Uber Mideast Rival Careem Pushes Ridesharing as Efficient Infrastructure Investment

Careem

Careem, a ridesharing service based in Dubai, is considered a startup unicorn. Careem

Skift Take: Ridesharing is an attractive way to transport people from point A to point B in many countries because of its convenience and the economics. But clogging roads with carbon dioxide-producing machines isn’t sustainable

— Dennis Schaal

Once upon a time, building new roads was the most logical way to improve transportation. Now, making the most efficient use of roads is even more important, according to the chief executive officer of ride-hailing company Careem Inc.

“We believe ride hailing, or a version of it, is the best way to build public transport today,” Mudassir Sheikha said in an interview in Dubai, where Careem is based. There’s a Middle Eastern city “that’s building a metro bus system for $700 million dollars that will transport 200,000 people. If they invested the same amount in ride-hailing, it would have capacity for 1.5 million people and create 100,000 jobs.”

Careem, Uber Technologies Inc.’s largest rival in the Middle East, is one of the most visible technology companies in a region drawing growing interest from investors. According to Magnitt, an online data platform for the technology ecosystem in the Middle East and North Africa, 2017 is on track to be a record year for funding, with the number of deals and the amount of startup investment increasing.

Careem is the region’s only unicorn company, counting Rakuten Inc., Kingdom Holding Co., China’s Didi Chuxing and Daimler AG among its investors.

Money also is going into transportation infrastructure. Contracts for road, bridge and tunnel projects in Gulf Cooperation Council countries are forecast to rise to $15.5 billion next year, from $14 billion this year, construction project tracker Ventures Onsite said in a July report.

Growing Investment

As GCC countries diversify their economies and their populations grow, “investment in the transportation sector is likely to be a top priority,” the report said. “The wealth of existing and emerging new intelligent-transport systems technologies can significantly help facilitate this process.”

Sheikha said technology, matched with self-driving vehicles, could be an alternative to new public transport systems.

“Autonomous vehicles are on the horizon. We’re looking at it and have partnered with a company out of the Bay Area making self-driving electric pods,” Sheikha said, referring to Next Future Transportation Inc. The idea is to build eight-seat pods that could collect people from urban areas, join together to form a single vehicle on major highways, then divide up again to drop passengers at locations like malls or the business district.

Boosting Efficiency

Investments in infrastructure and ride-hailing don’t have to be mutually exclusive, said Philip Bahoshy, Magnitt’s founder.

“The MENA region at large continues to develop its infrastructure, which will complement access to cars, the tracking of locations and interconnectivity, within states and across states,” he said. At the same time, he said, “ride hailing in its essence creates efficiency.”

Careem currently offers services in the U.A.E., Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, Egypt and other areas.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Gwen Ackerman and Matthew Martin from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Egyptian Tourism Hopeful About Discovery of 2 Ancient Tombs in Luxor

Hamada Elrasam  / Associated Press

Tourists photograph an entrance of a newly discovered tomb on Luxor’s West Bank known as “KAMPP 150” during an announcement for the Egyptian Ministry of antiquities about new discoveries in Luxor, Egypt, December. 9, 2017. Hamada Elrasam / Associated Press

Skift Take: The discovery of these two ancient tombs won’t be a game-changer for Egyptian tourism, but it can’t hurt, either.

— Dennis Schaal

Egypt announced the discovery of two small ancient tombs in the southern city Luxor dating back some 3,500 years and hoped it will help the country’s efforts to revive its ailing tourism sector.

The tombs, located on the west bank of the river Nile in a cemetery for noblemen and top officials, are the latest discovery in the city famed for its temples and tombs spanning different dynasties of ancient Egyptian history.

“It’s truly an exceptional day,” Antiquities Minister Khaled al-Anani said. “The 18th dynasty private tombs were already known. But it’s the first time to enter inside the two tombs.”

Al-Anani said the discoveries are part of the ministry’s efforts to promote Egypt’s vital tourism industry, partially driven by antiquities sightseeing, that was hit hard by extremist attacks and political turmoil following the 2011 uprising.

The ministry said one tomb has a courtyard lined with mud-brick and stone walls and contains a six-meter (yard) burial shaft leading to four side chambers. The artifacts found inside were mostly fragments of wooden coffins. Wall inscriptions and paintings suggest it belongs to era between the reigns of King Amenhotep II and King Thutmose IV, both pharaohs of the 18th dynasty.

The other tomb has five entrances leading to a rectangular hall and contains two burial shafts located in the northern and southern sides of the tomb.

Among the artifacts found inside are funerary cones, painted wooden funerary masks, clay vessels, a collection of some 450 statues and a mummy wrapped in linen who was likely a top official. A cartouche carved on the ceiling bears the name of King Thutmose I of the early 18th dynasty, the ministry said.

Afterward, al-Anani headed to a nearby site where the famous Mortuary Temple of Hatshepsut is located to open for the first time the temple’s main sanctuary known as the “Holy of Holies.”

Since the beginning of 2017, the Antiquities Ministry has made a string of discoveries in several provinces across Egypt — including the tomb of a royal goldsmith, in the same area and belonging to the same dynasty, whose work was dedicated to the ancient Egyptian god Amun.

This article was written by Ahmed Hatem from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Overtourism Solutions and 4 Other Tourism Trends This Week

Grand Canyon National Park  / Flickr

Traffic backs up at the entrance to Grand Canyon National Park. The park continues managing overtourism. Grand Canyon National Park / Flickr

Skift Take: This week in tourism, we thought about two opposing ideas. First, the chief marketing officers who drive tourism are highly valued in their companies, but second, what do you do when their success leads to soaring, unsustainable visitation?

— Sarah Enelow

Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines tourism.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>Overtourism may be worsening in many destinations, but there are real, practical solutions to employ. Among them is using funds for something besides driving visitation: Finding Solutions for the Overtourism Dilemma: 5 Skift Call Takeaways

>>Discover what travel’s top innovators have to say about the industry in short, exclusive interviews from this year’s Skift Global Forum: Launching Skift Take Studio Series 2017

>>Financial analysts and other travel industry watchers often listen to the words of CEOs to hear what direction they’re taking their companies. But, increasingly, CMOs at many major travel brands are dealing with ground-level, consumer-facing marketing and strategy that impact the company and customers on a daily basis: Video: Why CMOs Might Be the Most Influential People at Any Travel Brand

>>New research shows corporate travel buyers are aligning more closely with the desires of business travelers: Business Travelers Are Getting Their Way — Corporate Travel Innovation Report

>>It’s been decades since the last “golden age of travel,” and we’re due for a new one, featuring the Internet of Things: Video: Design Firm Teague Bets on Tech to Make Transportation Enjoyable

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Disney Skyliner Gondolas Will Connect Theme Parks and Hotels

Disney Parks

Gondolas will connect some Disney Parks with on-site hotels. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort will serve as a hub for guests to transfer to make other connections. Disney Parks

Skift Take: Hoteliers with properties on-site at Disney parks will welcome these new gondola connections. Guests will be able to beat some of the crowds and commute in style.

— Dennis Schaal

Disney has released new details and visuals on the gondolas that will connect some of its theme parks and hotels at Disney World.

The Orlando Sentinel reports information on the gondola system, called the Disney Skyliner, was released on the Disney parks blog.

One station will be at the International Gateway at Epcot. Disney’s Caribbean Beach Resort will be the station that serves as hub for the system where guests can transfer.

The blog did not say when the gondolas will open.

The gondola construction project comes as Disney is expanding by building new lands in Hollywood Studios as well adding more rides in Magic Kingdom and Epcot.

The gondolas had been rumored for months although Disney brought up the project in July during an event in Anaheim, California.

___

Information from: Orlando Sentinel, http://www.orlandosentinel.com/

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Jumeirah Hotels Has New Lifestyle Brand and 10 Other Hospitality Trends This Week

Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts

Burj Al Arab Jumeirah in Dubai is pictured. Jumeirah Group plans to launch a new brand for younger travelers early in 2018, its interim CEO said. Jumeirah Hotels & Resorts

Skift Take: This week in hospitality, lifestyle brands strike again, specifically at Jumeirah and Rosewood. How many lifestyle brands do we need and have we reached the saturation point?

— Sarah Enelow

Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines hospitality.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>Barr is touting his experience in China and his company’s long presence there as an advantage in understanding global consumer trends. But is that enough to raise the company’s cool factor in western markets? Video: IHG CEO on Where He’ll Break New Ground

>>When everyone else in hospitality is going asset light or turning to soft brands, Study Hotels is content to do its own thing and at its own pace: Study Hotels Founder on Why True Independence Matters More Than Ever

>>Brand proliferation continues, but we wonder: Will there be a point where there are simply just too many hotel brands out there? Or have we already reached it? Jumeirah Hotels Is Launching a New Lifestyle Brand in Early 2018

>>Marriott recognizes that business travelers want more than just fast Wi-Fi, convenient locations, and flexible cancellation policies. CEO Arne Sorenson is right to be considering the kind of emotional experience the hotel company is delivering to road warriors: Marriott CEO Sees the Line Between Leisure and Business Travel Blurring

>>As more affordable sharing economy, serviced apartment, and mid-scale hotel options have become popular with business travelers, high-end hotels have taken a hit: Travel Buyers Spend Less on Five-Star Hotels and More on Sharing Economy

>>Everyone agrees that service is key to the luxury experience. That means there’s a great deal of pressure on hiring managers to find the right talent. They should be looking for certain key psychographic factors that have consistently proven to be strong indicators of employee success: The Top Traits of Luxury Hospitality Employees

>>Luxury boutique hotels are suddenly sprouting up near the campuses of small liberal arts colleges. But most seem to be shunning franchise flags in favor of independence. We examine the reasons why: Luxury Boutique Hotels Become Part of the College Experience

>>Property managers are racing to sign up new rentals, and online agencies are racing to add new inventory. A new model that promises to guarantee incomes may lure more homeowners into the pool and extend the vacation rental tech boom: Rented’s New $125 Million Arm Aims to Give Steady Income to Vacation Home Owners

>>Again, do we really need another lifestyle brand? We’ll just have to see if this new brand, Khos, makes strides in reinventing hospitality for business travelers: Rosewood’s Newest Brand Is Aimed at Modern Business Travelers

>>Airbnb has gained in popularity on the claim that chain hotels offer a cookie-cutter experience. Hilton can fight back with technology that enables guests to personalize their experience: Hilton Unveils Plans for Its Smart Hotel Room Rollout in 2018

>>If hotels could out-innovate Airbnb, then Schrager is right that would certainly be part of the answer to the threat posed by the homesharing company. However, Airbnb is more nimble than many big chains. And they are unlikely to give up their legislative efforts anytime soon: Ian Schrager Calls Out Hotel Industry’s Airbnb Strategy as Misguided

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United Mulls Investing in Regional Carrier ExpressJet

Expressjet

United Airlines may invest in ExpressJet, a regional airline. It flies Embraer regional jets as United Express. Expressjet

Skift Take: United’s the only one of the three major U.S. global network airlines that does not own at least one regional airline. That sometimes puts United at a disadvantage. Investing in ExpressJet may help United improve its position, though in recent years, ExpressJet has been among the least profitable regional operators.

— Brian Sumers

United Continental Holdings Inc. is exploring a deal to invest in regional airline ExpressJet to boost its pipeline of pilots and expand service in the eastern and midwestern U.S., people familiar with the matter said.

The Chicago-based carrier is looking at acquiring an ownership stake in ExpressJet among other options in negotiations that are still developing, said the people, who asked not to be identified because the talks are private. There’s no guarantee the discussions will lead to a deal with ExpressJet, an unprofitable subsidiary of SkyWest Inc. that already flies for United.

The tie-up would help United beef up the domestic network that feeds travelers to other flights, as the No. 3 U.S. carrier works to close a profit gap with Delta Air Lines Inc. and American Airlines Group Inc. United has been adding dozens of flights between smaller cities and its largest airports, trips that can be more lucrative than the heavily-trafficked routes between big hubs.

Financial details of the potential transaction couldn’t be determined. United declined to comment. SkyWest and ExpressJet didn’t respond to requests for comment.

SkyWest jumped on news of the talks, climbing as much as 3.5 percent in intraday trading. The shares rose 1.8 percent to $52.60 at 2:26 p.m. in New York, while United climbed less than 1 percent to $64.12.

Pilot Recruiting

United, which has a minority stake in CommutAir, is the only one of the three largest U.S. carriers that doesn’t own a regional airline outright. That can put United at a disadvantage in recruiting pilots.

Delta’s Endeavor Air offers pilots a guaranteed interview at the mainline airline after a certain period. American’s wholly-owned regional units have “flow-through agreements” that enable pilot hires to advance straight to a job at the major carrier without an additional interview.

United is treading carefully to avoid the labor turmoil that would come with acquiring a regional airline carrier outright, the people said. United management and leaders of the pilots union are already taking steps toward opening contract talks ahead of schedule, with a goal of forging a new agreement by early 2019, Captain Todd Insler, chairman of the United Airlines Pilots Master Executive Council, said in an Oct. 20 letter to pilots.

One of the issues expected to loom large in the talks are the restrictions on the scope of United’s Express unit, which subcontracts flying to commuter carriers. While United would like to add more Embraer SA E-175s to expand its reach to smaller markets, the regional operation has reached the maximum number of 76-seat aircraft allowed under the current pilot contract.

Annual Losses

ExpressJet, based in Atlanta, had about $1 billion in sales last year, with an operating loss of $300 million that was widened by special items. The unit posted losses of $34.2 million in 2015 and $118 million in 2014, according to regulatory filings by SkyWest.

The carrier agreed in August to end a carriage deal with Delta earlier than expected. ExpressJet also serves American.

Until it was spun off in 2002, ExpressJet had been a unit of Continental Airlines, which merged with United in 2010. The main airports served by the regional carrier include Atlanta, Cleveland, Chicago, Houston and Newark, New Jersey.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Michael Sasso from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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A Cruise Ship Called The World Is a Luxury Home at Sea for the Super Rich

The World

The World, a condo cruise ship, is pictured in this image taken from a company video. The World

Skift Take: The World is a fascinating hybrid of vacation home and luxury ship. Casual cruisers need not apply: In order to own a piece of the “Residences at Sea,” interested parties need $10 million in assets, a clean background, connections to current owners, and nearly $1 million a year for maintenance.

— Hannah Sampson

It’s among the world’s most-expensive real estate per square foot, where the oceanfront views never tire, and where the price of entry buys access to the otherwise inaccessible—165 apartments aboard The World, a condo cruise ship. Its intensely private residents spend a third of the year, on average, gliding to the planet’s farthest reaches: Antarctica, Pacific atolls that haven’t seen a ship in two decades, and Ascension, a volcanic outcropping halfway between Africa and Brazil.

It took Trevor Rowe, chairman of Rothschild Australia, fewer than 72 hours to decide to buy a two-bedroom unit in 2012. At 1,391 square feet, the new home was a tiny nook compared with his expansive house in Sydney. Yet inch for inch, it tops the price of real estate in some of the world’s most-expensive cities, including London and New York.

“I bought for the lifestyle,” Rowe, 73, tells us in an on-board interview in Vancouver, where the vessel recently docked. The son of a Perth bricklayer, Rowe’s fortune is self-made, like those of many of the vessel’s owners. He accrued his wealth as an investment banker in Asia, New York, and Australia and estimates that he has visited Tokyo at least 40 times. “I’d been everywhere in my life but had seen nothing.”

The ship will cruise into New York in mid-December before heading to Miami to celebrate New Year’s Eve—a viewing opportunity for U.S. buyers of the dozen or so units up for sale. It won’t return to North America until at least 2020.

Ownership is restricted to those with at least $10 million in assets, and potential buyers must gain the backing of two existing residents, pass background checks, and be ready to pay roughly $900,000 a year in annual maintenance fees for the larger units. Once in, they gain admission to an exclusive club that golfs at midnight above the Arctic Circle, drinks Champagne among the world’s oldest sand dunes in Namibia, and stands at the rim of an erupting volcano in Vanuatu.

“Friends asked me how I got in—I still don’t tell them,” Rowe chuckles with a wink. Since he bought in, he’s been to Antarctica three times and counts the Galápagos, Machu Picchu, and the Russian Arctic among his most memorable adventures. He spent 10 months aboard last year, conducting business by email and conference calls via the ship’s satellite phone connections, and he says he lives comfortably in his new digs—other than being a little “closet constrained.”

The residences start at 290 square feet and run up to about 3,500 square feet, with prices ranging from $1.8 million to $15 million. Prices of individual units aren’t disclosed publicly—although we were able to Google some sales brochures—but the above figures indicate an approximate range of $4,285 to $6,200 per square foot. That tops the average square-foot price of luxury homes in Hong Kong, London, and New York and, in some cases, may even surpass that of Monaco, the world’s priciest market at $5,420 per square foot, according to figures from Christie’s 2017 report on luxury residential real estate.

Life Aboard

A vessel that would allow the wealthy to travel without ever leaving home was the brainchild of Norwegian shipping heir Knut Kloster Jr., whose father founded the company that became Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Ltd.. Built in Rissa, Norway, The World first set sail from Oslo in March 2002. The following year, the residents bought out the previous owners and took over the ship; 142 families have shares of a Bahamian company that owns the ship. The last original unit sold in 2006.

Amenities aboard would be familiar to those who’ve traveled on a smaller luxury cruise liner (or perhaps ever rented an entire one). Aboard the 12-deck, 644-foot vessel are two pools, a full-size tennis court, a golf simulator with an on-call pro, a Pilates studio, and a billiard table that’s cantilevered to accommodate the ship’s sway. A wood-paneled library stocks leather-bound classics, and a full-size theater offers lectures, including a recent visit by Shuji Nakamura, winner of the Nobel Prize in Physics in 2014 for inventing energy-saving LED lights. Residents can swing by the for-profit art gallery and grab a $50,000 Picasso etching of a minotaur on their way to the 7,000-square-foot spa.

And, of course, there’s wine. The ship’s constant motion “isn’t great for cellaring, so it’s meant to be drunk,” says residential director Lisa Spiller of the 16,000-bottle collection. Owners have a roughly $30,000 food-and-beverage allowance that’s included in their hefty annual maintenance fee, which can be spent at the vessel’s six bars and five restaurants.

“It’s the best of both worlds,” says Chris Scatliff, 74, who made his fortune building and selling technology and communications companies. Scatliff and his wife bought a three-bedroom residence in 2013. Flying a team of contractors onto the ship for a month, the unit was gutted down to the ship’s hull and converted into an airy two-bedroom decorated in blue-gray hues, with a full-size dining room and a king-size bed overlooking an ever-changing water view.

The unit is one of the few that’s now up for sale. Having circumnavigated the world three times, Scatliff says he decided to place it on the market for a price that’s “somewhere in the middle” of that $1.8 million-to-$15 million range. But he’s in no rush to sell, nor has he lost the travel bug. “If somebody comes along and offers the right price, we might buy into something a little bit smaller.”

Ports of Call

The ship is in port or at sea 365 days a year, returning to dry-dock for repairs only every three years. In 2017, it will have visited more than 100 ports of call in more than 20 countries, charting a 44,000-nautical-mile course starting in Australia, visiting East Asia, crossing to western Canada and Central America, and passing through the Panama Canal to end the year in Miami. The itinerary included a January expedition to the Ross Sea off Antarctica. On an earlier trip, The World  obtained permission from the Russian prime minister to glide into Provideniya Bay.

These are the kind of bragging rights that the owners—whom Rowe describes as a “bunch of fairly strong-willed, successful people”—seem to delight in most, made possible by the powerful connections and wanderlust of those on the inside. Next year’s itinerary includes Brazil, Cape Verde, the Mediterranean, Norway’s rugged Svalbard archipelago, and a 2019 New Year’s celebration on the southern tip of Africa.

The homes often become showcases for artifacts collected on remote journeys (minus the headache of how to get them home). One apartment displayed a decorative wooden surfboard from New Zealand, carved out of ancient Kauri—giant conifers reclaimed from peat swamps on the North Island and known for their shimmery, iridescent grain when finished; they can date back more than 45,000 years.

“You sail to places that you could never go to even on your own yacht,” says Scatliff, who owns a 72-foot yacht in the Bahamas and keeps a residence in Florida. “These experiences—you can’t buy them at any price.”

The behind-the-scenes logistics to support it all are mind-boggling. Unlike those of cruise ships that ply the same routes with regular suppliers, The World’s itinerary changes every year and is determined by owners through a vote held three years in advance. The planning process to scout vendors, arrange deliveries, and assess security can start more than a year ahead. An entire level is dedicated to accepting provisions by air, ocean freight, and trailers. Vegetables still rooted in soil are stocked for longer sojourns at sea. A database keeps track of quirky owner proclivities—such as a preference for diced carrots, not chopped—cataloging as many as 400 per resident.

Buying In

Fort Lauderdale, Fla.-based ROW Management Ltd. handles all operations and administration, including marketing and sales of the units. The company is opaque on turnover and sales history, disclosing only that 10 percent of the homes are on the market at any time, with an average ownership of six years.

Approximately 20 percent of residents own more than one unit, primarily to host family and friends, as guests are limited to the number of bedrooms in a unit. Over-hosting is frowned upon, as is serial lending of units among owners. (The prevailing attitude is, “Would you want too many people or tourists stomping through your living room?”) Prospective buyers may, on being invited, rent a unit, starting at $1,600 a night.

Officially, the owner community hails from 19 countries and is mostly aged between 55 and 65 years old, half from North America and a third from Europe. From observation, it’s predominantly Caucasian, with North Americans, Brits, and Aussies heavily represented. Among them are a Canadian media mogul, a Japanese hospital owner, and an American publishing baroness, though the fiercely private community abides by a rule not to disclose the names of owners to those who don’t belong to the club.

The owners jointly shoulder the cost of operating and maintaining the 43,000-ton vessel and its 280 staff, which runs into the hundreds of thousands of dollars. The $10 million net-worth test is to ensure that even in a downturn, the residents can shoulder the costs. The management disavows any knowledge of tax benefits associated with spending a large part of the year residing in international waters and says the venture operates at a breakeven point.

“I don’t look at it as an investment—though, of course, I maintain its value,” says Rowe, who’s lost money on every boat he’s ever owned, save the first, which he sold to a friend. On the bright side, he says, “It’s worry-free boating. And I don’t have to worry about drinking and driving.”

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

 

This article was written by Natalie Obiko Pearson from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Interview: Skift CEO Rafat Ali on Travel Industry’s Sensory Deprivation Bubble

Skift

Skift CEO Rafat Ali opines on the state of the travel industry — and the traveler — in an age of permanxiety. Skift

Skift Take: Ya, digital isn’t enough — although it helps — in the Age of Permanxiety. Still, when the Four Seasons housekeeper or the cruise ship waiter strikes up a conversation, and you can feel it is heartfelt, then that makes all the difference.

— Dennis Schaal

Travel involves a lot of conflicting emotions. You’re excited about your trip, looking forward to relaxing, reconnecting with loved ones or sightseeing.

Then there’s the other side of travel: going through security, presenting your papers, being searched, hoping you remembered all the rules and that you don’t get bumped or charged extra for your bag. Sometimes there are additional fears about destinations — worries about potential emergencies, whether a wildfire, blizzard or act of terror — that causes havoc on the ground.

The travel industry media company Skift devoted its annual journal to the theme of “Travel in the Age of Permanxiety.” Skift CEO Rafat Ali recently spoke about the topic in an interview for the AP Travel podcast “Get Outta Here!” Here are some excerpts.

Q: What is permanxiety?

Rafat Ali: We coined this term permanxiety, which is essentially a short form of permanent anxiety. It’s this constant state of anxiety … that pervades every part of our lives today, whether it’s politics, whether it’s social media, whether it’s our daily lives commuting, whether it’s listening to news and how that then translates into the anxieties that show up when we travel.

Q: Is there anything travel providers can do to compensate for all the negative things we experience or anticipate when we travel?

Ali: The travel industry markets itself as a sensory deprivation bubble. I think it’s done a disservice to itself by separating from the realities of the world. Travel is the world’s largest industry. Let’s start acting like it. We are enmeshed in every big sector, every big geopolitical issue. Why run away from it? … There are those outside issues the travel industry warns against, but the daily-ness of the anxieties, it doesn’t warn against or doesn’t do enough to soothe the anxieties of the traveler. In many ways, a lot of travel brands have latched onto tech and digital in general as a shortcut, but in many cases that exacerbates anxieties.

A lot of travel brands say, ‘We’re adding a lot of digital and hopefully that will solve everything.’ But it turns out what they need is humans at the other end of it. Every part of our travel these days is primarily about the lack of human touch or nobody listening to us on the other end.

Q: Is there anything travelers can do to reduce their own anxiety?

Ali: It’s good to be informed about every part of your journey, (for example if) you’ve never flown through the New York airports — oh my god, I’m really sorry, because you’re going to be in for a huge shock. My cousin literally landed here for the first time ever and I told him, ‘I know you’re saying this is so much worse than India (where he lives) because it is.’ … Being informed at least gives you the right context when you travel. That may potentially increase anxieties but at least you’re informed enough to make an informed decision.

Q: The journal includes an essay you wrote about traveling as a Muslim, with a Muslim name, and about being perceived as the “abstract villain” of everyone else’s collective and imagined anxieties. So in addition to the travel anxieties we all have, you are also burdened with our reaction to you.

Ali: I’m an educated, successful entrepreneur, an epitome in some sense of the American dream. Imagine a lot of people who don’t have the privilege I’ve gained over my life. Not that I face all of these in every bit of my travel every time I travel. This is an amalgamation of the challenges (such as) … when you’re booking things online, something was triggered because of my Muslim name.

Or whether it’s getting to the airport, worrying about why TSA is staring you down or scribbling something on your ticket. … When you board the flight as a Muslim, one of the examples I gave in the essay, if I am calling my wife to say that I am fine, I boarded, everything is fine, I don’t want to say something in Arabic because there are real cases — I wish this was a joke but it’s not — there are real cases of people on the plane reporting somebody speaking Arabic. It’s just a language! …It’s not just Muslims. I’m sure different minorities in their own ways have their own anxieties … traveling while black or traveling with a physical disability.

Q: Is social media a force for good or evil when it comes to travel in the age of permanxiety?

Ali: I do feel, net net, it exacerbates our anxieties. It is an addiction. … We are hyperventilating, checking all kinds of news, all kinds of bad stuff happening out there. We internalize it. It shows up in our travel. Any small issue that happens probably gets overplayed as a result of social media.

___

Listen to Skift CEO Rafat Ali talk about “Travel in the Age of Permanxiety” on the AP Travel podcast GET OUTTA HERE:

This article was written by Beth J. Harpaz from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

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Expedia CEO Declares Company’s Global Land Grab Is Nearly Over and 12 Other Digital Trends This Week

Expedia

Expedia CEO Mark Okerstrom. The company isn’t done trying to grow, but is now less focused on expanding its map. Expedia

Skift Take: This week in digital news, Expedia shared its strategy. The online travel giant said it’s focusing on countries where it already has roots. It also signed its second loyalty-enrollment deal with a hotel chain, and evaluated its approach for Egencia.

— Sarah Enelow

Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines digital trends.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>Start 2018 out right with Skift Research. Gain access to Reports, Data Sheets, and Analyst Sessions at our lowest rate ever when you purchase an Annual Subscription now — Act fast for exclusive end-of-year savings! Ring in 2018 With Savings on Skift Research

>>Louis XIII Cognac’s most recent activation is a great example of how luxury brands are aligning with meaningful causes and influencers to appeal to luxury consumers’ growing desire to feel their purchases are part of something bigger than themselves: Luxury Brands Embrace Experiential Marketing to Stay Relevant

>>Regionally focused online travel success stories are as rare as rhinos in the wild these days. But this merger of two South African players may help an endangered species — independent-booking players — keep thriving in a market where so much is dominated by the global duopoly, the Priceline Group and Expedia: Pan-African Booking Player Travelstart Buys SafariNow in Lodging Play

>>The world has moved on from luxury brands simply being able to advertise their products in the traditional sense. They need something bigger to cut through the digital noise: How Experiential Marketing Keeps Brands Relevant — New Luxury

>>Financial analysts and other travel industry watchers often listen to the words of CEOs to hear what direction they’re taking their companies. But, increasingly, CMOs at many major travel brands are dealing with ground-level, consumer-facing marketing and strategy that impact the company and customers on a daily basis: Video: Why CMOs Might Be the Most Influential People at Any Travel Brand

>>Is it just the varied nature of the two advertising platforms, Google’s versus Facebook’s, that makes Google more effective at identifying traveler intent? Some would make that argument. If the travel industry hopes that Facebook will ever supplant Google as an advertising platform, then buckle up for an extended wait: Facebook Wants to Get a Little More Like Google in Identifying Traveler Intent

>>Hailed as a panacea to streamline the bidding process that would make venues and meeting planners more productive, electronic requests for proposals still have a long way to go: Electronic Requests for Proposals Have Created a Mess for Many

>>Expedia penned its second loyalty-enrollment agreement with a hotel chain, but like the previous pact with Red Lion’s parent, the G6 Hospitality deal isn’t any kind of game-changer for Expedia as it tries to soften the effects of the the big chains’ direct-booking campaigns: Expedia Signs Loyalty Program Enrollment Deal With Motel 6 Parent

>>Expedia isn’t done trying to grow; that would be suicide for any public company. Instead, Expedia argues it can best spur growth by digging in deeper in countries where it already operates rather than expanding its map. The new strategy boils down to a question of priorities, and could change again in coming years: Expedia CEO Declares Company’s Global Land Grab Is Nearly Over

>>There’s still plenty of innovation to come to the meetings industry planning process: Digital Tools Aren’t Always Better — Meetings Innovation Report

>>This relatively small deal tells a larger story about the structural reasons why hotels have been behind the curve in digital marketing relative to retail and other sectors: Bidding Platform Koddi Buys a Hotel Ad Tech Division From Criteo

>>Expedia has been talking for a couple of years about being opportunistic when it comes to mergers and acquisitions for its Egencia business travel unit. That may be on the back burner for awhile, though, as the parent company, which has been bogged down in integrating acquisitions over the past couple of years, focuses on growing what it already has: Egencia Is Looking for Scale in Mergers and Acquisitions, Not New Geographies

>>Two startups aiming to help vacation rental property managers, one that helps hoteliers market their neighborhood’s attractions to guests, and one that helps give business travelers cash back on purchases together raised $18 million this week: MyVR Raises $6 Million for Rental Property Software: Travel Startup Funding This Week

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

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Record Visitation Prompts Overtourism Fears at Zion National Park

Associated Press

Overtourism is sweeping Zion National Park in Utah: too many tourists, too few park rangers, as this 2017 photo illustrates. Associated Press

Skift Take: Private vehicles would pay $70 to enter Utah’s Zion National Park during peak months if the government adopts a new plan. Setting higher fees may help check unfettered tourism, which can take a toll on the land.

— Sean O’Neill

Zion National Park has already set a new visitation record with a month left to go in 2017, a milestone that highlights concerns about overcrowding at the iconic red-rock landscape.

Nearly 4.4 million people visited the park through the end of November, an increase of about 5 percent over last year, The Spectrum in St. George reported Thursday.

Attendance at Zion has risen steadily over the past decade and is up some 70 percent since 2010, when there were 2.7 million visitors for the year. Though some thought the park may have hit its visitation peak during the National Park Service centennial celebration last year, the new numbers indicate its popularity is still growing.

The new numbers come as park officials weigh a first-of-its kind reservation system and the National Park Service considers hiking fees to $70 per car during the peak summer season at several popular parks, including Zion.

The plan announced in October would more than double the entry fees at 17 national parks that now charge $25 or $30 per vehicle. Prices for national park passes and senior passes would be unchanged.

Officials say the higher fees are needed to address an $11 billion maintenance backlog that’s built up as park funding stayed flat. Zion officials say their shuttle system is overcrowded, the line of cars waiting to enter regularly backs up into neighboring Springdale, and visitors have cut more than 30 miles of their own trails.

Still, the proposal has drawn sharp criticism from tourism groups, conservation organizations and elected officials like Republican Congresswoman Mia Love, who worries it would make national parks inaccessible to average Utah families.

Utah’s five national parks and other national monuments are estimated to have attracted more than $1 billion in direct visitor spending, including nearly $500 million spent in southwestern Utah at Zion and Bryce Canyon, according to a Park Service analysis.

Other Utah parks, including Bryce Canyon and Capitol Reef are also setting records. Bryce Canyon’s 2.5 million through November also beat’s last year’s total, as does the 1.1 million reported at Capitol Reef. Visitation at both parks has more than doubled over the last 10 years.

Arches and Canyonlands are also on pace to set new records.

 

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Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

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