest Partner

1 year ago

Google has added San Francisco-based startup Whimstay as a vacation rental partner.

Whimstay focuses on booking last-minute vacation rentals and the selling of distressed inventory — or providing discounts on vacation rentals that would otherwise go unoccupied at full retail rates.

Google will now add Whimstay’s 150,000 vacation rental properties to its travel search function. They join properties listed in the U.S. by other vacation rental partners including Uplisting, Futurestay, Eviivo, BookingPal and Bluetent.

Google also has several other global platform partners.

Whimstay claims it can offer discounted rates of 15-60 percent, usually within 21 days of the stay. It also works with Vacasa, Inntopia, Natural Retreats and Best Beach Getaways.

“Google’s platform for vacation rentals enables us to leapfrog our already strong outperformance on organic search, thereby increasing conversion in a manner that is far more profitable and capital efficient,” said Whimstay CEO David Weiss.

Whimstay also expects to add an extra 100,000 to 150,000 properties to its platform over the next 12 months.

Tourism

Americans Traveling to Turkey Are at All-Time Highs

1 year ago

No, you weren’t just imagining your social media timelines full of all your friends posting from Istanbul and Turkey this summer. It happened to be true.

According to latest data from European Travel Commission, visitor arrivals from U.S. to Turkey for the first nine months of this year have been up 61.1 percent from equivalent 2019 numbers. It looks likely that 2022 will represent a new peak year, the latest quarterly report from ETC says.

Another hot and trendy destination for U.S. travelers was Portugal, which was also evident from the high flight and hotel/short term rental prices in Lisbon and other tourist hotspots in the country. The U.S. arrivals to Portugal are up 17.4% above the same period of 2019.

As the report says, some had feared that the war in Ukraine would deter U.S. travel to Europe owing to safety concerns for the wider European region. There is little evidence to support this notion given the range of destinations already reporting recovery, including Poland (+5.5%) and Lithuania (+6.6%).

The data also shows similar large rise of arrivals from UK to Turkey, up 27 percent year to date compared to 2019.

Tags: turkey, uk, usa

Tourism

World Cup Boosts Flight Bookings to Qatar and Gulf Nations

1 year ago

Despite the requirement to present a negative Covid-19 test to enter Qatar, flight bookings to the country for travel during FIFA World Cup — between November 14 and December 24 — have witnessed a massive boom, according to ForwardKeys’ data based on issued flight tickets, including day trips.

The flight bookings to Qatar from countries, including United Arab Emirates (UAE), Spain, Japan France and the U.S., are currently ten times the volume of pre-pandemic levels, according to data analytics firm ForwardKeys. 

The strongest-performing market during the World Cup period is United Arab Emirates, where bookings are currently ahead 103 times compared to 2016. The benchmark period for United Arab Emirates is 2016 as the Qatar diplomatic crisis stopped direct flights between Qatar and the UAE between 2017 and 2021.

Bookings from Mexico have gone up 79 times compared to 2019, while bookings from Argentina are up 77 times. The bookings from Spain and Japan have gone up 53 times and 46 times respectively.

The shortage of accommodation in Qatar and the availability of shuttle flights from cities in the United Arab Emirates will allow many people to stay in the UAE and fly over for on match days. The flight time between Dubai and Doha is a little over 60 minutes.

The UAE’s hospitality market is set to expand by 25 percent by 2030, with a further 48,000 rooms adding to the nation’s extensive 200,000 key portfolio, global consultancy firm Knight Frank noted in Sepetember.

Dubai is set to account for the lion’s share of this total, with 76 percent of all new rooms coming to the emirate, which already has over 130,000 rooms, Knight Frank fother observed.

Currently, day trips account for 4 percent of all arrivals in Qatar during the World Cup, 85 percent of which originate in the UAE.

The World Cup is set to benefit the whole Gulf region, as flight bookings to countries in the region during the competition are currently 16 percent ahead compared to 2019, and, for the initial stages of the tournament 61 percent ahead.

Many World Cup visitors would also be travelling to other destinations in the region as the number of visitors staying at least two nights in Qatar and going on to stay at least two more nights in another Gulf country is sixteen times greater than it was before the pandemic.

Set to capture 65 percent onward visits, Dubai is the biggest beneficiary of this trend by far, followed by Abu Dhabi with 14 percent and Jeddah would be capturing 8 percent of these visits.

U.S. travelers make up 26 percent of the “regional tourists,” followed by travelers from Canada at 10 percent and British tourists at 9 percent. Around 32 percent of travelers coming in to Dubai would be from the U.S.

The FIFA World Cup is one of the most attractive drivers of travel there is, so much so, that other destinations in the Gulf will benefit, not just the host nation, Qatar.

In tourism promotion terms, the World Cup will throw a media spotlight on Qatar and help it become a more established destination, and not just a major hub for intercontinental air traffic.

“Normally, just 3 percent of travel to Doha is destined to stay in the country; and 97 percent comprises onward connections. However, during the World Cup almost 27 percent has Qatar as the ultimate destination,” said Olivier Ponti, VP Insights of ForwardKeys.

Ponti said that the UAE would also benefit substantially from the tournament because it has much more hotel accommodation than Qatar, and two global hub airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Travel Booking

Hapi Travel Launches Subscription Service for the U.S. Market

2 years ago

Subscription travel platform Hapi Travel Destinations has launched in the U.S.

More brands are building paid travel subscriptions, powered by shifts in traveler priorities and work-life flexibility, but Hapi Travel also wants to expand by offering “additional income in the new gig economy.”

A subsidiary of direct-sell specialist Sharing Services Global Corporation, it plans to add more “promoters” and says it lets users earn points when they book a vacation for their next trip, but also earn them when they refer other people.

It also claims to offer travel savings, which come at a cost: its Explorer subscription involves a basic monthly membership fee of $50 a month, while its Elite+ package costs $2,500 to join, and then $244 a year.

It offers discounts on hotels, resorts, cruises and condos, as well as car rentals, activities, flights and shopping, leveraging its direct-sell business.

“This new and unique membership-based travel club is designed for everyone to enjoy maximum savings and travel perks on the most luxurious vacation getaways throughout the world or save money on ordinary daily personal or corporate travel,” said John Thatch, CEO of Sharing Services Global Corporation.

In July, membership-focused travel tech firm Mondee went public. It mainly offers cloud-based tools to so-called “gig travel agents,” a category of independent workers it claims is growing. But the 1,000-employee company also offers direct-to-consumer subscription travel sales, rewards-based business travel programs, wholesaling services, and other offerings.