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Skift Travel News Blog

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

Food and Drink

IDEAS: Immersive Hospitality Concept, Level 8, Debuts at Moxy & AC Hotel Downtown LA

6 months ago

Conceived by Mark and Jonnie Houston, in collaboration with Mitchell Hochberg of Lightstone, Level 8 is a multi-layered hospitality concept spread across 30,000 square feet of indoor and outdoor space at the Moxy & AC Hotel Downtown LA.

The new concept encompasses eight distinct maze-like destinations that offer a range of dining, drinking and entertainment experiences.

As you can see from the video above, Level 8 is very design-focused, with a number of themed rooms that have taken inspiration from global experiences, that according to a release, are all ‘held together by their link to Downtown LA’.

Credit: Michael Kleinberg
Credit: Michael Kleinberg

The Level 8 experience is told through the eyes of its fictional founder, ‘Mr. Wanderlust’, and boasts a range of experiential elements including a 40-foot harp, a speakeasy which is entered through a waterfall, a rotating carousel bar, and a space that has been modeled on a 19th-century cathedral. 

Credit: Michael Kleinberg

You can see the full list of spaces on offer below:

  • Mr. Wanderlust: A lively piano bar and jazz lounge
  • Lucky Mizu by Chef Hisae Stuck: An experience inspired by the Japanese art of cooking with water.
  • Maison Kasai by Chef Joshua Gil:  A French-Teppanyaki experience.
  • Qué Bárbaro by Chef Ray Garcia: A South American live fire grill.
  • Golden Hour: A rooftop pool deck.
  • The Brown Sheep: A food truck serving Mexican street food. 
  • Mother of Pearl: An al fresco oyster and ceviche bar.
  • Sinners y Santos: A bar modeled around a 19th-century cathedral.

More information on Level 8 can be found here.

Skift Ideas uncovers the most creative and forward-thinking innovations happening across travel. We celebrate innovation through our Skift IDEA Awards and hear from leaders on our Ideas podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.

Tour Operators

Attraction World Group Acquired by New Investment Company

6 months ago

Attraction World Group (AWG) has been acquired by Montana World Investments, a newly founded international investment group, in a deal facilitated by alternative asset management firm Highmore Group.

The terms of the deal were not disclosed, and it is said to allow the UK-based tours and activities distribution and booking platform to expand internationally into industries like “loyalty programs, online travel agents (OTAs), airlines, rail, and transportation.”

The capital will be used to “fuel growth in new markets, invest in advanced technologies, and make strategic acquisitions in line with AWG’s vision,” according to Olly Nicholls, AWG’s Group CEO.

The deal also marks the exit of previous AWG shareholders, Ten Oceans.

Tour Operators

Musement Co-founder Claudio Bellinzona Leaves TUI

7 months ago

The co-founder of Musement, Claudio Bellinzona, is leaving TUI Musement. He will be taking on an advisory role with the tours and activities arm of Europe’s leading tour operator.

The company confirmed Bellinzona’s exit as chief supply officer and confirmed a new tours and activities commercial team, “focused on strategic business to business partners,” to be headed up by Nishank Gopalkrishnan, previously TUI Musement chief business officer and the team’s newly appointed as chief commercial officer.

Bellinzona leaves TUI five years after it acquired the Milan-based tours and activities startup in 2018. Peter Ulwahn, CEO of TUI Musement, confirmed Bellinzona will continue working with the TUI Musement leadership team on “various new growth opportunities.” as he commended his impact on TUI Musement’s recovery post-pandemic as well as the completed integration of Musement into TUI.

The unification of TUI Musement’s partnerships under one commercial team comes as the division generates 50% of the business’ revenues through distribution partnerships that include OTAs like and airlines and hotels. The commercial team’s portfolio development, through API and white-label distribution, will be for TUI Collections, the company’s branded experiences, and third-party experiences.

Tour Operators

TUI Opens New Digital Hub in Portugal

7 months ago

TUI Group has consolidated its digital activities in Portugal by opening a new tech center in Porto.

Europe’s largest holiday package tour operator continues to lean into an ambitious digital transformation, with the center set to focus on developing mobile apps, payment systems, and using artificial intelligence across both TUI’s customer-facing and internal services.

In 2017, TUI partnered with IT service provider COCUS to create a Software Development Hub in Portugal. After five years of collaboration, they recently agreed to integrate this software hub into TUI’s organization as a ‘Digital Hub.’

TUI already has tech teams in Poland and India, with the new Porto center adding 150 more tech specialists to its workforce, with plans to grow the Porto team to 200 by the end of 2024.

Portugal is a popular destination for TUI travelers, according to TUI’s CEO, Sebastian Ebel, who said the development “strengthens its position in the country.” Ebel has laid out his intent for TUI’s app to become a one-stop shop for travel.

In a previous interview with Skift, Peter Ulwahn, CEO of TUI Musement, the group’s tours and activities division, commented on the company’s digital transformation, stating,” We were offline before. Now we are transforming the company, and we really want to compete with the other OTA players in the space when it comes to technology.”


IDEAS: Orlando International Airport Opens to the General Public with Launch of New Visitor Pass

7 months ago

Orlando International Airport has launched a pilot program that will see non-traveling members of the public given access to its Terminal C, known as the Experience MCO Visitor Pass.

Credit: Orlando International Airport

The Experience MCO Visitor Pass Program has been designed to grant members of the public access to the terminal’s post-security areas in order to explore its ‘unique architecture, interactive media and services’. 

In order to apply for the Visitor Pass, potential guests will need to complete an online application up to seven days before their planned visit, which will then be reviewed by the Transportation Security Administration (TSA).

Once approved, guests will receive their Experience MCO Visitor Pass via email, which they will then use to get into general screening before being granted access to the terminal. 

Passes are limited and granted on a first-come, first-served basis and entry will be available from 10 a.m. and 4 p.m.

Skift Ideas uncovers the most creative and forward-thinking innovations happening across travel. We celebrate innovation through our Skift IDEA Awards and hear from leaders on our Ideas podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.

Tour Operators

Europe’s Sandemans Free Walking Tours Partners with TripAdmit for Cashless Tipping

7 months ago

Sandemans Tours has partnered with TripAdmit to integrate its digital tipping and reviews platform, TipDirect, with its network of guides in more than 30 cities across Europe, North America, and the Middle East.

The service offers a cashless and contactless tipping solution, allowing guests to pay directly via their smartphones to tour guides. Chris Sandeman, managing director of Sandemans Tours, emphasized the importance of easy and secure digital tipping for their guides who work on a tips-only basis.

Additionally, TipDirect uses generative AI to help travelers create personalized reviews with keyword-rich text for platforms like Google and TripAdvisor.

Dublin-based TripAdmit, a technology company that enables the online selling of tour and activity providers, said the partnership speaks to a “growing trend towards a cashless society.” The company’s recent high-season booking data also showed that travelers continue to look for “affordable and spontaneous experiences” with short booking timeframes.

Source: TripAdmit.

TripAdmit ticketing customers had seen an average increase of 25% in tour sales during this year’s high season compared to 2022. Activities priced under $55 (under 50 euros) also had a high lead time of under one week, with over 90% of bookings made within this timeframe.


IDEAS: Hologram Room Allows You to ‘Swim’ with Mantas in the Maldives

7 months ago

A dry “underwater” hologram experience featuring numerous sea creatures has opened at Four Seasons Resort Landaa Giraavaru.

Credit: Four Seasons Resort Landaa Giraavaru

The experience has been designed to replicate the real manta rays that can be found in the resorts surrounding waters of the Baa Atoll UNESCO World Biosphere Reserve, with the holograms designed to provide guests with the opportunity to virtually ‘swim’ with manta rays, humpback whales, seahorses and mimic octopuses.

The sessions last up to 45 minutes, and are hosted twice daily at the Resort’s on-site Marine Discovery Center.

Skift Ideas uncovers the most creative and forward-thinking innovations happening across travel. We celebrate innovation through our Skift IDEA Awards and hear from leaders on our Ideas podcast.

You can listen and subscribe to the Skift Ideas Podcast through your favorite podcast app here.

Tour Operators

TUI Relaunches First Choice Travel Brand

7 months ago

TUI-owned 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.”


Pure 2023 Canceled as Morocco Reels in Earthquake Aftermath

7 months ago

The high-end, experiential travel show Pure Life Experience, meant to take place in Marrakesh from 10 to 13 September, has been canceled.

The organizers of the annual event, now in its 14th year, issued a statement confirming its cancelation following the devastating 6.8-magnitude earthquake in Morocco on Friday, 8 September, which killed more than 2,000 people and left thousands more injured.

Serge Dive, CEO and founder of This Is Beyond, the events company behind the Pure travel show, said the team had assessed safety conditions before deciding the best way forward in light of the natural disaster.

“My intent is to respect all of your decisions while doing what is right for those affected in Morocco, our own community, and the fabric of the local tourism,” said Dive as he expressed concern about the inappropriateness of planned events amid the devastation and emotional toll. The earthquake took place 50 miles from the city of Marrakesh in the High Atlas Mountains of Morocco and is said to be the biggest to hit Morocco since 1960.

Beks Ndlovu, the founder of African Bush Camps, a bespoke Africa-based safari company, posted he was in the city for the four-day trade fair, which had 525 registered exhibitors to attend this year’s event.

“I truly believe that we have a unique opportunity for those who are already in Marrakech to strengthen our bond, reflect on the current event, and to be a real force for good for the Moroccan community,” Dive said.

See the complete statement below.

Online Travel

Turo Saw Rise in Electric Vehicle Demand Over Summer

8 months ago

Turo, the peer-to-peer car rental startup, has seen an uptick in electric vehicle use for summer road trips.

The platform’s “electric” filter saw a 139% increase in use during listing searches, according to Turo’s Chief Data Officer, Albert Mangahas who confirmed Turo guests made summer bookings in 2,700 different cities and towns for travel between June 1 and September 1.

Notable Summer Travel Booking Patterns: 

  • Last year, California, Hawaii, Nevada, Arizona, Texas, and Florida saw the most demand for EV bookings.
  •  Popular electric models include the Lucid Air, Rivian R1T and R1S, and Teslas.
  •  Luxury travel is rising, with a 21% uptick in searches for high-end vehicles like the Rolls-Royce Ghost and BMW 7 Series on Turo for summer trips.  
  •  Family travel is surging, marked by a 162% increase in the use of Turo’s “family-friendly” filter and a growing demand for added conveniences like car delivery and optional perks.

There are 165,000 active hosts listed on the platform, with 330,000 active vehicles. Electric vehicles made up 7% of active listings, as of April 2023. Mangahas added that electric vehicles accounted for 14% of the company’s overall gross booking value in 2022.

A Push to Eco-friendly Experiences

Turo said it is partnering with hosts to highlight sustainable travel, starting with an upcoming eclipse event in Austin, Texas. A local host will list ten electric vehicles for $14 on October 14, the eclipse day.

Each vehicle comes with two passes to Turo’s exclusive viewing party at Joshua Creek Ranch in Boerne, TX, right on the Path of Totality. The event will feature a live performance by Lindsay Beaver, Texas-style BBQ, and lawn games, providing a unique and eco-conscious way for travelers to experience the celestial event.

“Car rentals are especially popular during solar events, leading to sold-out inventory and price hikes,” said Mangahas, reflecting on the surge in demand during a 2017 solar event.

Skift previously reported on the potential of electric vehicle adoption for tourism with substantial federal funding to expand EV infrastructure, approved by the Biden Administration. Some $5 billion over five years has been pegged for cities and businesses looking to bolster their tourism economies to develop a charging station network across the U.S.

Improved EV infrastructure bodes well for the trends the company sees as it looks to maintain its carbon neutrality certification.

Mangahas declined to comment further when asked about Turo continuously updating its S-1 filings or the company’s readiness to go public.