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Skift Travel News Blog

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

Airlines

United Airlines Sees Post-Labor Day Corporate Travel Bump

1 year ago

United Airlines saw an increase in corporate travel bookings after Labor Day, the unofficial end of summer in the U.S.

“We did see in September another several points tick up in corporate travel buying,” United Vice President of Sales Strategy & Effectiveness Glenn Hollister said at the ATPCO Elevate conference in Arlington, Va., Tuesday. Those “several points” raised corporate bookings to more than 70 percent recovered from the pandemic, he added.

Asked about the outlook for the rest of 2022, Hollister said United sees no change in corporate booking activity, which continues to gradually improve.

(Edward Russell/Skift)

Also speaking at the ATPCO event, Global Business Travel Association CEO Suzanne Neufang said the organization forecasts corporate travel buying globally to recover to roughly 65 percent of 2019 levels, or a little less than $1 trillion, by the end of the year. GBTA does not expect a full recovery until 2026.

A big final step in the corporate travel recovery for United, and many other airlines, is the reopening of Asia. United was the largest U.S. airline to the region before the pandemic and, until large markets like China fully reopen, will face challenges fully recovering to 2019 corporate travel revenues.

United will provide an updated outlook when it reports its third quarter results on October 19.

Online Travel

Australian Online Travel Agency Travello Raises $6 Million

1 year ago

Travello, a Brisbane, Australia-based online travel agency, has raised $6.3 million ($10 million Australian) in a Series B round led by Queensland Investment Corp.

CEO and co-founder Ryan Hanly said Travello, which is largely focused on selling tours and activities to travelers between the ages of 18 and 36, will use the funding to expand further in Australia and New Zealand as well as make inroads in the United States and Asia.

“Our view is the youth market is hugely underserviced at present with brands like STA closing down during Covid,” Hanly said. “They also spend significantly more than most people think and typically they spend it on experiences.”

Co-founder and Chief Operating Officer Mark Cantoni said between only 5 and 10 percent of the company’s sales prior to the pandemic had come from Australian travelers. But he added Travello is seven times bigger than it was pre-Covid largely because of the growth it’s seen in its domestic market.

Travello, which was founded in 2016, has raised $13.9 million ($22 million Australian) to date.

Uluru sunset
Travello aims to use its injection of funding to expand Source: Weyf/Wikimedia Commons

Tourism

World Cup Boosts Flight Bookings to Qatar and Gulf Nations

1 year ago

Despite the requirement to present a negative Covid-19 test to enter Qatar, flight bookings to the country for travel during FIFA World Cup — between November 14 and December 24 — have witnessed a massive boom, according to ForwardKeys’ data based on issued flight tickets, including day trips.

The flight bookings to Qatar from countries, including United Arab Emirates (UAE), Spain, Japan France and the U.S., are currently ten times the volume of pre-pandemic levels, according to data analytics firm ForwardKeys. 

The strongest-performing market during the World Cup period is United Arab Emirates, where bookings are currently ahead 103 times compared to 2016. The benchmark period for United Arab Emirates is 2016 as the Qatar diplomatic crisis stopped direct flights between Qatar and the UAE between 2017 and 2021.

Bookings from Mexico have gone up 79 times compared to 2019, while bookings from Argentina are up 77 times. The bookings from Spain and Japan have gone up 53 times and 46 times respectively.

The shortage of accommodation in Qatar and the availability of shuttle flights from cities in the United Arab Emirates will allow many people to stay in the UAE and fly over for on match days. The flight time between Dubai and Doha is a little over 60 minutes.

The UAE’s hospitality market is set to expand by 25 percent by 2030, with a further 48,000 rooms adding to the nation’s extensive 200,000 key portfolio, global consultancy firm Knight Frank noted in Sepetember.

Dubai is set to account for the lion’s share of this total, with 76 percent of all new rooms coming to the emirate, which already has over 130,000 rooms, Knight Frank fother observed.

Currently, day trips account for 4 percent of all arrivals in Qatar during the World Cup, 85 percent of which originate in the UAE.

The World Cup is set to benefit the whole Gulf region, as flight bookings to countries in the region during the competition are currently 16 percent ahead compared to 2019, and, for the initial stages of the tournament 61 percent ahead.

Many World Cup visitors would also be travelling to other destinations in the region as the number of visitors staying at least two nights in Qatar and going on to stay at least two more nights in another Gulf country is sixteen times greater than it was before the pandemic.

Set to capture 65 percent onward visits, Dubai is the biggest beneficiary of this trend by far, followed by Abu Dhabi with 14 percent and Jeddah would be capturing 8 percent of these visits.

U.S. travelers make up 26 percent of the “regional tourists,” followed by travelers from Canada at 10 percent and British tourists at 9 percent. Around 32 percent of travelers coming in to Dubai would be from the U.S.

The FIFA World Cup is one of the most attractive drivers of travel there is, so much so, that other destinations in the Gulf will benefit, not just the host nation, Qatar.

In tourism promotion terms, the World Cup will throw a media spotlight on Qatar and help it become a more established destination, and not just a major hub for intercontinental air traffic.

“Normally, just 3 percent of travel to Doha is destined to stay in the country; and 97 percent comprises onward connections. However, during the World Cup almost 27 percent has Qatar as the ultimate destination,” said Olivier Ponti, VP Insights of ForwardKeys.

Ponti said that the UAE would also benefit substantially from the tournament because it has much more hotel accommodation than Qatar, and two global hub airports in Dubai and Abu Dhabi.

Tourism

Indian Visa Delays Hit British Tourists

1 year ago

India’s High Commission is enforcing rules that require in-person visa applications for British citizens — a move that has caught out many in the travel industry.

Previously it turned a blind eye to visas that were being processed in batches, according to one specialist tour operator.

But on Oct. 7 the High Commission in the UK stated applicants must attend visa centers in person, as it had noticed “unauthorized agents and individuals are illegally charging fees and collecting India visa applications for submission at VFS Centres, misleading applicants and misrepresenting the services they can legally provide.”

High Commission of India, London

Source: High Commission of India, London

Thousands of travelers may now be forced to cancel their holidays, as appointments at visa centers are booked out in advance.

“There were a set of visa companies who would enter without an appointment, with 20 or 30 passports,” said Amrit Singh, co-founder and managing director of UK tour operator TransIndus. “They were being processed. All of a sudden, somebody higher up has realized that this is breaking the rules. So they’ve put a stop to it.”

She said TransIndus was now unable to accept new bookings until January. “The bigger problem is that we can’t take any fresh bookings. We couldn’t book a holiday for a client knowing there’s no opportunity for them to acquire a visa,” Singh said.

For clients traveling beyond January there was still time, but for those traveling between now and December it was “a real issue.”

“It was a casual arrangement (before) that the visa services carved out for themselves, with the local offices. I don’t think it was a formal arrangement sanctioned by the local High Commission,” Singh added.

The UK’s Association of Independent Tour Operators said 1,500 bookings through its own members worth $10 million were affected, according to reports.

According to The Times, VFS Global, which runs the processing bureaux, said the decision to insist travellers present in-person had been made due to the high number of administrative errors made by the third-party visa companies.

India currently offers 156 countries access to an online visa application process, which is similar to the U.S.’ Electronic System for Travel Authorization. It reintroduced e-visas in March this year, after Covid-19 cases decined. But UK and Canada nationals are currently excluded from this e-visa system, along with residents from Algeria, Burkina Faso, Lebanon and Pakistan.

However, as the UK government continues talks over a Free Trade Agreement with India, there are hopes the UK could be included, with “mobility and migration” under discussion on both sides.

One commentator has suggested that India’s decision to clamp down on visas was retaliation over UK home secretary Suella Braverman’s comments she had “concerns about having an open borders migration policy with India.”

“There is some discussion of a trade deal being finalized by Oct. 24. Perhaps the e-visa is a part of that negotiation,” Singh said.

In the meantime, individuals wanting an Indian visa can appoint another person to attend one of the nine visa processing centres in the UK, via a formal letter of authorization.

The U.S. is also facing delays issuing its own visas, which could prevent 6.6 million people from traveling there next year, resulting in a loss of $11.6 billion in spending, economists have warned.

Tags: india, uk, visa

Airlines

Europe to Overtake Asia Pacific as World’s Largest Travel Region

1 year ago

The Asia Pacific region will no longer be the world’s largest travel region by the end of 2022, ceding the title to Europe. That’s according to a new report from international travel industry analysts at CAPACentre for Aviation.

The organization discussed how aviation in the region remains down by 45 percent compared to pre-pandemic levels while European air travel has recovered to roughly 85 percent of pre-pandemic levels. That being said, we believe the reason is that China is still locked up/locked down.

In 2019, 3.38 billion passengers transited through Asia Pacific airports. CAPA reported current predictions that only 1.84 billion passengers would pass through Asia Pacific hubs by the end of this year. Most travel in Asia Pacific destinations remains at 50 percent or more below 2019 levels.

India is the standout at only 11 percent below 2019. CAPA predicts Asia Pacific will not see a full return to pre-pandemic travel figures until the end of 2023 or early 2024.

China’s international share of Asia Pacific seats fell from 26.2 percent in 2019 to an estimated 5 percent in 2022, as this chart underscores: 

China and Japan: international scheduled seats per week, 2021 to 2022 year to date. Chart by Centre for Aviation.
The report from the Centre for Aviation

Tourism

India’s Jammu and Kashmir See Highest Number of Tourists Since Colonial Rule Ended 75 Years Ago

1 year ago

The historically strife-torn regions of Jammu and Kashmir in India welcomed 16.2 million visitors so far this year, the most since British colonial rule ended in 1947, Reuters reported.

Largely driven by local tourists after Covid restrictions were lifted earlier this year, the tourism high mark was applauded by India Prime Minister Narendra Modi’s government as a great stride forward.

Tso Kiagar, Ladakh, Kashmir Source: Debarup Mukherjee, VisualHunt

Modi withdrew Muslim-majority Jammu and Kashmir’s special rights in 2019, stripping it of its status as a state, a move that he said was about integrating the region with the rest of the country.

Tourism has always been an important part of Kashmir’s economy even when violence and danger were deterrents, as Skift reported in 2019.

India’s trade and tourism minister, Piyush Goyal, was ecstatic over the new tourism surge.

Foreign tourists still need a special pass to visit most parts of Jammu and Kashmir, according to the Reuters report.

Tourism

Congress Introduces Bill to Reduce Visa Wait Times

1 year ago

U.S. Reps. María Elvira Salazar from Florida and Susie Lee from Nevada introduced the Visitor Visa Wait Time Reduction Act in Congress on Friday, a bill that aims to reduce the lengthy visa wait times that have hampered the U.S. tourism industry’s recovery.

The bill requires the State Department to outline specific steps to address this problem at each embassy or consulate where the wait time for a visitor visa appointment surpasses 100 days. And to directly reduce visa wait times, staff from State Department offices would be temporarily reassigned to diplomatic posts where the wait for a non-immigrant visa appointment exceeds 300 days.

“The current wait times for non-immigrant visas are totally unacceptable and the State Department must take action to address this,” Salazar said. “Many of my constituents are suffering from this backlog, which keeps them from seeing their family members and hurts our local businesses which rely on tourism.”

Tori Emerson Barnes, the executive vice President of public affairs and policy for the U.S. Travel Association, came out in support of the bill. The association’s economists reported on Thursday that the State Department’s delays in issuing visas could prevent 6.6 million people from traveling to next year, resulting in a loss of $11.6 billion in spending.

“We must stop turning away international travelers due to 400-plus day wait times that visitor visa applicants are facing worldwide. It is absolutely unacceptable and a significant deterrent to our national economic recovery,” Barnes said.

“Spending by international travelers is critical to getting the U.S. economy back on track, and reducing visa wait times and welcoming these visitors should be a focused national priority.”

Tags: tourism, visas

Travel Booking

AirAsia SuperApp Boosts Ground Transport Options With Bookaway Deal

1 year ago

AirAsia has added more train, bus, ferry and private transfer travel options to its superapp following a new partnership with 12Go, which is part of the Bookaway Group.

12Go offers instant seat confirmation with the 4,000 operators, covering 50,000 routes across 26 countries in Asia.

AirAsia claims its superapp has 10.6 million monthly users and that it now becomes the world’s first superapp able to offer a complete journey experience, alongside other non-travel products like food and financial services.

It also added 20 airlines as booking partners in October last year.

“Ground transport is the glue that makes international travel possible,” said Alexey Abolmasov, CEO of 12Go. “Our mission is to improve the experience of travel by making the ground and sea elements of a trip simple to plan and book.”

The company said just 10 percent of bus, ferry and train tickets are booked digitally today.

“When it comes to the journey itself, ground transport is the final piece of the jigsaw for our users,” added Amanda Woo, CEO of the AirAsia superapp.

Airlines

Eurowings Pilots to Strike After Wage Talks Collapse

1 year ago

The Lufthansa Group cannot catch a break. Pilots at its budget subsidiary, Eurowings, will go on strike Thursday unless a last minute deal on wages can be reached.

Pilots union Vereinigung Cockpit said Tuesday that wage negotiations had “failed” and called for a one-day strike on October 6. The move came after 10 rounds of talks between the union and Eurowings without an agreement, Vereinigung Cockpit said.

eurowings at stuttgart-airport
(Eurowings)

The strike would be the second to hit the Lufthansa Group in as many months. Pilots grounded more than 800 flights at Lufthansa when they struck on September 2. Additional one-day industrial actions planned for later in September were averted when the airline and Vereinigung Cockpit reached a deal on wages.

The industrial actions come after a rough summer for airlines and travelers in Europe. Staffing issues at airports and airlines, as well as strikes at several carriers including bankrupt SAS, made flying on the continent a challenge for many. Adding to the woes was strong travel demand and full flights that made it difficult to reaccommodate disrupted flyers.

“The return to full normalization in terms of personnel, in terms of reliability, punctuality and our products … we believe we will reach this phase next year,” Lufthansa Group CEO Carsten Spohr said in August.

Eurowings is the 11th largest airline in Europe and is scheduled to operate 507 flights on Thursday, according to Diio by Cirium schedules. Its operations are concentrated in Germany with large bases in Dusseldorf, Cologne-Bonn, Hamburg, and Stuttgart.

Short-Term Rentals

Pets Are Now Living on Airbnb

1 year ago

Toss out all the cliches about the woes of “a dog’s life” because many dogs — and cats and other domesticated animals — are now living on Airbnb.

That’s because during the first six months of 2022, around 25 percent of the nights booked that included a pet were for stays lasting 28 days or longer, Airbnb stated Tuesday.

Many of the pets’ human owners, whether they are working, visiting or living in an Airbnb since Covid-19 upended previous job and other rituals of life, were likewise attaching themselves to long-term stays.

Cats in a Poynings, UK Airbnb
Cats in a Poynings, UK Airbnb in 2018. Source: Kent Wang/Flickr

“Guests continue to stay longer in Airbnb,” CEO Brian Chesky told financial analysts in August. “They’re not just traveling Airbnb, they’re now living on Airbnb. We saw long-term stays of 28 days or more remain our fastest-growing category [during the second quarter] by trip nights compared to 2019. The long-term stays has increased nearly 25 percent from a year ago. And actually, long-term stays have increased almost 90 percent since Q2 2019.”

In addition, Airbnb said today more than 3 million pets stayed in Airbnb’s since November — whether overnights, weekends getaways or longer stays.

Airbnb hosts can decide whether they want to allow visits including pets, and they can set fees for these add-ons.

These statistics Airbnb touted about pet travel presumably are increases from prior periods, although an Airbnb spokesperson said she didn’t have additional data to provide.

Airbnb tied the pet travel to its implementation of host insurance coverage for pet damages in 2021.

Although many pets are now living on Airbnb coming out of the pandemic, they are probably not living like the locals very much. Nor is it clear they want to.