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Skift Travel News Blog

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

Tourism

David Beckham Kicks Off Qatar’s Latest Tourism Campaign

2 years ago

As the countdown begins to the Middle East’s very first Federation Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) World Cup, host country Qatar now has British soccer star David Beckham promoting the destination for a stopover break.

The campaign features Beckham on a whirlwind trip to Qatar for 48 hours indulging in a wide range of activities from exploring the spice markets of Souq Waqif, soaking up local street art, cooking tacos to camping in the desert and discovering Doha on a motorbike.

https://youtu.be/xfaBoDMj1UE
The video featuring David Beckham’s 48-hour trip to Qatar.

In 2019, Qatar’s transit traffic stood at 40 million passengers, courtesy national carrier Qatar Airways. However, the country only received 2.1 million visitors — a mere 5 percent of the number of people transiting through the country.

Through this campaign, Qatar Tourism seeks to raise awareness of what it dubs is the, “the world’s best value stopover packages.”

Passengers can book themselves at a four-star hotel for as little as $14.00 per person, per night, Philip Dickinson, vice president of international markets for Qatar Tourism had said speaking to Skift in an earlier interview.

The campaign is aimed to encourage the millions who transit through Qatar every year to follow in David’s footsteps, Akbar Al Baker, chairman of Qatar Tourism and group CEO of Qatar Airways, said in a press statement.

“We have something for everyone at incredible value, whether it’s sun, sea, sand, rich heritage and culture, or a modern and fun city break,” Baker said.

Qatar expects to bring in 1.5 million fans during the 28 days that the World Cup is scheduled to take place in the country. FIFA estimates that the Qatar World Cup returns could reach $6 billion, Nasser Al-Khater, CEO of the Qatar 2022 World Cup, said this week while speaking to Qatar News Agency

Qatar had unveiled Beckham as its global ambassador for the World Cup in a deal reportedly worth $277 million. Beckham had however come under fire for failing to speak out about human rights abuses in Qatar.

Tourism

Thailand Ups Visa Game by Granting Longer Stays to Tourists and Digital Nomads

2 years ago

Keen to offer a boost to the country’s tourism sector, Thailand will allow longer stays for foreign tourists from October 1 to March 31. The Southeast Asian destination has also proposed a 10-year golden visa program mainly targeted at wealthy digital nomads.

Foreign arrivals from 18 countries entering Thailand under the visa-on-arrival scheme, including India, will be allowed to extend their stay from 15 days to 30 days, while those from 50 countries, including Canada, U.S. and UK, who are currently eligible for a 30-day visa on arrival will be able to get a 45-day visa stamp.

From September onwards, Thailand will also be extending a 10-year golden visa option to four categories of travelers with an annual income of $80,000 and at least $1 million in assets. The visa also comes with a work permit and travelers would not need a Thai sponsor to live long-term in the country. 

The processing fee for the 10-year visa with multiple entries is around $1382.

The Thai government expects the 10-year residence visa to generate around $27 billion worth of revenue.

The visa extension is crucial as Thailand prepares to transition to a post-pandemic era with the return to normalcy. The visa programs are also timed perfectly with the Thai government planning to declare Covid-19 endemic in October.

Thailand plans to welcome around 10 million tourists this year and has been working hard to lure tourists back to the country. In its latest effort, Thailand had been looking to legalize casinos.

Thailand’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration will also meet next month to consider lifting the state of emergency, put in place to control the spread of the disease since March 2020.

Tourism

Japan Mulls Scrapping Pre-Arrival Test for Inbound Travelers

2 years ago

Japan is finally considering to end the pre-arrival Covid tests for vaccinated travelers coming from foreign countries, according to local media.

Japanese Prime Minister, Fumio Kishida, also hinted at eased border controls in a virtual news conference on Monday. The decision to ease restricstions would depend on the daily Covid count being reported in the country.

Inbound arrivals to Japan are currently required to submit proof of a negative Covid test result conducted within 72 hours of departure. Rapid antigen tests are not accepted.

Japan, which has one of the strictest entry rules or inbound arrivals, has been easing restrictions in a phased manner. In June, the country doubled the daily cap for arrivals at border crossings to 20,000 in June and allowed foreign tourists on escorted package tours to enter from June 10.

However, only around 1,500 foreign tourists entered Japan in the month up to July 10 since the country re-opened on June 10, noted Japan’s Immigration Services Agency. An earlier Skift story had also observed that Japan welcomed more refugees from Ukraine than foreign tourists since reopening.

In 2019, before the pandemic struck, Japan hosted 32 million foreign visitors, who spent $38 billion.

The rise in the daily number of cases from July onwards has put the easing of restrictions on hold. However, with the scrapping of pre-arrival tests, the government may also consider raising the number of people allowed every day to enter the country, according to Nikkei Asia.

The Japanese tourism sector has been urging the government to scrap entry restrictions to help boost the sector.

Airlines

Indian Airport Lounge Aggregator DreamFolks Hopes to Open IPO on August 24

2 years ago

India-based airport lounge services aggregator, DreamFolks Services, will be launching its initial public offering in India on August 24. 

DreamFolks Services, through its asset-light business model, integrates global card players, credit card and debit card issuers with airlines and various airport lounge operators. The company also manages loyalty programmes for airlines.

Starting out as an agrregator of airport lounges, DreamFolks now calls itself “a provider of end-to-end technological solutions for building and delivering services that improve the airport experience.”

The initial public offering will open for subscription on August 24 and close on August 26.

The initial public offering is entirely an offer for sale through which the company’s promoters — Liberatha Peter Kallat, Dinesh Nagpal, and Mukesh Yadav — will offload 17 million shares, which constitutes around 33 percent of the post-offer paid-up equity share capital of the company, according to a PTI report.

With the Indian lounge market set for a massive boost, DreamFolks’ decision to go public is said to be rightly timed.

The number of airport lounges in India is expected to increase to 70-90 by 2025 and 150-160 by 2030, as per estimates based on a Frost & Sullivan research. Currently, India has around 54 airport lounges, with 31 percent of the lounges concentrated in the three key metropolitan airports of New Delhi, Chennai and Mumbai.

The total number of operational airports is expected to reach 295 by 2040 with industry revenues expected to grow to $28.6 billion by 2040.

DreamFolks can also take heart from the fact that the non-aeronautical earnings per passenger went up from around $2 in the financial year of 2017 to $4.2 in the financial year of 2021, indicating that passengers are willing to spend more.

The aviation sector has been contributing roughly 3.5 percent to India’s gross domestic product.

Airlines

Dubai Airport Now Expects Full Recovery a Year Earlier — By 2023

2 years ago

Dubai International Airport expects passenger traffic to return to pre-pandemic levels by the end of 2023, a year earlier than its CEO Paul Griffiths’ prediction of hoping to regain pre-Covid traffic levels by 2024.

As air travel gets back to normal, Dubai Airport witnessed a half-yearly traffic of 27.9 million passengers this year, just 1.2 million shy of its total annual traffic last year.

Based on the strong first half, the airport has readjusted its annual forecast for 2022 to 62.4 million passengers, compared to its earlier estimate of 58.3 million.

The airport managed to hit 27.9 million for the first six months of 2022 despite a significant reduction in capacity following a 45-day shutdown of its northern runway in May-June for maintenance.

India was the top destination country for Dubai Airport with traffic for the first half reaching 4 million passengers. Saudi Arabia came in second with 2 million passengers, while United Kingdom came a close third with 1.9 million passengers.

Calling the airport’s recovery from the impact of Covid-19 spectacular, CEO Griffiths said, “We knew at the start of the pandemic that the dramatic downturn would be followed by an equally dramatic upturn, so we were well prepared for it and using all of the business data at our disposal were able to predict the start of the recovery.”

Speaking to the media, Griffiths also mentioned that Dubai has a lot to gain from the Federation Internationale de Football Association’s (FIFA) World Cup in Qatar this year — the first to be held in the Middle East.

Qatar Airways had earlier said that fellow Gulf Arab airlines would be operating daily shuttle flights to Qatar during the world cup, which would help ease pressure on Doha, which has been struggling with limited accommodation facilities for the world cup, and allow neighbouring Gulf states to benefit from the event.

Hotels

Indian Hotels Company Had The Best Quarter in Its History: Here’s Why

2 years ago

Tata Group-backed Indian Hotels Company (IHCL) reported what Puneet Chhatwal, its managing director and CEO, called the best first quarter in the company’s history.

The hotel brand reported strong free cash flows of almost $25 million and net cash positive of $33 million in its consolidated and standalone financials for the first quarter ending June 30, 2022.

A surge in demand across markets and segments, with occupancy and rates exceeding pre-Covid levels and backed by an asset-light model, Indian Hotels Company achieved a milestone earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation, and amortization of $51 million, compared to a loss of $15.5 million in the same quarter last year, said Chhatwal.

The company reported a profit after tax of $21 million against only $750,000 in 2019-20.

“The trend is very positive in India and we have outperformed in almost every market on the domestic front, except for a marginal lag in Rajasthan,” Chhatwal said.

With revenue per available room levels exceeding that of the first quarter of 2019-20 in Indian metropolitan cities, Chhatwal, said, “The cities of Mumbai, Bengaluru and New Delhi are back.”

Mumbai Bengaluru and Delhi are also important for the hotel brand as it has owned or licensed assets in these cities. “We account for those revenues and a change in the revenue numbers has a significant impact on our portfolio and our performance,” Chhatwal said.

The company has signed 10 new hotels in the first quarter, with three hotels each under the Taj and Ginger brands, and two hotels each under the SeleQtions and Vivanta brands, and expects to sign 15 more for the rest of the year.

With its presence in over 100 locations in India, Indian Hotels Company has further strengthened its pan-India footprint with the opening of four new hotels in the current fiscal.

“So our pan India footprint is stronger and is getting even further stronger as each month and each quarter goes by through our aggressive asset-light growth strategy that has been in place,” Chhatwal said, adding that the asset-light model is not only driving growth, but is also helping the brand find the right balance which is in line with its Ahvaan 2025 strategy.

Even as IHCL is getting ready to launch a new website and a new mobile app, the hospitality brand is clear that the backbone of the company was, is and in the foreseeable future remains the Taj.

“We are very clear that all brands associated directly or indirectly with the Taj are perceived as premium brands in their respective segment,” Chhatwal said during the first quarter earnings call.

“One thing which we have been very careful about in the last few years is the premiumization of our portfolio. Any business that we enter in we want our offering to be in the premium level in their relative positioning.”

The company’s long-term growth will also focus significantly on digital enablers such as the super app — Tata Neu. “The Tat Neu integration has enabled us to get one million new members in four months and a 50 percent growth in our loyalty base,” Chhatwal said.

Hotels

Oyo Buys Nordic-Based Vacation Rental Operator Bornholmske Feriehuse

2 years ago

In its endeavor to expand as a preferred full-stack vacation homes provider, Oyo has acquired Denmark-based vacation rental operator — Bornholmske Feriehuse.

Oyo has made the acquisition through its subsidiary DanCenter. Bornholmske Feriehuse has over 700 homes on its platform and according to an Oyo release the company is expected to clock more than 250,000 guest nights in 2022.

The acquisition underlines Oyo’s commitment to invest in Denmark towards accelerating the growth of travel and tourism in the market.

An initiative by Denmark’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs — Invest in Denmark — helps attract and retain foreign investments in the country by providing a customized one-stop service for foreign companies, looking to set up or expand business in Denmark.

The demand from foreign guests in holiday homes has been particularly high, said Rasmus Lund, director of Bornholmske Feriehuse. Lund hoped that the collaboration with Oyo would give Bornholmske Feriehuse the opportunity to keep up with demand, while allowing homeowners to benefit from the many online portals that DanCenter collaborates with.

“The agreement would help our many holiday home owners achieve a higher rental percentage, while also contributing income and jobs to Bornholm,” said Lund, who will continue as the director of the vacation rental company.

The acquisition in Bornholm will strengthen Oyo’s presence in Europe. In May, Oyo acquired Croatia-headquartered Direct Booker, which has more than 3,200 homes.

Oyo already owns vacation rental brands in Europe such as Belvilla (Belvilla by Oyo), DanCenter, Danland and Traum Ferienwohnungen offering fully-managed private homes across the Netherlands, Belgium, Germany, Austria and Croatia.

Airlines

Majority Owner of India’s SpiceJet Looks to Sell Part of His Stake

2 years ago

Ajay Singh, Chairman and Managing Director of Indian carrier SpiceJet, is said to be in talks with a Middle Eastern carrier and an Indian conglomerate to partially sell a portion of his stake in the budget airline.

Singh holds around 60 percent stake in the airline.

“The company continues to be in discussions with various investors to secure sustainable financing and will make appropriate disclosures in accordance with applicable regulations,” a SpiceJet spokesperson said.

A major Middle Eastern airline has expressed interest to pick a 24 percent stake and a board seat in SpiceJet. An Indian business conglomerate has also approached Singh for a stake in the airline, IANS reported while quoting a source.

With two carriers — Akasa and Jet 2.0 — set to debut in India this year, the stake sale would help bring much-needed equity infusion into SpiceJet, India’s third largest airline by market share.

The airline posted a net loss of $158 million in the April-December period of 2021, and is yet to declare financial results for the January-March period of 2022.

Last year, Indian aviation watchdog Directorate General of Civil Aviation (DGCA) noted that SpiceJet had been operating on “cash and carry” method and approved vendors were not being paid on regular basis.

On August 2, SpiceJet stated that it had entered into a full and final settlement with the Airports Authority of India and has cleared all outstanding principal dues of the airport operator. “With this, SpiceJet will no longer remain on “cash and carry” at AAI run airports across the country and will revert to advance payment mechanism for daily flight operations,” a statement from the airline read.

Last year, SpiceJet had also announced its plan to transfer its cargo and logistics services on a slump sale basis to its subsidiary SpiceXpress to help the company raise funds independently. “The proposed hiving off of SpiceXpress is proceeding as per plan,” the airline spokesperson said.

Last month, DGCA issued a show-cause notice to Spicejet after its aircraft were hit by at least eight incidents of technical malfunction since June 19. The incidents included crack in the aircraft’s windshield, engine catching fire, weather radar malfunction and fuselage door warning.

On July 27, the airline was asked to operate only 50 percent of its approved flights for summer schedule for eight weeks.

Online Travel

Thai Energy Giant PTT Will Invest in Traveloka

2 years ago

Thailand-based public firm PTT Oil and Retail Business (PTTOR) is set to invest in Indonesian travel superapp Traveloka, through its subsidiary, PTTOR International Holdings Singapore.

While the value of the investment has not yet been disclosed, the retail arm of Thailand’s state-owned energy giant PTT, through its collaboration with Traveloka, aims to provide additional lifestyle solutions to its customers in line with its strategy to become a one-stop solution for all lifestyle needs.

Having so far raised a total of $1.2 billion in funding, Traveloka was said to be in talks for another funding round of more than $200 million, after its plans to go public through a special acquisition company failed to take off.

Last valued at $3 billion, there had been speculations that the online travel and lifestyle company could go public via a traditional initial public offering in the U.S. instead.

The Indonesia-based online travel unicorn that has its presence in Singapore, Malaysia, Vietnam, Thailand and Philippines has since been seeking new investment opportunities.

Besides offering travel, tourism and accommodation options, Traveloka has now developed into a superapp allowing users to book healthcare, financial services products and food delivery.

With PTT Oil and Retail Business’ expertise, Traveloka aims to capture the demand and provide enhanced solutions to its customers, while also creating new opportunities for its merchant-partners in Thailand and the region.

“We see immense value from the collaboration as we see the region growing at a rapid pace, leading to greater opportunities in the industry,” Ferry Unardi, co-founder and CEO of Traveloka, said.

As tourism is one of the major economic contributors to the Thai economy, PTTOR aims to strengthen its focus on the sector through this initiative while providing growth opportunities for small and medium enterprises in the travel sector.

“Given Traveloka’s position as a leading online platform for travel and lifestyle services in Southeast Asia, as well as its strong technology capabilities, I believe there is a range of areas we can explore together with Traveloka, to further enhance our tech capabilities,” Jiraphon Kawswat, president and CEO of PTTOR, said. 

Tourism

Nepal Bars TikTokers From Some Tourist Sites

2 years ago

Nepal’s would-be social media influencers would now have to scout for new locations as the country has barred shooting of TikTok videos at some heritage sites.

Popular tourist sites in the Nepalese capital of Kathmandu, including Boudhanath Stupa, the Ram Janaki temple and Gadhimai temple as well as the Buddhist pilgrimage site of Lumbini now display signs reading “No TikTok.”

Owned by the China-based tech giant ByteDance, TikTok is one of the most popular social media apps in Nepal. According to a 2022 survey, more than 55 percent of respondent in Nepal said they had been using the app.

“Don’t make ads, make TikToks,” says a new campaign launched by TikTok for Business. The app is one of fastest growing social media platforms with over a billion users. Users spend an average of 52 minutes on the app every day.

Many in Nepal blame TikTokers for creating a nuisance by playing loud music at sites frequented by pilgrims from all over the world, according to a Rest of World report. The same tourists, who some believe frequent these places after watching such TikTok videos.

Studies have revealed that travelers are increasingly relying on social media to make their travel choices. However, reports also state the impact of sudden destination popularity through social media.

The local community at in Hainan Island’s Tropical Rainforest National Park have had to deal with a massive tourist flow after various TikTok videos went viral.