Skift Travel News Blog

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

Travel Agents

Travel Agency Pangea to Double Revenue on Retail Store Model

19 hours ago

The conventional wisdom back in 2015 was that travel agencies were a shrinking business. But that year, Spanish entrepreneur David Hernández thought he saw a whitespace for creating a fast-growing travel agency business, and he launched plans to create Pangea.

Fast forward to 2022, and his “travel store” invoiced close to 50 million euros in sales, Hernandez told the Spanish publication Time on Monday. In the first quarter of 2023, Pangea doubled its revenue year-over-year. This year, it expects to generate close to $75 million (€70 million).

What factors are enabling Pangea to grow quickly, having now served more than 20,000 travelers in only a few years?

In 2019, Hernandez raised an approximately $11 million (€9 million) round of venture funding, led by led by Axon Partners. The funding helped the company survive the pandemic and open four stores: in Madrid, at 1,500 square meters; in Barcelona, at 1,700 square meters and with a restaurant; in Bilbao, with three floors; and in Valencia, in the heart of the city.

The physical stores have attracted a new generation of travelers, just as some online-first direct-to-consumer brands like eyewear maker Warby Parker have opened physical stores as a marketing technique. Pangea’s Madrid store last year had a turnover of about $35 million (€30 million). Roughly a fifth of its customers were walk-ins.

“People fill out an online questionnaire, and based on their interests and characteristics, we find the best advisor for them,” Hernández said. “We have expert professional advisors in diving, volcanoes, safaris… anything you can imagine.”

Hernández doesn’t neglect technology. But he sees it as supplemental rather than the full offering — mainly as a way to make back-end and routine processes more efficient. His services are within a rounding error of the cost of fully booking trips online but save customers time, Hernández claimed.

“We have been developing a global technological tool for a year that aims to help further digitize the sector,” Hernández said, who aims to launch the tool at the travel trade fair Fitur early next year.

“Who thinks, to name one, has no margins?” Hernández said. “That you always find the cheapest on the internet is not always true. For a difference of five or ten euros, it is not worth giving up the after-sales service, the security, the customization that we offer… We [as travelers] don’t have enough time to spend more than 50 hours preparing a far away and complex trip, like Costa Rica, Japan, Tanzania, the USA, or the Maldives. .. In an agency, they solve it for you in 30 minutes with all the guarantees and professional advice.”

—David Hernández, CEO of Pangea
Read about Hernández's Pangea travel store in Spain, via Time


Accor Signs 10-Year Pact With China’s Jin Jiang Hotels

4 days ago

France’s Accor is to work with Jin Jiang International Hotels on developing sustainable practices that cover construction, operations and even financing.

An agreement was formalized this week in Beijing, during the Council of China-France Entrepreneurs.

The memorandum of understanding signing coincided with French president Emmanuel Macron’s visit this week. The leader was also joined by Airbus CEO Guillaume Faury.

The strategic partnership with Jin Jiang is expected to last until 2033, with the “primary ambition” to promote and drive sustainable transformations across the hospitality industry, and reduce the sector’s carbon emissions. They want to reduce utility costs such as water and electricity by 10 percent, and food waste by 30 percent, across both groups by 2030.

The new partnership will also look at potential business cooperation opportunities in “green financing.”

Jin Jiang also holds about 12 percent in Accor, and is one of its biggest individual shareholders. It’s also tried to up its stake in the past.

Both groups have expressed their intention to peak carbon emissions by 2030, and become carbon neutral by 2060, Accor said.

The Chinese group will also launch Accor’s School for Change training program.

Skift Research recently published a report on how hotel companies are showing progress on greener emissions accountability.


U.S. Hotel Job Growth Cooled Off in March

4 days ago

Hotels added more than 5,000 new jobs in the United States in March, a big drop from the previous month’s increase, and a possible sign the sector’s job growth is slowing.

The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics revealed, in its monthly jobs report released on Friday, that leisure and hospitality — which includes hotels — added 72,000 jobs in November, representing roughly 31 percent of total jobs created in the U.S. Leisure and hospitality had added 105,000 jobs in February — 14,000 came from hotels. Overall employment in leisure and hospitality is 2.2 percent, or 368,000 jobs, below February 2020 levels.

The U.S. added 236,000 new jobs in March, a slight decrease from what economists had projected. The U.S. unemployment rate dropped slightly from 3.6 percent in February to 3.5 percent.

Hotel staff
Workers at a hotel reception desk (Source: Getty Images)

Travel Technology

Yanolja Cloud Acquires U.S. Hotel Tech Company Innsoft

4 days ago

Yanolja Cloud has acquired Innsoft, an Oregon-based provider of hotel management software, for $8.3 million.  

Yanolja Cloud is the hotel tech arm of South Korea-based booking platform Yanolja.

The acquisition is part of an effort to expand its hospitality services in North America, the company said Thursday. 

Yanolja Cloud plans to leverage Innsoft’s resources to release a series of hospitality management solutions for the North American market as well as a new self check-in kiosk this year.

Innsoft offers various hotel management software solutions to booking platform companies including and Expedia Group. 

Yanolja Cloud said previously that it has big plans for hotel software sales, fueled by Softbank’s $1.7 billion investment in its parent company in 2021. 

The company’s chief strategy officer last year said that it’s the company’s goal to overtake Oracle Hospitality as the global market leader in hotel operational software sales. At that time, the goal was that hoteliers would eventually be able to view Yanolja Cloud as a one-stop-shop for technology to run their operations, including bookings, distribution, and revenue management. 


Avianca Partially Accepts Colombia’s Conditions to Viva Air Merger

6 days ago

The potential merger of Avianca and Viva Air took a small step forward Wednesday when the former partially accepted the conditions laid out by the Colombian government for the combination of the country’s largest and third largest airlines.

While Avianca accepted regulator Aerocivil’s passenger protection provisions, including guaranteeing refunds for all travelers affected by Viva’s closure, it asked for “clarifications and minor modifications” to other conditions. The Star Alliance carrier asked that the remaining provisions, which include giving up slots at Bogotá’s congested El Dorado airport and committing to operating certain routes, reflect the “reality of the current market and to the operating conditions currently available to Viva.”

The latter point referred to Viva’s shutdown in February and subsequent repossession of several of its planes aircraft leasing companies. Then in March, budget competitor Ultra Air also shutdown, which upped pressure on the government to bring some budget airline capacity back to the Colombian domestic market, which had fully recovered to 2019 traveler numbers by October.

Avianca and Viva have called for “quick solutions” from Aerocivil in its response.

A Viva Air Airbus A320neo
A Viva Air plane. (Viva Air)

Competitors JetSmart and Latam Airlines, however, have appealed Aerocivil’s tentative approval of the merger. Both have previously expressed interest in acquiring the assets of Viva, which would give JetSmart its first domestic operation in Colombia and Latam a larger presence.

Latam, Avianca’s main competitor in South America, said Tuesday that it is seeking additional slots at the Bogotá airport from the merger. It added that, since Viva and Ultra shutdown, it has added five aircraft to its Colombian operation and increased the number of seats by 20 percent. Latam is backed by Delta Air Lines and Qatar Airways.

JetSmart, for its part, received a local operating certificate in March to begin domestic flights in Colombia. The Chilean discounter’s owners include U.S. private equity firm Indigo Partners and American Airlines.

The responses this week are the latest in what has turned into something of a soap opera over the future of the Colombian aviation market, which is the third largest in Latin America. Avianca, in the course of its takeover, may have violated local antitrust law after it took economic control of Viva last year and then, reportedly, installed a board to oversee the business that had its interests in mind. The airlines first sought approval to merge in August, a request that Aerocivil denied in November, and then reopened in January.

The Avianca-Viva merger is separate from Avianca’s plan to merge with Brazil’s Gol to create the new Abra Group.


Hilton to Add Peloton Bikes to Hotels in Germany, Canada, and Britain by July

6 days ago

Hilton Worldwide said on Wednesday it was expanding its partnership with connected fitness-equipment maker Peloton to add its bikes to hotels in three new overseas markets: Germany, Britain, and “participating properties” in Canada.

Hilton had already added at least one Peloton bike to each of its 5,400 U.S.-based hotels by last December.

Hilton sees partnerships with non-travel brands as a key path to staying relevant. Connected fitness was a trend that surged during the pandemic.

“It’s a great example of what we call a ‘strategic mash-up’ that transcends individual brand standards,” Schuyler told Skift last month. “It matters at a Hampton, and it matters at a Waldorf. It’s delivering on the service expectations of new age travelers.”

Wellness is an increasing area of focus for hotel companies, as Varsha Arora, senior research analyst at Skift Research, explained in a presentation last week at Skift’s Future of Lodging 2023 event in London. Here’s a chart from her presentation that’s relevant:

As of today, Hilton’s loyalty program members who are first-time Peloton users residing in Canada, Germany, or the U.K. can also receive a three-month free trial of the Peloton App until July 4, as well as “preferred pricing” on some Peloton products.


Ennismore’s Mondrian Singapore to Open by June 2023

6 days ago

Mondrian Singapore Duxton, a 302-room luxury hotel, has seen its opening delayed by a couple of months. The Straits Times has a fun profile by Louisa Lim of all the frenzy behind-the-scenes in how the joint venture by hotel group Accor and lifestyle brand builder Ennismore aims to get the five-star hotel just right.

An interview with Robert Hauck, the hotel’s general manager, explains how the brand — founded in 1996 by Ian Schrager and featured in the TV series Entourage and songs by rapper 50 Cent — needed to be customized for the local market, such as by obtaining art from Singaporean artists like illustrator Andre Wee.

To make the property a local hit, the manager has hired celebrated talents to lead the house restaurants Christina’s and Canyon Club. These include the 39-year-old Jacquelyn Yvonne Chan, a former Olympian for Malaysia, and the 59-year-old Lim Tow Seng, a tattoed ex-convict whose life has been documented on TV. A fun detail:

“Mr Hauck had vowed to track down “Ah Seng” after spotting him on German television. It took him three months to locate the 59-year-old at his workplace, a bak kut teh shop, and offer him a job.”
He reminisces about the moment: “Ah Seng was very shy and very reluctant. I asked why and he said, ‘I’m afraid… You know, I’m afraid people will look down on me.'”
Today, Ah Seng is the manager for Bistro 126, the hotel’s staff restaurant, and a walking poster child for Mondrian Singapore. “He practically ignited the whole campaign for us,” says Mr Hauck.

Louisa Lim, for The Straits Times

The article echos themes about how lifestyle and luxury hotels need to emphasize locally-relevant and distinctive offerings and create experiences to talk about that were discussed in this video by Ennismore Founder Sharan Pasricha at Skift Global Forum 2022.

Subscribers can read the Straits Times article on Mondrian Singapore Duxton here.


KLM Wins Court Battle Against Dutch State Over Schiphol Airport Flight Caps

6 days ago

KLM has won its court case against the Dutch government, which proposed cutting flights at Schiphol Airport from 500,000 a year to 440,000 a year to reduce noise pollution.

The court stated the government did not comply with European rules, which specify a flight cap can only take effect after all measures to limit noise nuisance had been considered.

The District Court of Noord-Holland’s preliminary proceedings were brought by KLM and other airlines, including Delta Air Lines, easyJet, TUI and Corendon.

Air France-KLM CEO Ben Smith earlier this year said any flight cap would also disrupt planning for the arrival of efficient new jets better able to curb emissions. The Franco-Dutch airline group said it had invested heavily in newer planes based on foreseeable capacity at KLM’s hub only to see the goal posts move abruptly.

Dutch businesses and citizens have also campaigned against the limiting of flights to Schiphol, arguing it will simply divert the traffic to other airports, and do little to reduce aviation emissions. Some 84,000 jobs could also be jeopardized if Dutch air travel was weakened, they added.

Schiphol Airport meanwhile plans to axe late-night flights over the next two years.


Paris Bans E-Scooter Rentals

1 week ago

Residents of Paris have voted to ban the use of rental electric scooters throughout the city, hindering scooter operators while signaling a victory for proponents of road safety.

Two Parisians riding their electric scooters through the city. Source: Unsplash/Vlad B.

The ban on the battery-powered devices, which will be in place September 1, was supported by nearly 90 percent of votes cast Sunday.

Yet this data may not entirely reflect public opinion on the issue, as less than 8 percent of eligible voters took part in the vote. According to an official report, out of 1.38 million people on the city’s electoral register, just over 103,000 participated, with 91,300 people voting to ban electric scooters.

The referendum comes in response to rising numbers of e-scooter riders being injured or killed in Paris.

Although Paris was historically one of the first cities to embrace electric vehicles, many argue the negative consequences of these vehicles outweigh the benefits.

Specifically, there has been significant concern regarding the ways in which riders of electric scooters drive through traffic, endanger pedestrians and reach speeds of up to 17 mile per hour. Riders of these vehicles traditionally have not worn helmets and children as young as 12 have often been able to ride electric scooters.

A 31-year-old woman was killed in 2021 after being run over by an electric scooter with two riders.

E-scooter operators themselves have argued that these vehicles make up ma small portion of traffic accidents throughout Paris, but the city’s mayor, Anne Hidalgo, called for the referendum. She gave voters the opportunity to express their views on free-floating electric scooters.

Hidalgo supported the ban and announced the vote in January to allow citizens to determine their stances.

“It’s very expensive — five euros ($5.40) for 10 minutes – it’s not very sustainable, and above all, it’s the cause of a lot of accidents,” Hidalgo said.

The three main operators of electric scooters — Lime, Dott and Tier — turned to social media to encourage consumers to vote, offering free rides throughout Sunday as well.

A ban on the parking of dockless scooters upon pavements went largely unnoticed, even despite the ensuing €35 fine.


Trainline Teams With David Hasselhoff in New Celeb-Focused Marketing

1 week ago

Hotel brands are well known for their marketing partnerships with influencers and celebrities, but now one rail booking platform is getting in on the act.

Trainline has decided to team up with legendary actor David Hasselhoff to launch its Chief Conductor Contest.

A grand prize includes a $5,000 travel stipend, a two-night stay in a luxury hotel, and $2,500 in Trainline vouchers to cover rail travel across Europe — in addition to signed merchandise.

The company thinks that with European travel booming, and the U.S. dollar remaining strong, now’s the time to get The Hoff (and his 326,000 Instagram followers) onboard. 

According to data by Trainline, 33 percent of Americans are looking to travel to Europe this summer and 42 percent would be excited to travel through Europe by train to take in the landscape. But even beyond trains as a desired mode of transportation, over half of Americans are somewhat or very likely to plan elements of their vacations based on where their favorite influencers/celebrities visit.

This is where Hasselhoff comes in.

Consumers will also have the opportunity to hear his train travel tips, tricks and itineraries, as well as get a sneak peek into some of the actor’s favorite destinations.

With lots of industry players competing to win bookings, Trainline is just the latest in a handful of travel companies employing celebrity partnerships to promote their brands.

Hilton, for example, collaborated with Paris Hilton on a 10-minute TikTok video. “It’s an experiment and a bit fun,” Chris Silcock, Hilton’s chief commercial officer, said at the Skift Future of Lodging Forum recently. “We’re trying to be more culturally relevant and in the stream. We’re approaching 40 million views of the video and it’s doing well.”