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Skift Travel News Blog

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

Short-Term Rentals

Vacasa Appoints TurnKey Co-Founder as Chief Operating Officer

2 years ago

Just five weeks after Rob Greyber became CEO of Vacasa, the board has shaken up the leadership ranks anew, including naming TurnKey co-founder John Banczak chief operating officer, effective immediately.

Vacasa vacation home in Camp Connell, California
Vacasa vacation home in Camp Connell, California. Source: Vacasa

TurnKey was Vacasa’s main rival among property management companies in North America until Vacasa bought Turnkey for $619 million in April 2021.

John Banczak. Source: Vacasa

Banczak will supervise Vacasas’s field and central operations teams, the company said Friday in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing.

Banczak had served as Vacasa’s chief strategy officer.

In other moves, Greyber, who formerly headed Egencia for Expedia Group, will add chief product officer to his current CEO duties on an interim basis. Michael Xenakis, Vacasa’s chief product officer, will leave the company at the end of the month, Vacasa stated.

Vacasa led its announcement about executive changes with the promotion of Chief Operating Officer Craig Smith to the role of chief commercial officer. Smith had become Vacasa’s chief operating officer in early 2021.

In his new role as chief commercial officer, Smith will also assume Michael Dodson’s responsibilities as chief revenue officer. Vacasa said Dodson will exit the company in early November.

Some 10 months ago, Vacasa closed its first day of trading on Nasdaq in a blank check merger on December 7, 2021 at $9.84 per share, and closed trading Friday at $3.25.

Vacasa generated $9.94 million in net income in the second quarter, which ended June 30, on revenue of $310 million, a 31 percent year over year increase.

The property management company, the largest in North America, raised its 2022 revenue and adjusted EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) guidance in August, and projected adjusted earnings profitability in 2023.

Luxury

Strong Dollar May Be Headwind for U.S. Luxury Hotels

2 years ago

The U.S. dollar has appreciated relative to major currencies such as the euro, pound, and yen, and that dynamic has been changing travel patterns. American tourists enjoy enhanced buying power in Europe and Japan, while many foreign visitors find the U.S. off-puttingly expensive.

Look at U.S. government data to see the pattern. September data from the International Trade Administration (sourced here) shows a 2 percent increase in Americans going abroad compared to September 2019 before the pandemic, while there was a 27 percent drop in inbound international visitors in the same period.

Jan Freitag, Senior Vice President of Lodging Insights for STR and National Director, Hospitality Analytics for CoStar Group, summed things up in a tweet on Thursday.

Here’s that slide from CoStar a bit bigger:

Travel Technology

Ad Software Company Clinch Expands Into Travel Industry Via Sojern Tie-Up

2 years ago

A company that helps advertisers streamline modern ad campaigns is moving further into the travel industry through a new partnership. 

Clinch, headquartered in New York City, said this week that it had started a “new relationship” with Nebraska-based Sojern

Clinch’s so-called “flight control” software suite is meant to help advertisers more easily build data-driven, personalized ad campaigns. 

Sojern is a travel-focused digital marketing platform that uses consumer data to help hospitality companies secure bookings. The company, founded in 2007, has driven more than $15 billion in bookings for thousands of partners, according to its website.

The companies say that the partnership allows Clinch users to access Sojern’s capabilities. 

“The ability to personalize and auto-optimize campaigns to match both environmental and user-based situations is paramount for this sector,” said Charel MacIntosh, head of business development and partnerships for Clinch, in a statement.  

Online Travel

Hopper Partners With Vacation Rental Management Platform Hostaway

2 years ago

Online travel agency Hopper has entered into a partnership with short-term rental management platform Hostaway, an alliance that Hopper believes will boost its short-term rental brand Hopper Homes.

“Partnering with Hostaway allows us to bolster our high-quality inventory, and helps us deliver on our promise to provide the best booking options at the best prices,” said Susan Ho, head of Hopper Homes, which Hopper launched in January 2022.

Short-term rental property managers using Hostaway will be now able to list their properties on Hopper.

“We work with many property managers in the U.S., which is Hopper’s main market, so it benefits both companies to team up on this integration,” said Marcus Rader, the CEO and co-founder of Hostaway. “We’re excited about the possibilities this will bring to our customers.”

Hopper, which is the third largest online agency travel agency flight booker in the U.S. between behind Expedia Group and CheapOAir, is already partnering with vacation rental booking brand Vrbo.

The inside of a house
Hopper is making further inroads in the short-term rental market through its partnership with Hostaway (Courtesy: Medeu71/pxHere)

Airlines

Singapore Airlines and Tata Talk Potential Air India Stake

2 years ago

With a former Singapore Airlines executive at the helm of Air India, it comes with little surprise that the Singaporean airline could take a stake in the Tata Group-owned Indian flag carrier.

Singapore Airlines disclosed Thursday that it was in “confidential discussions” with Tata to “deepen” the companies’ existing partnership, and a potential merger of Air India and Vistara. Indian carrier Vistara is jointly owned by Tata (51 percent) and Singapore Airlines (49 percent).

Singapore Airlines did not say what that deeper partnership could be, but Reuters reported that it could include a minority stake in Air India.

singapore airlines Boeing 777-200 in Singapore Airlines livery source singapore airlines
(Singapore Airlines)

India, with nearly 1.4 billion people, is widely viewed as one of largest growth markets for aviation around the world. However, airlines have long struggled to penetrate the market that suffers from infrastructure and other constraints. Numerous carriers have tried — and failed — including Jet Airways (the first incarnation) and Kingfisher.

Singapore Airlines described India, and its Vistara investment, as an “integral part” of its multi-hub growth strategy. A stake in Air India would give the Singaporean airline even deeper penetration in the market.

Travel Booking

Hostelworld Projects Return to Profit After New Social Networking Feature Slashes Ad Spending

2 years ago

Online travel agent Hostelworld is predicting a return to profit by the end of this year, thanks in part to its app’s new social networking feature, which it launched in April

The company struggled through the pandemic, which shut down large parts of core market Asia, as backpackers avoided hostel dormitories. In 2021 it reported a loss of $36.7 million in 2021. 

But in a trading update on Oct. 12, it said it was well positioned for “profitable growth” after a new social strategy produced more sales, and lowered marketing costs.

“Since launching our innovative and differentiated social network strategy earlier this year, we have seen strong growth week over week in the number of customers signing up to our app based social platform when they make a booking with us,” the company said.

In particular its “Solo System” helps solo travelers meet other guests. As of the end of September, almost 50 percent of all its customers had signed up to the platform, driving a significant increase in the volume of bookings.

Bookings in September reached 83 percent of 2019 levels, and were also boosted by the continuing recovery of Asia and Oceania regions, which were now at 70 percent of 2019 levels, up from 43 percent in June, Hostelworld said.

Net revenue in September reached 104 percent of 2019 levels.

“Social strategy is delivering margin growth well ahead of expectations, with marketing as a percentage of net revenue expected to improve from 70 percent in the first half to approximately 55 percent in the second half,” it added.

It now expects to end the year “modestly EBITDA (earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortization) positive and with a stronger cash position than originally expected.”

“I am very pleased with the positive trends we are seeing from our innovative ‘Social’ strategy which is driving more customers to use our apps, and reduced marketing as a percentage of net revenue,” said group CEO Gary Morrison.

“Socializing” a travel booking app has also worked for Hopper. Speaking at Skift Global Forum in September, CEO Frederic Lalonde said the company had slashed its marketing spend, after becoming TikTok’s biggest spender on advertising in 2021 in the U.S.

“Today, our paid spend is almost at zero. We are giving the same money we gave to Mark Zuckerberg and TikTok to our customers in the form of tree watering games,” he said.

Ground Transport

Southeast Asian Destinations Steer Tourists Towards Road Trip Holidays

2 years ago

In a bid to encourage tourists to explore the region by road, the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have come up with a driving tourism manual.

The guidebook contains information on driving in Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam and also includes a list of suggested tour routes.

Available for free download, the guidebook is an initiative under the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025, with Thailand’s Department of Tourism as its main coordinator.

The ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025, sought to implement the agreement on the recognition of domestic driving licenses issued by ASEAN members states to promote drive/overland tourism across the region.

The information in the manual has been collated to help make the self-drive journey a seamless one among destinations in the region, based on connectivity, openness and mutual sharing of tourism experiences.

Designed to help driving tourists create their own itineraries, the guidebook contains information to help tourists traveling to Southeast Asia by land, including visa and entry requirements, vehicle permits, cross-border procedures, required documents, speed limits as well as emergency contact numbers.

A map also indicates the countries that drive on the left side of the road and those that drive on the right side.

To encourage tourists to explore lesser-known destinations, the guidebook also recommends self-drive routes for each country covering major highlights and second-tier destinations, and cross-border routes combining different countries.

The self-drive tourism manual is meant for travellers coming from within Southeast Asia as well as for international tourists coming from other continents, Yuthasak Supasorn, the governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand said in a press statement on Monday.

“International travelers could, for example, combine a visit to Thailand with visits to Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, or Malaysia to be enjoyed at their own pace, along their own routes while exploring the many diverse cultures, attractions, and landscapes of this fascinating region,” Supasorn said.

Online Travel

Tripadvisor Names Former Booking Holdings Finance Official as New Chief Financial Officer

2 years ago

Tripadvisor will replace longtime chief financial officer Ernst Teunissen with Michael Noonan, a former Booking Holdings vice president of finance, effective October 31.

Tripadvisor, who several months ago saw the appointment of Matt Goldberg as CEO, replacing Steve Kaufer, said Teunissen, who served as chief financial officer for the past seven years, will leave “to pursue other interests.”

Michael Noonan, Tripadvisor’s new CFO. Source: Tripadvisor.

In addition to his chief financial officer role, Teunissen also served as chief executive of Tripadvisor brands Viator, The Fork and Cruise Critic.

Tripadvisor said Noonan, who has three decades of finance experience, most previously served as chief financial officer of the health app Noom. He was in that role since October 2020.

Tripadvisor didn’t say who, if anyone, might assume Teunissen’s role at Viator, The Fork and Cruise Critic. He will stay on through the first quarter of 2023 for transition purposes.

“I would like to thank Ernst, also on behalf of our Board of Directors, for his many valuable contributions over the past seven years, and personally for the counsel he has provided through my own onboarding,” Goldberg said in a statement. “His guidance, especially through the volatile pandemic period, has been key to our strong financial position.  Moreover, his leadership of Viator, TheFork, and Cruise Critic, has driven strong revenue growth for these strategic businesses coming out of the pandemic.”

Travel Technology

Strong Dollar Is Shifting Tourism Patterns Between the U.S. and Europe

2 years ago

The U.S. dollar has appreciated in value relative to major currencies such as the euro, pound, and yen, and enhanced buying power for American tourists has been changing travel patterns. In late September, the British pound was worth as little as $1.035, “the closest the pound and dollar had ever come to parity,” according to the Financial Times. The pound has since strengthened a bit but remains unusually cheap, attracting U.S. visitors.

Between May and July – the period when the dollar really started rallying – U.S. to Europe travel sales went up by an impressive 113 percent, while Europe to US bookings only increased by 43 percent, according to Dohop, a travel technology provider.

“To put that in perspective, this meant that US to Europe tickets sold were 4.5 million in July, for example, versus just under 3 million for the Europe to US route,” said Felix Genatio, senior business data analyst. “That’s an unprecedented gap.”

The currency fluctuations have practical implications for the travel sector. One is a shifting balance of power in the middlemen who help with selling trips.

“Generally at the trade level we’re seeing U.S.-located / dollar-denominated tour operators and other business-to-business buyers of travel placing more bookings with European hotels because they can offer more competitive pricing than most other countries,” said Wolfgang Emperger, Senior Vice President at hospitality technology provider Shiji Group.”

Tags: currency

Online Travel

Booking.com Says It Ran Into Snag Hiring People Who Live in Iran

2 years ago

Amsterdam-based Booking.com said it had to rescind several job offers made to Iranians living in Iran because of complexities in the international hiring and relocation process of would-be employees living in that country.

Booking.com headquarters
Booking.com headquarters as seen in 2019. Source: Booking.com

A Booking Holdings spokesperson responded to a Skift inquiry on the subject after Maede Rajabi posted on LinkedIn that “Booking.com rescinded my signed contract one day before my flight to Amsterdam and 5 days before my start date. It happened on September 9, 2022. Same scenario happened to other people from my country, Iran.”

Rajabi introduced the post as “a short story about racism in Booking.com.”

The Booking.com spokesperson said the online booking company “employs many Iranian nationals.”

But hiring Iranians currently living in Iran apparently ran afoul of certain regulations or possibly sanctions against Iran, although the company didn’t cite specifics.

The spokesperson said “mobility vendors [were] unable to effect the necessary part of the hiring and relocation process.”

Booking.com stated that the issue had nothing to do with discrimination, and it is looking into ways to assist Iranians who were subject to the rescinded job offers.