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Skift Travel News Blog

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

Tourism

U.S. Traveler Spending Abroad Reached Nearly $16 Billion in January, a New High

12 months ago

Americans traveling abroad spent over $15.8 billion on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, other countries in January, more than any single month prior to the pandemic, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office.

International visitors spent over $14.7 billion in January on travel to, and tourism-related activities within, the U.S., causing the U.S. to experience a balance of trade deficit of nearly $1.1 billion in travel spending. That’s the third time in the past six months that the U.S. experienced a monthly trade deficit in travel spending. Compared to January 2021, international visitor spending rose nearly 64 percent in January.

Spending on travel and tourism-related goods and services, which include lodging and entertainment, totaled $7.9 billion in January, down from $11.5 billion for the same period in 2019.

Short-Term Rentals

Zumper Enters the Vacation Rental Market

12 months ago

Rental platform Zumper is entering the vacation rental market. 

The San Francisco-based company has launched Vacations by Zumper, which includes listings Bookings.com, Vrbo, as well as hotels. It has partnered with Evolve and Rentals United — Evolve is providing 27,000 home listings to Zumper, and the site has launched with 50,000 new hotel listings. 

The company also said that it has expanded its short-term rental inventory to over 1 million listings, a 50 percent increase from its initial launch in August 2022. Earlier this month, it launched Flexpass, its subscription service targeting remote workers and digital nomads for an annual fee of $300. 

Vacation rental listed in Flagstaff. Source: Zumper

Zumper caters to mobile renters, targeting remote workers and digital nomads. Apartments listed on the site come fully furnished and equipped and can be rented for a minimum of 30 nights without leases, security deposits, application or cleaning fees. 

Founded in 2012, the company claims it wants to make renting a home as easy as booking a hotel. The company has raised a total of $180 million in funding with the latest Series D round of $30 million led by Kleiner Perkins. Blackstone Group, Greylock,Greycroft, Axel Springer, Breyer Capital and Andreessen Horowitz have also invested in Zumper. The company acquired Padmapper and NowRenting in 2016 and 2019 respectively. 

Tourism

International Travel Volume to the U.S. in 2022 Reached 64 Percent of Pre-Pandemic Level

12 months ago

The U.S. hosted 51 million international visitors in 2022, amounting to 64 percent of its 2019 volume, according to the National Travel and Tourism Office’s latest data. Outbound travel from the U.S. totaled 80.8 million, down 19 percent from its pre-pandemic volume.

About 24 million traveled from overseas, i.e. not Canada and Mexico, up 161 percent from 2021. Western Europe was the largest regional source market with over 10 million visitors. South America came in second with 4.2 million. 

Among overseas countries, the UK was at the top with 3.5 million, followed by Germany at 1.5 million and France at 1.3 million. In 2022, New York was the largest point of entry at 4.5 million, Miami at second with 3.8 million, followed by Los Angeles at 2 million. 

In December, international inbound volume rose 46.2 percent year over year to 5 million, representing 73 percent of its pre-pandemic December volume. Overseas visitor volume to the U.S. totaled 2.5 million, representing 94 percent of its pre-pandemic December volume.

Short-Term Rentals

Inspirato and Saks Enter Into Marketing Pact Mixing Travel and Fashion

12 months ago

Would you like a luxury travel subscription from Inspirato with those Amina Muaddi Rosie 95MM Metallic Leather Slingback Pumps from Saks Fifth Avenue?

Saks Stylists will mix pitches to buy Inspirato Passes with style recommendations under a partnership between the companies. Source: Saks

That could conceivably be a sales pitches as Inspirato entered into a strategic marketing partnership with Saks, which would have its Saks Stylists, online and in-store, try to sell Inspirato luxury travel subscriptions to clients. Consumers can choose to get matched with a stylist at Saks for fashion recommendations.

The two luxury companies plans to engage in a variety of cross-promotional efforts once the partnership kicks in sometime between April and June. Saks Stylists would receive training on Inspirato’s variety of travel subscription offerings, such as the combined Inspirato Pass and Club membership, which the company’s website says costs $2,550 per month.

Among elements of the partnership, Inspirato members will receive a pitch to apply for a SaksFirst Card, and they may qualify for status tier upgrades in the Saks loyalty program based on how much they spend with Inspirato. In turn, Saks customers would get access to incentives to buy Inspirato travel subscriptions.

The Inspirato announcement said Saks is its “exclusive luxury retail partner.”

The companies did not detail the financial details of their marketing partnership.

Short-Term Rentals

Lucerne Caps Short-Term Rentals to 90 Days

12 months ago

The Swiss city of Lucerne is the latest to place restrictions on short-term rentals. Lucerne citizens voted (64 percent) to limit short-term rental stays to a maximum of 90 days per year.  

Lucerne is the fifth city in Switzerland after Geneva, Zurich, Basel and Bern to cap short-term rentals. The initiative was led by Social Democratic Party, aimed to cap rentals  available on a temporary basis to make more housing available to residents of the city.  

Bern is one of the top tourist destinations in the country, and those opposed to the move warned that it might risk losing incoming tourists. 

Lake Lucerne. Source: Flickr

Switzerland joins a number of cities across Europe to curtail short-term rentals via platforms like Airbnb, Vrbo. Earlier this month, Portugal proposed a ban on issuing new licenses to operate short-term rentals in a move to manage the cost-of-living and housing crisis.  

There are similar restrictions in Madrid, Andalusia, Barcelona and Valencia in Spain. 

This comes on the heels of the European Commission approving new rules about collecting and sharing data on short-term accommodation at EU level. Beyond data-sharing, the EU-level regulations aim to reduce fragmentation among local communities, clamp down illegal listings and promote sustainable tourism in keeping with local laws and regional mandates across Europe. 

Travel Technology

AirAsia Announces New CEO for Superapp Business

12 months ago

AirAsia on Tuesday announced the appointment of Mohamad Hafidz, who is currently the chief fintech officer, as the acting CEO of AirAsia superapp from April 1 onwards. 

With nearly 30 years in the payments industry, Hafidz, populary known as Mo, will be succeeding Amanda Woo in his new role.

Woo was appointed CEO of the superapp in May 2021, she was then the chief commercial officer.

Speaking to Skift earlier, Tony Fernandes, CEO of Capital A, had said that AirAsia would now be killing its other operations in the superapp to focus on what he calls its bread and butter — travel.

“Now that travel has returned, we’ve shifted our focus to making the superapp very much a travel fintech superapp,” Fernandes told Skift.

In his new role, Hafidz would continue to drive the platform’s fintech vision that will further help to boost the superapp’s choices for its users and bring more revenue to the business, the company said in a release. 

Having assisted in shaping regulatory policies in several regional markets, Hafidz has been a strong advocate for payments innovation and security in the Asia Pacific region.

Hafidz’s appointment follows the recent leadership transition announcement at AirAsia Digital, which include AirAsia superapp and BigPay.

Colin Currie will be taking on dual roles as AirAsia Digital’s CEO and president, commercial of Capital A.

Currie will lead the effort to forge a closer collaboration between AirAsia superapp and BigPay to create a better user experience in travel and payment for users within the Capital A ecosystem, a company release said. 

Capital A also appointed its head of investments John Cheing as the chief financial officer for AirAsia Digital and AirAsia superapp.

Calling fintech an essential part of travel, Fernandes had earlier spoken about the role that BigPay, Capital A’s fintech arm, would play in creating lending for travel as well as for insurance.

In its fourth quarter results, the company had showed strong performances in both its superapp and fintech business.

“We are excited to be launching the next phase of growth in our digital portfolios,” Fernandes had said earlier.

Airlines

Japan’s ANA Unveils Features of New Carrier Air Japan

12 months ago

Japanese airline company All Nippon Airways (ANA) is preparing to launch its new airline Air Japan in February 2024, unveiling a brand positioning of affordability, comfort and diversity for its cabin crew. 

The medium-haul offering sits firmly between the full-service concept of carrier ANA and its low-cost airline Peach Aviation to meet travel demand from Southeast Asia to Japan. It will compete against Japan Airlines subsidiary, Zipair, which offers similar products. 

The airline company has yet to confirm routes and cities for the new airline but recently unveiled select products and services as part of its Fly Thoughtful brand concept.

Seats will include Type-A and Type-C USB ports and tablet holders. Source: ANA

The cabin will be configured with 324 economy class seats, a seat pitch of 32 inches and a recline feature. The seats won’t have monitors and are made of lightweight material, which is expected to add to its fuel efficiency.

In a push for diversity and inclusion, the company stated its cabin attendants’ uniforms are designed to “value the unique qualities” of its crew, reflecting gender neutrality. It will also be made in-part from plant-derived fabrics.

Cabin crew were involved in the planning of the new gender-neutral uniforms with a “borderless design enabling variations in coordination.” Source: ANA

The Air Japan website is live, but ticket sales have yet to be opened. 

Hotels

Marriott Gets Mexico’s Approval to Move Forward on Midscale Push

12 months ago

Marriott International said on Friday it had received an okay from Mexico’s competition watchdog for its acquisition of the City Express brand portfolio from Hoteles City Express. The news clears the path for the $100 million deal, first announced in October, and which may now close before June.

The hotel group seeks entry into the affordable midscale segment by adding its 31st brand, City Express.

“We expect to grow that brand aggressively in the Latin America and Caribbean region,” said Anthony Capuano, president and CEO of Marriott, in an earnings call with analysts in February. “And, as we move toward closing that transaction, we are evaluating the applicability of that brand in other markets around the world.”

The deal includes 152 hotels with about 17,000 rooms. It will boost Marriott’s footprint in the Caribbean and Latin America by 45 percent, to 486 properties. 

City Hotels said its hotel occupancy in December 2022 stood at 104.9 percent of the comparable pre-pandemic 2019 level.

“We’re thrilled about entering the appealing midscale lodging category and offering customers even more choice in the destinations they seek for both business and leisure stays,” said Brian King, president, Caribbean and Latin America  at Marriott International.

Hotels

U.S. Hotel Hiring Stays Steady Adding 14,000 Workers in February

12 months ago

The U.S. leisure and hospitality sector in February continued its recovery from the pandemic, according to a report from the U.S. Labor Department on Friday.

Government surveyors estimated that U.S. businesses created 311,000 jobs in February. About 14,000 of those jobs were in travel accommodation, mainly hotels. That was down slightly from a 15,000 reported gain for hotels last month.

On the one hand, many U.S.-based hotel groups reported in February hotel earnings calls that they feel broadly back at their full labor quotas, with labor gaps no longer a pressing issue.

On the other hand, 1.7 million leisure and hospitality jobs are open.

The remaining 91,000 added jobs were in restaurants and leisure and hospitality broadly. Employment in the broader leisure and hospitality was only below its pre-pandemic February 2020 level by 2.4 percent, suggesting a full recovery is in the offing.

“One way the federal government should address our workforce shortage is to increase the allotment of H-2B visas, which is at least 100,000 short of demand, to provide the industry with the temporary workers it so desperately needs,” said U.S. Travel Association president and CEO Geoff Freeman.

The national unemployment rate was estimated at 3.6 percent. On the plus side, low unemployment can fuel travel spending.

“There is still a much room for further services spending, greatly benefitting travel,” said Dan Roberts, vice president of research at Visit Virgina, a destination marketing organization. “Rotation of consumer spending from goods back into services, as has been the case for months now, is the story.”

Chart from the New York Times demonstrating monthly job gains in the U.S. Source: The New York Times.

On the downside, many commentators suspect the robust jobs report may embolden the U.S. central bank to boost interest rates. Such a move by the Federal Reserve risks overshooting economic trends, accelerating a contraction beyond what’s necessary to tamp down inflation and thus reducing economic growth in the second half of the year.

CLARIFICATION: A typo in the original version gave the wrong year for the pre-pandemic February 2020 level.

Online Travel

Online Travel Agency Wheel the World to Offer Guaranteed Accessibility and Price Match

12 months ago

Online travel agency Wheel the World, which serves travelers with disabilities, announced on Thursday that it’s offering guaranteed accessibility and price match for hotel rooms booked on its website.

“We have identified those details of accessibility and the rooms that have those details,” Wheel the World CEO and co-founder Alvaro Silberstein said, adding that the company also offers price matches for hotel rooms booked on other platforms, including Booking.com, Expedia and Travelocity.

The new features come after the company secured $6 million in what it describes as pre-Series A funding. Venture capital firm Kayak Ventures led the investment. Detroit Venture Partners, REI Co-op Path Ahead Ventures, former Booking.com CEO Gillian Tans, Dadneo, CLIN Fund, Amarena and WeBoost also participated in the round.

Travel companies have long struggled to cater to travelers with disabilities. Disability rights activist Tanzila Khan addressed challenges members of the segment face in a speech at Skift Global Forum East in Dubai last year.

Traveler in a wheelchair
Guests at the Hotel Sofitel in Brussels (Source: VISITFLANDERS/Flickr)