Page 2

Skift Travel News Blog

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

Ideas

IDEAS: El Cosmico to Construct a Martian-esque Retreat Using 3D Printing Technology

11 months ago

Get ready to blast off to a new frontier of luxury glamping, as El Cosmico’s Martian-inspired retreat is coming to Texas.

Source: ICON, BIG for El Cosmico

The concept of ‘glamping’, or glamorous camping, has been gaining popularity in recent years as an alternative to traditional camping. And hotelier Liz Lambert, the force behind El-Cosmico, is set to take this concept to an otherworldly level.

Lambert announced the pioneering plans for ‘Sunday Homes’ in March, working in partnership with ICON and Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG), to expand the current El Cosmico site from 21 to over 60 acres.

Utilizing the opportunity to explore entirely new architectural possibilities, thanks to large-scale 3D printing, the team are certainly pushing the construction boundaries by producing organic structures in the form of domes, sweeping arches, and curved forms.

Source: ICON, BIG for El Cosmico

Designed to “celebrate the convergence of creative culture and the minimalistic natural environment of the Marfa landscape”, the development is set to include a collection of guest units along with a range of new hospitality services, including an infinity pool, spa, and communal facilities.

With groundwork set to start in 2024, this futuristic resort may be available to visit sooner than you think.

Source: ICON, BIG for El Cosmico

“I have had a vision for the evolution of El Cosmico for many years that includes several spaces that add to the experience both for guests and locals…” said Liz Lambert.

“In collaborating with the revolutionary thinkers at BIG and ICON, not only do I get to fulfill this dream, but we get to do it using this incredible 3D printing technology that marries the oldest principles of raw earth-based building with a futuristic technology that works more quickly, sustainably and efficiently than modern construction.” 


This post is a part of Skift Ideas, which highlights exciting new creative projects, campaigns, designs, and future-making ideas across the travel industry. Skift will also feature a number of leading projects across travel at our 5th annual Skift IDEA Awardswhich has become the travel industry’s most coveted achievement for excellence in innovation, design, experience, and now, automation.

Learn more at: https://live.skift.com/skift-idea-awards-2023/

Travel Technology

South Korean Hospitality Tech Firm Onda Raises $10 Million

1 year ago

South Korean hospitality tech company Onda, announced on Thursday that it has raised $10 million in its Series-B funding round.

Led by South Korea-based private equity firm TS Investment, the investors in this round included Industrial Bank of Korea as well as other South Korean investment companies like NAU IB Capital, Square Ventures, K Bridge Ventures, and Breeze Investment.

We confirmed on the ground that the domestic tourism industry was rebounding, and made our decision to invest in Onda, said TS Investment in a statement.

Specializing in online booking solution, global distribution system and property management, Onda has so far raised a total of $25.5 million.

In its pre-series B funding round, the company had raised $8 million.

With the Series B funding, Onda plans to accelerate its efforts on the digital transformation of the domestic hospitality industry, and develop a system to attract inbound travel, the company said in a statement.

The company recently launched Dive — a hotel property management system that it had been developing for the past two years.

Onda is now gearing up for its overseas expansion with a launch in the Southeast Asian hotel market. “Onda plans to provide a variety of solutions to assist outbound Korean tourists finding local hotels,” the company said.

“We plan to support the growth of Korea’s tourism industry in this post-Covid stage, both domestically and abroad,” Hyun-seok Oh, CEO of Onda said.

In its last earnings report, Onda had reported a gross merchandise value of $81 million in the first half of 2022, compared to $40.5 million in the first half of 2021.

The company has also said that it plans to directly operate residences and hotels, after successful trial operations in 2021.

Hotels

Hotels Record Tepid Increase in Job Growth

1 year 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)

Hotels

Sonder’s Data Breach Exposes Guest Records

1 year ago

Hospitality company Sonder Holdings said that it has been investigating a data breach involving unauthorized access to some guest records.

The company believes that guest records created prior to Oct. 1, 2021 were involved in this incident.

The information that has been accessed includes username and encrypted password, credit card information. Additionally, Sonder believes that copies of government-issued identification such as driver’s licenses or passports may have been accessed for some guests.

Sonder learned of unauthorized access to one of its systems that included certain guest records on November 14.

Following the discovery, Sonder said it has engaged security and forensic specialists to assist in its investigation and assured that its business remains fully operational.

The company has also launched a dedicated landing page for guests concerning the incident.

Sonder said it will be making services available to guests involved in the data breach, such as credit monitoring, identity protection, or monitoring of website where personal information may be shared.

The company also said it has contacted law enforcement and is notifying appropriate regulatory bodies.

In 2018, Marriott International reported a massive four-year data security breach.

Online Travel

SoftBank Slashed Oyo Valuation 20 Percent

1 year ago

SoftBank Group has reportedly cut the valuation of Indian hotel-booking platform Oyo by more than 20 percent, Bloomberg reported on Thursday quoting people familiar with the matter.

According to the report, the Japanese investor, who owns 45 percent of Oyo, cut its estimated value for initial public offering-bound Oyo to $2.7 billion in the June quarter from an earlier $3.4 billion. In 2019, Oyo had been valued at $10 billion.

The $2.7 billion valuation is lower than the $3.23 billion that Oyo has been able to raise through primary and secondary equity and debt funding rounds from investors. 

Calling the valuation markdown a speculation and “patently incorrect,” Oyo said that having clocked $1 million in earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization in its fiscal 2023 first quarter, there is no rational basis for a markdown.

“A 41 percent gross profit margin and a 45 percent increase in gross booking value per hotel per month compared to the last financial year are dramatically improved results and the strong performance trajectory is expected to continue,” Oyo said in a statement.

Earlier this week, Oyo updated its initial public offerings application to the Indian regulatory body — Securities and Exchange Board of India (SEBI). The company originally planned to raise around $1.16 billion through the initial public offering, seeking a valuation of around $12 billion.

Oyo said that SEBI has given the company permission to file updated financials till the September 2022 quarter and Oyo would initiate the approval process post the filing of its audited numbers. “We have not decided the exact timing for the IPO and the IPO valuation is also highly speculative,” Oyo added.

Tourism

The UK and Portugal Hope New Visa Fixes Can Fix Persistent Labor Shortages

1 year ago

Staffing problems in the hospitality industry continue to linger. Now, two countries are aiming to amend visa regulations to counter them.

A petition has been launched in the UK that seeks to allow European Union nationals to come to the UK to work in hospitality for up to two years.

“The government should create a special visa for people from the EU countries to come to the UK to work in the hospitality industry for a period of up to 2 years, similar to the Seasonal Work visa for horticulture workers. Some countries have visas like this to support the hospitality sector,” the petition says.

“There is a massive shortage of qualified labour in the UK to fill vacancies that were in many cases previously filled by EU staff. For years people from the EU countries were the backbone of the hospitality industry and many were affected by COVID and subsequently by Brexit’s final terms. Many restaurants are struggling to find people with experience and willingness to work.”

As of Sept. 2 it had secured more than 16,400 signatures. Once a petition reaches 10,000 the UK government is obliged to respond. At 100,000 signatures, the topic is considered for debate in Parliament.

The UK left the European Union on 31 Jan. 2020, with free movement between the UK and the European Union ending on 1 Jan. 2021, when a new points-based immigration process was set up that is far more restrictive than before Brexit.

Brexit is being blamed for many things, but staff shortages seem to be the biggest bugbear.

“Supplier labor will continue to be an issue,” Ryanair boss Michael O’Leary said in May this year. “The UK will continue to be very challenged. The labor market is very inflexible post Brexit. You can’t bring in young Europeans.”

Portugal, meanwhile, is to speed up the time it takes to grant visas to citizens of other Portuguese-speaking countries, including Angola and Brazil, according to reports.

The other countries in the Community of Portuguese language countries are East Timor, Cape Verde, Guinea-Bissau, Equatorial Guinea, Mozambique and Sao Tome and Principe.

Immigrants from these countries have had to get a visa if they plan to stay in Portugal for more than 90 days, Reuters reported, and often have to wait many months to get visa approval.

Employers’ confederations have said there are no workers available in key sectors such as hotels, agriculture and construction.

Hotels

Aman Hotels Now Valued at $3 Billion After $900 Million Fresh Investment

2 years ago

Aman Group has received a $900 million investment from Saudi Arabia’s Public Investment Fund and Cain International, the London-based privately-held real estate investment firm.

The transaction now values the Swiss hospitality brand at $3 billion, said Cain in a press statement.

The investment will be used to enhance the existing portfolio, drive the construction pipeline of new Aman and Janu-branded properties, and support the acquisition and development of additional sites, a release from Cain stated.

Calling the investment in line with Public Investment Fund’s strategy to invest in promising sectors to achieve sustainable, attractive returns in Saudi Arabia and globally, Turqi Alnowaiser, deputy governor and head of international investments division, said in a tweet, “Our investment in Aman Group reflects our belief in the current potential of the hospitality and tourism industry, both internationally and in Saudi Arabia.”

Aman Group has 34 hotels in 20 countries, including 12 branded residences, and another nine properties under development, including in Saudi Arabia and the United States.

Earlier this month, Aman opened its New York hotel and private residences in Manhattan, touted to be the most expensive hotel in the city, according to Bloomberg. The hospitality brand is set to expand further in the U.S. with Aman Miami Beach set to open in 2024, followed by Aman Beverly Hills in 2026.

As the hospitality landscape continues to evolve, Cain expects to see a growing desire for travellers and investors alike to prioritize experiences supported by preeminent brands like Aman, said Jonathan Goldstein, CEO and co-founder of Cain International.

“This investment represents a unique opportunity to further enhance this portfolio of unrivalled destinations,” Goldstein said.

In June, Cain announced Aman as the flagship operator of One Beverly Hills, the 17.5-acre mixed-use urban resort it is developing in Beverly Hills.

“My long-term strategic vision has been to continue to grow the Aman brand in key markets, all with Aman Branded Residences, as well as creating an ultra-luxury ecosystem which offers the complete Aman lifestyle,” said Vlad Doronin, owner, chairman and CEO of Aman Group.

Hotels

Indian Hotels Company Had The Best Quarter in Its History: Here’s Why

2 years ago

Tata Group-backed Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) reported what Puneet Chhatwal, its managing director and CEO, called the best first quarter in the company’s history.

The hotel brand reported strong free cash flows of almost $25 million and net cash positive of $33 million in its consolidated and standalone financials for the first quarter ending June 30, 2022.

A surge in demand across markets and segments, with occupancy and rates exceeding pre-Covid levels and backed by an asset-light model, Indian Hotels Company achieved a milestone earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization of $51 million, compared to a loss of $15.5 million in the same quarter last year, said Chhatwal.

The company reported a profit after tax of $21 million against only $750,000 in 2019-20.

“The trend is very positive in India and we have outperformed in almost every market on the domestic front, except for a marginal lag in Rajasthan,” Chhatwal said.

With revenue per available room levels exceeding that of the first quarter of 2019-20 in Indian metropolitan cities, Chhatwal, said, “The cities of Mumbai, Bengaluru and New Delhi are back.”

Mumbai Bengaluru and Delhi are also important for the hotel brand as it has owned or licensed assets in these cities. “We account for those revenues and a change in the revenue numbers has a significant impact on our portfolio and our performance,” Chhatwal said.

The company has signed 10 new hotels in the first quarter, with three hotels each under the Taj and Ginger brands, and two hotels each under the SeleQtions and Vivanta brands, and expects to sign 15 more for the rest of the year.

With its presence in over 100 locations in India, Indian Hotels Company has further strengthened its pan-India footprint with the opening of four new hotels in the current fiscal.

“So our pan India footprint is stronger and is getting even further stronger as each month and each quarter goes by through our aggressive asset-light growth strategy that has been in place,” Chhatwal said, adding that the asset-light model is not only driving growth, but is also helping the brand find the right balance which is in line with its Ahvaan 2025 strategy.

Even as IHCL is getting ready to launch a new website and a new mobile app, the hospitality brand is clear that the backbone of the company was, is and in the foreseeable future remains the Taj.

“We are very clear that all brands associated directly or indirectly with the Taj are perceived as premium brands in their respective segment,” Chhatwal said during the first quarter earnings call.

“One thing which we have been very careful about in the last few years is the premiumization of our portfolio. Any business that we enter in we want our offering to be in the premium level in their relative positioning.”

The company’s long-term growth will also focus significantly on digital enablers such as the super app — Tata Neu. “The Tat Neu integration has enabled us to get one million new members in four months and a 50 percent growth in our loyalty base,” Chhatwal said.

Hotels

Hotel Robots Trigger Mixed Feelings of Joy and Fear — New Study

2 years ago

Joy, fear and sadness: these are just some of the emotions hotel guests feel when they encounter a customer services robot during their hotel stay.

That’s according to researchers who extracted a sample of 9,707 customer reviews from Ctrip and TripAdvisor. They found the majority of customers have a positive experience with robots.

The feeling of “joy” was felt by more than 60 percent of customers when dealing with robots in a customer service role, based on a new study from the Durham University Business School. “Fear” was the second most felt emotion by customers, making up 28 percent of the reviews.

Other feelings of anger (5 percent), neutral (4 percent) and sadness (1 percent) also featured in the reviews, which spanned 412 hotels in eight countries.

The researchers, who used a machine learning model to identify the hotels which had been reviewed on their own robot-powered customer service, found that interacting with robots also triggered emotions of love, surprise, interest and excitement, while discontent was mainly expressed when the robot malfunctioned.

The results of the study also showed many customers chose these specific hotels due to the fact they operated with customer service robots, revealing that hotels can use them as a selling point to customers, as well as convenience.

But hotels were also warned not to promote themselves as a “robot hotel” as it could create high expectations and potentially disappoint customers.

“Service robots have been increasingly adopted in hospitality service settings in recent years and large hotel chains have gradually adopted their services for housekeeping and butler services, interacting with customers and fulfilling concierge and front-desk tasks,” said Dr Zhibin Lin, professor of marketing at Durham University Business School.

“Previous opinion has been that customers felt uneasiness and discomfort when being served by robots, however this research suggests that customers actually, on the whole, have more positive interactions with robots and enjoy the experience of being served by one”.

The Smith School of Business, Queen’s University, Audencia Business School and Jimei University also contributed to the report.

The study will likely be welcomed by Relay Robotics, which provides delivery robots to hotel groups including Marriott, Hilton, Westin, Mandarin Oriental, Holiday Inn and Radisson. It recently raised $10 million in financing to accelerate development and deployment of its robots.

Hotels

Desperate Hotels in a Rush Left to Hire Inexperienced Staff

2 years ago

Heavily-understaffed European hotel brands are now scrambling to hire workers, left with applicants with no experience or even no track record, according to Reuters.

Accor needs 35,000 employees in the 110 countries that it operates in. The hotel brand has been conducting trial initiatives to recruit people who have never worked in the industry, Reuters quoted CEO Sebastien Bazin as saying.

Accor had also announced that it would be recruiting 12,000 overseas temporary employees to operate its temporary housing units for the Qatar World Cup.

IHG Hotels & Resorts faces a 20 to 25 percent staff shortage, according to Keith Barr its CEO.

Widespread job vacancies and upward pressure on labour costs in UK’s hospitality sector had been highlighted by a CGA survey in April. The survey cited staffing issues as a major reason for impeding hospitality’s recovery from Covid-19.

Hospitality staff, who had been furloughed or terminated during Covid, have found better paying jobs in other industries and are no longer keen to return, aggravating the staffing crisis.

Further afield in the U.S., nearly all hotels are experiencing staffing shortages, and half report being severely understaffed, according to a new survey by the American Hotel & Lodging Association. Some 97 percent of respondents are experiencing a staffing shortage, 49 percent severely so. The most critical staffing need was housekeeping, with 58 percent ranking it as their biggest challenge.

As travel comes back with a bang, airports and airlines have also been struggling with staffing issues contributing to the chaos for travelers.

In a bid to address the labor shortage at airports, the UK is speeding up national security checks for new airport workers. German airports, on the other hand, will be filling staff shortages by hiring temporary workers from Turkey.