Educator Pricing For Skift Global Forum Announced

Skift Take: Attention professionals inspiring the next generation of travel leaders: We’ve got a discount for you.

— Rafat Ali

Our fourth annual Skift Global Forum, happening September 26-27 in New York City, is shaping up to be the best yet.

Each year, a number of professors and educators reach out to us, impassioned about our conference and speaker lineup but not as excited about the price point.

We at Skift know that travel is at the epicenter of the geopolitical world, and we want to arm those educators who are shaping the next generation of travel leaders with the latest insights into travel’s top trends.

That’s why today we’re excited to announce that for the first time ever, we are offering educators the opportunity to attend Skift Global Forum at the reduced price of $1295 —that’s a $2200 discount on a full price ticket.

To apply, fill out this short application form. We’ll want to know what university you’re coming from and how attending Forum will benefit your classroom and curriculum. If you qualify, we’ll send you a discount code to use for the low price tickets.


Act fast! We only have 25 discounted educator tickets available and we’d love to see you there.

And as always, we couldn’t bring this event to life without our incredible sponsors: Button, Criteo, FareportalMapboxSmartlingSojern, and The Points Guy.

Email us at for any questions or if you’re interested in sponsoring our event.

Educator rate cannot be retroactively applied to ticket holders. 

Ryan Wolkov

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Amadeus Hospitality Is Making Bigger Hotel Deals as It Chases a Breakthrough

Crowne Plaza

Crowne Plaza is among the InterContinental Hotels Group brands that are slated to get a new guest reservation system from Amadeus Hospitality in 2018. Pictured are patrons at a Crowne Plaza property. Crowne Plaza

Skift Take: Amadeus’ hospitality division is creating a back-end booking system for InterContinental Hotels Group. But it’s not a foregone conclusion that the tech colossus will win over a swath of other hotels.

— Sean O’Neill

In 1992, then-college sophomore Lee Horgan did an internship at a hospitality services company, Newmarket Software, that his uncle had created in Maine in the mid-1980s.

After college, Horgan returned to what later was called Newmarket International and began doing work in sales and rose up the ranks to become chief executive. In late 2013, he helped to sell the company for $500 million to Amadeus, the travel technology colossus based in Madrid.

Since 2016, Horgan has been chief executive of Amadeus Hospitality, the hotel software division — a collection of businesses, such as Hotel SystemsPro, Itesso, Libra, MeetingMatrix, and MTech, that Amadeus has acquired in the past half-dozen years.

Horgan is aiming to do for hotels what Amadeus has done for airlines in providing a full suite of solutions for running their operations.

But he and his team face potential pitfalls. The type of platform Amadeus Hospitality hopes to sell to the industry hasn’t necessarily been successful before. Horgan’s background has been in only one segment of the hotel industry, while the strategy requires an appeal to hotels of all types.

Critics also say there are also still several gaps in Amadeus Hospitality’s software suite.

Skift spoke with Horgan last week to get an update on the status of Amadeus Hospitality, a year on from its debut as a new platform.

IHG switch is on track

The most visible brand that Horgan’s team has signed up has been InterContinental Hotels Group, which is Amadeus Hospitality’s first customer for a new guest reservation system.

In the third quarter of this year, IHG will begin testing a multi-year move away from its in-house system, Holidex, to Amadeus’s new one. IHG says the rollout would happen in 2018.

Horgan says things are on track to meet the target date.

“Our team and the IHG teams are working well together. I think as far as where we are right now. I couldn’t be happier,” Horgan says.

That would be welcome news for management at Amadeus headquarters in Madrid.

In May, Amadeus IT Group CEO Luis Maroto told Skift, “IHG is admired in the industry. The moment we implement this reservation solution for IHG, it will represent a breakthrough. It will become our reference customer.”

The new platform is designed to make it easier for IHG to upsell customers based on their profiles and past behavior throughout a trip and would help the company get more adept at “yield management,” or getting top dollar from a potential guest.

Today, IHG’s IT systems have data scattered across databases that can’t communicate with each other. This “siloed” approach to data hampers the hotel group’s ability to make offers that are personal and relevant to guests.

In theory, Amadeus’s new reservation system would be able to recognize if a customer is a millennial who is a member of the loyalty program. If based on IHG’s research, such a person would be more likely to pay a premium for a particular hotel chain brand, then IHG can offer a promotion that may be more relevant to the customer.

IHG anticipates that the new reservations system would make it easier for its staff to categorize its inventory better, such as by describing rooms that have different configurations more helpfully — what is a “deluxe” room, anyway?

These categorizations matter in that they allow accurate searching by online and corporate travel agencies. IHG brands currently lose some business because computer filters don’t know that the chain has the amenities that some shoppers are looking for.

First of more deals?

For Amadeus, a follow-up reservations systems deal in due course with a big name hotel group such as Marriott, Hilton, or AccorHotels would raise confidence in Amadeus Hospitality’s strategy.

Investors seem to think it will take up to a year from now to sign another global deal.

Horgan says it’s hard to gauge when another major chain would be ready to replace one of its major IT systems. All Horgan would coyly say is: “The engagement level with prospects has been high for us.”

Given that IHG was the first chain to create a guest reservation system in 1965 and took a half-century to look for a new version, the sales cycle can be long.

IT replacements can be expensive for hotels. Controlling costs is why Marriott is downgrading newly acquired Starwood to its old customer relationship management system instead of upgrading its portfolio to Starwood’s more up-to-date one.

Guilain Denisselle, the Paris-based editor of hotel technology trade publication, says: “Oracle Hospitality, formerly Micros, is the leader in property management systems in North America and Europe, and when you see how deeply it is implemented in hotel chains, you realize that it will take ages to take Oracle out of hotel chains.”

Denisselle adds: “The only chance Amadeus has to convince hotel CFOs is to cut the price significantly on all parts of its offering, and if they do that Amadeus will have to cut costs on R&D and profitability.”

If Denisselle’s argument is prescient, then Amadeus Hospitality’s forecasts for revenue growth may be ambitious.

Long-term bet

The long-term Amadeus bet is that over the next ten years, hotels will gravitate toward grouping more of their technology elements together with a single vendor because it is easier to deal with just one company.

That’s a risk, as historically hotel chains have not bought their technology that way.

Until now, reservations systems have been separate from property management systems and customer relationship management systems and other operational systems.

Some hotels prefer an a la carte approach to tech solutions, says Michael Levie, who is in charge of operations at the Amsterdam-based CitizenM chain of boutique hotels.

Levie explains: “Hospitality tech systems — like a central reservations system, a property management system, and customer relationship management system — have been separate buys mostly, as the combined offer has never quite able to deliver the level of expertise offered alone by specialists in each of the categories.”

But Amadeus is betting that hotels want to move away from having to spend a lot of up-front capital on their tech systems.

It believes hotels will increasingly prefer a commercial model where they pay a consistent, ongoing fee, either via monthly subscriptions or on a cost-per-transaction-serviced basis. That model makes hotel group balance sheets look more predictable for investors, among other advantages.

Horgan says that subscription- and transaction-based models also incentivize companies like Amadeus Hospitality to maintain a steady growth in transactions for a hotel because their compensation depends on that ongoing growth and not on just a one-time sale of hardware.

Cloud-based services also allow for more constant improvements in service, just as an iPhone gets regular software updates.

In the past, hotels had to buy a server and other equipment that required on-site work to update. In contrast, cloud-based systems minimize the on-site work that’s needed.

Levie of CitizenM agrees with the argument that new and more flexible technologies are making a platform offer more appealing than in the past. He says, “The benefits of centralized data are making that combined buy extremely interesting.”

But Levie notes that he is only making a general statement and not a specifical comment on Amadeus Hospitality’s combined system offer as CitizenM doesn’t use a combined system offer.

In fact, CitizenM has continued to experiment with one-off, next-generation technologies, such as a test of the startup IreckonU’s operations and finance dashboard and revenue management system.

Such startups are among the competitors Amadeus Hospitality faces, not just giants like Oracle.

The fragmented structure of the hotel industry — split among the various interests of property owners, brands, and operators — is the biggest challenge Amadeus Hospitality faces, according to Ellen Keszler, who runs the Texas-based consultancy Clear Sky Associates and was formerly president of Travelocity and a one-time executive at Amadeus rival Sabre.

Keszler says, “In a perfect world, from a brand’s perspective, hotel groups could dictate the technology used at their flagged properties to ensure consistency of guest experience. However, the hotel ownership structure, where one company might own properties that fly multiple flags, is where most of these decisions are made.”

In short, Amadeus’ success depends not just on the quality of their new products, but also the receptiveness of their customers to significant technology and process changes, she says.

For his part, Horgan says he isn’t worried.

He acknowledges that the key decision for hotels in changing their core technology systems varies by company. For some, it is “Can they increase revenue?” For others, it is “Can they remove a cost, or can they improve productivity?” For still others, it is about managing risk and complying with privacy regulations worldwide as they enter new markets.

He concedes that most hotels today are not going to change out all of their core back-end systems at once. But he says the conversations his teams have had with hotel executives suggest that hotel groups are alive to the promise of platform-based technology.

“It’s hard to judge how long the sales cycle will take for a new product, which the cloud-based, platform approach is,” he says.

“But we believe hotels are coming around to the idea of integrating their PMS [property management system] with their sales and catering tools and with their service optimization tools for front desk and housekeeping and their reservation systems.”

“We think they’re starting looking at some of these solutions coming together as a platform, which is our sweet spot.”

Product gaps and delays

Since its formal branding launch a year ago, which saw Amadeus Hospitality replace the previous Hotel IT division name, the hospitality unit has focused on four elements: providing central reservation systems, property management systems, sales and catering tools, and hotel operations software.

One knock against Amadeus Hospitality has been its slowness to roll out a next-generation property management system that has broad appeal. It did acquire one when it bought Itesso. But both the work on it and the sales of it have been relatively quiet.

Selling a new property management system is ambitious because most hotels already have one. Amadeus has to make a case that its alternative justifies the time and cost of a replacement.

“From a future functionality standpoint, we’re spending a lot of time on the usability of the system,” Horgan says. “Making sure that we can cut down on the amount of training for the various folks that are users in the hotel.”

He adds that, unlike some legacy systems, Amadeus’s solution is cloud-based, which allows more flexibility in moving across connected devices. A hotel would link up all of the technology in the lobby, for example, such as a front desk PC, a tablet held in the hand of an employee, and a self-check-in kiosk.

“If a hotel customer wants to build their app or offer a digital checkout, we can do that while some legacy products can’t. These mobile-first approaches give new ways for hotel staff to engage with their guests.”

He adds: “We don’t think that the legacy systems will be able to move at the same pace we can because we are on the cloud system.”

That may be true, but companies like market leader Oracle have also been embracing the cloud with apparent fervor.

Another gap in the Amadeus Hospitality product suite is revenue management. Amadeus Hospitality doesn’t have a full-service revenue management solution for hotels like the kind provided by IDeaS, Duetto, Rainmaker, and LodgIQ.

That gap doesn’t bother Horgan.

He says: “The market is pretty well-served right now from a lot of different revenue management players. Depending on what somebody may be looking for, there are folks more focused on full-service hotels, ones on the mid-level, and also sole proprietors.”

“We’ve decided that a partner approach is where we want to be right now.”

As context, some hotels do revenue management in-house because they feel their competitive advantage is in how they skillfully package and price their products.

Horgan says, “That’s not something that we necessarily thought we would be in a position to displace and so that comes down to more of a partner and open integration versus trying to come out with our system that would have to be part of the core platform.”

Other gaps in the Amadeus Hospitality suite appear to be channel management and digital marketing.

Companies ranging in size from TravelClick to smaller digital shops help hotels optimize their websites, email communications with customers, mobile apps, and search engine marketing.

Given the importance to hotels of increasing direct bookings and loyalty program engagement, some might think Amadeus Hospitality would have more services more prominently addressing that.

Horgan says, “Certainly digital marketing is something that is an absolutely hot topic right now. Our approach is really making sure that we enable a hotel customer to interact with their guests in the way they want.”

“We don’t have to own the end-to-end process that supports direct booking. We don’t necessarily have to create that front end experience for a hotel group to feel like we’re adding value there.”

He adds: “From our standpoint, it may be, ‘How do we enable that direct booking to happen?’ So it could be by allowing somebody to book meetings online. Or it may be where we’re revamping the tech to allow a hotel to offer special pricing or packaging online.”

“Even though we may not be the final mile, if you will, out to digital search and book and marketing, we’re doing a lot as a partnership that supports a hotel’s digital strategy.”

While Horgan isn’t worried about the gaps, other professionals express a measure of skepticism.

Max Starkov, president and CEO of New York-based hospitality digital services firm HeBS Digital, says that hotel technology consists of three silos.

Amadeus Hospitality has focused on one silo that includes inventory management, distribution, and pricing. Its portfolio includes software for hotel operations, including a new property management system, some point-of-sales tools, and some sales and catering tools.

Starkov says, “What they are missing in this silo is revenue management tools and expanded connectivity capabilities with a better channel manager tool to help hotels with distribution.”

“Due to the complexity of today’s traveler digital planning journey, I envision that in the future there will be a single integrated customer relationship system, revenue management system, and a channel manager,” Starkov adds. He notes that these tools today are typically sold separately or are built in-house without much inter-operability.

If Starkov’s prediction of overall trends proves true, then he says Amadeus Hospitality has a decision to make: “Do they venture deeper into hotel operations by building such an integrated platform, or do they master inventory management, distribution, and pricing — which is their core competency to begin with.”

Rivals with first-mover advantage

Some skeptics may say that Amadeus Hospitality is coming a little late to the hospitality IT game. In 2014, Oracle paid $4.6 billion to acquire Micros, the leading IT provider for hotels in North America and parts of Europe, and it has since kept investing in it.

Sabre Hospitality has been offering software solutions to hotels for a long time, claiming to have about 30,000 properties on its reservation system SynXis, in particular.

Horgan says he isn’t worried about playing a catch-up game. He notes the company has “25,000 unique installs, and we support more than 750,000 users across the various solutions we offer.”

He adds: “When we talk to customers, we hear that they have pain points not being solved today. What we’re hearing is a lot about wanting greater flexibility and about wanting to simplify the tech footprint.”

The company says that one of the ways it stands out from competitors is the emphasis it has put in helping hotels maximize their event space, which at some hotel groups can account for a third of revenue, on average.

“We excel at making sure that they are optimizing their meeting space by analyzing the patterns of historical demand and studying actually what’s happening in the marketplace.”

He adds: “We also can help in giving insight into their local market trends and giving actionable insight into how they may want to respond to those different requests for proposal from meetings and events organizers.”

Horgan says, “One trend we’ve seen lately is where event organizers want to have that different, almost an experiential, meeting. They want the room set in a different way than is traditional.”

“With the Amadeus diagramming solution, we’re able to help the customer and the hotelier partner on the vision of the meeting and to come up with a plan that is more creative and collaborative way with the hoteliers.

“It’s a really big focus of ours to enable ‘the next-gen of meetings’, if you will.”

Risks ahead

One of Horgan’s biggest tests will be showing he can lead the company to a broader customer base than what Newmarket had.

Traditionally Newmarket did best in what was considered the larger hotel group, or the top mid-tier. Can it successfully sell to bigger global chains? And what about to somewhat smaller companies in the mid-tier with simpler needs?

Newmarket focused particularly on helping hotels with maximizing the sales of their meetings and events spaces, including services for optimizing sales of catering, conferencing, and banqueting.

Horgan says he’s especially excited about tackling the focused-service market, which doesn’t have much of an events business, but is growing comparatively faster than other segments domestically in the US but also internationally.

His approach is to follow a customer service emphasis. He has clients take satisfaction surveys via a third party provider, ConfirmIt, to make sure customers are happy.

“We also really invest a lot in the training of our employees,” he adds, “to make sure that they can be helpful on those sales and follow-up support calls. That’s a critical point to our go forward strategy as well, is never to take our eye off the importance of customer service.”

Another risk facing Horgan is, with so many different products, can he and his team maintain a high-level of execution.

The related point is that Amadeus Hospitality recently has been looking beyond hotels for sales opportunities in casinos, stadiums, golf clubs, restaurants, and amusement parks. Is there a risk that it will dilute its effort if it doesn’t focus on hotels?

Horgan says no. “From our standpoint, it starts with the fact that we’re building flexibility at the core of the systems. A lot of times where we may be going into an entertainment center like a casino, those transactions are very similar to when somebody’s selling a ballroom in a hotel.”

“We let customers customize their workflow to their unique venue. This is relevant because a lot of hotel groups have branched out into different adjacent markets.”

“Hoteliers have called us to say, ‘Look, I’m doing something fairly similar here from a sales standpoint, from a booking standpoint. I’d like to leverage this technology.’ And we’re able to go in and identify what their needs are and if we can meet them, we generally have a pretty good match.”

Horgan adds, “I would also say that some of our event customers have pushed us in new ways that we’ve been able to bring back improved functionality to our hotel customers because we’ve had to think through adjacent and similar problems in fresh ways.”

On a more personal note, he says the biggest surprise about life post-acquisition is that his workforce has become more global.

“We’ve got people in Europe that are coming over to Portsmouth,” Horgan says, “And one of my managers is very interested in moving to Europe, and we may have an opening for him. It’s really neat and not something that was happening to a Maine-based company before.”

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Tourism Industry Could be A Beneficiary of UK Election Chaos

Alastair Grant  / Associated Press

Prime Minister Theresa May listens as the declaration for her constituency is made for in the general election in Maidenhead, England. Her gamble in calling an early election has backfired spectacularly. Alastair Grant / Associated Press

Skift Take: Prime Minister Theresa May’s reputation has been shattered by her own hubristic behaviour and she is only clinging on to power through a loose alliance with another party. The UK is in a much weakened position as it prepares to start Brexit negotiations.

— Patrick Whyte

Prime Minister Theresa May’s gamble on calling an early election to shore up her mandate for Brexit failed spectacularly after her right wing Conservative Party actually lost seats in the UK general election.

Jeremy Corbyn – the UK’s answer to Bernie Sanders, in some ways – did much better than expected, leaving the country with a hung parliament just10 days before Brexit negotiations are set to begin.

May is determined to cling to power and has already said she will look to form a minority government but after her humiliating defeat she will now have to rely on Northern Ireland’s Democratic Unionist Party (DUP), which won 10 seats, to get anything done. Even with the DUP’s help her position looks precarious and to get any support she will need to offer something in return.

This is where it gets interesting for the travel industry. While tourism merited precisely zero mentions in the Conservative manifesto, it is a big economic driver in Northern Ireland.

The DUP’s manifesto lists “making tourism a £1 billion industry” as one of its pillars for improving Northern Ireland’s economy and improving the industry could be one of the concessions that the DUP looks for as part of any deal with the Conservatives.

“The DUP supports the development of a new Tourism Strategy for Northern Ireland to take the industry here to a new level and reach our full potential,” the party said in its manifesto.

The DUP might look for cash to help look for new tourism products but it also has two specific policies in mind: the abolition of Air Passenger Duty and a cut in the VAT rate for tourism businesses.

The Air Passenger Duty issue has been a bugbear of the travel industry for the last couple of years. Effectively it is a tax on air travel, which is then passed on to the consumer. Trade Group A Fair Tax on Flying has tried for years to get it abolished but has only had very limited success. The government still regards it as a reliable money maker.

Similarly, the Cut Tourism VAT (value added tax) organization has lobbied for a reduction in the levy from 20 percent. Hotels and attractions in the UK currently pay a substantially higher rate than elsewhere in the European Union. Critics say that reducing tourism VAT would stimulate demand.

The reason why these are big issues for the DUP is that across the border, the Republic of Ireland scrapped the Air Passenger Duty in 2014 and has a VAT rate on tourism of just 9 percent.

“Levels of VAT and Air Passenger Duty (APD) are making businesses less competitive than their equivalents in the Republic of Ireland,” said the then-Northern Ireland Affairs Committee chairman Laurence Robertson in March.

The DUP might see this as an opportunity to level the tourism playing field by securing a couple of tax cuts that would likely prove popular with voters, something that might end up impacting the whole UK.

“It remains to be seen how the Conservatives and DUP will work together. The DUP stated in its manifesto that it supports the abolition of Air Passenger Duty and we welcome any developments towards reducing this punitive tax,” said Alan Wardle, director of public affairs, at UK travel association ABTA.

A softer Brexit?

Alongside specific tourism initiatives there is also the possibility that the type of Brexit the UK achieves might be different.

Before the election, May was pushing for a “hard” Brexit i.e. the total removal of the UK from all forms of European integration and she had intimated an unwillingness to compromise on anything with her EU counterparts. Now that she is considerably weakened there is some hope that a so-called soft Brexit may be achieved.

The tourism and hospitality industry is particularly reliant on EU workers and has repeatedly warned of dire consequences should there not be some sort of phased approach to cutting immigration — one of the big drivers of the entire Brexit campaign.

“There is an expectation perhaps that such a hard Brexit will no longer be viable,” said Ufi Ibrahim, chief executive of the British Hospitality Association.

The difficulty for the hospitality association and for those that voted “remain” is that both the Conservatives and Labour are committed to Brexit and the idea that free movement of people will end and will be replaced by some form of managed immigration.

“We cannot and will not rest on our laurels in terms of ensuring that any immigration controls will not be pushing our industry to a cliff edge and will not be detrimental to us going forward,” Ibrahim said.

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Airline Winners and Losers in Qatar Impasse

FC Media

Qatar Airways is the biggest loser in its dispute with Saudi Arabia and the U.A.E. Pictured is a view of Qatar’s A350XWB sharklet parked next to Qatar’s second A380. FC Media

Skift Take: One thing to watch is whether the move to isolate Qatar Airways will have the unintended consequence of a spillover effect that would see many of the region’s carriers face an adverse impacts on their brands.

— Dennis Schaal

With Qatar increasingly isolated from its Gulf neighbors in an escalating geopolitical crisis, the economic and financial implications are starting to emerge.

The country — which has been accused of supporting Islamist militant groups by Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, the United Arab Emirates and Egypt — relies on other Gulf states for about 20 percent of its imports and almost half of its tourists, according to Dubai-based Arqaam Capital Ltd. Billions of dollars of infrastructure projects are also at stake as it prepares to host the 2022 soccer World Cup.

“We expect the move to cut diplomatic ties with Qatar could have significant economic ramifications for its economy, but to have barely an effect on the rest of the GCC (Gulf Cooperation Council),” said Arqaam’s head of equity research Jaap Meijer. “We expect consumer prices in Qatar to be affected first, though economic growth and government projects should also be affected.”

Here’s a look at how the crisis could impact transport in the region:

Possible Winners: Gulf Air and Singapore Airlines Ltd, which compete with Qatar Airways on its top routes, are the main carriers that stand to benefit.

“If we also take into account the possible negative branding impact across all GCC carriers, then the real beneficiaries are Singapore Air, Lufthansa and the key local airlines from top routes such as Malaysia Airlines, Philippine Airlines, Thai and Sri Lankan,” said Diogenis Papiomytis, director of aerospace at Frost & Sullivan.

Other airlines on these routes such as Kuwait Airways, Saudia and Air France-KLM are also likely to see increased demand.

Omani and Iranian ports could stand to benefit, according to Neil Davidson, senior analyst at Drewry Shipping Consultants Holdings Ltd. Existing container trade to Qatar mostly goes through the U.A.E. and Saudi Arabia.

The alternative could be operating feeder vessels from hub ports in countries that aren’t part of the boycott. Kuwaiti ports are also an option but would result in a big diversion.

Potential Loser: State-owned Qatar Airways is set to be one of the biggest losers of the crisis. It operates 52 daily flights to the four Arab countries, according to data from scheduling firm OAG. About 30 percent of the carrier’s revenue could be affected, said Frost & Sullivan’s Papiomytis.

The network impact is huge; the financial impact depends on the length of closures, he said.

— With assistance from Mahmoud Habboush, Claudia Carpenter, Deena Kamel, Anthony DiPaola and Tugce Ozsoy.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Filipe Pacheco and Ahmed A Namatalla from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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Hotel CEOs Push Back on Trump And 5 Other Hospitality Trends This Week

Mark McQueen  / NYUSPS

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson (right) was interviewed on stage by ABC News correspondent Rebecca Jarvis at the NYU Hospitality Industry Investment Conference on June 5. Mark McQueen / NYUSPS

Skift Take: These are the hospitality trends we were talking about this week.

— Dan Peltier

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.

>>Count Stephen P. Joyce as yet another hotel CEO determined to make travel and tourism a priority for the Trump Administration: Choice Hotels CEO to Trump: Travel Rhetoric Is ‘Offensive’ and ‘Incongruent’

>>Big brand names still matter, but as consumers become more sophisticated labels are not the only marker of success: Chinese Outbound Luxury Travelers Look to Smaller Hotel Chains

>>Best Western Is Testing Voice-Activated Rooms: Like Marriott and other hotel companies, Best Western is figuring out if there’s a home for Amazon’s Alexa in the hotel guest room.

>>Hotel CEOs realize that if tourism to the U.S. drops, it could have a significant adverse impact not only on their own businesses but the industry, and the economy, as a whole: Hotel CEOs Push Back Against Trump on Travel Ban, Brand USA and Cuba

>>Yet again, Wyndham Rewards isn’t missing out on any chance to capitalize on the opportunities opening up in the pending integration of SPG with Marriott Rewards: Wyndham Partners With Caesars on Loyalty Programs

>>Like everyone else in hospitality, Wyndham finally has its own soft brand collection to boot: Wyndham Launches a New Independent Lifestyle Brand: Trademark Hotel Collection

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Trump Expected to Roll Back Cuba Policies Next Week

Andrew Harnik  / Associated Press

In this June 9, 2017 photo, President Donald Trump speaks on infrastructure at the Department of Transportation in Washington. Trump is expected to outline his new policy with Cuba next week. Andrew Harnik / Associated Press

Skift Take: It isn’t a question of whether Trump will reverse Obama’s liberalization of U.S. policies toward Cuba — the issue is how far will Trump go. At risk is whether the country will revert to yesteryear where Americans can freely visit China but not Cuba 90 miles from Florida.

— Dennis Schaal

President Donald Trump is expected to outline his new policy with Cuba next week, announcing steps that could reverse some of the changes made by former President Barack Obama to open commerce and travel after a half-century standoff with the communist island.

The Trump administration has been discussing policy changes that include prohibiting business with the Cuban military while maintaining the full diplomatic relations restored by Obama. The White House has also been debating new restrictions on American leisure travel to Cuba, which has more than tripled since Obama’s 2014 announcement.

Trump is expected to announce the policy on Friday in Miami, according to a person familiar with the plan. The person spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss internal planning. The White House said the timing of the announcement had not yet been finalized.

Obama’s policy moves have led to extensive corporate investment on the island, including new, daily commercial flights, licenses for U.S. hotel operators and agricultural investment by U.S. companies. Trump will be under pressure from lawmakers and corporate interests to continue the U.S. engagement with Havana.

Tourism to Cuba remains illegal under U.S. law, but has become allowable under many circumstances. American travelers to the island must fall into one of 12 categories of justification for their travel, ranging from religious to educational activities meant to bring the traveler into contact with Cuban people.

But Obama eliminated restrictions on “people to people” travel, opening the door for tens of thousands of travelers to book their own independent trips to Cuba. Opponents of Obama’s changes said that allowed many Americans to engage in prohibited tourism on an island where the Castro government has driven exiles from their homes and businesses for decades.

The president, who was spending the weekend at his golf club in Bedminster, New Jersey, has been developing the policy changes in consultation with members of Congress, including Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla.

Rubio said in a statement he was confident Trump would “keep his commitment on Cuba policy by making changes that are targeted and strategic and advance the Cuban people’s aspirations for economic and political liberty.”


AP Congressional Correspondent Erica Werner in Washington contributed to this report.

This article was written by Ken Thomas from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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Uber Board to Discuss CEO Leave of Absence and Report on Sexual Harassment

Adam Tinworth  /

Uber co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick at Uber at LeWeb Paris on December 10, 2013. The Uber board may discuss a leave of absence for the embattled CEO. Adam Tinworth /

Skift Take: It’s clear that Travis Kalanick, the embattled Uber co-founder and CEO, needs to go. Whether the board can push him out, given Kalanick’s stake and leverage in the company, is another question.

— Dennis Schaal

The Uber board of directors is slated to meet Sunday to discuss the possible leave of absence of co-founder and CEO Travis Kalanick, other management changes and what is described as an ugly or bombshell report about a rash of sexual harassment incidents at the company and its culture, according to multiple published reports.

The report, conducted by former U.S. attorney general Eric Holder, has already been distributed to the board, Recode reports, and it follows the termination of dozens of Uber employees and the disciplining of others for incidents related to sexual harassment charges in recent months.

There have been a series of problems over the last year or more that have called Kalanick’s leadership of the ride-share company into question. One of the latest that Holder’s report uncovered, according to The New York Times, is that the head of Uber Asia, a close Kalanick association who was fired this week, shared medical records of a rape victim in India with Kalanick and other Uber executives.

An Uber driver in India had been convicted of raping the woman in 2015, but Uber’s boss in Asia, Eric Alexander, and other Uber executives became convinced that the driver was set up and shared her personal medical records.

It isn’t clear what the details of Holder’s report will contain or what actions the Uber board might take today, but the moment is shaping up as a critical one for Uber’s future.

Ryan Wolkov

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Visit Florida Gets Funding Approval And 6 Other Tourism Trends This Week

Jim Mullhaupt  / Flickr

Siesta Beach in Sarasota, Florida, pictured here, was named the top beach in America by Dr. Beach last week and has made investments to ensure it maintains its reputation. Jim Mullhaupt / Flickr

Skift Take: These are the tourism trends we were talking about this week.

— Dan Peltier

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.

>>At long last, Florida’s tourism industry knows its fate: Visit Florida’s $76 Million Budget Gets Legislative Approval After 4-Month Battle

>>The UK is in a much-weakened position as it prepares to start Brexit negotiations: Tourism Industry Could be A Beneficiary of UK Election Chaos

>>Brand USA’s one immediate challenge: getting on the Trump administration’s good side: Interview: Brand USA CEO Counts on Congress to Reverse Trump’s Plan to Kill ItStatus Blog

>>Younger employees are more likely to add a vacation to their work travel: Time-Starved Business Travelers Are Missing the Bleisure Trend

>>Eastern European tourism is growing: Contiki’s Western Europe Tours Are Popular But Eastern Europe Is on the Rise

>>Ross’ speech seemed too good to be true: U.S. Secretary of Commerce Says Tourism and Trump’s America First Policy Can Co-Exist

>>Being named the top anything is usually exciting for any destination: Dr. Beach Top 10 List Is Great for Tourism — Sometimes Too Great

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Airlines CEOs See No Trump Slump and 5 Other Aviation Trends This Week

Mark Humphrey  / Associated Press

Foreign airline CEOs aren’t convinced that the U.S. government is hurting international travel. President Donald Trump speaks at a rally Wednesday, March 15, 2017, in Nashville, Tenn. Mark Humphrey / Associated Press

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 aviation.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>Travelers and corporations certainly detest uncertainty and the prolonged governmental announcements about the possibility of an expanded laptop ban — will we, won’t we? — contribute to business anxiety: U.S. May Extend Laptop Ban to Flights From 71 More Airports

>>It’s amazing how resilient U.S. tourism is. Europeans flock to America during the summer, and while anecdotal evidence suggests some travelers may be altering their plans because of politics, many airlines say they’re having no trouble filling seats: Foreign Airline CEOs Say They See No Trump Slump on U.S. Routes

>>Three airline CEOs on a four-person panel — all of them except United’s Oscar Munoz — said airlines must apologize within 15 minutes for all incidents where they may be at fault. That seems fast, but the news cycle demands it. Airline CEOs Say They Have 15 Minutes to Respond to Customer Crisis Incidents

>>A private air traffic control system isn’t dangerous or untested; many countries around the world use them. Until more details are known about what it will take to implement and operate this new system in the U.S., however, you should remain skeptical about the transformative prospects of such a change: Trump’s Air Traffic Control Proposal Promises Change Without Giving Details

>>We wish British Airways had explained what happened right away. But now that we know the situation, we understand why the airline gave little information after its late-May computer failure: Human Error Caused British Airways Computer System Failure

>>The Qatar diplomatic ban is a nightmare for Qatar Airways. Its routings and market share will undoubtedly suffer in the near and medium term: Understanding the Qatar Ban and Its Implications for Qatar Airways

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First Black Chief Pilot in U.S. Retires From Southwest Airlines

Associated Press

Louis Freeman made history by becoming the first black pilot hired by a major airline in 1980. He has now retired. Associated Press

Skift Take: The color barrier for black pilots and the glass ceiling for women at U.S. airlines still exist as their ranks are way below their representation in the U.S. population. Aid to offset the high cost of pilot training would be one way to make the cockpit more diverse.

— Dennis Schaal

Nobody at Southwest told Louis Freeman he would be the first black pilot in the airline’s history when he was hired in 1980.

“It never occurred to me,” Freeman says, “but when I got here I was the only pilot of color — it didn’t take long to figure out.”

Freeman went on to become the first black chief pilot — a management job — at a major U.S. airline. His most memorable flight carried the body of civil rights icon Rosa Parks to her final resting place. The NAACP had asked the airline to put together an African-American crew.

Freeman made his last flight as a Southwest Airlines captain on Thursday, a few days before turning 65, the federal retirement age for airline pilots.

As he strode toward the gate at Dallas Love Field, Freeman donned his captain’s cap for the last time and reminisced about joining Southwest after six years flying for the Air Force.

On Freeman’s first flight as co-pilot, he had a moment of panic when the captain gave him a routine command. The weight of being an airline pilot had suddenly hit him. It went beyond that first flight.

“I put a whole lot of pressure on myself because I had to get it right,” Freeman says. “I had to be perfect because I wanted them to hire more of us.”

The color barrier in airline cockpits wasn’t broken until the mid-1960s. Southwest was less than a decade old when Freeman joined and had just 20 planes and fewer than 200 pilots.

Southwest didn’t immediately say how many of its current pilots are black. Nationally, it’s 3 percent, according to the Labor Department. Blacks make up 13 percent of the U.S. population.

“It used to be 1 percent. It has increased, but it’s been awfully slow,” Freeman says. Part of the problem, he says, is the high cost of learning and gaining the required 1,500 hours of flight experience to qualify as a co-pilot for a small regional airline.

Freeman believes that signing bonuses, better pay and help with training costs will address the pilot shortage and help raise the number of black pilots.

Maybe Christopher Goods of Frisco, Texas, will be one of them. As Freeman talked to a reporter at Love Field, the 10-year-old stopped to shake his hand. Freeman chatted briefly with the boy and waved to his parents.

“That kind of thing happens all the time,” Freeman said, “because young black kids, they don’t see black pilots very often.”

Freeman said he never had problems with white pilots, but some passengers seemed surprised to see him.

Particularly if the co-pilot was a woman, Freeman liked to position her where passengers boarding the plane would see her, and he would hang back near the cockpit door.

“They’re looking for some older white guy to make sure he’s keeping her out of trouble,” Freeman said. “When they turned to look, there’s big old me standing there, grinning. You should have seen the looks. To me it was a game.”

In 1992, Southwest named Freeman its chief pilot in Chicago — the first black to hold that job at any major U.S. airline. It’s a management job that meant fewer flights for Freeman, “but I got to use my brain for other stuff.”

In 2005, Freeman flew the plane that carried the body of Parks, the black woman who in 1955 refused an order to give up her seat on a public bus in Montgomery, Alabama, to a white passenger, an act that became a touchstone of the civil rights movement. He took his daughter and son on the trip to impress upon them the importance of Parks’ act.

Freeman’s son may keep up the family’s aviation tradition — he is a flight instructor gaining flight hours until he can apply for an airline job.


This article was written by David Koenig from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Ryan Wolkov

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