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Skift Travel News Blog

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

Tour Operators

TUI Relaunches First Choice Travel Brand

6 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.”

Tourism

Six Flags Partners With Google on AI Tools

6 months ago

Six Flags said Tuesday that it plans to release generative AI tools in partnership with Google Cloud.

The project includes tools meant to enhance visitor experiences and optimize business operations.

The plan is to release AI chatbots on updated versions of the Six Flags mobile app and park websites later this year. Powered by Google Cloud’s Vertex AI Conversation, the company said the virtual assistants will provide personalized recommendations and answer questions as visitors plan their trips, meant to reduce the need for interaction with live agents. 

“This partnership signifies a monumental leap in our strategic direction, ushering in a new era of technological empowerment for Six Flags,” said Omar Jacques Omran, chief digital officer of Six Flags, in a statement. “With Google Cloud’s technology, we are committed to not only enhancing park operations, but also creating unparalleled, personalized guest experiences. We will bring an increased level of agility and responsiveness to our operations, redefining the way we serve our guests and setting new benchmarks in the amusement park industry.”

Thomas Kurian, CEO of Google Cloud, added in a statement: “By ingesting and synthesizing information across Six Flags’ extensive park portfolio, generative AI will enable the theme park operator to redefine guest experiences, providing more personalized information about rides, entertainment, dining and more.”

The majority of generative AI partnerships in the travel industry have been with OpenAI, the maker of ChatGPT. 

Priceline released a tool in partnership with Google Cloud in July. And eDreams Odigeo said in May that it would be partnering with Google Cloud to integrate generative AI into its own technology.

Though generative AI technology is still in early stages, executives of many large travel companies have said they see the potential for disruption and are working on implementing it into their businesses.

Tour Operators

TUI Adds Juniper Travel as New Experiences Distribution Partner

7 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.

Tour Operators

Smartbox Group Acquires Nordic Experiences Platform Truestory

7 months ago

European-based experience gift platform Smartbox Group has acquired the Scandinavian experiences platform Truestory.

Lasse Kjær, founder of Truestory, announced the acquisition in a LinkedIn post, stating the Nordic-centred experiences platform, with some “1,000 live experiences from more than 600 hosts”, now had a “new owner who wants to invest in Truestory to redeem the long-term potential of the business.”

Skift reached out to Kjær for specific details on the sale, but he stated he was “unable to share the value of the acquisition right now.”

Truestory would continue to operate under the same brand as the site’s users know it, specifically strengthening Smartbox Group’s position in the Nordic countries of Norway and Sweden, René Drewsen, Cluster Director Nordic at Smartbox Group, said in a statement.

Founded in 2003, the Smartbox Group is present in nine European countries and claims it sells 7 million experience gifts worth an estimated $547 million annually. The company works with “40,000 European partners, distributing through 18,000 retail stores, supermarkets, websites, and online retailers.”

Tour Operators

Regiondo Merges with Rezdy and Checkfront

7 months ago

Regiondo, Checkfront, and Rezdy – three prominent players in the tours and activities reservations tech sector – have joined forces. Skift first reported the intended merger.

Oliver Nützel, CEO of Regiondo, said he looked forward to what it would mean to the industry going forward as the three companies look to their blended regional expertise to offer a global booking and reservations management solution for the tours and activities sector.

Munich-based Regiondo is seen as a leading restech company in Europe with over 6,000 customers across key markets in Germany, France, Italy, Greece, and Spain. Rezdy, an Australian firm, stands out for its Asia-Pacific market strength, while Canada’s Checkfront brings its presence in North America into the fold. 

Their alliance will look to accelerate the digitization of the tours and activities sector, which remains fragmented and largely offline. Skift Research recently outlined that, unlike other verticals in the travel industry, the booking of tours, activities & experiences is still predominantly done offline – 70% offline, versus 48% offline for hotels, 26% for airlines, and only 12% for short-term rentals.

Tour Operators

UK’s Revolut Adds Viator Experiences

8 months ago

The UK-based fintech app Revolut, which claims 30 million users, has added a in-app experiences marketplace, in partnership with Tripadvisor’s Viator.

The app now features some 300,000 tours, activities, and attractions, offering users options like “traversing the rocky Agafay Desert on camelback or taking a relaxing dip in Budapest’s Széchenyi Thermal Baths.”

The Revolut experiences marketplace, available to its UK and Europe customers, offers split bills for group trips, no booking fee, and discounts on experiences up to 10% depending on the user’s Revolut plan. 

The addition of tours and activities follows the app’s initial launch of selling accommodation in 2021 in a move described as wanting to become a Super App by offering all travel-related products. The app’s other travel products include holiday home rentals, hotels, travel insurance, and currency exchange. Revolut said it also wants to add flights and car rental bookings eventually. 

Revolut stated its customers make 400 million transactions a month, with its year-on-year data for May 2023 showing UK spending on tourist attractions was up by 9%. 

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.

Tour Operators

TUI Raising $1.9 Billion to Settle Corona State Aid Debt

11 months ago

TUI is closer to settling the substantial financial aid it received from German authorities during the pandemic. 

TUI chief financial officer Mathias Kiep said the company made an important step back to profitability by launching its intended $1.9 billion capital raise in a LinkedIn post on Friday, 24 March.

“On the back of our strong operational recovery and following an intense journey of preparation — most recently our AGM in February and the 10:1 reverse stock split thereafter. With the proceeds of the capital increase, we intend to repay the Corona state aid in full.” 

Kiep initially announced the raise plans during the company’s 2023 first quarter interim results, stating it would take place under the right market conditions after the company’s Economic Stabilization Fund debt had been recalculated from some $775 million to just short of $1 billion.    

Germany’s Economic Stabilization Fund was instrumental in ensuring the survival of German-based travel companies, including Lufthansa, with its initial lifeline stoking claims of an unfair advantage. It saw a stricter framework applied to the financial aid received by TUI.

The airline announced towards the end of 2022 that it was set to repay the balance of its state-owned debt.

Online Travel

GetYourGuide Relaunches Originals With Homepage Refresh

12 months ago

Tours and activities online booking platform GetYourGuide has unveiled a fresh look on its homepage this week, and with it, a new series of Originals by GetYourGuide.

The Originals offering, previously put on hold towards the end of 2022, was run in partnership with local operators in popular destinations. Now the operator has shifted the focus to one-of-a-kind experiences, exclusive to the platform and inspired by the exclusive ‘Turning the Lights On at the Vatican Museums‘ in 2022, which saw 15,000 people applying for a coveted seat on one of the seven tours in 2022″.

The homepage refresh is seeded across core themes such as culture, food, nature and adventure, and Originals tours are now prominently labeled. New in the series is an exclusive guided experience through the Museum of Modern Art in New York, without the crowds one hour before the regular opening hours together with a professional art historian; or the chance to experience Barcelona’s La Sagrada Família in a private twist to explore Gaudí’s masterpiece on one’s own, accompanied by the live soundtrack of the famous local organist Juan de la Rubia.

The reveal of the new site was further supported by a new Make Memories campaign launched across the U.S. and Europe, and an Artificial Intelligence study that showed for 42 percent of participants, travel experiences were one of the three most emotionally intense memories. See the artificial intelligence experiment video below.

Tour Operators

Tours Software Provider Trekksoft Takes Stake in Berlin Startup Giant Monkey  

1 year ago

TrekkSoft, a Swiss Saas startup for tour and activity providers has added Giant Monkey, a Berlin-based producer of visitor management solutions, to its stable.

Giant Monkey’s portfolio includes equipping museums with modern payment and omnichannel solutions. The acquired stake lets Trekksoft expand its reach to museums and cultural institutions throughout Europe, beginning with Germany, Austria and Switzerland.

The Trekksoft group has raised a total $3.4M in four funding rounds, with its last raise in 2015. It is an advanced connectivity partner for online travel agency GetYourGuide and has six portfolio companies that provide software solutions for various tourism service providers such as theme parks, ski schools and experience providers.