Page 3

Skift Travel News Blog

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

Hotels

Macau Casino Companies Pledge Over $13 Billion Investment on Non-Gaming Activities

1 year ago

Six casino companies have agreed to invest a total of $15 billion in Macau over ten years, with more than 90 percent of the money pledged to non-gaming activities.

In line with the easing of Covid quarantine rules for inbound arrivals, Macau has renewed the casino licenses of six companies — MGM China, Galaxy Entertainment, Sands China, Melco Resorts, Wynn Macau and SJM Holdings — for the next 10 years.

Genting Group lost the bid even as reports earlier had stated that the Malaysian goup was a strong contender for a new license promising the biggest shakeup in Macau in over two decades.

As the new contracts come into effect on January 1, the casino firms have promised to spend almost $13.5 billion on “exploring overseas customer markets and developing non-gaming projects,” the government said.

The investment on gaming projects would only be around $1.2 billion.  

Macau has been looking to diversify its tourism offerings for some time, looking to position itself as not just a hub for the gaming industry.

In recent years, almost 60 percent of the country’s gross domestic product has come from the gaming sector.

However, the casino closures as a result of China’s zero-Covid policy dealt a blow to operators who had been losing millions of dollars a month since March 2020.

Doing away with its institutional quarantine, Macau announced last week that inbound arrivals would have to quarantine at home for five days while restricting outbound travel movements for another three days.

Earlier, travelers had to institutionally quarantine for five days in addition to three days of home quarantine.

Airlines

AirAsia to Now Launch a Low-Cost Carrier in Cambodia

1 year ago

AirAsia Aviation Group on Friday announced a joint venture with Cambodia-based Sivilai Asia to launch a new low-cost carrier — AirAsia Cambodia.

The airline, in which AirAsia will be the majority partner, expects to commence operations in late 2023.

Cambodia is the fifth Southeast Asian destination that AirAsia will be foraying into after Malaysia, Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.

Speaking to the media, Tony Fernandes, CEO of Capital A, AirAsia’s parent company, said all of the group’s future airlines would be based in the region as this is an area they know best and have a strong brand presence.

In 2020, the aviation group shut down operations of AirAsia Japan and last month the company announced that it has sold off its remaining 16.67 percent stake in AirAsia India to Tatas-owned Air India.

AirAsia plans to touch pre-Covid levels by the second quarter of 2023 and in true Tony Fernandes style the Capital A CEO said he’s confident AirAsia Cambodia would be profitable “from the get go.”

“Cambodia is a market that is familiar to us and where we have deep infrastructure in place,” Fernandes said.

AirAsia Aviation Group is the largest foreign airline and the second largest airline group overall operating into Cambodia in terms of capacity, according to group CEO Bo Lingam.

Pre-pandemic, AirAsia operated 90 weekly flights from Malaysia and Thailand to Cambodia and is currently flying about 49 weekly flights.

“The value of AirAsia’s network is an insurmountable asset; it will be another flag of extensive connectivity in Cambodia and into the region, namely China, India and North Asia,” Fernandes said.

Currently, there are no direct flights between India and Cambodia.

Reacting to earlier reports of a proposed merger of AirAsia and AirAsia X, Fernandes had clarified on Monday that the group proposed to form a separate aviation group comprising all its airlines.

Tourism

Hong Kong Eases Testing for Inbound Arrivals

1 year ago

A day after China announced some major changes to its controversial zero-Covid policy, Hong Kong on Thursday announced that inbound arrivals would need to undergo daily rapid antigen tests for five days, instead of seven days.

However, international travelers coming into the city would still need to take a polymerase chain reaction test on landing and on the third day and remain in home isolation for three days with limited movement.

Hong Kong has also shortened the isolation period for Covid-19 patients and their close contacts to five days from seven days, provided they test negative on the fourth and fifth day.

This rule would also be applicable for unvaccinated people, who were earlier required to spend 14 days in quarantine.

However, the outdoor mask mandate and other anti-epidemic measures will continue to stay for the next two weeks till December 28.

“Over the last week the number of daily infections has still been increasing and Wednesday’s figure of 14,373 has been a record high,” Hong Kong authorities said in a press briefing.

With Christmas and New year round the corner, health undersecretary, Dr Libby Lee Ha-yun, said there will be immense pressure on healthcare facilities as result of which the government does not look to relax the anti-epidemic measures further for now.

“We are reviewing our strategies based on science, targeted anti-epidemic measures, proper management of risks as well as citizen-focused facilitation,” authorities said during the press briefing.

Airlines

AirAsia Parent CEO Wants to Pull Its Airlines Into an IAG Model

1 year ago

Malaysia’s Capital A will not be merging its airlines, but will instead move all the carriers under one existing structure, similar to how British Airways, Iberia Airline, and Aer Lingus operate under the International Airlines Group umbrella, said CEO Tony Fernandes on Monday.

AirAsia X will be renamed AirAsia Aviation Group and there will be six airlines under it — AirAsia Malaysia, AirAsia Thailand, AirAsia Philippines, and AirAsia Indonesia, as well as AirAsia X Malaysia and AirAsia X Thailand.

“We are just injecting AirAsia airlines into AirAsia X’s listing status, there is no merger,” Fernandes told the media.

He said that each airline would continue to operate independently.

Fernandes made the statement to the media on the sidelines of the launch of Capital A’s upgraded subscription service — Super +.

AirAsia had earlier launched the flight subscription service in March to provide unlimited flights to destinations across Southeast Asia. Monday’s launch will now include destinations in Japan, Korea, Australia, India, Maldives, New Zealand, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Saudi Arabia.

Capital A has launched two versions of the subscription service — Super+ Lite, which covers unlimited flights across all Southeast Asian destinations very similar to the version launched in March, while the Super+ Premium includes all countries operated by the AirAsia airline group, including long-haul destinations.

The lite version is priced at $203, while the premium option comes at $524.

“Till date, over 100,000 Super+ subscribers have redeemed over 500,000 flight seats across Southeast Asian destinations,” Capital A said in a release.

While flight bookings opened from Monday, the earliest flights that subscribers could opt for was from January 1, 2023.

“This is what we have been preparing for — the return of travel, and we are excited about the reopening of markets like Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and more to come in the near future,” Fernandes said.

Airlines

Air India-Vistara Merger to be Completed by March 2024

1 year ago

Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines have agreed to consolidate Air India and Vistara by March 2024.

As part of the merger transaction, Singapore’s flag carrier shall also invest $250 million in Air India for a 25.1 percent share, according to a media release on Tuesday.

Tata Group owns a 51 percent stake in Vistara with Singapore Airlines owning remaining 49 percent.

With this consolidation, Air India shall be India’s largest international carrier and second largest domestic carrier with a combined fleet of 218 aircraft.

Air India had earlier announced its plans to increase its fleet size to 143 by the end of 2023 and also introduce Premium Economy seating. Intrestingly, Vistara is the only airline in the country offering Premium Economy seats.

Post the merger, Air India would offer both full-service and low-cost service across domestic and international routes, said N Chandrasekaran, chairman of Tata Sons.

Air India, the erstwhile Indian state carrier, had been acquired by Tata Sons, via its subsidiary, Talace, early this year as part of a $2.4 billion deal.

Singapore Airlines said it intends to fully fund this investment with its internal cash resources, which stood at $13 billion as of September 30.

The two companies have also agreed to participate in additional capital injections, if required, to fund the growth and operations of the enlarged Air India in financial year 2023 and 2024.

Based on Singapore Airline’s 25.1 percent stake post-completion, the airline said that its share of any additional capital injection could be up to $615 million, payable only after the completion of the merger.

The actual amount would depend on factors including the progress of the enlarged Air India’s business plan, and its access to other funding options.

Speaking earlier to Skift, Vistara CEO Vinod Kannan, while not totally denying reports of a merger between the two airlines, had said, “I tell my team that no matter what, the 54 aircraft that we have will have to be serviced, sold and operated. Until we are told otherwise, we will maintain that we will be operating independently.”

Travel Technology

Dubai-Based Silkhaus Raises $7.7 Million Seed Funding to Digitize Short-Term Rentals

1 year ago

Silkhaus, a United Arab Emirates-based platform for short-term rentals, announced on Tuesday that it has raised $7.75 million in a seed funding round.

Following this investment, Silkhaus has said it will accelerate its expansion across Middle East and North Africa region, as well as in South Asia and Southeast Asia. The company had earlier identified a $13 billion target market in these regions.

Having raised its seed round, the company said in statement that it would will focus on growing global supply on its platform. Silkhaus anticipates its market opportunity to grow to $18 billion by 2026, across Middle East and North Africa, South Asia and Southeast Asia. 

Investors joining this round included Dubai-based Nuwa Capital, London-based Nordstar Partners, Berlin’s Global Founders Capital, Singapore-based Yuj Ventures, India’s Whiteboard Capital, and VentureSouq from Dubai.

Highlighting the global rise of short-term rentals, Aahan Bhojani, CEO and founder of Silkhaus, noted that the management of such properties is highly fragmented and largely offline as property owners lack the technology and know-how to deliver a world-class and standardised experience.

“We are building the operating system for property owners — large or small — to operate high quality short-term rentals,” Bhojani said.

Skift had earlier in an article highlighted how the tourism boom in the United Arab Emirates has allowed short-term rentals to thrive.

The Dubai-based company calls itself a platform that builds cutting-edge technology to provide asset owners with tools to monetise and manage their properties as short-term rentals.

Coming out of stealth mode, Silkhaus, founded in 2021, claims to have grown over 10 times through the past 12 months.

The company has said that it will grow the supply of properties on its platform, with a focus on hiring extensively for technology and strategic roles.

Tourism

UAE Developer Nakheel Secures $4.6 Billion Financing to Develop Dubai Islands 

1 year ago

Dubai-based property developer Nakheel announced it has secured $4.6 billion in strategic financing deal to drive what it calls, “the new phase of growth.”

The amount includes refinancing of $3 billion, and additional funds of $1.6 billion.

The developer of Palm Jumeirah said that the finance would be utilised to accelerate the development of its new projects including Dubai Islands and other large waterfront projects.

Looking to redefine the concept of waterfront living, Nakheel announced its plan to develop another man-made island — Dubai Islands — situated along the emirate’s northern coastline, comprising five islands over a total area of 17 square kilometres.

The property developer said Dubai Islands would be home to over 80 resorts and hotels, including luxury and wellness resorts, boutique, family and eco-conscious hotels.

This year, Nakheel announced that it would also relaunch and rebrand Palm Jebel Ali, a project that has been left dormant since 2009.

Recently, one of the mansions at the Palm Jumeirah sold for $82 million, pegging it to be the most expensive house sale ever in Dubai.

The $4.6 billion financing reflects the confidence of the banking institutions in the strategic new focus of the company, a Nakheel spokesperson said.

Despite the challenges of the pandemic, Nakheel said that it has invested in building a strong assets portfolio and pipeline of new developments in the last two years.

The company attributed the robust growth of the Dubai real estate sector to regulatory reforms, such as the issuance of long-term visas, and an economy buoyed by the retail, leisure and hospitality sectors.

Tourism

Qatar Will Allow Ticketless Fans to Enter the Country From December 2

1 year ago

Qatar will allow visitors without football World Cup tickets to enter the country from December 2 after the group stage matches end.

However, even as a match ticket will no longer be mandatory for inbound arrivals to Qatar, visitors will still need to furnish a Hayya Card before traveling, organizers said.

The Hayya Card is an ID that serves as an entry permit to Qatar and also provides stadium access along with the match tickets.

Earlier, Qatar had made Hayya Card mandatory for those wanting to enter Qatar from November 1. 

As it gets set to host the most geographically-compact football World Cup from November 20, Qatar has been easing entry restrictions into the country.

Last month, Qatar announced that it would drop the requirement of a pre-arrival negative polymerase chain reaction test from November 1.

Expecting congested roads during the World Cup, officials had earlier warned that managing four soccer games a day in Doha will be a challenge.

Airlines

AirAsia India-Air India Merger by 2023 as AirAsia Sells Off India Stake to Tatas

1 year ago

Budget carrier AirAsia India is likely to be merged with Air India Express by the end of 2023. An operational review process is underway to integrate the two carriers, Air India said in a statement this week.

The merger news follows Malaysia-based AirAsia Aviation Group’s announcement on Wednesday that it has sold off its remaining 16.67 percent stake in AirAsia India to Tatas-owned Air India.

The agreement that will fetch AirAsia $18.83 million, also states that AirAsia India can continue to use the ‘AirAsia’ brand name for 12 months.

Aimed at having a single low-cost carrier for the Air India group, following the merger the entity will be branded as Air India Express, a statement read.

In June, Indian watchdog Competition Commission of India had approved the proposed acquisition of the entire shareholding of AirAsia India by Air India.

Following the acquisition of Air India and Air India Express in January, the Tata Group now owns four airlines — Air India, Air India Express, AirAsia India and Vistara. Vistara is a joint venture with Singapore Airlines.

In a recent interview with Skift the Vistara CEO when asked about a possible merger between the airlines under the Tata fold had said that there are certain discussions that have been happening which he is not privy to.

Commenting further on AirAsia selling off its remaining stake to Air India, Group CEO of AirAsia Aviation Group, Bo Lingam, said Covid has allowed them to re-examine priorities, and the group feels it is best suited for AirAsia to develop an Asean-only business with airlines in Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines.

“We will use the experience and knowledge we have gained from operating in the Indian domestic market to grow the Asean-Indian market in logistics and passenger services to a far greater extent,” Lingam added.

Launched in 2014, AirAsia India currently flies to 18 destinations with a market share of 5.9 percent.

Tourism

Qatar Drops Pre-Arrival Covid Test Requirement Right in Time for World Cup

1 year ago

Qatar will be dropping its requirement of a pre-arrival negative polymerase chain reaction test from November 1, just in time for the FIFA World Cup that kicks off from November 20.

Qatari citizens and residents coming into the country will also not be required to undergo a rapid antigen or polymerase chain reaction test within 24 hours of arrival.

Visitors entering Qatar from November 1 onwards would also not be required to pre-register on the Ehteraz health application. Registration on the Ehteraz app would only be needed to enter healthcare facilities.

The Ministry of Public Health made the announcement on Wednesday, in light of the continuing decline in the number of Covid-19 cases throughout the world and in Qatar. 

Last month, the government had said in a statement that Covid vaccination would not be mandatory football fans coming in to the country for the World Cup.

From this month onwards, masks are also not mandatory while travelling on public transport in Qatar and it was announced that masks would be optional at the eight World Cup stadiums.

However, all visitors would need a Hayya Card to enter Qatar from November 1. The Hayya Card is a mandatory document given to anyone attending the World Cup that serves as an entry permit to the Qatar and also provides stadium access along with the match tickets.