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Travel News and Trends Headlines Update on February 25, 2021

The pandemic changed how we live, that’s a fact, but a lot has been said about how it also highlighted inequalities. In travel, this has been even louder, with many luxury-travel brands not only growing but thriving during the pandemic. We are talking about private jets, superyachts and private-islands.

The world is using 3 million face masks per minute. It is true that masks are what kept many of us safe during the past couple of years, but when it comes to waste this is a serious number and an urgent matter. At least now researchers are suggesting a few pointers on how we can deal with the problem before it becomes the next plastic bottles or plastic bags, right in front of us.

This sustainability initiatives caught our attention this week: Fraport and Lufthansa are now transferring recyclable PET bottles into a closed recycling loop, right from the airplane. With this action, they estimate to be able to recycle up to 4 million PET bottles annually. Not bad for finding a recycling-solution for what represents around 60% of the waste weight from an aircraft…

A little tip for the travel startups: our friends at EU-Startups have officially opened the applications for their big Pitch Competition, so you can already apply. And hey, remember that all FutureTravel readers can use the code FT25OFF for 25% off on tickets for this year’s EU-Startups Summit.

Recruitment can be a headache within hospitality, especially with a current shortage across the globe. Hostco tackles that by connecting hospitality professionals with first-class companies and gives the industry a growing and global talent pool. The Barcelona-based startup has just secured €3.4 million to make hiring top talent in hospitality more efficient with their SaaS-enabled marketplace.

Known to be the leading marketplace for boat rentals and water experiences, GetMyBoat was acquired by Yanmar Holdings. With this investment, Yanmar hopes to drive its digital transformation through its business units – which include agriculture, marine and construction.

Daytrip, a startup that helps travelers find long-distance car transfers with local drivers, just announced a funding round of €6.14 million. Based in the Czech Republic, the company has been expanding globally and will use the funds to strengthen their product development efforts.

Alaska Airlines launches a subscription program with help from Barcelona

Alaska Airlines (based in Seattle, by the way) is the 5th largest airline in the USA. Alaska launched a “Flight Pass” subscription program this week, ranging from $49 / month (6 flights per year, bookings at least 14 days before departure) to $749 / month (24 flights per year, same-day booking within two hours of departure). The technology and marketing infrastructure powering Alaska’s new subscription program comes from Caravelo, a Barcelona-based startup that offers subscription and revenue optimization solutions for the airline and travel industry. Caravelo co-founder Jose Luis Vilar sent me this brief note the day after the launch: “in two days we have hit the targets for the first month”.

Salesforce gets a fancy mega resort so that employees can meet face to face

Paul Graham’s tweet is a good segue into Salesforce. In February 2021, Salesforce announced that employees can work from home forever. On February 2022, Salesforce closed a multiyear agreement for a 140-room, 75-acre work-and-wellness center set among the redwoods 100 km from San Francisco, so that employees could meet face to face. Salesforce seems to have reached the conclusion that getting employees meet other employees in person is good for for company culture and employee morale and productivity: “We’ve hired thousands of employees who have never met in person. Trailblazer Ranch will give us and our stakeholders a way to forge deeper relationships and experience our culture in a whole new way”, said Marc Benioff. If it’s good for employees, it should also be good for business to meet in person with partners, clients and providers. Business travel would subscribe to this Mark Twain quote: “The reports of my death are greatly exaggerated”.

Hearts over charts

Web3 product managers are responsible for the success of communities rather than increasing acquisition, engagement, or revenue. A product manager’s guide to web3 is an in-depth guide to product management in web3 written by Jason Shah, former product lead at Airbnb and Amazon and now now leads product at Alchemy (essentially AWS for web3). It explains these core concepts in detail:

  • The unique attributes of a web3 product manager
  • The advantages and disadvantages of PM’ing in web3
  • Ten truths of web3 product management
  • How to make the transition into web3

Marriott sees growth of direct channel bookings

In its Q4 2021 earnings report this week, Marriott International gave some information on how booking channels have evolved between 2019 and 2021:

  • Share of digital bookings went up by 500 basis points (5 percentage points)
  • Direct channel went from 73% of total bookings in 2019 to 76.3% in 2021.
  • OTA channel (mostly associated with leisure business) up from 12% to 14% of total bookings.
  • GDS channel (mostly associated to corporate travel) dropped by 6 percentage points.
  • Within the direct channel, there was a movement from voice to digital, driven in large part with a high adoption of the Bonvoy app.

Marriott International’s Q4 2021 income totaled $468 million compared to a net loss of $164 million in Q4 2020. Read more – Marriott Call Transcript.

Moyenne Island: The world’s smallest national park

In 1962, a soon-to-be unemployed journalist called Brendon Grimshaw searched for a new direction in life, one that took him closer to nature. He dreamed about owning land in the Seychelles – ideally, an island. He found his way to Moyenne, a 0.099 sq km dot 4.5km off the north coast of the Seychelles’ largest island, Mahé. Grimshaw fell in love immediately with its silence and its wild vegetation and a few weeks later signed an agreement to pay £8,000 for Moyenne. This is a fascinating story of his life at Moyenne and how he converted it into a paradisiacal eco-reserve standing as a reminder of what the Seychelles were like before tourism arrived. Read more.

Learning from death

CB Insights released its latest analysis of the top 12 reasons why startups fail (direct access to the PDF here). CBI also has a short description of 397 startup post-mortems. I extracted 17 travel and mobility startup post-mortems and put them in a separate document which you can find here.

Providing virtual tours of cities, attractions and other activities and experiences in more than 90 countries, the London-based startup Heygo lets users travel from home regardless of physical, financial and environmental challenges. The company has now raised $20 million in a Series A round.

Alaska Airlines just launched a subscription program for travellers. The pioneer program is enabled in partnership with the Barcelona-based startup Caravelo, which made the tech-part-of-things happen. With prices starting at $49 per month, this seems like a win-win for passengers and airlines, and we love that. <3

Denmark-based mobility startup Cogo has acquired its competitor eScoot, giving a significant boost to their expansion plans in key European markets such as Germany and France. Their platform lets users find and book electric scooters, bikes, cars and mopeds in cities across Europe.

Managing more than 19k vacation homes across North America, Evolve has raised $100 million. The additional funding will be used to increase the number of properties offered through Evolve platform and to “continue reimagining the vacation rental experience.”

Ready to provide its users with new ways to explore destinations and find recommendations, Lonely Planet has announced the acquisition of Elsewhere. Founded in 2020, it is a travel planning startup that gives users the right tools to find tailor-made experiences ahead of a trip.

Broadly known for its car-rental service, Hertz has announced a significant $19 million investment in Ufodrive, an electric vehicle rental startup. Based in Luxembourg, the startup is described as “the first all-digital, all-electric car rental service controlled from an app.” Hertz plans to use the startup’s digital rental and fleet management technology to boost its global operations with partners all around the world.

A new collaboration between Ticketmaster and Redeam will let travelers buy tickets to live events such as concerts and sports matches, when booking their trips on global travel websites. Great news for event organizers that can now attract travelers in new ways 🙂

TripActions is acquiring the Berlin-based startup Comtravo, the market-leading travel management company serving the DACH and Scandinavian regions. A quick look at the numbers: this means TripActions will now support more than 7,500 customers and manage nearly $6 billion in total travel budget across more than 94 countries.

The World Food Travel Association has launched their latest report with an overview on the state of the Food & Beverage Tourism Industry Report. The publication features interviews with 10 thought leaders in the food, beverage, tourism and hospitality industry. For those interested in keeping an eye on the latest trends and insights, this is worth a scroll.

Many aviation enthusiasts have been excited to finally see the approval of Airbus’ Eurodrone project. It is massive, both in terms of technicalities as well as its impact on the European market. Here is all you need to know about the four-nation project.

Changi Airport is willing to create a stress-free and inclusive travel experience for passengers with invisible disabilities (such as dementia, autism, and others). The plan includes educating frontline staff on how to effectively support such passengers, as well as a customisable step-by-step airport guide, and dedicated lanyards.

Seems like camper vans are having a moment. Swedish-startup Acamp has just raised €2.5 million for growing its campsite marketplace. On the other side of the globe, San Diego-based Sēkr, has raised $2.25 million to help digitalize the camping industry.

And here is a new clash on the Airbus and Qatar Airways dispute: yesterday the French planemaker canceled Qatar’s order for 2 A350-1000 jets. Ouch.

After successfully expanding into Spain, Italy, Austria, and the Czech Republic in 2021, Germany-based NUMA Group has just raised an additional $45 million to further expand its business. Targeting Millennial and Gen Z travelers, NUMA offers a tech-based solution for hotel operators, increasing profits by up to 40%.

Accenture’s state of the hotel industry

The hotel industry will continue moving toward recovery in 2022, but the path will be uneven and potentially volatile, and full recovery is still several years away, according to the American Hotel & Lodging Association’s 2022 State of the Hotel Industry Report, in collaboration with Accenture. Some of the findings:

  • Hotel occupancy rates and room revenue are projected to approach 2019 levels in 2022
  • The outlook for ancillary revenue is less optimistic
  • Leisure travelers will continue to drive recovery: in 2019, business travelers made up 53% of industry room revenue; in 2022, it is projected to represent just 44%
  • Business travel is expected to remain down more than 20% for much of the year, while just 58% of meetings and events are expected to return.
  • Changing traveler segments, including the rapid rise of bleisure travelers are impacting how hotels operate.

Super Bowl LVI: Expedia vs Booking

Super Bowl ads are big contributors to the excitement of the game: nearly two-thirds of those intending to watch the event are at least as interested in the ads as in the game. According to a Nielsen survey, 27% of Super Bowl viewers report that the ads are the #1 reason they tune in to the game. Expedia and Booking will be representing the online travel industry in the Super Bowl ad battle field on Sunday Feb 13th, with 30-second ads costing up to $6.5 million with an expected TV audience of 100 million people to view them. Read more.

The rise of the solo investors

A new set of players has emerged in the fundraising landscape, distinct from angels, super angels, and VCs. Leading “solo capitalists” manage more money than many funds. Oren Zeev manages more than $1 billion without additional support. Elad Gil, Josh Buckley or Harry Stebbings manages funds in the hundreds of millions with similarly lean structures. Creators like Packy McCormick, Lenny Rachitsky or Nik Milanović use large audiences to secure allocations into competitive funding rounds. I recommend these two great pieces to understand the solo capitalist landscape and benefits: The Future of Solo Capitalists (Mario Gabriele) and The Rise of the Solo Capitalists (Nikhil Basu Trivedi). BTW, read in the fundraising section about Captain Experiences’ solo capitalist investors.

Crying babies are just trying to save us!

Air travel is synonymous with crying babies. This essay finally reveals the true nature of these in-flight conversations between noisy infants.

How to start and scale network effects

Andrew Chen’s book “The Cold Start Problem” provides practical frameworks and principles that can be applied across products and industries—revealing what makes winning networks successful, why some startups fail to successfully scale, and why products that create and compete using the network effect have become vitally important today. Andrew Chen draws on his expertise as an investor at Andreessen Horowitz and as an Uber executive, along with hundreds of interviews with CEOs and founding teams. He shares how to build atomic networks, including identifying the hard side of the network, solving a hard problem for those users, developing a simple to use killer product to solve that problem, and ultimately delivering magic moments to them. Here is a short post with main takeaways of the book.

Travel brands and TikTok

In their last earnings calls, both Snapchat and Facebook agree that the future of social media looks like TikTok, as you can read in Stories are out, TikTok is in. Travel companies are taking notice. Booking Holdings’ CEO Glenn Fogel recently said that they were increasingly confident in the potential of social media channels and planned to invest more there. Hopper’s advertising is now almost exclusively on paid social. Hopper’s head of user acquisition believes that TikTok in particular represents a big opportunity for travel brands to grow organically: “It’s been very successful for us, particularly in times where travel might not be top-of-mind for consumers. Social is great for discovery, whereas search ads rely on people having intent and proactively searching”. Read more.

Search interest over the past 5 years for TikTok, Expedia, Airbnb, Booking Google Trends

Selina CEO discusses nomads and growth

London-based hospitality company Selina announced its plan to go public via a Special Purchase Acquisition Company (SPAC) in late 2021. Selina founder and CEO Rafael Museri discusses why the company is targeting a digital nomad audience, the size of the market opportunity and the brand’s competition in the accommodations space. Read more.

Growth in airline ancillaries

Last week LocalGlobe (pre-seed and seed VC) and sister fund Latitude (series B onward) put together an interesting online travel event. It was great to hear about the growth of Gordian Software, a startup founded in 2017 that makes it easy to sell airline ancillaries. Gordian’s founder Stephen Grabowski shared with us the deck he presented at the event.

Gordian Software revenues (Source: Gordian Software)

OTA and Metasearch stock market performance

eDreams’ stock price is down 17% year to date, the biggest drop of all the competitors in this graph. However, from Feb 2021 to Feb 2022 eDreams stock has doubled, marking the best year over year performance on this list. Lastminute has also had a very strong year over year improvement of 75%. Tripadvisor, Trip.com and Airbnb are down around 25% YoY. Despegar has the best year to date stock performance (+16.4%).

OTA and Metasearch stock market performance

M&A

  • TripActions reached an agreement to acquire leading German travel management company Comtravo in a deal it says will see 50% of its overall business originating in Europe. This purchase follows TripActions’ acquisition of the UK’s Reed & Mackay in May 2021 and the addition of $275 million in Series F funding in October. It takes its investment in Europe to more than $400 million, according to the company. Read more.
  • Lonely Planet acquired Elsewhere, a travel planning startup that launched during in 2020. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.
  • SPAC firm Astrea cancelled the intended $688 million merger deal with HotelPlanner and online hotel booking platform Reservations.com. Read more.

Fundraising

  • FlyCoin, a cryptocurrency-based travel rewards technology company based in California, raised more than $33 million in an oversubscribed seed round.
  • London-based curated home rental platform Plum Guide – described as the ‘Michelin guide for homes’ – announced a $31 million Series B round extension.
  • Short-term luxury rental company Wander raised a Series A of $20 million, bringing the total raised to date to $30 million. Wander caters to digital nomads to stay connected to work while also being able to vacation in off-the-beaten track, luxury homes with a free use of a Tesla.
  • Heygo, a livestreaming platform for travel, raised $20 million in a Series A round. The London-based startup provides virtual tours of cities, attractions and other activities and experiences in more than 90 countries.
  • UFODRIVE raises $19 million in Series A funding, co-led by Hertz and Certares. Born from a vision to delivera Radically Better Car Rental experience. UFODRIVE offers no keys, no paperwork, no queues, no fuel or emissions and hassle-free electric car renting and subscription-based services at prime city and airport locations across Europe.
  • Locomote raised a $3 million investment round, valuing the company at around £21 million. Travelport originally a 49% stake in 2014 but sold its share back to the founders in 2021.
  • Travel app Sēkr closes $2.25 million to bring campsite inventory into the digital age
  • Germany-based boutique hotel and short-term rental tech platform Numa raised a $45 million round round led by DN Capital.
  • Brazilian PropTech startup Tabas announced a $14 million Series A round, led by Blueground, a PropTech company that recently secured $180 million in Series C.
  • Austin-based Captain Experiences closed a $2 million seed led by Looking Glass Capital with participation from Andrew Chen (Andreessen Horowitz), Packy McCormick (Not Boring Capital) and others. Its focus now is on US saltwater fishing, but its mission is to makes booking outdoor sports guides quick and easy, for all sports and geographies.
  • TripActions has reached an agreement to acquire the 10th largest German TMC Comtravo in a deal it says will see half of its overall business originating in Europe.

There are big changes coming for the airport shopping experience. This white paper unfolds a shift in the travel market to younger, less affluent consumers combined with an urgent need to embrace digital retailing. And it seems like these changes might happen sooner than one might think.

And as we talk about travel retail, Fraport and Miles & More have just announced a partnership agreement allowing travelers to earn and redeem miles throughout Frankfurt’s airport. Interesting to see this integration being made in Germany’s largest aviation hub, in what seems to be a strategic win-win setting.

If every time you hear about eVTOLs and air taxis, you get a feeling that the futuristic scenes might be arriving a bit too fast, it seems like you’re not alone. The Financial Times wrote about the raise on investment numbers, highlighting the increasing number of players in the scene such as Lilium, Joby, Volocopter and Archer, but it might be too early to pick winners.

The British startup Borrow A Boat has just acquired Barqo, their Dutch competitor. And now they are considering an IPO later this year.

The Danish agency Kontrapunkt has published an interesting project exploring what our lives might look like in the future. I felt particularly interested in their chosen topic to kick-off this project: mobility. If you are curious about the future and how things and people move from A to B, I strongly recommend scrolling through these alternative futures.

You probably heard about TikTok, and the power it has to make almost-anything go viral – and it wouldn’t be different with travel. Here is an interesting look on how Generation Z is driving travel trends viral on TikTok.

Was nice to see that one of the megatrends mapped by Skift for 2022 is something we have been quite loud about in this newsletter: Fintech Will Be Key to the Future of Travel. And they published a short video highlighting the main aspects of this megatrend, on a conversation with Hopper’s Chief Strategy Officer.

More on Hopper: the company is now expanding a new vertical to its travel marketplace. Hopper Homes offers short-term home rentals around the globe that can be booked instantly through their app. So, yes, they will now be competing with Airbnb and Booking.com.

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