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Skift Travel News Blog

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

Business Travel

In a Fascinating Turn, Who Travels for Business Has Changed Post Pandemic

8 months ago

Not only is business travel back with some ferocity, how people travel for business — and indeed leisure — has changed. Amongst the most fascinating changes has been which departments within companies are now traveling and how that compares to pre-pandemic makeup of business travelers.

Based on latest data from the corporate travel agency TripActions across its network of clients, the conventional idea around who travels for business (a majority used to be sales teams) has shifted and is now more distributed, especially among engineering, product, and marketing teams.   

Engineers, who made up just 7% of travelers by job function pre-pandemic, are now at a 13% share. Marketing and Product teams have similarly increased their respective share of travelers.

Meanwhile, Operations, HR, and Finance & Administrative departments, which continued to travel during the peak of the pandemic, have settled back into their pre-pandemic share.

What accounts for this change? The distributed workforce: employees who travel to their own offices or other offsite location to meet with coworkers to build in-person relationships. This bears out the thesis in the essay I wrote last month called “The Great Merging” on the new state of how people live, work, and travel have merged into each other.

Hotels

Marriott Suspends Operations in Russia

8 months ago

Marriott International stated Friday that it is suspending operations in Russia following new U.S., UK, and European Union sanctions over the Ukraine war.

In March, despite operating in Russia for the last 25 years, Marriott International closed its corporate office in Russia and announced it would suspend opening new hotels — but the steps fell short of the overall suspension that Marriott announced today.

“As we take steps to suspend hotel operations in Russia, we remain focused on taking care of our Russia-based associates,” Marriott stated. “Since the war began, we have supported associates in Ukraine, Russia and across the region, including securing employment with Marriott outside of countries directly affected by the conflict. We have deployed $1 million in internal disaster relief funds for associates and their families to assist with resettlement aid, including food vouchers, transportation assistance, medical, and legal support.”

Marriott operated 28 hotels in Russia that are owned by third-parties.

Many travel firms withdrew from Russia at the onset of its invasion of Ukraine, but many major hotel chains kept operating.

Tourism

SE Asia Dominates for Muslim Travelers Globally; Under-40s Driving Halal Tourism

8 months ago

South East Asia and Middle East regions continue to dominate in the ranking of Muslim-friendly destinations, according to the latest research and rankings by Muslim travel consultancy Crescent Rating along with its partner Mastercard.

The report dives into how the under-40s global Muslim population is now driving the next phase of growth of what many in the industry call “halal tourism.” Gen Z and women travelers amongst the Muslim population will drive the growth from here on, according to the report.

From the report: “This year’s ranking reflects those efforts by the destination. Malaysia continues to maintain its top position in the GMTI 2022. However, the gap between Malaysia and other top Muslim-friendly destinations is narrowing.Indonesia, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey share second place. Uzbekistan has again shown significant improvement in the ranking, climbing 7 positions to be ranked no. 9 this year. Singapore is still the only non-OIC country to make it to the top 20 of the GMTI 2022 rankings.”

These four charts from the report are most instructive on the state of the market:

The overall Muslim travel market globally
South East Asia and other Muslim majority countries dominate as destinations Muslims like to go to.
Amongst the non-Muslim majority countries, Singapore is a huge market, while other Asian countries dominate.
Fascinating chart on the outbound Muslim market from muslim-majority vs other countries where muslims have large populations.

Airlines

United’s MileagePlus Adds Unique Airline Partner, JSX

8 months ago

Travelers on private jet-like airline JSX just got another perk beyond skipping busy airport terminals and security queues: they can now earn points in United Airlines’ MileagePlus loyalty program.

JSX flyers can earn up to 100 percent of the miles flown in MileagePlus under the new partnership unveiled Thursday. The pact is the first for United’s loyalty program with a non-traditional airline operator, and the second for JSX, which already partners with JetBlue Airways’ TrueBlue program.

(JSX)

“This unique agreement presents an unmatched opportunity for JSX customers to earn MileagePlus miles and redeem them for travel to United’s global network of destinations,” said Luc Bondar, president of MileagePlus at United, in a statement.

JSX and United said “more cooperation” is planned and will be announced later this year.

JSX describes itself as providing “hop-on jet service.” In practice, the airline sells a premium onboard product on 30-seat Embraer regional jets that fly to and from private jet terminals, which allows travelers to avoid busy airport terminals. It also provides private jet charters. JSX primarily flies between airports in northern and southern California, but also offers a growing network in Colorado, Florida, and Texas.

Business Travel

Oyo’s Homeground Boost From 1,250 New Corporate Customers

8 months ago

Oyo has said it has won 1,250 corporate clients in the past three months across India, as business travel recovers in the country.

The new wins come from small and medium enterprises, traditional business houses and conglomerates, startups and travel management companies. Film production houses have also emerged as a key customer category, it said in a blog post on Wednesday.

The company added that it had engaged with 2,800 offline travel agents since January 2021.

Top cities include Bangalore, Hyderabad, Mumbai, Chennai, Ahmedabad, Kolkata, Pune and Delhi.
Its Business Accelerator division has serviced over 6,600 corporate clients since January 2021, it added.

“The appetite for business travel has returned strongly since the frequent change in travel restrictions has ebbed, making travel planning for business trips more certain and predictable. For a lot of our corporate customers, conducting business over virtual meetings was a stop gap and sub-optimal solution,” said Ankit Gupta, CEO of OYO, India.

Compared to leisure bookers, the startup’s business customers receive curated stay options, personalised customer support and integration with their accounting system.

The extra boost comes as Oyo delays its IPO — potentially until 2023. Earlier this month Oyo acquired Dubrovnik, Croatia-headquartered Direct Booker, which has 3,200 homes.

Airlines

U.S. Airlines Paid Record for Fuel in April

8 months ago

The dramatic run up in oil prices since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in February has claimed a new record: the highest-ever average April fuel price for U.S. airlines since record keeping began 22 years ago.

U.S. carriers paid an average of $3.59 per gallon for 1.35 billion gallons of fuel — a tidy $4.85 billion — in April, new data from the Bureau of Transportation Statistics (BTS) show. The cost was up 18 percent from March, and 74 percent from April 2019.

(Tony Webster/Flickr)

Fuel prices in the U.S. have only held above $3.50 per gallon once before since 2000. They hovered between $3.57 and an all-time peak of $4.10 per gallon from June to October 2008, according to BTS.

The average price of fuel is only expected to rise further with Brent crude spiking to around $120 per barrel since the EU announced plans for a partial ban of Russian oil on Monday. On Wednesday, Delta Air Lines raised its second quarter fuel cost forecast by at least 7 percent to an average of $3.60-3.70 per gallon.

Online Travel

The Complexity Headache That Expedia CEO Peter Kern Inherited in 1 Slide

8 months ago

Ever wonder about the daunting challenge that Expedia Group CEO Peter Kern inherited from predecessors Dara Khosrowshahi and Mark Okertstrom when Kern took the chief executive spot under Barry Diller in 2020?

The pandemic notwithstanding, Expedia Group captured its infrastructure issues in one slide as part of an investor presentation at Cowen 50th Anniversary Technology, Media & Telecom Conference Wednesday.

Many of the Group’s major brands, from Expedia to Hotels.com and Vrbo, had their own product, marketing and tech teams who were working at cross-purposes and competing against each other.

Competition can light a fire under a marketing group, for example, but did it make sense for Expedia and Hotels.com to bid against one another in Google search, and likely drive up costs?

Apparently not.

Elsewhere in the presentation Expedia noted that before it undertook its drive to simplify things it had more than 10 competing brands, five loyalty programs, more than 10 checkout experiences, and “siloed data lakes.”

In the interim, Expedia Group has made a splash consolidating many of these teams, and shedding brands including Egencia, SilverRail, Alice, Classic Vacations, and Expedia Local Expert. Not to mention BodyBuilding.com, which Expedia acquired when it bought Liberty Expedia Holdings.

The goal is “to build a single tech platform,” the presentation said.

We’ve heard Expedia talk of building a solitary tech platform for many years under prior regimes, but it seemingly never happened.

Travel Technology

Snap Is Launching Dynamic Travel Ads Globally to Target Gen Z Vacationers

8 months ago

Snap claimed Etihad trimmed its “costs per flight search” four-fold using Snap’s new dynamic travel ads, which is now rolled out globally.

This ad format, according to Snap, is a travel category expansion that enables advertisers, including airlines, hotels, destinations and tour operators, to engage in advanced audience targeting based on a Snapchatter’s travel intent and backed by local relevance.”

“With travel demand seeing a continued strong recovery in Q1 2022, we were of course keen to capitalize by converting existing customers and, importantly, acquiring new ones,” Phil Dodwell, who heads marketing at Etihad, said in a statement. “However, the marketplace for air travel remains highly competitive so ensuring relevance is key.”

He said the airline will be continuing to use Snap’s dynamic travel ads in the second quarter, and particularly likes the format’s prospecting capabilities.

Snap’s prime users are Gen Zers and Millennials.

Business Travel

Amex GBT Shares Climb 13 Percent After First Day Trading

8 months ago

A smooth, steady start for American Express Global Business Travel during its stock market debut.

The world’s largest corporate travel agency listed on the New York Stock Exchange on Tuesday, under the ticket symbol GBTG, following a business combination deal with Apollo Strategic Growth Capital. The parties initially announced the combination on December 3, 2021.

Shares opened at $7.55 on its first day as a public company. They closed higher at $8.37 after its first day trading on Tuesday.

“We have a significant growth opportunity ahead of us,” said CEO Paul Abbott in a LinkedIn post Tuesday. “As a public company, we have the flexibility to realise Amex GBT’s full potential.”

It was only on May 27, the Friday before the Memorial weekend, that Amex GBT announced it would begin trading on Tuesday. That followed Apollo Strategic Growth Capital shareholders voting to approve its combination with Amex GBT days earlier, on May 25.

As part of its go-public merger, Amex GBT received $335 million from a PIPE, or private investment in public equity, deal with new investors including Zoom, Sabre and private equity group Ares Management.

They join existing backers American Express, Expedia and Certares. Only 15 percent of the company’s stock is expected to be owned by public shareholders.

Investors will be betting on the recovery of corporate travel, which despite rising air fares seems to be on track to exceed spending last seen in 2019 by the end of the year. In April, Amex GBT execs sought to assure investors that the pandemic was just a blip for corporate travel.

They may have just pulled it off.

“For far too long the darlings of travel, like Booking.com and Expedia, have been the focus. With Amex GBT using their SPAC to go public, it now brings corporate travel as a sector and a place to work to the forefront of people’s minds,” said Gavin Smith, director of Element Travel Technology. “It might even help bring those who left, back to the sector. Corporate travel now sits where it should always have done, side by side with leisure.”

However, one investor who wished to remain anonymous told Skift: “We ended up deciding to not participate since the valuation relative to some of the other things we are seeing in the market wasn’t as compelling. It’s a good business with nice tailwinds, it’s just there are more interesting things to be invested in right now.”

Airlines

Memorial Day Air Travelers Top 13 Million, Still Shy of 2019

8 months ago

The U.S. Transportation Security Administration (TSA) screened 13.4 million people over the five-day Memorial Day holiday weekend travel period. That is the highest number since 2019, when TSA screened 14.4 million people over the same period.

But while travel demand came back strong as expected, it was not an easy weekend to fly. U.S. airlines cancelled more than 7,000 flights over the five-day period, according to data from Cowen & Co. and FlightAware. Delta Air Lines, which warned on May 26 that it would “thin” schedules over the holiday weekend, cancelled more than 700 flights.

“We expect a busy summer, and are concerned about the industry’s ability to handle the demand,” Cowen analyst Helane Becker wrote Tuesday. “Delta and JetBlue announced flight cancelations for July and into August as they try to get a handle on staffing. We also expect ticket prices to be high through the summer as demand exceeds supply. The lack of crew members means smaller cities will continue to lose service and pricing should be strong through at least Labor Day.”