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Skift Breaking News Blog

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

Short-Term Rentals

Tour Operator Intrepid Invests in Remote Eco-Cabins Startup CABN

3 months ago

Intrepid Travel, one of the world’s largest adventure travel tour operator is investing about $5.5 million USD into an Australian remote eco-cabins startup CABN. Currently the startup has 11 cabins across South Australia and Victoria and plans to build 70 eco cabins by 2023, with this money injection.

The model involves building the eco cabins offsite then transferring them to private land. Each cabin is built from predominantly locally sourced and sustainable materials and requires minimal infrastructure, with a “leave no trace” philosophy, says this story in AFR.

Luxury

Certares and Knighthead Invest $225 Million in Global Blue in Bet on Duty-Free Shopping

3 months ago

Have you ever claimed your value added tax back for things you bought during a trip to Europe? Then you probably used a Global Blue Tax Free Shopping service. Global Blue, a payments specialist for 300,000 partner stores primarily in the European Union, is now on the rebound.

It has agreed to receive $225 million in investment, subject to shareholder approval, from CK Opportunities, an investment fund co-managed by Certares, a global travel, tourism and hospitality investment firm, and Knighthead, a credit investment management firm.

The news comes shortly after Global Blue reported its first notional profit since the pandemic began, as measured by positive adjusted earnings, before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization.

Certares was founded as a private equity firm in 2012 in New York and has gone on to invest heavily in travel companies — most prominently American Express Global Business Travel, Hertz Corp., airline group Latam, and Liberty Tripadvisor Holdings.

One of the broad themes of Certares’ recent travel investments is that luxury or premium travel will prove to have long-term resilience despite other headwinds that might buffet the travel sector. Global Blue processes payments and has made particularly inroads on facilitating purchases made by international travelers on luxury good purchases at airports. In a non-pandemic year, Global Blue manages 35 million transactions. (See Skift’s coverage of Certares, here.) 

Recovery led by US travelers in Europe is especially strong. Spending by U.S. travelers of which Global Blue is managing the VAT refund was up 166 percent in April compared to pre-Covid levels.

Global Blue is a Silver Lake portfolio company that went public in 2020.

Airlines

Transatlantic Business Travel Recovery Leads at British Airways

3 months ago

International Airlines Group CEO Luis Gallego said Friday that corporate bookings on its flights to and from North America are leading the recovery of business travel at its airlines, which include British Airways and Iberia.

“Business traffic is coming back,” he said during the group’s first-quarter earnings call on Friday. “We see that. For example, banking finance, the levels are around 65 percent the levels that we had in 2019. That’s a sector that is very important for us.”

Overall corporate demand at IAG has recovered to roughly 67 percent of 2019 levels but it varies widely by airline and market. For example, transatlantic corporate demand is at 90 percent of three years ago at British Airways. And across the group, bookings from large corporate accounts has recovered to 60 percent of 2019, while small- and medium-sized business bookings are at 80 percent. IAG also owns Aer Lingus and Spanish budget carrier Vueling.

The business recovery at IAG puts it in between peers Air France-KLM and the Lufthansa Group. Air France-KLM said Thursday that corporate demand is at 70 percent of 2019, while Lufthansa said the same day that it is only at roughly 50 percent but saw a 30-point improvement during the first quarter.

Food and Drink

IHG’s First-Quarter Average Daily Rates Now Back to 2019 Levels

3 months ago

IHG Hotels & Resorts’ 2022 first-quarter RevPAR increased 61 percent compared to the 2021 first quarter, and had now reached 82 percent of 2019’s level.

Its average daily rate was also up 27 percent versus 2021, and in line with 2019 levels, the company revealed on Friday in a trading update.

Americas and the Europe, Middle East Africa and Australia region saw sequentially improved trading in February and March after a challenging January.

However, it added Greater China trading in March impacted by tightening of localised travel restrictions.

“We’ve seen very positive trading conditions in the first quarter with travel demand continuing to increase in almost all of our key markets around the world,” said IHG CEO Keith Barr. “The high level of demand we have seen for leisure travel continues to drive increased rates and occupancy. We also continue to see a return of business and group travel, further supporting RevPAR improvements in many of our key urban markets.”

The hotel group also signed 17 thousand rooms into its development pipeline in the first quarter.

Airlines

Boeing Reported to Plan Headquarters Move to Washington, D.C., Area

3 months ago

Boeing appears ready to move its headquarters to the Washington, D.C., area, according to a report by The Wall Street Journal Thursday.

Citing people familiar with the matter, the planemaker would move its headquarters to Arlington, Va., from Chicago in the near future, the Journal reported. The change would locate Boeing leadership just miles from the seat of U.S. government, which is the largest customer for its defense and space businesses. Additional details are expected in as little as a week.

Boeing opened a new 322,000-square-foot regional headquarters in Arlington in 2014. Moving its headquarters to that facility, and closing its downtown Chicago office — something that that would certainly be a blow to the Windy City — could help it realize the goal of reducing its office footprint by 30 percent that then Chief Financial Officer Greg Smith outlined in October 2020. Boeing relocated its headquarters to Chicago from Seattle in 2001.

If Boeing does move its headquarters to Arlington, it would be in good company. Amazon is building its so-called second headquarters just blocks from Boeing’s offices in the same neighborhood of Arlington.

Media and PR

Nat Geo Hires Nathan Lump As New Editor

3 months ago

National Geographic, the 134 year-old media brand now majority owned by Disney, has appointed former Editor of Travel+Leisure Nathan Lump as its new Editor-In-Chief. Lump was most recently serving as global head of Editorial and Entertainment at Expedia Group. 

In his new role, Lump will manage the content strategy of the National Geographic editorial team —  leading a team of 130+ editors, writers, photographers and designers– as part of National Geographic Media, which operates in over 170 countries.

“Another key priority will be integrating the important work of the National Geographic Society into the brand’s editorial strategy and extending the reach of Nat Geo Media’s storytelling across The Walt Disney Company and its customers,” the company said in the announcement.

Online Travel

Phew! Travel Booking Windows Are Increasing Again

3 months ago

Fascinating data point from Expedia Group Media Solutions in its latest Q1 Travel Trend Report: the booking windows which had shrunk dramatically over the last two years of the pandemic uncertainty and low traveler confidence, is now coming back up, based on data from all across the Expedia network and surveys. This is a welcome sign of travel industry and more certainty of business forecasts.

“Growing traveler confidence contributed to lengthening search windows in Q1, with global share of searches in the 180+ day search window increasing 190% and the 0- to 21–day search window decreasing 15% quarter-over-quarter.

Regionally, shorter search window share in APAC and LATAM held steady between Q4 2021 and Q1 2022, while EMEA and NORAM travelers searched further out, with the 91- to 180–day search window increasing 140% and 60%, respectively. The lengthening search windows in these regions is another indicator that summer travel demand in the Northern Hemisphere may surge in 2022.”

Other data points on the booking windows:

  • In Q1, 60% of global domestic searches fell within the 0- to 30– day window, a 10% decrease compared to Q4, while the share of searches in 91- to 180–day window increased 80% quarter- over-quarter.
  • Global international search share for the 91- to 180+ day window increased 35% quarter over quarter, with the 91- to 180–day window seeing the largest gains.

Hotels

In a Bet on All-Inclusives, Accor Will Quadruple Rixos Hotels to 100 by 2027

3 months ago

Pool Suite Types, Rixos Premium Belek – Antalya, Turkey. Source: Accor.

Accor said on Wednesday that it was speeding up the development of all-inclusive hotels with the launch of its “all-inclusive collection.” Accor entered the all-inclusive segment in 2016 by cutting a deal with Fettah Tamince, founder of Rixos Hotels. Since then, Accor has tripled the size of Rixos, if you count opening in the pipeline. The brand is most prominent in Turkey, the Middle East, and Central Asia with 24 hotels and more than 10,000 rooms. The company aims to have 100 Rixos properties within five years.

Accor will enhance Rixos by adding restaurant, bar, beach club and nightlife concepts inspired and led by Carte Blanched, Ennismore’s F&B Concept Lab, part of an Accor joint venture with Sharan Pasricha.

For context, see Skift’s story: Accor’s All-Inclusive Resort Growth Plan Strengthens Company Grip on Luxury

Business Travel

Business Travel Car Rental Demand Now Above 2019 Levels For Avis-Budget

3 months ago

That’s according to Avis-Budget’s Q1 earnings release this week. In the earnings call, Avis Budget CEO Joe Ferraro said that “in the latter part of the first quarter, we’ve seen the commercial demand improve as well, to points above 2019 level during the same period that quarter.” That gives another indication of the strong return of business travel, particularly in U.S.

More from the call, on the leisure vs business travel mix and the blending of both:

“We said earlier, on the last call that I believe strongly that, commercial business is good for our company. It it gives you a mid-week peak as far as how to utilize the fleet more effectively. And that will allow you to have that car available for rental or for leisure period, that comes more on the weekends. The commercial business that we have seen has come from the companies that you might think about: defense contracting, and healthcare, and travel, entertainment, logistics. And we see a lot of that travel. And lastly, what I would — what we see is the commercial consumers keeping the cars longer.

I think they’ve augmented the safety service, and the fact that do you have a car or not to make their choice for us. And prices have become elevated for commercial business. The last thing I will say about commercial is, we’ve seen a tremendous growth in what we call leisure. A person rents a car for a couple of days, and then keeps it on the weekend. Think of a business traveler going to Las Vegas for a conference and then sticks around for a concert on the weekend. We’ve seen a good deal of that, and with our split bill technology that we did a number of years ago, that will allow us to have a consumer to use their corporate card for midweek, and then put it on their private card for the weekend.”

Airlines

Southwest to Start Testing Free Wifi on Flights

3 months ago

Free wifi on flights is a perennial issue that comes up in news every year or two. Delta has tested it on and off since 2019 and JetBlue has been providing free-if-slow wifi on its planes for a few years now. Now CNBC is reporting that Southwest will temporarily offer travelers free Wi-Fi on 40 of its Boeing 737s flights starting this week, as part of an upgrade to the hardware on these planes.

It will be available from May 4 through June 10 on certain flights in the western U.S, as part of its trial. It currently offers Wi-Fi for $8 per day and blocks access to video sites such as Netflix, HBO Max and Zoom.

This comes after Hawaiian Airlines said last month that it will start providing free wifi from early next year using SpaceX’s Starlink service.