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Skift Breaking News Blog

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

Online Travel

Online Travel Agency Kiwi Receives $105 Million in Investment

1 week ago

Kiwi.com, an online travel agency based in Brno, Czechia, said on Wednesday it had received an investment of $105 million (€100 million) from an unnamed “preeminent global institutional investor.”

The company didn’t disclose the terms of the deal. General Atlantic had invested in the company before the pandemic.

One of Kiwi.com’s signature offerings is “virtual interlining,” where it pieces together itineraries from different airlines that may not have formal code-sharing agreements. It offers insurance and other assistance to help knit together the trips and handle service complaints when things go awry. But the company also offers other trip components for sale, such as hotel stays and bus trips.

Kiwi.com reported rapid growth before the pandemic, but when Covid struck, many online forums lit up with complaints about the company’s customer service. The company has said it has put better procedures in place to handle customer needs, and it also says that it has returned to growth.

See the press release

Online Travel

Booking Holdings Takes Restaurant Competition to Asia-Pacific With Inline Investment

1 week ago

Booking Holdings’ OpenTable dining reservations platform, which is strongest in the U.S., and Inline Group, with strength in Asia-Pacific, have entered into a strategic partnership where their customers will be able to reserve tables in the establishments of their respective restaurant partners.

In tandem with the strategic partnership, Booking Holdings made an investment in Inline Group. The companies did not announcement the amount.

A file photo of Tony Fernandes, CEO of Capital A, at his first Santan restaurant in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia. Photo: AirAsia Group

Inline powers dining reservations in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore, Australia, and the U.S., according to its website.

“Inline has quickly built a leadership position in select markets in Asia and is growing throughout the region,” Debby Soo, OpenTable CEO, said in a statement. “We’re delighted to partner with them as we expand OpenTable’s presence in the Asia-Pacific region.”

In Booking Holdings’ strongest region, Europe, Tripadvisor’s TheFork is the strongest player in dining reservations. So Booking is investing apparently where it sees the best opportunity — Asia-Pacific.

Airlines

Global Airlines Group Appoints First-Ever Female Chair

1 week ago

The International Air Transport Association‘s board of governors has appointed RwandAir CEO Yvonne Manzi Makolo to serve as its chair, making her the first woman ever to lead the global airline agency.

Makolo, who has led RwandAir since 2018, will serve a one-year term as IATA’s chair from June 2023, succeeding Mehmet Tevfik Nane, the managing director of discount Turkish carrier Pegasus. Nane took over the role of IATA chair from JetBlue Airways CEO Robin Hayes on June 20 during the organization’s annual general meeting.

Makolo is one of the few women holding a senior role at a major airline. IATA estimates that close to 9 percent of airline CEOs are women.

Yvonne Manzi Makolo

Hotels

Amadeus Wins Tech Contract With Top U.S. Hotel Manager Aimbridge

1 week ago

Aimbridge Hospitality, the largest U.S. company dedicated to running hotels on its own and on behalf of owners, said on Wednesday it had signed an exclusive contract with Amadeus, the Madrid-based travel tech giant, to provide business intelligence tools across its organization.

“The market conditions we face as a business today continue to evolve at a more rapid pace than we’ve previously experienced,” said Andrew Rubinacci, EVP Commercial & Revenue Strategy, Aimbridge Hospitality, in a statement. “Having access to our portfolio performance enables us to make more effective revenue decisions down to the individual property level and aid in strategic decision making.”

Aimbridge has more than 1,500 hotels across the U.S. and in 23 countries and will use Amadeus’s software to monitor performance, enhance forecasts, and track market shifts. It will use Amadeus’s tools, which include Demand360, Agency360, and RevenueStrategy360. Some of these tools were first acquired by Amadeus through its acquisition of TravelClick several years ago. Amadeus has since refined and integrated the software.

Cruises

A&K Travel Group Acquires Crystal Cruises Ships

1 week ago

The A&K Travel Group — the company owned by Geoffrey Kent, CEO of tour operator Abercrombie and Kent, and industrial holding corporation Heritagehas acquired cruise ships Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony in addition to the Crystal Cruises brand.

Both Crystal Serenity and Crystal Symphony were acquired at an auction with the former ship going for $25 million while the latter was sold for $103 million. A&K said the two ships will resume service next year after undergoing extensive refurbishment and will operate under the Crystal Cruises brand. Crystal Cruises had ceased operations in January this year following the collapse of parent company Genting.

Crystal Symphony and Crystal Serenity ships were both seized in the Bahamas by U.S. marshals the following month after a federal judge issued an arrest warrant for Crystal Symphony. A lawsuit alleged Crystal Cruises had more than $4 million of unpaid fuel bills.

A Crystal Symphony ship (Wikimedia Commons)

Hotels

Los Angeles Becomes One of the First U.S. Cities to Mandate Daily Hotel Room Cleaning

1 week ago

Los Angeles City Council has adopted a bunch a hotel workers protection measures, undoing some of the changes that happened during the pandemic such as foregoing daily hotel room cleaning. These measures come after intense lobbying and ad campaigns from the largest U.S. hotel union Unite Here.

Most hotels in the city will be required to limit the daily workload of housekeepers, offer overtime pay under certain circumstances, provide “panic buttons” to protect their workers from sexual harassment and do away with policies that automatically forgo daily cleaning, according to LA Times.

No surprise that the hotel housekeepers measures were opposed by business and hospitality trade groups, their argument being this would lead to higher labor costs, higher room rates and a drop in tourists.

Tourism

Broadway Theaters to Go Mask Optional on July 1 

1 week ago

Theaters in New York’s Broadway district can get rid of rules requiring theater-goers to wear masks beginning July 1, the Broadway League announced Tuesday. All 41 Broadway theaters will become “mask optional.”

Lifting the pandemic-era restriction wasn’t an easy judgment call.

“There are more people that want masks off than on, but plenty still wants them on,” said Charlotte St. Martin, the president of the Broadway League. “We’re encouraging people that have any concerns to wear their masks.”

The policy may be revised if hospitalization rates in New York City spike again.

Hotels

Marriott’s Vacation Rentals Unit Expands Down Under

1 week ago

Homes & Villas by Marriott International has just expanded into Australia and New Zealand, marking the vacation rental operation’s debut in the Asia Pacific region.

The move adds more than 350 upscale homes to its network. Destinations include Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Brisbane, and Orange in Australia and Auckland and Queenstown in New Zealand.

Marriott has been on a big expansion push for Homes & Villas, with 30-fold growth since 2019 to more than 50,000 units.

Listen to Homes & Villas Vice President Jennifer Hsieh explain the company’s strategy via the Skift Podcast: How Hotels and Short-Term Rentals Fit Together.

Travel Booking

Europe’s Multi-Modal Travel Platform Omio Raises $80 Million

1 week ago

Multi-modal transportation platform Omio has raised $80 million, with plans to expand via new partnerships, acquisitions and further growth into the U.S. after Europe-wide expansion.

Omio launched in North America in 2020, but was then hit by the pandemic. However revenue has recovered to more than double pre-pandemic levels, and according to reports founder and CEO Naren Shaam said the U.S. market had “bounced back.”

The Berlin-based travel app, which integrates more than 1,000 transportation providers across trains, buses, ferries, cars, airport transfers as well as flights, may also be able to tap into increased demand for sustainable travel (it claims that one in four customers change their bookings from flights to trains), as well as travel’s holy grail of the connected trip.

Earlier this year Omio helped build a new international website for the UK’s London North Eastern Railway, to make train travel easier to book for overseas customers. The rail company counts 10 countries as its global market, including China, Japan, Spain, South Korea and Italy. The new search and booking engine lets customers in those countries purchase tickets in their own language and currency.

In March it added a partnership with CheckMyBus, a global intercity bus search engine, while it also has collaborations in place with Kayak, Huawei and Portugal’s state-owned railway company.

Omio’s Series E funding came from new investors Lazard Asset Management and Stack Capital Group. Existing investors NEA, Temasek and funds managed by Goldman Sachs Asset Management also contributed.

In 2020 Omio raised $100 million to fund the purchase of other travel companies, after buying Australia-based Rome2Rio in 2019.

Airlines

JetBlue Ups Offer for Spirit Airlines Again, Now Totaling $3.7 Billion

1 week ago

With the likelihood improving of a successful bid for Spirit Airlines, JetBlue Airways has raised its offer for the discounter a second time in as many weeks.

The New York-based airline is now offering Spirit shareholders $33.50 per share, or a total of $3.7 billion, JetBlue said Monday. That is a $2 per share improvement over its last offer of $31.50 a share that it made on June 6, and $0.50 more than it initial offer in April of $33 per share.

“After discussions with the Spirit team last week and further due diligence review, we are more convinced than ever that a JetBlue-Spirit transaction would create a true national competitor to the Big Four and deliver value to all of our stakeholders,” JetBlue CEO Robin Hayes said.

(Ryan McLean/Flickr)

“Our previous proposal was met with an extremely positive reaction from Spirit stockholders, and we believe they will be even more pleased with these improved terms, including additional regulatory commitments that reflect our confidence in our ability to obtain antitrust approval and are a direct result of our diligence,” Hayes added.

With regulatory approval the top of concern of Spirit’s leadership team, JetBlue reiterated its commitment to divest all of Spirit’s assets in Boston and New York, as well as gates at the Fort Lauderdale airport where both airlines have bases. The airline told Spirit’s board Monday that it would “not increase its presence in the airports covered by our Northeast Alliance” with American Airlines if the deal occurs.

Spirit has twice rejected JetBlue favoring, instead, its preferred merger partner Frontier Airlines. However, after JetBlue’s last offer, Spirit gave the carrier the same level of access to due diligence data that it had granted Frontier — something JetBlue had been seeking for months.

Denver-based Frontier declined to improve its offer, which totals roughly $2.9 billion in cash and stock, after JetBlue raised its bid on June 6.

A JetBlue-Spirit merger would create the fifth largest U.S. airline.