News: Air France to hand over Mumbai route to Joon in June

News: Air France to hand over Mumbai route to Joon in June

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As of June 8th, Air France will hand over its Paris Charles de Gaulle to Mumbai service to Joon, its new-generation subsidiary.

The group’s little sister will connect the two cities with a daily flight operated by Airbus A340.

In Mumbai and Paris, whether you have a connection on an Air France group flight or with its SkyTeam partners, guests will benefit from Air France assistance and seamless connecting channels.

Following on from the flights operated by Air France until June 18th, and as part of the enhanced cooperation agreement between the Air France-KLM group and Jet Airways, customers will benefit from multiple travel options to 44 Indian destinations.

Business, premium economy and economy customers will benefit from new cabins on board the Airbus A340s equipped with the latest-generation individual touch-screens to enjoy some one hundred films.

They will also have free access to YouJoon, the in-flight streaming system on their own smartphone, tablet or laptop. 

As for the dining offer, Joon invites guests to delight your taste buds in the Business cabin, from starter to dessert, including sweet and savoury snacks.

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March 1, 2018 at 10:41AM

Focus: Successful debut for Saudi Arabia Hotel Investment Conference in Riyadh

Focus: Successful debut for Saudi Arabia Hotel Investment Conference in Riyadh

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Bench Events has welcomed the successful first hosting of the Saudi Arabia Hotel Investment Conference in Riyadh.

The one-day event, hosted at the Marriott Convention Centre, Riyadh Marriott Hotel, is the precursor to the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference and focuses on the hospitality sector in the rapidly developing Saudi market.

More than 300 high-level delegates were in attendance for the event, which was hosted under the patronage of his royal highness prince sultan Bin Salman bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, president of the Saudi Commission for Tourism & National Heritage.

Also in attendance were her royal highness princess Basmah bint Saud bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, chairwoman, Global United Centre for Research and Analysis.

The latter delivered an insightful address on the future of Saudi tourism, sharing insights into Vision 2030 and opportunities for hospitality investment and development in line with the government’s vision.

Jonathan Worsley, chairman of Bench Events and co-founder of SHIC, said: “Having organised the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference for the past 14 years, we have witnessed phenomenal interest from our delegates into hospitality investment opportunities in the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.

“Now, as the country’s drive for a more diversified economy highlights new tourism and hospitality infrastructure, we believe it is the ideal time to connect investors and operators at SHIC, with an event dedicated to discussing and debating the issues most impacting the hotel industry’s growth in Saudi Arabia.”


Jonathan Worsley, chairman of Bench Events, welcomes guests to SHIC

The conference comes at an exciting time for tourism in Saudi Arabia.

The destination currently has more than 64,000 rooms across the three phases of the hotel development pipeline, according to data from STR.

That room total represents 76 per cent of the more than 84,500 existing hotel rooms in the country.

As shown in STR’s January Pipeline Report, there are 187 hotel projects total in Saudi Arabia between the planning, final planning and construction stages.

The construction phase represents the largest portion of the pipeline with almost 40,000 rooms in 94 projects.

At the market level, Makkah is set to receive the largest amount of new supply with more than 23,000 rooms In Construction and more than 32,000 rooms total in the pipeline.

Jeddah and Riyadh are each approaching 10,000 rooms total in the three phases of the pipeline.

STR area director for the Middle East and Africa, Philip Wooller, commented on the market’s supply development: “Saudi Arabia’s hotel market is going through a period of massive supply expansion.

“In the short term, we’ve already seen this growth affect performance levels, and this trend should continue as more and more properties start to come online.

“But it is important to note that this is part of a major long-term investment for the market to further develop its infrastructure to accommodate millions of annual visitors, which come for religious pilgrimages and as new tourism attractions spring up as part of Vision 2030.”


Hundreds of industry leaders were in attendance for the event

Speaking at the event, Time Hotels chief executive, Mohamed Awadalla, outlined the importance of mid-market hotels to the Saudi tourism industry.

According to new research, published by Colliers International for SHIC, recent reforms in Saudi Arabia – and widespread investment in the kingdom’s burgeoning tourism industry – will drive growth in the mid-market hotel sector at a compound annual growth rate of 16 per cent between 2017 and 2021.

The supply for mid-market hotels is expected to increase over the next five years with Makkah, Riyadh and Jeddah to see the majority of hotel openings – accounting for 54, 16, and 12 per cent respectively of the forthcoming midmarket supply in the Kingdom.

Awadalla said: “As receipts from Saudi oil revenues have declined, some government departments and private companies have reduced their travel expenses which in turn has led to an increase in corporate demand for more mid-market hotels, an area of the market that has traditionally been reserved for more luxury properties.

“Our current pipeline of hotels and residences aims to offer a high-quality hotel or serviced apartment for a market segment that is currently under-represented in the region.”

In April 2016 TIME Hotels signed a deal with Saudi-based Al Fahd Investments.

As part of this agreement, UAE-headquartered Time Hotels will expand its presence in the Kingdom with the management of several new mid-market hotels.

The properties under Time Hotels & Resorts are set to open between 2018 – 2019 in Jeddah, Riyadh and other cities.

While, the Time Express Hotel in Riyadh, set to open around 2019, will be the debut for the Express brand in the Kingdom.


Time Hotels chief executive, Mohamed Awadalla, centre, offers his thoughts

Also in attendance at the event, Marriott International reiterated its commitment to Saudi Vision 2030.

With more than four decades of presence in the country, Saudi Arabia today, is the company’s second largest market in the Middle East with 23 operating hotels.

Marriott International continues to nurture a robust pipeline with number of hotels set to more than double in the kingdom.

Speaking at the event, Alex Kyriakidis, managing director, Middle East & Africa, for Marriott International, said: “The Saudi Vison 2030 makes it a very exciting time for those working in, or hoping to work in the tourism industry in the kingdom.

“The renewed focus and investment in the sector opens up a wealth of opportunity for Saudi nationals.

“Following a successful 40 years in the kingdom of Saudi Arabia, we remain committed to our continued support towards growth of the tourism sector.

“Our Saudi Arabia growth plan along with the implementation of our programs that aim to foster local talent underpins this collaborative approach.”

Marriott International’s future growth strategy is testament to the kingdom’s vision to achieve a thriving economy, vibrant society and an ambitious nation largely achieved by the raising of non-oil revenue to $160 billion by 2020 up from $43.5 billion last year.

Tourism will play a crucial role in boosting this revenue and strengthening the economy.


Alex Kyriakidis, managing director, Middle East & Africa, was on hand to represent Marriott International

Illustrating its support for the Saudi market, architecture consultancy SSH is further expanding its presence in the country with a new office in Riyadh.

The company initially opened a satellite office in late 2016 and will now move into bigger offices in the capital to continue to cater to a growing number of clients across the kingdom.

SSH made the announcement at SHIC.

“We are very excited to have exhibited at AHIC KSA for the first time,” said Danny Warde, regional director – KSA at SSH.

“Saudi Arabia is a vibrant, growing market where SSH has already made many new collaborations and partnerships with prestigious companies in the kingdom.

“With our recent expansion into this market, we presented our expertise in delivering hospitality projects and aim to forge new ties with hotel developers and operators,” he added.


Badr Al Badr, chief executive, Dur Hospitality, arrives at SHIC

Badr Al Badr, chief executive, Dur Hospitality, and strategic partner of SHIC, believes that the Saudi economy will witness a positive shift in the coming years when the government executes the recently announced initiatives bolstering confidence in tourism investments.

“The public private partnerships drive in Saudi Arabia is presenting new opportunities to attract investment into hospitality,” said Al Badr.

“Following the announcement of the KSA Vision 2030, a more attractive investment environment is opening the doors for private investors into new areas of the Saudi Arabian economy.

“This creates significant opportunities for hotel investors.”

He added: “A large percentage of Saudi Arabia’s hotel pipeline focuses on the Holy Cities as economists are anticipating 30 million religious tourists by 2025.

“But hotel development will also be prompted by non-religious destinations, cultural cities and archaeological sites.”

According to the Saudi Council of Economic & Development Affairs, tourism’s contribution to the GDP will go from a current 3.5 per cent to over ten per cent by 2030.

The total value of hospitality investment projects in Saudi Arabia stands at US$1.9bn according to a forecast by MEED Projects.

Saudi Arabia Hotel Investment Conference

SHIC is a one-day knowledge and networking event for hotel investment industry leaders and influential figures from government, technology, construction and design to discuss and share hospitality investment opportunities in Saudi Arabia.

SHIC is the sister event to the Arabian Hotel Investment Conference.

AHIC this year takes place at Waldorf Astoria, Ras Al Khaimah, United Arab Emirates, from April 17th-19th.

The event will also be joined by the World Travel Awards Middle East Gala Ceremony, which takes place on April 19th.

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March 1, 2018 at 09:24AM

An Unmistakable Taste of Montreal at Chez Ma Tante

An Unmistakable Taste of Montreal at Chez Ma Tante

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On a trip to Montreal a few years ago, someone told me that when a person there says she works in “the industry” she’s referring to the restaurant world. This came as no great surprise, as there is no other city in the world in which I’d rather eat out. Québécois food can be hard to define—poutine and maple syrup, perhaps the province’s proudest export, may be all that come to mind. But what’s most distinctive about Montreal’s food scene is creative but unpretentious cooking that artfully melds and builds upon classic European traditions in order to transcend them. You can walk into Joe Beef, Liverpool House, or Le Vin Papillon, three unassuming-looking restaurants co-owned by the chefs David McMillan and Fred Morin, on a summer evening and sit down at the bar for one of the most memorable meals of your life. I think often and fondly of the day I spent a dreamy six hours at Larrys, a pared-down all-day café in the Mile End neighborhood, working on my laptop as I transitioned from cappuccino and pastries to tart orange wine and perfect bowls of crispy potatoes dolloped with mayonnaise, and lentils in vinaigrette.

So it’s always exciting when a taste of Montreal makes its way to New York. In 2010, we got M. Wells, a diner in Long Island City from a Québécois chef named Hugue Dufour who had worked at Au Pied de Cochon, the restaurant—known for its preparations of foie gras and other offal—that put Montreal on the food map back in 2001. (It has since morphed into M. Wells Dinette, at MOMA P.S. 1, and M. Wells Steakhouse.) The Jewish deli Mile End, which is named for a Montreal neighborhood and specializes in that city’s pastrami-like “smoked meat,” opened the same year, and has since grown an offshoot called Black Seed, a bakery that makes hybrid Montreal-New York-style bagels. Unlike these other establishments, the buzzy new Brooklyn restaurant Chez Ma Tante doesn’t bill itself as Québécois or even Canadian. But its name, which translates to “At My Aunt’s House,” comes from a beloved hot-dog stand in Montreal, and one of the two owners, the chef Aidan O’Neal, spent time cooking there and at M. Wells. (He and his partner, Jake Leiber, worked together at Café Altro Paradiso in SoHo.) Even without those things, Chez Ma Tante strikes me as a restaurant made in the image of the city.

Located on a quiet corner in Greenpoint—perhaps the neighborhood in Brooklyn most similar to Montreal, where every corner is quiet but quivering with energy—it reminds me especially of Larrys. The décor here, like there, is neither too elaborate nor too spartan to call attention to itself: vaguely pubby, with plain, dark-wood furniture and whitewashed brick walls. The clientele—mostly attractive couples or groups in their thirties and forties, some toting sleeping infants—is a neighborhood sort of crowd. This is not a place to see or be seen, only to eat exceptional food as if it’s no big deal to do so.

The short menu shifts from season to season. On a recent cold evening, briny Little Gun oysters from Long Island were dressed in hopeful spring finery: milky green pools of olive oil and parsley, like daubs of watercolor before they dry. Chicken-liver pâté, whipped to the consistency of butter (and served with grilled slices of She Wolf Bakery’s miche, the it-bread of the moment), was as nutty and pungent as an aged cheddar—which, incidentally, was also on the menu, craggy little boulders of a complex crystalline variety called Flory’s Truckle, imported from Missouri. (Served, tragically, cold, it bloomed as it reached room temperature.) Steak tartare, too, was extra funky, cranked up with capers, mustard seed, celery leaf, and brazenly large chunks of anchovy, as meaty as the beef. A French fry is a French fry until you’ve had the ones at Chez Ma Tante: enormous, creamy wedges of Russet potatoes wearing crispy bronze armor that cracks easily between the teeth but holds up beautifully to thick, glassy, intensely garlicky aioli.

The restaurant pays obvious homage to St. John, the chef Fergus Henderson’s nose-to-tail mecca in London. (A wonderful apple sorbet—which tastes so much like biting into a freshly picked piece of fruit that it’s as though Willy Wonka came up with it—is borrowed directly from Henderson’s menu and served with a shot of vodka, as it is there.) Montreal, too, is known for nose-to-tail cooking, especially when the nose and the tail belong to a pig. So Chez Ma Tante’s treatment of pork came as a bit of a disappointment. Slices of an oily, too-soft pig-head terrine fell apart at the touch of a fork. The maple-syrup marinade on thin steaks of grilled pork shoulder rendered them treacly. (And maple syrup couldn’t mask the unpleasantly chemical effect of rye mixed with fernet in a cocktail called Toronto.) But the meat clinging to the beautiful bones of a skate wing, which fanned out like a fossil, was as succulent and naturally sweet as fresh crab, and the half chicken, served over smoky romesco with petals of vinegary charred onion, was perfectly moist with crackly, blistered brown skin. Best of all was the kedgeree, an Anglo-Indian classic, here featuring slippery flakes of poached cod and chopped egg nestled in delicately curried rice, all topped with a tousled salad of parsley, celery, and thinly sliced sweet onion. The kedgeree showed up on a Saturday morning, too—it’s often eaten for breakfast, and especially as a hangover cure. A stack of pancakes, round and enormous as the face of the moon, were crisply branded by the griddle and topped with a fat pat of butter. Maple syrup was redeemed. (Entrées $17-$24.) ♦

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March 1, 2018 at 09:17AM

Message from Miami: let data be the voice of the people

Message from Miami: let data be the voice of the people

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Travel companies are becoming increasingly sophisticated in how they use data to drive revenue and enhance customer experiences.

The latest methods and technologies were showcased at Day One of EyeforTravel’s annual Smart Travel Data Summit North America, held in Miami on Feb 27.

“Every individual in this room is in a fantastic position,” said Leo Langford, global conference director for EyeforTravel. “Whether you are part of a nimble startup or you are a more established, traditional travel brand, it is boom time to be in data.”

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March 1, 2018 at 09:14AM

March 2018 Desktop Wallpaper

March 2018 Desktop Wallpaper

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This month’s image is of Lake Skadar taken in Skadarsko Jezero National Park, Montenegro Most Desktops (will adjust for size) | iPad | iPhone 6/7/8 | iPhone 6/7/8 Plus | iPhone X 2560×1600 (MacBook Retina 13″) | 2880×1800 (MacBook Retina 15″) | 5k iMac

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March 1, 2018 at 08:42AM

Papua New Guinea Facepaint

Papua New Guinea Facepaint

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Best Rooftop Bars in Hong Kong

I came across this amazing List of Rooftop Bars in Hong Kong. I marked most of them on my personal map and will see how many I can visit and photograph while there. If you like city-photography, these are often some of the best places to go take photos!

There’s a game called Bar Golf where you go out with your friends and have a golf-scorecard. You start at Bar #1 and the oldest person picks the first drink for everyone (like Champagne, for example). The number of sips it takes you to finish is your score for that hole. Then you go to Bar #2 (Hole #2) and the next oldest person chooses the next drink. And then I assume you see how the rest of the golf game plays out. I’ve never tried it, I can’t imagine finishing the front 9.

Daily Photo – Papua New Guinea Facepaint

Speaking of rooftop bars in Hong Kong, here is a gentleman from Papua New Guinea. I’d love to get back there with my new Sony setup. I think I could be even more productive. If I recall, I was using a Leica lens here which required a bit of manual focus time. I’m pretty fast, but not nearly as fast as Auto-focus. I missed a few little expressions here and there that I would have liked to nab.

Papua New Guinea Facepaint

Photo Information

  • Date Taken2015-10-13 12:21:25
  • CameraILCE-7R
  • Camera MakeSony
  • Exposure Time1/3200
  • Aperture
  • ISO100
  • Focal Length
  • FlashOff, Did not fire
  • Exposure ProgramManual
  • Exposure Bias-0.7

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March 1, 2018 at 08:13AM

Hotel CEOs Expect to Make More Deals in 2018

Hotel CEOs Expect to Make More Deals in 2018

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Already this year, we’ve seen at least one major hotel acquisition announced: Wyndham’s $1.95 billion purchase of La Quinta Inns & Suites.

And if what hotel CEOs said on their recent quarterly earnings presentations at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit (ALIS) in January is any indication, we can expect more deals in 2018.

Last year, we saw a number of deals as well, albeit on a smaller scale than those that took place in 2016 between Marriott and Starwood, and AccorHotels and Fairmont, Raffles, and Swissotel.

It’s only February, and 2018 is still relatively young, but already we know of a few companies hoping to fill gaps in their portfolios with some acquisitions.

Looking to Luxury and Locals

InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), for one, is on the lookout to buy a few luxury brands that will occupy a luxury tier that’s even higher than what the company already has with its InterContinental Hotels brand.

“We are currently looking to acquire one or two small luxury asset-light brands that we would incubate and grow in order to access these significant opportunities,” said IHG CEO Keith Barr, speaking to investors and analysts during the company’s fourth-quarter earnings presentation in February.

AccorHotels, ever the acquirer, is also eyeing the market for more businesses that will allow it to be a true experience platform, and not just a hotel company. During his company’s recent earnings presentation, CEO Sebastien Bazin outlined his vision for transforming AccorHotels into more than just a hotel brand, and justified the group’s investment in various luxury brands.

Bazin said that American companies “were very focused on this segment [luxury] that we had a tendency to forget,” and “that’s why we have to conquer and acquire existing brands.”

He also pointed to the success and power of brands like Apple, Amazon, Alibaba, and Facebook that are “in your minds every day, and they’re in your minds because you use them every day. So, they’re in your homes, in your field of vision, in your minds and many of you are actually dependent on them.” Bazin said the company’s recent acquisitions are part of an effort to develop that level of engagement with consumers, a concept Skift explored in depth in our Travel Megatrends for 2018.

“If I can catch your attention when you’re home, if we can provide you with a service at any time, if I could find you not just a one-time stay or not just restaurant … there are so many ways in which I could increase the number of points of contact,” he said. “And the more frequently I can multiply them, the more contact we have, the more pushing we could do, and the more one day Accor would become top of mind. It’s extremely important to do that — and to do that, you can’t stay within your comfort zone as a hotel group.”

The company is already testing the ways in which it can incorporate many of its recent acquisitions into the services it provides to residents via its AccorLocal app.

‘Completing the Boxes’

The strategy that’s being pursued by IHG and AccorHotels can best be explained by what Best Western CEO David Kong described as “completing the boxes.”

Speaking to Skift at the lodging conference in January, Kong said the hotel industry’s fascination with consolidation and seeking scale is about having every imaginable type of hotel category in the hopes that it makes the brand and its portfolio “that much more compelling.”

Kong said he doesn’t see hotel consolidation slowing down anytime soon, either. “I think the consolidation will continue. It’s like any mature industry, you see that going on all around us. It’s not just the hotel industry. Why is CVS buying a healthcare provider? It’s synergy.”

Synergy and cost efficiencies, he said, are driving the desire to seek scale as well as leverage in dealing with booking sites.

He said cost efficiencies allow hotels to invest more in scale, technology, sales, and marketing: “They can do a lot more a lot faster. That creates a formidable competitive advantage.”

And, Kong said, the leverage gives hotel companies a better bargaining position when negotiating with online travel agencies.

“When you’re like Marriott, you can be your own travel portal,” he said. “You don’t need OTAs. So, when you sit down with them, who has the advantage?”

Going Organic

While Hilton has plenty of scale, the company isn’t ruling out plans for achieving even more of it. But instead of looking to buy up other brands or companies in the pursuit of growth, the company wants to do that organically, and not necessarily through mergers or acquisitions.

“We have been very focused on an organic growth strategy because ultimately, we think it helps us deliver better products that resonate more with customers and delivers better returns for you guys,” Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta said during the company’s most recent earnings presentation.  “And so that has been the approach, and we think that it’s working.”

Hilton’s current size and portfolio breadth, he said, are sufficient enough to give Hilton “the ability to grow both our existing brands, add new brands, and do it in organic way where it’s effectively an infinite yield because there’s really no meaningful cost associated with that growth,” Nassetta added.

However, he did note that if an opportunity too good to pass up emerged, Hilton would consider it.

“We would never say never,” Nassetta said. “That is a dumb thing for any CEO to say. We’ve looked at tons of things over the years. … To date, we have not found things that really met the standard, which is that it’s something that is very strategically important and a good fit strategically and economically advances the ball in terms of creating material value for shareholders.”

He added: “If something ever presents itself that meets the test, then we’d consider.”

Like Hilton’s Nassetta, Wyndham Hotel Group CEO Geoff Ballotti echoed the same sentiments when it comes to how he views potential deals.

“We’re looking absolutely at every deal that presents itself and we’ll continue to do it. But I think what we’re most excited about is our organic growth, particularly in North America,” he said during Wyndham Worldwide’s fourth-quarter 2017 earnings call. “We see great opportunity for both organic and acquisition opportunities as they present themselves.”

The Impact of Scale and Smart Scaling

While it’s certainly advantageous for companies as large as Marriott or Hilton or Wyndham to have as much scale as they do, not everyone else possesses scale to the same degree, and there’s an impact to be felt from it.

In the luxury sector, specifically, the mega mergers undertaken by Marriott and AccorHotels are reshaping the industry by creating some opportunity for smaller players to come in, but also making it more challenging for brands in the middle to compete.

Opportunity is something Mark Keiser, chief development officer of SH Group, which is a part of Starwood Capital, is paying close attention to.

“I think consolidation is helping us because we have a unique product,” Keiser said in an interview at the lodging conference in January, referring to Starwood Capital’s brands such as Baccarrat Hotels and 1 Hotels. “I would say where the consolidation has hurt some other brands is that the more purchasing power that a large organization gets, the less competitive smaller organizations become.”

He said that because Starwood Capital is “one of the largest hotel owners in the world,” the negotiations process for services and goods from third parties is in Starwood’s favor.

“Where we might have been bigger two years ago before we sold a company or two, tomorrow we could go out and buy three other companies and become the biggest hotel company in the world, perhaps,” Keiser said. “You can have that conversation about purchasing power differently than if we were truly a startup hotel company.”

At Choice Hotels, CEO Pat Pacious said his company isn’t being impacted by the consolidation taking place in the industry when we spoke to him at ALIS.

“We have scale, so a lot of people are trying to consolidate to get to scale,” Pacious said. “Scale only matters if you can take advantage of it.”

He noted that it’s important not to seek scale for scale’s sake, either. The question to keep in mind, he said: “If I can bring all these additional hotels on, do I still have a clear strategy? Do I still have a clear definition of where my brand is a good fit for the consumer?”

Pacious said that’s why Choice Hotels made the decision in late 2017 to acquire a brand like WoodSpring Suites. For Choice, WoodSpring’s “ability to franchise in that [extended stay] segment is new” and it serves as “a great business model,” Pacious said.

“We saw the WoodSpring opportunity as a way to fill in that economy extended stay segment that really wasn’t growing for us and give us a real boost,” he said. “We look at consolidation more in terms of what new ideas are out there.”

Pacious said that consolidation, for Choice, isn’t just about getting bigger but also about finding new ways of thinking about how to do business.

“I think some people think about consolidation as just get more rooms,” he said. “We think about it more in [terms of] how do we provide different products for the same consumer over different times and stay and occasions?”

That, Pacious said, is why the WoodSpring acquisition was different from other big mergers: “They’re buying the same segment and putting these hotels on top of each other. Our strategy has been much more differentiated.”

Who’s Buying What Next?

We already know IHG is looking to buy, and AccorHotels is always shopping around. But who else in hospitality is eager to loosen their purse strings?

Our guess: Hyatt. The company is in the midst of selling off a number of its real estate assets and announced a leadership restructuring at the beginning of this year — two moves that would seem to suggest that the company is building up some of its funds to buy other brands and businesses and pursue Hyatt’s strategy for entering into “adjacent spaces” such as wellness and alternative accommodations.

Last year, the company bought wellness companies Miraval and Exhale and it also announced an investment in alternative accommodations platform Oasis.

When we spoke to Hyatt’s senior vice president of development for the Americas, David Tarr, and its president for the Americas, Pete Sears, at ALIS, they seemed to hint that more acquisitions into new spaces might be on the way, especially within the company’s soft brand collection.

“When we created the Unbound Collection by Hyatt, the notion was that it would be a platform for experiences,” Tarr said. “So, we can totally can envision a time where maybe tour and travel, cruise lines, train experiences, glamping opportunities [might be a part of it]. There’s a whole host of things that we think could fit very nicely into the Unbound Collection because, again, it’s intended to be more of a travel platform than a brand.”

Starwood Capital’s Keiser also predicted that his CEO, Barry Sternlicht, may be looking to make some purchases going forward.

“The passion that Barry has for both 1 Hotels and Baccarat would make it very unlikely in my mind that we’re the target of an acquisition where he then fades away and the brands become Hilton’s lifestyle hotel brand or Accor’s lifestyle hotel brand, or another one of Marriott’s,” Keiser said. “I think he’ll be the next acquirer, but I think that there will be winners and losers in this, and I think that the balance sheet of Starwood Capital and their acquisitive nature as a private equity company lead you down the path of saying yes, more consolidation is on the way.”

What might Starwood be looking to buy, in addition to the real estate it’s been purchasing of late? Keiser said, “It could be additional brands. It doesn’t just have to be conversions of one company to one of our two brands. It could be a great select service brand that needs scale and distribution power. It could be a hostel company.”

And if Starwood Capital were to launch a third brand after Baccarat and 1 Hotels, what would it be?

“We certainly have conversations about launching a third brand, but perhaps a better way to do that would be to acquire an interesting brand and bring sustainability into its DNA,” Keiser said.

Photo Credit: Hotel executives say they don’t see consolidation stopping anytime soon. Pictured is Best Western CEO David Kong. Best Western Hotels & Resorts

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March 1, 2018 at 07:05AM

Skift Call March 13: The Airbnb Threat

Skift Call March 13: The Airbnb Threat

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At 10 years old, venture-funded Airbnb has progressed well beyond the startup phase and is in the process of heavily influencing both the hotel and online travel agency sectors.

Airbnb is in the process of ramping up boutique hotel participation, is expanding its footprint in luxury hospitality, digging into business travel, and aims to become a household name beyond hospitality for all of travelers’ needs, including flights, tours and activities, and restaurant reservations.

Will Airbnb’s commission structure for hotels be worrisome for Booking.com and Expedia? Is Airbnb’s surge a challenge or an opportunity (or both) for the hospitality industry?

Might big online travel agencies, which are chafing at hotels’ direct-booking campaigns, woo owners and launch hotel brands of their own as a new revenue stream? What does it all mean for hotel owners?

Join Skift Hospitality Editor Deanna Ting, Skift Research Senior Analyst Rebecca Stone, and Skift Executive Editor Dennis Schaal on Tuesday, March 13 at 1 p.m. EST to dive into topics on a Skift Call: The Airbnb Threat. The call is open to the public and free. We’ll have some slides to share and will have a Q&A with the audience.

Here are some details about the call:

Skift Call March 13: The airbnb threat

Join us Tuesday, March 13 at 1 p.m.

Enter your information below to secure your spot!

We’ll be sending a reminder email the morning of Tuesday, March 13 with details on dialing in or joining the meeting online.

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March 1, 2018 at 06:01AM

Airlines Are Counting on Trump to Reduce Regulations

Airlines Are Counting on Trump to Reduce Regulations

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The Skift Airline Innovation Report is our weekly newsletter on the business of airline innovation. We look closely at the technological, financial, and design trends at airlines and airports.

Brian Sumers writes and curates the newsletter, and we send it on Wednesdays. You can find previous issues of the newsletter here.

At last week’s Aviation Day USA, I kept waiting for Dr. Evil — the Austin Powers movie character — to spring from behind the stage with a mischievous grin.

I got that feeling because in front of an industry audience — the event was sponsored by IATA, a trade group, and the Wings Club — insiders mostly spoke not about how to improve the passenger experience, but how to make more money and reduce government regulation. At times, it seemed they were more preoccupied with getting governments out of their business than anything else.

No one wants to mess with safety, of course. But IATA leaders seemed to scoff at consumer protections, arguing the industry can police itself while praising the Trump administration for its regulatory approach. “We’d like to see a lot more of the same,” IATA general counsel Jeffrey Shane told Jeffrey Rosen, deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation. The two worked in the George W. Bush administration and were unusually chummy during an on-stage interview session.

Do you expect the Trump administration will reduce consumer protections for airline passengers? Or do you think U.S. airlines are overburdened? Email me at bss@skift.com, tweet to @briansumers.

Read on to see my stories from the IATA event, as well as more commentary on IATA’s positions, and a dispatch from a recent Delta Air Lines product event.

— Brian Sumers, Airline Business Reporter

Stories of the Week

Airlines May Want Higher Fuel Prices Despite How Contrarian That Seems: If U.S. airlines want to continue to record near-record profits, they might want oil prices to rise. That’s not conventional wisdom, since a huge percentage of an airline’s cost is fuel. But four panelists at the IATA event said they suspect more expensive fuel makes airlines more rational because they’re less likely to add capacity or gamble on new routes. That’s not a customer-friendly approach, but investors don’t want airlines to grow too much.

Ryanair Urges Brexit Negotiators to Eliminate the Uncertainties: Few airlines would be as affected by Brexit as Ryanair, which has historically had a robust network from London using an Irish operating certificate. The airline has warned customers that its routes could be affected as soon as next year, but Chief Marketing Officer Kenny Jacobs told Skift it looks like it should be status quo for 2019, if not slightly beyond. A panelist at the IATA event said the UK should sort out these issues, but predicted it will be a tough process.

Can You Name the World’s Largest Fokker Fleet Currently Flying? Skift Australian freelancer Allan Leibowitz writes that the largest Fokker fleet belongs to Brisbane-based Alliance Airlines, a charter carrier that also operates some wet-lease flights for Virgin Australia. Alliance flies the Fokker 50, Fokker 70 LR jet, and Fokker 100. In this airline profile, Leibowitz writes that Alliance’s business is good as Australia tourism booms.

Hawaiian Airlines Trims Schedule Because of Late Airbus Deliveries: For so long, Hawaiian Airlines executives downplayed potential problems with the engines on their A321LRs. Yes, they admitted last year, the planes would be delayed. But once they arrived, all would be good. Well, the first plane entered service in January, and not all is going according to plan, forcing Hawaiian to drop some flights from its schedule. Bloomberg has details.

Air France-KLM Isn’t Sure What to Do About Low-Cost Rivals: Air France has created a millennial-focused airline called Joon to play defense against low-cost carriers. But Air France might be considering launching yet another airline-within-an-airline. What could go wrong? My colleague, Skift Europe Editor Patrick Whyte, takes a look at what might be next for Air France.

Are Airline Rules Getting Out of Hand? American Public Media’s David Brancaccio interviews former American Airlines General Counsel Gary Kennedy to discuss some of those rules U.S. airlines are trying to get the government to relax. He said he generally agrees with the IATA positions, and notes regulators might have over-stepped. “The DOT has the authority to regulate what are called ‘unfair and deceptive trade practices,’” he said. “But they’ve simply taken it too far.”

Airbnb Has ‘Secret Plans to Launch Airline.’ Really? Airbnb leaders have spoken about whether they want to enter the aviation business. USA Today’s Ben Mutzabaugh examined whether this is possible, asking industry experts their opinions. The verdict: It seems highly unlikely Airbnb would start an airline, but it might have other ideas for how to expand to aviation.

Buffett’s Hunting for Deals and Wouldn’t Rule Out Owning an Entire Airline: You know the old joke. How do you make $1 million in the airline business? It just seems impossible that Warren Buffett would want an airline. But he’s the expert, so maybe he sees something I don’t. CNBC has some context on Buffett’s comments.

No Regulations, Please

It’s probably safe to say Alexandre de Juniac, IATA’s CEO, is not a proponent of governments meddling in an airline’s commercial decisions.

“Under the Obama administration, the Department of Transportation retreated from some of the principles of free and open market competition in favor of a more heavy-handed approach to regulation,” he told attendees at last week’s event, adding the current climate is more hospitable.

What were these Obama-era overreaches? He gave three examples:

  • That airlines have to advertise their full ticket price is unfair. “Why should air travelers be treated any differently than other consumers in a country where tax is almost universally applied on top of the advertised price?” he said. Perhaps true, but this is a nice consumer benefit. Maybe the rest of the U.S. should adopt the same policy?
  • The government should not ban cell phone calls on planes.Absent a safety issue, it is hard to see how DOT had authority to regulate in this area,” he said. Maybe not, but again, not a bad rule. 
  • The U.S. government had considered requiring airlines to distribute flight and fare information to metasearch companies and global distribution systems. The problem, he said, was that there would be “no restrictions on how the information was presented to consumers.”

Those are all reasonable enough complaints. But among consumer groups, there’s concern the Trump administration may roll back a slew of regulations designed to protect passengers. In February, The Wall Street Journal reported many U.S. airlines want the administration to weaken tarmac-delay rules, end the mandatory 24-hour grace period for airline tickets, and stop requiring airlines to advertise the full ticket prices, including taxes and fees.

At the event, Jeffrey Shane, IATA’s general counsel, suggested that the government had overstepped with some of its Obama-era rules.

“By deregulating the industry, we democratized it,” he said. “So everybody is an expert in this industry. Before they couldn’t afford to be, now they are. The net result is that it has become a political issue so any time any bad thing happens to anybody on any flight, it becomes a political opportunity. Somebody strikes out for justice and a new law is written and we have a regulation following shortly thereafter.”

Rosen, the deputy secretary of the U.S. Department of Transportation, said he agreed.

“It is not ultimately in the consumer’s interest to have burdens that they in some sense wind up paying for, but may not fully benefit from,” he said.

New Delta Food

I attended lunch at the restaurant Animal in Los Angeles earlier this week to preview Delta’s menu from Los Angeles-Sydney. These are odd events, because an airline is trying to persuade an unusual crowd — lifestyle and food bloggers, plus Instagram personalities — that their brand is at the vanguard of food culture.

That’s not easy. We know airline food is produced in bulk, and cooked, then chilled, then re-heated and served onboard. So even when an airline like Delta contracts with celebrity chefs — in this case it’s Jon Shook and Vinny Dotolo, who are big deals in L.A. — the food is not much better than the usual flight kitchen fare. That can be disappointing for a consumer who books based on food — a classic case of over-promising and under-delivering.

Here’s what I liked about Delta’s partnership with the two chefs. Shook and Dotolo never promised they’d produce the same quality food as at their restaurant empire. Shook spoke about several challenges, including how food is re-heated on board in poor-quality ovens and how airline food may be no more than two inches high.

Shook and Dotolo are starting small, catering only three routes from L.A. — Sydney, Washington Reagan, and New York JFK. They use their own catering kitchen near LAX, and then truck the food to Delta’s usual caterer, which transports it to the plane. Shook told an amusing anecdote about how the real caterer reacted when he said they would not use powdered eggs. “They were so shocked that we were going to use real eggs,” he said. The two chefs also were proud that even their parsley is hand-picked.

Delta’s not the only airline catering this way, but it is still an unusual approach. Often, airlines have a celebrity chef “design” the menu, but turn over the real cooking to the flight kitchen. Shook and Dotolo said they’re keeping ownership over everything, and while it may not be restaurant quality, I believed them when they said they were competitive people who want to make the best plane food they could.

Having tasted it, I can say it was fine. But even here, I’ll credit Delta and the chefs. I’ve been to airline events where chefs make the food taste better than in the air, using techniques not available to flight attendants. But Shook and Dotolo insisted on cooking the food as on the plane, chilling and re-heating the food per Delta’s standards.

Delta has a similar relationship with Danny Meyer’s Union Square Hospitality Group for New York departing flights. At last year’s Skift Global Forum in New York, my colleague Kristen Hawley asked Meyer about the relationship.

“There’s just no way the gnocchi is going to taste exactly like at the Union Square Cafe,” he said. “But if you say yes, but relative to what people expect to eat on an airplane, can we elevate that?”

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Skift Airline Business Reporter Brian Sumers [bss@skift.com] curates the Skift Airline Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday. Have a story idea? Or a juicy news tip? Want to share a memo? Send me an email or tweet me.

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Photo Credit: IATA CEO Alexandre de Juniac spoke last year an industry event. His group does not appreciate too much government regulation. IATA

Travel

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March 1, 2018 at 05:33AM

Events Need to Look Beyond Digital Gimmicks

Events Need to Look Beyond Digital Gimmicks

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After speaking to about a dozen event tech executives in the last month, one clear thread has emerged: There is no single best approach to enhance events with digital tools.

The evolution of digital platforms has empowered organizers to interact with attendees before and after an event. Increased options, however, can also create uncertainty and additional challenges from a programming perspective.

Do you really want everyone staring at his or her phone throughout your event? Nope.

Check out my chat below with Etouches’ executive Brian Friedman on bridging the digital gap.

We also have the latest on how conferences are cracking the luxury travel segment and the powerful growth of meetings and conventions as an economic driver.

As always, if you have any feedback about the newsletter or news tips, feel free to reach out via email at as@skift.com or tweet me @sheivach.

— Andrew Sheivachman, Business Travel Editor

The Future of Meetings and Events

Bridging the Digital Divide for Meetings and Events: While augmented reality and holograms are the sexy new technologies in the event space, the basic integration of digital tools with physical events is still undergoing a period of transformation.

Thought Leadership Conferences Target High-End Travelers: Nowadays, luxury travel is all about discovering new frontiers. It’s not just about expanding physical and geographic boundaries. The travel cognoscenti are “brain dating” around the world to stretch their minds.

Meeting Planners Face a Daunting Challenge in Rising Food and Beverage Costs: Spending as a result of U.S. meetings and events has steadily increased since 2009, and it doesn’t look to be slowing down anytime soon, according to new research. Spending on food and beverage likewise isn’t easing up at all.

Saudi Arabia Wants Events to Put It on the Global Tourism Map: Maybe Saudi Arabia is finally turning a corner in dismantling some of its obstacles to tourism. If so, perhaps those citizens who spend their money going to Dubai or Egypt will spend it in the kingdom instead.

How Design Thinking Can Enhance Your Meetings: Creative design, along with concern for those both inside the room and outside, can help create more efficient and useful meetings.

Around The Event Industry

Millennials Want Face-to-Face Event Opportunities: Younger attendees still want to interact in real life, even if many think that technology and social media are better ways to reach them.

Android’s Augmented Reality Tech Backbone Is Here: Android developers now have more powerful tools to develop augmented reality apps and content. Google wants the technology on 100 million phones but faces a tough road to reach that level of penetration.

Live Nation Crunching Data to Conquer Millennial Event Space: The concert ticket giant pivots to become a brand experience company. It wants to market to millennials and Gen Z consumers by analyzing data on their behavior and desires.

It’s Tough for Associations to Find the Right Talent: The economy is good and associations want to staff up. The problem is finding people with the right skills, especially as about half of associations polled are looking to expand.

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Skift Business Travel Editor Andrew Sheivachman [as@skift.com] curates the Skift Meetings Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Wednesday.

Subscribe to the Skift Meetings Innovation Report

Travel

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March 1, 2018 at 05:12AM