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Skift Travel News Blog

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

Airlines

European Officials Uphold France’s Ban on Select Flights Where Trains Compete

6 days ago

The European Union has upheld France’s landmark climate law that bans select flights on routes where trains are time competitive.

The decision, from European Commissioner of Transport Adina-Ioana Valean on December 1, finds that France can ban domestic flights where trains can make the journey in two-and-a-half-hours or less. The law, which aims to cut carbon emissions and promote use of the country’s high-speed rail system, is the first of its kind globally.

The law codified a condition in the state aid package provided to Air France. To date, it has forced the airline to suspend only three routes: Paris’ Orly airport to Bordeaux, Lyon, and Nantes. Flights on the routes from Paris’ Charles de Gaulle airport are still allowed for connecting travelers, and because train trip times from the airport’s rail station are longer than the 2.5-hour cap.

A TGV train at Paris’ Charles de Gaulle Airport in April 2022. (Edward Russell/Skift)

“We’re never going to go back — we’re not going to go back to the [pre-crisis] levels,” Air France-KLM Chief Financial Officer Steven Zaat said on domestic France capacity in July 2021 following implementation of the law.

The EU noted that flights on three more air routes in France could be barred if rail services improve. Charles de Gaulle to Lyon and Rennes, and Lyon to Marseille currently offer competitive high-speed rail services but have not been suspended due to limited schedules and trip times that are not always under 2.5 hours.

Separate from the climate law, Air France and French state rail-operator SNCF are working to expand their “Train + Air” partnership. These connections allow travelers to book both a flight and train on a single itinerary and, in theory, seamlessly check-in and connect between the two modes at certain airports, including Charles de Gaulle. In practice, the connections are not as seamless as they could be, including limited airport wayfinding and technology disconnects.

Hotels

Oyo Hits Reorg Button: Lays Off 600 Employees Across Tech and Product

6 days ago

Oyo, in preparation for its upcoming IPO in 2023, is doing a major reorg of its organizational structure and cost base. It has announced it is letting go of 600 employees out of a total of about 3700, mostly in its product and tech teams. From the company:

“Oyo is downsizing its product and engineering, corporate headquarters and the Oyo vacation homes teams, while it adds people to the partner relationship management and the business development teams. Oyo will downsize 10% of its 3700-employee base, which includes fresh hiring of 250 members and letting go of 600 employees…The downsizing in tech is also happening in teams which were developing pilots and proof of concepts such as in-app gaming, social content curation and patron-facilitated content. Additionally, members of projects which have now been successfully developed and deployed such as ‘Partner SaaS’ are being either let go or are being redeployed in core product & tech areas such as AI-driven pricing, ordering and payments.”

Exterior of an Oyo Hotel in London
Exterior of the Oyo Sino Hotel in the Shepherds Bush neighborhood of London.

OYO, as a part of its integration of various functions of its European vacation homes business progresses, is downsizing in some parts of the business to increase efficiency and harness synergies, the statement added. The startup has also reassessed its corporate headquarter base and is merging roles and flattening team structures.

Tags: india, ipo, layoffs, oyo

Online Travel

Trip.com Group Taps $1.5 Billion Loan Tied to Green Targets

7 days ago

Trip.com Group said on Friday it had tapped a $1.5 billion sustainability-linked loan facility, meaning that the financing terms link the debt’s interest rates to the Chinese online travel giant’s performance against specific environmental targets.

The Shanghai-based company will use three-year dual-tranche term loan facility to refinance some of its debt, and the rest for general corporate purposes.

The move appeared to be the first time a major online travel player adopted green finance. Last year, a shareholder initiative prodded Booking Holdings to do a climate change report. The report came out this year. In October, the company said its Booking.com brand would add emissions estimates to bookings soon. Trip.com-owned Skyscanner has estimated flight emissions for consumers for a few years.

Climate-related risk is on investors’ minds as they look at their portfolios. For travel in general, the sustainability-linked bond may provide more flexibility for investors worried about this issue, said Leslie Samuelrich, president of Boston-based Green Century Capital Management. Sustainability-linked bonds are different from green bonds. They set macro targets for a company, while green bonds commit to specific projects.

The investment concept is growing fast, Samuelrich said. Last year, lenders issued $103 billion in sustainability-linked bonds to companies across various industries. The year before that, it was about $12 billion.

In April, Ascott Residence Trust issued a sustainability-linked bond — apparently the first in the hotel sector — worth about $143 million ($200 million Singaporean). Ascott Residence Trust has committed to a sustainability performance target of greening half of its total portfolio by 2025, and its interest rates would essentially rise on the loan facility if it fails to meet the target.

The process remains murky and slow burn, though. There’s a debate about measuring the greenhouse gas emissions contributing to the climate emergency. IFRS Foundation, the international accounting standards-setting body, has this year been working on setting standards for emissions-focused reporting. Their work, and the work of other organizations, will adjust how investors evaluate climate risk — a knotty task inviting skepticism from some critics.

Side note: Trip.com’s chief commercial officer Schubert Lou will talk about the international division of Trip.com Group at Skift Global Forum East in Dubai on Dec. 14.

Hotels

Hotels Record Tepid Increase in Job Growth

1 week ago

Hotels added 26,000 new jobs in the United States in November, a small increase from the previous month despite the overall strong job growth numbers for the U.S. economy, especially the leisure and hospitality industry.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed, in its monthly jobs report released on Friday, that leisure and hospitality — which includes hotels — added 88,000 jobs in November, representing roughly a third of total jobs created in the U.S. Leisure and hospitality added only 35,000 jobs in October — 20,000 came from hotels. Overall employment in leisure and hospitality is 5.8 percent, or 980,000 jobs, below February 2020 levels.

The U.S. added 263,000 new jobs in November, significantly better than the 200,00 new jobs economists projected. The U.S. unemployment rate remained unchanged at 3.7 percent.

Hotel staff worker
Hotels are still struggling to solve the problems of staff shortages (Flickr/Hashoo Foundation USA)

Airlines

American Airlines Is Phasing Out Its VIP and Corporate AirPass Program

1 week ago

American Airlines is no longer accepting new or renewal contracts for AirPass, its VIP-corporate membership scheme. However, “program functionality” will end by March 31, 2024.

Airpass was a prepaid travel program, and had been in existence for more than 40 years (it used to be called AAirPass, and at one point offered unlimited flights.)

Individual and shared memberships started at $10,000 per person, but dropped to $5,000 during the pandemic. It offered fixed rate pricing, no change fees, lounge access, status, and other benefits like Wifi subscriptions, Admirals Club access and in-flight amenities.

Now the airline is shutting it down, and the airline said refunds can be requested, or balances can continue to be used until the end of the contract.

No reason was given on its website, but with the widespread abolishment of change fees, AirPass may not have remained as relevant as it did prior to the pandemic.

Travel Technology

Yanolja Profit Rises as Travel Rebounds in Korea and Asia Pacific

1 week ago

Yanolja said this week it expected that a post-pandemic rebound in international travel will continue to boost its twin businesses of online travel sales via a superapp and software sales to hotels and other travel companies. The South Korea-based startup has made progress on both ambitions since 2011, when it received a $1.7 billion investment from the Softbank Vision Fund in a transaction that valued Yanolja at the time at approximately US$9 billion.

The privately held travel company in South Korea reported this week some of its financial results for the third quarter, saying it had experienced “high growth rates in all business areas.”

Yanolja recorded consolidated sales of approximately $147 million (192.2 billion Korean won) in the quarter, a 112 percent jump from the same period a year.

Unlike many travel startups, the company is profitable. Yanolja reported an adjusted earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization, of about $8.1 million (10.6 billion Korean won).

Roughly half of the company’s growth has been partly driven by its software business, which had a 32 percent year-over-year increase to $71 million in sales in the quarter. For more context on the travel software sales, see Skift’s story Decoding Yanolja Cloud and Its Hotel Software Strategy.

The mid-sized company said it has been staffing up for roles in product management, software engineering, and user experience design, and has cash on hand to make acquisitions.

Jongyoon Kim, CEO of Yanolja, will discuss the company’s overall strategy and business performance at Skift Global Forum East in Dubai on December 14. Kim joined Yanolja in 2015 as chief strategy officer and in 2021, was elevated to CEO. He has previously worked at McKinsey & Company, Google, and 3M. Many industry analysts wonder if Kim will be able to guide the ambitious tartup to a successful initial public offering someday, and if so, when.

Short-Term Rentals

Airbnb Increases Efforts to Boost Short-Term Rentals in Multifamily Buildings

1 week ago

Building on initiatives that had mixed results in the past, Airbnb is debuting an Airbnb-Friendly Apartments program to enable long-term renters in multifamily buildings where landlords permit it to list their rooms or apartments on Airbnb.

Sentral Wynwood in Miami participated in Airbnb’s new Airbnb-Friendly Apartments Program. Source: Airbnb

For both guests and hosts, one of the things the program aims to do is avoid the all-too-frequent situation where guests have to pretend they are part of the host’s visiting family or a close friend because the building doesn’t allow Airbnb rentals.

The newest incarnation of the program enables long-term renters to browse for multifamily buildings that allow Airbnb short-term rentals, get in touch with the management of the building, and, like other first-time hosts, get access to experienced hosts to help with starting out on Airbnb and listing their apartments.

“Renters interested in hosting a spare room, or their entire apartment when they’re out of town, can browse more than 175 Airbnb-friendly apartment buildings, subject to availability, in 25+ markets across the U.S., including Houston, Phoenix, and Jacksonville,” Airbnb stated as part of the announcement.

The company added that renters participating in this multifamily building program over three months hosted an average of nine nights per month and earned an average of $900 net of Airbnb and landlord fees.

Airbnb has had issues with some of these sorts of arrangements in the past. Several years ago, for example, Airbnb enabled a Miami-area developer, Niido, to use the Airbnb brand and enable tenants to host short-term rental guests, but other tenants felt blindsided by the arrangement, and Airbnb eventually sued the developer.

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.

Online Travel

ResortPass Adds $26 Million in Celebrity-Backed Funding

1 week ago

Luxury hotels and resorts, with all their amenities, are usually the playgrounds of the rich and famous and are reserved exclusively for overnight guests who pay top dollar to stay there. 

However, a group of celebrity funders are boosting ResortPass by $26 million to build out its day-pass marketplace for establishments that want to allow guest to come and relax with them for the day.

The demand for local experiences, not too far from home, has surged as post-pandemic travel recovers. The six-year-old startup, now bolstered in its current round of funding by the likes of Jessica Alba and Gwyneth Paltrow (both avid investors in wellness, health and beauty), said the intention is to build its marketplace so guest more easily access amenities such as pools, spas and fitness centers without the hefty overnight price tag.

ResortPass offers some 900 brands such as the Ritz Carlton, Four Seasons and Westin and gives hotels free listings on its marketplace while charging a subscription for its SaaS software to manage access for day trippers.  

While some would argue the model removes the exclusivity for overnight guests, the startup’s business model is to monetize underutilized inventory and work with these hotels to determine price points on par with the caliber of the services and amenities.    

ResortPass has also received backing by Airbnb’s syndicate, AirAngels, with the intention to grow new market access for travelers wanting to tap into a destination’s day experiences.

The Series B funding round was co-led by Declaration Partners and 14W, bringing ResortPass’s total funding to $37 million. Early backer CRV also participated in the financing, along with new investors such as William Morris Endeavor, Adam Grant and Brian Kelly of The Points Guy.

Predominantly focused on U.S. destinations, ResortPass’ recent expansion covers the Caribbean, Mexico and the U.S. territory of Puerto Rico. With its newly acquired funding, ResortPass expects to expand its partnerships into Europe and the Asia-Pacific region. 

Tourism

U.S. International Inbound Travel Won’t Fully Recover Until 2025

1 week ago

International inbound travel to the U.S. is projected to be at 63 percent and 75 percent of its pre-pandemic volume in 2022 and 2023, respectively, according to the U.S. Travel Association’s biannual forecast. At this rate, international travel won’t reach pre-pandemic levels until 2025.

The projected slump is worse than USTA’s June forecast of international travel reaching 67 percent of pre-pandemic 2019 levels and 82 percent in 2023, respectively, reflecting the loss of $8 million more visitors and $28 billion in spending over those two years.

The slow recovery is due to the ongoing delays at U.S. embassies to process visitor visas. First-time visitor visa applicants have to wait over average of 400 days in the top 10 source markets for travel to the United States, and markets such as Brazil, India and Mexico have experienced worsened wait times in recent months, according to the U.S. Travel Association.