Maiden Voyage CEO on Leveling the Playing Field for Female Business Travelers

Maiden Voyage

Carolyn Pearson, CEO of Maiden Voyage. The company just released a set of educational modules to help level the playing field for female business travelers. Maiden Voyage

Skift Take: Supervisors who don’t send women on business trips, in a misguided effort to avoid dealing with women’s safety issues, are doing their companies a disservice by suppressing that talent. Companies that tackle that duty of care head-on are playing with a full deck.

— Sarah Enelow

Maiden Voyage, which serves female business travelers and the travel companies hoping to capture that market, said in its Women in Business Travel Report 2016 that 31.4 percent of female business travelers globally have encountered sexual harassment while traveling.

Risks also extend to theft, assault, rape, and kidnapping. Then, with that on her mind, making constant micro-calculations about her surroundings, the female business traveler must do what what she actually came to do: meet a client, make a presentation, close a deal.

Some women struggle to even land professional opportunities that require travel because male supervisors know the safety risks and don’t want to deal with them, much less pay more for a safer hotel or taxis to avoid walking alone at night.

Maiden Voyage, which is headquartered in Leeds, England, wants to level the playing field with a new set of video courses on five subjects: pre-planning and packing, safe ground transportation, hotel safety, intercultural awareness, and safe meetings and leisure time.

These 20-minute modules are interactive with maps, audio testimonials, and trivia questions. What percentage of women reported feeling vulnerable when traveling on public transport? 67 percent, according to research conducted by Maiden Voyage.

The company also inspects hotels and certifies those that meet certain minimum safety requirements, and offers training for hotel staff.

These measures aren’t just about making travelers more comfortable — they’re also a legal obligation.

“If something goes wrong, the company will need to be able to show in a trial that they took adequate measures to safeguard their travelers,” Maiden Voyage CEO Carolyn Pearson told Skift. “That would be briefings and training and an audit trail of what they did to safeguard that trip, or maybe even a risk assessment. We know from the potential of the market that we’ve entered that probably 95 percent of people are failing on that already.”

Skift spoke with Pearson to find out how companies can support their female business travelers without pandering, how supervisors can feel more confident selecting women to travel, and how corporate travel buyers are failing and succeeding in keeping employees safe. This interview has been edited for length and clarity.

Skift: Do you find that many women opt out of business travel? In the workplace if women worry about being seen as fragile or needing protection or being different from their male counterparts, how do you address that urge to avoid business travel altogether?

Pearson: We’ve spoken to lots of women who’ve not taken the next step because that entailed business travel. Obviously the first and foremost issue is how do they balance everything if they’ve got a family and kids and all of that. But also there is some genuine fear if they’re traveling to areas where they’re going to have to go by themselves and there is some concern that they just don’t feel comfortable doing it by themselves. And so they don’t apply for those next levels up.

But what we know from one of the Swiss pharmaceutical companies that we’re speaking to is that they’re now getting candidates who are applying for jobs with those companies that entail travel. Now what are you going to do? What are your duty of care measures that you’ve got in place to make sure that I’ll be safe when I’m traveling on business?

Also, things like what standard of hotels will you put me in? Will I be flying in economy or business class? Am I allowed to fly in sociable hours and what about transfers? What ground transportation will you offer me when I arrive in a country?

Skift: I imagine transparency is always good in these cases.

Pearson: Yeah.

Skift: How can women inspire more confidence in their male bosses so they select women to go on the road more often, and do so more confidently?

Pearson: A lot of the travel security managers are ex-military, they served in Iraq or Afghanistan and places like that. They’re kind of roughty toughty guys and women are getting into more senior roles. They’re becoming more empowered and more vocal in the workplace. It’s a fine line between having a conversation with a woman about the gender-specific travel risks and isolating her, feeling that she’s been discriminated against and treated like the weak sex and patronizing a woman who’s used to traveling around the world by herself.

Some guys refrain from having that conversation because unfortunately once or twice they’ve had their heads bitten off by somebody who’s said to them, ‘Don’t talk to me like that. You wouldn’t have that conversation with a male colleague.’ It’s tricky for the guys to get this right but I think the women have to also accept that they can play a part in that. If a man is offering some travel safety advice, he’s not doing it because he’s being an idiot. He’s doing it because it’s genuinely responsible. He’s got legal and moral obligations for her safety and he’s probably got a wife and daughter at home as well and so I think we should be a little bit less touchy about the fact that somebody’s giving us that information, because complacency is really where the biggest risk comes from.

If somebody just said to me, ‘Oh I see that you’re going to Iran. Remember that you need to put a headscarf on when you enter Iranian airspace.’ ‘Oh yeah. Good point. I’ll pack my pashmina,’ for example.

Skift: You’ll need support on both sides of the aisle because it’s going to be a rare workplace where there are no male employees or no male leadership.

Pearson: Yeah. I speak at a lot of security conferences where it is 90 percent men. A lot of them do say to me you know they’re really nervous about having these conversations, so they don’t, and they know that they’re failing in their duty of care by not having the conversations.

Skift: Do you see a difference in the way that business travel for women is handled in companies with managed travel programs versus unmanaged programs?

Pearson: No. It’s really interesting because we’re starting to see companies now putting a question in the RFP asking the TMCs [travel management companies] what they do to safeguard female business travelers, and we had a TMC say to us that they lost a multimillion pound deal with a company because they didn’t adequately answer that question. The clients want it but the TMCs haven’t really thought about it yet. We work with one or two TMCs but actually I was speaking to a travel conference yesterday of TMCs and they said to them, ‘Put your hand up if you are already considering the gender-specific needs of your travelers.’ About 10 percent maximum put their hands up. The travel managers, I guess, are a little bit more savvy around the wants and needs of their travelers than the TMCs are.

Skift: Let’s switch gears just a bit. I’m wondering if such political events like Brexit or maybe President Trump’s travel ban are having a special effect on female business travelers?

Pearson: Brexit means companies are having to trade further afield. Whilst women may be experienced in traveling within Europe, and of course we’ve got the border controls where we can just sail through, we’re going to have to travel further afield maybe to achieve that same amount of imports and revenue. Therefore, that means by nature that we’ll be traveling to areas which are more culturally diverse and therefore, longer time at passport. You’ve got one woman actually who was saying to us that whenever she travels she gets stopped and cross-examined while her male colleagues don’t. Yeah, definitely there’ll be the differences in terms of, knowing what the cultural differences are, adhering to them, and also the extra step of maybe more cross-examination at borders.

Skift: What can women do about the fact that being safe on the road — for example staying in a more secure hotel, taking taxis at night, maybe hiring a guide or a translator — is more expensive than being unsafe?

Pearson: It’s interesting because the travel manager, the guy who does the deals with the hotels or with the TMCs typically, I would say 85 percent of those travel managers are only concerned with cost and compliance to the travel policy. The savvy ones, the top 15 percent are the ones that actually say, ‘No, I’m also responsible for duty of care.’ If they’re concerned only with cost and compliance then they’re going to by nature not be looking at duty of care, which is therefore going to give people less of a reason to comply to a travel policy.

If a travel manager gets that duty of care is part of his job as well, then that’s absolutely fine, but if they don’t, then of course they’re going to be putting women and all their travelers potentially in more unsafe situations. But if something does go wrong the overall cost to the company of course is massive because it impacts everybody. Impacts the reputation, the actual cost of the person that’s left or has been injured or refusing to come back or the insurance issues around that, the connected PR possibly, the time spent within HR.

Sometimes it doesn’t make sense to save 10 pounds. Actually when I’m speaking to the TMCs I like to talk about the total cost of the trip. If the travel manager is saying, ‘Well, I want you to put a rate cap of $200 in Manhattan,’ and for whatever reason the rates are really high in this certain area because there’s something going on and people are having to stay further away, then they’re going to spend extra in cabs anyway, and so the total cost of the trip might be higher because they’ve tried to stay on budget with the hotel. Of course, the risk goes higher because they’re staying out of town.

Skift: Corporate travel executives talk a lot about disruption from sharing economy services. How have Uber, Lyft, Airbnb, VRBO etc. affected female business travelers? Are women more or less worried about safety?

Pearson: What I can see, because I spent some time looking behind the scenes of Airbnb and Uber, is that they massively want the corporate market. They’re willing to change their systems and their processes and their models to tap into the corporate markets. Of course, it’s a massive growth area. What I know is that a lot of travelers are using these services anyway. Whether or not they’re using them through the corporate travel systems is another thing. But actually again with the more savvy companies, if they know that their staff are using these services then they’re better off bringing them into the travel program because then if they use the business ready solutions of Uber where you’ve got higher insurance or Airbnb where you’ve got a better standard of property, then it’s the safer thing all around.

Skift: Last year I wrote a story about hotel rooms created specifically for female travelers, and in that research I saw that there are a couple of different ways to approach that product. The cheaper way is to put some amenities in the room that are generally accepted to be female-friendly, maybe fresh flowers, chocolates. I’ve seen free pantyhose, rooms painted pink. The more difficult and expensive way is to look at safety, for example, how secure are these rooms on the first floor? 

To that end, how do we serve female business travelers without falling into the ‘pink room’ trap, without pandering?

Pearson: What we found is that hotels that really want to work with us, they’ve got a minimum criteria that they need to adhere to. The big one is double locking doors, so [they need] a separate chain on the door so no one can get in once you’re in, or at least you can be alerted to the fact that somebody else is trying to get in. We found the hotels that want to do that are actually putting the second locks in now. In the past we used to inspect hotels. My heart would sink when I’d come across one that didn’t have double locking doors although it’s got everything else, but literally nowadays the hotel is saying if we come across a room that doesn’t have a double lock, we’ll put it in because we really want to work with you because they see the value of the growing female business travel market.

But actually we know some TMCs that don’t even work with hotels that don’t have double locking doors. I don’t think women need any extra security. I think double locking doors are also important for men, but the implication of a man walking into a room when there’s a woman there is obviously that the risk is higher for her than it is for a man because women are more frequently sexually assaulted or sexually harassed.

You must probably point to the incident that happened with Erin Andrews, where she was filmed through a hotel spyhole.

Skift: Yes. Erin Andrews eventually, after a very long legal process, was compensated for that. That was a very important case.

Pearson: If you look back as to how that happened, he actually called the hotel, I believe, and said that they were colleagues and they were traveling together. Obviously hotels get phoned all day, every day, so it’s probably very easy for that to happen and for it to be viable 99 percent of the time, but I guess if you’ve got a high-profile female you might want to check that with the person responsible for the booking.

Skift: It’s shockingly easy for these incidents to happen. We see that in these new educational videos you’ve created, with the audio testimonials. Particularly I remember from the demo this woman who was being lured by a man to stay in his hotel room.

Pearson: Yeah. I think what we want to achieve by our training, whether it’s the classroom training or the e-learning, is that you’ve already thought about a plan B and a plan C. What we find is that risk escalates really quickly, and so if something goes wrong, if you’ve got a plan B then it stops there, whereas if you have no plan, your emotions are heightened, the chemicals in your body and your brain are heightened and then you’re not thinking logically. You’re making mistakes and then that’s when things can really go wrong.

We had one woman who arrived in Lagos and the driver didn’t appear and she was terrified. But if she’d gone through our training, there’s a thousand things that she would have done beforehand. She would have the number for the company. She would have had the number for the office. She would have had a backup solution in place, all of those kinds of things so that she’s, ‘OK, the driver hasn’t turned up. I still haven’t run out of options. I’ve got all these other things I can do.’

Skift: The hour at which you arrive in a new place is crucial. I think it was astute to have an entire module devoted to: My plane has landed, how am I getting from the plane to my hotel? Or from the plane to the convention?

Pearson: Yeah. I have a story. Yesterday, two women who were sexually assaulted before they’d even left the airport.

Skift: Oh my goodness.

Pearson: In Egypt, in the ladies toilet.

Skift: Goodness, well this is why your company exists.

Pearson: Yeah, sadly. I wish we were just around to make business travel social and it was naturally safe.

 

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Uber Narrowed Its Losses in Q1 as Finance Chief Exits

Uber

Uber’s finances improved in the first quarter although it is still running in the red. Uber

Skift Take: Hundreds of thousands of consumers, mostly in the U.S., have deleted its app, but Uber is a global company and its financial picture is improving. Still, Uber has a long way to go to prove to Wall Street that it will one day be a robust and profitable business.

— Dennis Schaal

Uber Technologies Inc.’s revenue increased to $3.4 billion in the first quarter and losses narrowed, even as hundreds of thousands of people deleted the company’s ride-hailing app from their phones.

The company also said its head of finance, Gautam Gupta, is leaving. Gupta, who has long served as de facto chief financial officer even though he never earned the title, helped oversee investor calls and run the finance team, but there have been persistent questions from employees and investors about whether he had the experience to lead Uber through an eventual initial public offering. Uber said it’s now searching for a true CFO who can woo Wall Street.

Uber has faced a series of public-relations crises this year. The hashtag #DeleteUber trended on Twitter as users removed the application from their phones in protest of the company’s ties to U.S. President Donald Trump. Chief Executive Officer Travis Kalanick left Trump’s business advisory board in response. Then, after Bloomberg published a video of Kalanick arguing with an Uber driver, the embattled CEO said he would seek leadership help. The company is also searching for a new chief operating officer and fending off a lawsuit from Alphabet Inc. over driverless-car technology.

The San Francisco-based startup’s first-quarter loss was $708 million, shrinking from the $991 million loss in the previous period. The company’s ability to boost revenue and narrow losses even amid the user protests reflects the global nature of its business — most of the app deletions took place in the U.S.

The first-quarter financial details and Gupta’s exit were reported earlier Wednesday by the Wall Street Journal.

Uber, valued at $69 billion, has raised more than $15 billion in funding and has spent more than $8 billion in its seven-year history. In last year’s fourth quarter, the company generated $6.9 billion in gross bookings and $2.9 billion in net revenue. For all of 2016, Uber’s global losses, excluding its China business, totaled $2.8 billion. The company lost at least another $1 billion in China in 2016.

In a note announcing his departure to employees, Gupta said he’s leaving to join another San Francisco startup as chief operating officer, “to take on a new challenge.”

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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

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Vacation Rentals Are a Bright Spot at TripAdvisor

HolidayLettings

A property in Orlando, Florida on TripAdvisor’s HolidayLettings site for vacation rentals. HolidayLettings

Skift Take: For years, Airbnb, Booking.com, Expedia’s HomeAway, and TripAdvisor have been scrambling for market share in vacation rentals to drive consolidation. But TripAdvisor says it is now focused on “quality” listings, rather than quantity.

— Sean O’Neill

Since February, TripAdvisor’s share price has dropped 27 percent to $38 amid investor concern about its margins peaking in 2009 and falling ever since. That current share price is far below its $108 high in summer 2014.

At issue has been a delay in the shift to a potentially more lucrative business model of instant booking for hotels. In early May, TripAdvisor scaled back this strategy.

But there are corners of the company doing well, and one of those is vacation rentals.

To get an update, we spoke with Ben Drew, who leads supply for the Boston-based TripAdvisor Vacation Rentals division.

Drew has been working on the vacation rentals product since 2012, but this spring he was promoted to vice president of business development and strategy for rentals and attractions at TripAdvisor.

Drew reports to Dermot Halpin, who has headed vacation rentals for several years but this January added attractions to his responsibilities.

Stabilized Listings

Perhaps the most notable change is that TripAdvisor has given up, at least for now, trying to compete with other internet giants to have the most number of rental listings. As of this winter, the company said it had 830,000 listings, but it has since let that number drift downward to “about 800,000.”

The breakdown on how many are self-managed and how many are professionally managed is roughly half and half, the company says.

The company adds that his division has a strength in properties in resort destination areas, which happens to be a place of relative weakness for market leader Airbnb.

Make no mistake, growth in inventory is still the overall story. Drew says TripAdvisor has doubled its inventory since late 2013 and it is now at “about 800,000 rentals.” That total is up from the 650,000 rentals the company told investors it had in February 2015.

Drew says “the focus for TripAdvisor Rentals, particularly over the last year, has been the quality of the listings….We don’t want a situation where travelers have a bad experience, and so we aren’t afraid to part ways with owners who are not engaging with our platform and meeting our standards, such as not canceling on guests at the last-minute or not being reasonably responsive to customer queries.”

He defines “better quality” as rentals that are popular and not receiving lots of complaints because those factors translate into “a better traveler experience, which means quicker conversion and more bookings for our homeowners and property managers.”

Drew says, “It’s a result of this focus that we’ve increased conversion so significantly over the last year, up 60 percent year-over-year. So in other words, we’re getting more bookings on fewer listings than a year ago.”

The growth is an average across all of the company’s channels, meaning TripAdvisor, FlipKey, HolidayLettings, HouseTrip, Niumba, and Vacation Home Rentals.

“We’re very dedicated to this focus. If we find owners aren’t providing an excellent traveler experience – slow response times, cancellations – we work with them directly to improve. Many do, and go on to be successful owners.”

“Some don’t,” says Drew. “We’re not afraid to part company in those instances. We have high standards and the experience we’re delivering to travelers is one of high-quality homes with highly-engaged owners.”

“Today the quality of our listings is tremendously better than it was a year ago,” says Drew. “We look at how suppliers interact with our platform and how travelers interact with it.”

Overall, TripAdvisor is a global business, but its vacation rental business is under-represented in Asia. Given that TripAdvisor has historically grown its listings base through acquisitions, such as 2016’s acquisition of European listing site HouseTrip.”

“We certainly have a history of using acquisitions to grow the business,” says Drew. “So we will keep looking to see opportunities that make strategic sense for us.”

That said, old-fashioned methods are also central. Drew says his team has built up its teams for signing up properties in both Asia and South America.

Technical hiccups over

In summer 2016, TripAdvisor had a platform migration that moved all of its vacation rentals onto a new backend system. It went poorly, as we reported at the time.

In response, more than 100 property managers representing 14,000 vacation rental properties wrote an open letter to TripAdvisor protesting the botched platform migration, including a plethora of problems with the listings, and what they viewed as woeful support from TripAdvisor/FlipKey account managers. The company apologized to customers and promised that the disruptions were over.

Drew says things have been running smoothly since. His team has been working on incremental improvements to help property owners.

The company says it has recently reduced the time it takes to update listings more efficiently for a professional property owner managing. For example, an owner managing dozens of listings used to amend pricing in taxes one-by-one.

Tripadvisor played down any talk that it would debut new software services for property managers to help them figure out how to set their rates and market their properties to extract the most profit.

Drew said, “Our current view on it is that to do something well you have to focus. So we want to focus on having quality listings right now, with conversion growth, and not get distracted by peripheral projects.”

Fee Tweaking

Since 2015, all of the Internet giants have been tinkering with their fee structures, with HomeAway and TripAdvisor copying Airbnb by charging travelers’ a fee for vacation rentals as a way to reduce the cost levied on owners for listing their properties.

In the past year, it adjusted its payment model to be more in line with professionally managed property owner demands.

Drew says they now charge a 3 percent fee on the supply side and a variable one for the guests. It used to charge about 10 percent for professional property managers to list, so the cost there has gone down.

A few months ago Skift launched the latest report in our Skift Research Reports service, The State of the Global Vacation Rental Market 2017.

One fact from the report that’s relevant here: From 2014 to 2015 alone, their non-hotel segment grew by $118 million, amounting to a total of $229 million and roughly 15% of the company’s total revenue. Throughout Q1–Q3 of 2016, the non-hotel segment already generated $225 million and is on track to see another year of solid growth.

Drew says TripAdvisor’s overall vision is to become the global leader in providing people a way to compare all types of places to stay, from a five-star hotel to a short-term rental in a city, to a giant vacation home at a resort destination, to a campsite.

“From planning to being in the trip itself with suggestions for attractions and restaurants, we want to help travelers book what they want to book when they want to book it,” says Drew.

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Amsterdam, Airbnb and the Very Real Problem of Overtourism

Vondelpark  / I Amsterdam

The Vondelpark in Amsterdam. The city is trying to cope with increasing numbers of visitors. Vondelpark / I Amsterdam

Skift Take: Cities across Europe are wising up to potential problem of too many tourists. Those tasked with marketing an “at risk” destination are going to have to work harder to spread tourism over a wider area in order to dilute the potential negative impact.

— Patrick Whyte

Spend any time walking the streets of Amsterdam and you’ll quickly understand why it has a tourism problem. Trams, bicycles and pedestrians all vie for space on the narrow streets, presenting a daunting task for the millions of visitors that come to the city each year.

Amsterdam is blessed by many features that make it highly attractive as a destination. It’s compact enough to get around on foot and English is widely spoken. Low-cost airlines offer hundreds of flights a day into Schipol airport with tourists drawn to its liberal policies on sex and drugs as well as its many museums.

In 2015, the city welcomed 17 million visitors, representing an increase of 15 percent since 2011 and in the same time period the number of visitor days almost doubled to 139 million.

Tourists are going to keep coming and that presents a big problem for Amsterdam.

“I think the city and its residents are very actively thinking about the impact that tourism is having on their city, and how they want this impact to play out,”  said Wouter Geerts, senior travel analyst at Euromonitor International. “Banning or capping tourists is not the way forward. Instead what is needed is a dialogue with all stakeholders to come to a mutually beneficial solution. This is what Amsterdam is trying to achieve.”

Expanding the City

Frans van der Avert’s office overlooks the IJ waterway that bisects the city. Throughout the day, the chief executive of Amsterdam Marketing spends his time looking out towards Amsterdam Noord, the once-unfashionable district, which in recent times has been growing in popularity thanks to plenty of open space and an eye-catching new museum.

With more tourists coming, Van der Avert’s job has moved from marketing the city to managing it, and one of the biggest challenges is getting repeat visitors out of the center to places like Amsterdam Noord.

“When you look at the foreign visitors, half of them are here for the first time. I don’t bother them with these new neighborhoods because we know that they want to see the Van Gogh and the canals and they go to the Anne Frank House, but when you are here for the second or the third or the fourth or the fifth time, you think ‘Oh.’,” he told Skift.

Van der Avert has an interest in spreading things around. He isn’t just responsible for visitors (he doesn’t like the word tourist) but also locals and businesses.

This gives him a very difficult balancing act and, as has been the case in other cities across Europe, a tourism backlash has started to develop.

“It started here three years ago, and it became ‘the’ topic in the city. It’s not only our problem. It’s a problem which you see happening in smaller historical cities with trading tradition, so no kings, no popes, no big lanes, no big boulevards, but small cities, merchant cities: Barcelona, Prague, Bruges, Dubrovnik, Amsterdam, Venice. People always talk about Venice, but… I always see Venice as… not a living city anymore,” he said.

Van der Avert’s profile was lifted by a speech he made earlier this month at the World Tourism Forum in the Swiss city of Lucerne in which he issued a warning on the problem of overtourism.

“That is a challenge because we strongly believe that these three target groups—by accident are our target groups, so visitors, inhabitants, and companies—they form the DNA of the city. They make the city. They are the soul of the city because you have to have a city where you can work, where you can love, where you can eat, where you can visit, where you go to school. That is why people like visiting a city because it’s a lively city. It’s a livable city. So you have to keep the balance,” he said.

Van der Avert doesn’t want to attract any more visitors to the city, and t’s mainly because he doesn’t have to. Demographics are going to do that for him anyway. As the middle classes grow in places like China and India, there will be people interested in traveling abroad. There’s also the continued success of low-cost carriers, which makes flying between say London and Amsterdam very, very cheap.

There’s another factor making cities like Amsterdam so popular with visitors: Airbnb.

Sharing isn’t caring

The number of people staying in hotels continues to grow steadily and in 2015 the city welcomed 6.8 million guests, an increase of 2 percent compared with 2014. Provisional figures for the first nine months of last year show an even greater growth of 7 percent.

Traditional hotels are clearly still doing well and on top of this you now have home-sharing platforms like Airbnb, which didn’t exist a decade ago and have only relatively recently achieved sufficient scale to challenge the hotel industry. What started off as a sociable way to share your home has now turned into a big business.

In Amsterdam, the company has had to jump through a number of regulatory hoops to keep city hall happy, including collecting tax and imposing a limit on the amount of time hosts can share their homes.

“Airbnb has a very decentralized development; it’s different in every city,”  said Jeroen Oskam, director of the Research Centre at Hotelschool The Hague. “What London and Amsterdam have in common is both are very expensive hotel cities, which means that they’re expensive Airbnb cities and it means investors who want to open up an Airbnb as a commercial venture, so to say, have a very strong incentive to do so.

“In those two cities it’s far more profitable to have an Airbnb, for instance, than a savings account, which leads to the commercialization of Airbnb.

While Amsterdam is — like most other European cities — very popular with users of Airbnb, there is some disagreement on the overall figures.

Airbnb put the number of nights booked at 770,000 for 2016, whereas Hotelschool the Hague puts it at 1.1 million.

Oskam said that both parties had similar figures for 2015 but were more than 300,000 nights booked apart for the following year.

“They have a financial interest in not disclosing the numbers because they pay tourist taxes,” Oskam said.

In 2014, Amsterdam became the first European city to agree a partnership with Airbnb. Among other stipulations, the deal also led to the home-sharing platform agreeing to “collect and remit tourist tax on behalf of hosts.”

Another deal was at the end of last year requires Airbnb to limit the amount of time hosts could rent-out their properties to 60 days per year. Interestingly, the signed document also commits both parties to “inform one another about their external communications.”

“If you present numbers that nobody can check, it’s not paying taxes. It’s just making a donation,” Oskam said.

Working it out

Amsterdam isn’t a unique case and there have been major backlashes against tourism in places such as Barcelona.

The problem is now so acute that Van der Avert and his European colleagues have taken to meeting to discuss ways of dealing with it.

“In every city the rules are different, but sometimes problems are the same,” he said.

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Video: London Tourism Leaders Say Brexit Won’t Kill City’s European Partnerships

Skift Take: London’s political associations with Europe may be changing but its cultural appeal remains strong to many travelers. It’s using its nighttime economy to help drive economic growth in the post-Brexit era as it builds out more infrastructure to accommodate the city’s nightlife.

— Dan Peltier

The UK is preparing to leave the European Union but the City of London doesn’t want its city-to-city tourism partnerships to tag along and get tossed aside. The city is on a mission to stress that it’s still open for business and tourism as its European ties remain uncertain.

London & Partners, the city’s destination marketing organization, signed a tourism agreement with Paris in March — the same week UK Prime Minister Theresa May triggered Article 50 which began the country’s negotiations process for leaving the European Union.

Since the June 2016 Brexit referendum, the city’s tourism strategy is “very much about collaboration with other cities,” said Andrew Cooke, acting chief executive of London & Partners, during an on-stage interview at the inaugural Skift Forum Europe held in London in April.

Cooke was joined on-stage by Amy Lamé, London’s Night Czar, Jason Clampet, Skift’s co-founder and head of content and Patrick Whyte, Skift’s Europe editor.

Cooke said the London-Paris agreement was in the works long before British voters went to polling places last June. “We’ve developed a relationship with [Paris] over the years,” he said. “They’ve suffered some terror attacks as we have. We talked to them after their attacks in terms of impact on tourism and how they might recover. We both share many of the same attributes and both have fantastic cultures.”

London’s work with Paris and other European cities is initially focused on attracting more long-haul visitors, particular from the U.S. market. “We’re very keen to still collaborate in terms of trade and investment…there’s no bigger export from London than tourism,” said Cooke.

London & Parters forecasts that another 10 million visitors per year could visit the city by 2025. “Tourism numbers have held up and spend has increased significantly since Brexit,” said Cooke. “Luxury spending is up about 30 percent higher than last summer.”

Meanwhile, the organization was tasked with cutting through Brexit noise and portraying the city as a welcoming place. “After Brexit, we started the London is Open campaign and got the support of the Mayor,” said Cooke. “It’s a simple campaign with a simple message that everyone could then take part in. It’s worked really well and had a reach of 356 million people.”

Post-Brexit, London’s nighttime economy is even more vital to the city and its tourism growth, said Lamé. “Four out of five visitors come to London for our cultural offering and a lot of that cultural offering takes place in the evening,” she said.

“Running the Tube at night, for example, has really transformed London in such a short space of time. Overall journey figures are higher than anticipated and crime figures are lower than anticipated,” she said.

London’s nighttime economy is worth 26 billion pounds and is projected to grow to 28 billion pounds in the next 15 years, said Lamé. “I often talk about the difference between nightlife and life at night,” she said. “Creating a life at night is something we have huge potential for so we can expand our vision of what we’re doing in the dark.”

You can watch the full discussion below.

Note: Initial planning is in full-swing for our flagship event Skift Global Forum, which will be held September 26-27 in New York City. We wanted to make sure our most loyal Skift readers were able to purchase their tickets early and were rewarded for doing so. That’s why we’ve re-opened up our previously sold out early bird discount for an additional 35 tickets. Attendees can now save $800 per ticket on the largest creative business conference in travel.

Read more coverage of Skift Forum Europe 2017.

At this year’s inaugural Skift Forum Europe in London, travel leaders from around the world gathered for a day of inspiration, information, and conversation on the future of travel.

Visit our Skift Global Forum site for more details about 2017 events, including our New York City event September 26-27.

Ryan Wolkov

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The Future of Personalizing Conferences for Maximum Impact — Meetings Innovation Report

Melbourne Convention Bureau

Melbourne Convention Bureau CEO Karen Bolinger announced the launch of C2 Melbourne during last week’s C2 Montreal 2017. Melbourne Convention Bureau

Skift Take: The next generation of conferences are evolving as multidisciplinary, experiential marketing platforms to better personalize the learning and networking options for attendees. They’re also a hell of a lot more fun.

— Greg Oates

The Future of Meetings & Events

C2 Montreal is one the top five conferences in North America pushing the edge of experiential design, programming, and marketing — but it’s actually much more than that. During the event last week I met with leaders at Tourism Montreal and the Montreal Innovation Quarter, who explained that C2 is also one big billboard to promote the city as a global innovation capital to help attract outside companies and talent to the city.

It all starts with a wildly inventive array of different experiences on the floor, so attendees can personalize their learning and business development opportunities.

In our lead story this week, Freeman produced a new survey showing that CMOs are spending more on live events to round out their marketing mix. They’re also diversifying their programming to engage different audience subsets, inspired by events like C2.

“Some of the research showed that the more personalized the event or experience, the more effective it could be — and that personalization was something that audiences were seeking out — integrating technology and data in order to make the real-life experiences more highly personable and immersive,” says Chris Cavanaugh, executive VP and CMO of Freeman. Read the full story here.

—Greg Oates, meetings editor

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Social Quote of the Week

“CES is going to the Netherlands with CES Unveiled Amsterdam: bit.ly/2qy25oN

@CES on Twitter

Next Generation Meetings UX

Smart CMOs Are Seeing the Value of In-Person Brand Experiences and Events: According to the results of a new survey by Freeman, 59 percent of chief marketing officers recognize brand experience “for its ability to create ongoing relationships with key audiences.” They are also spending more on live events, with more than one in three CMOs saying they expect to allocate 21 to 50 percent of their budgets to brand-experience marketing over the next three to five years. Read more at Skift

Designing an ‘Open Space’ Conference Format with Slido: Leveraging the concepts of open innovation and “unconferencing,” the Focal Point event management company used the Slido audience participation app to crowdsource one-third of the programming at the Open:2017 conference in London in real time. The top three takeaways, according to Focal Point: “Delegates develop immediate buy-in and ownership of the program; the content is relevant to the people in each session; and the subjects that need to be discussed get discussed.” Read more at Slido

Translating the Neuroscience of Behavioral Economics into Employee Engagement: To help prove that corporate retreats and incentive travel programs drive real results to enhance organizational growth, this report by the Incentive Research Foundation brings new science to what actually motivates employees. Primarily, the research explains how the majority of human decision-making is emotional as opposed to rational. Read more at IRF

Event Marketer Launches EventTrack 2017: The Experiential Marketing Content Benchmarking Report: Billed as “The world’s only study on how brands use live experiences to create and distribute content,” the annual Event Marketer report outlines how attendees are capturing and sharing their learning experiences at conferences and events. Download at Event Marketer

XDP Challenges Association Pros To Become Experience Designers: Traditional conferences may deliver on content goals, but they often come up short in providing compelling, memorable experiences. At ASAE’s new Xperience Design Project event this month, the new multidisciplinary format provided attendees with a guided, hands-on exploration of the design mindset. Read more at Associations Now

How Working Closely With Partners Helped Us Host The Best TNW Conference So Far: More than 75 companies sponsored the TNW tech industry conference in Amsterdam this month. Here are some examples of how companies attempted to increase brand awareness and recognition, generate leads or connect with a desired group of people, and share their story to establish themselves as thought leaders in a certain field. Read more at TNW

Destination Innovation

Organizers of C2 Montreal Conference Launch C2 Melbourne: Operated by Cirque du Soleil and the Sid Lee marketing agency, the annual C2 Montreal is Canada’s most successful innovation, marketing, and tech conference. Last week, the organizers announced the launch of the two-day C2 Melbourne sister event, kicking off November 1, 2017. This should significantly elevate Melbourne Convention Bureau’s exposure in North America. Read more at C2 Montreal

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The Skift Meetings Innovation Report is curated by Skift editor Greg Oates [go@skift.com]. The newsletter is emailed every Wednesday.

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Chefs+Tech: Why Eat the Cake When You Can Look at It on Instagram?

Polly Mosendz  / Bloomberg

Cake decorating how-tos are huge business on Instagram. Polly Mosendz / Bloomberg

Skift Take: You know we’ve reached peak internet when we’re more excited about a photo of a cake than eating the actual cake.

— Kristen Hawley

chefslogo_use-for-socialEditor’s Note: In September we announced that Skift was expanding into food and drink with the addition of the Chefs+Tech newsletter. We see this as a natural expansion of the Skift umbrella, bringing the big-picture view on the future of dining out, being fanatically focused on the guest experience, and at the intersection of marketing and tech.

Bonus: We now publish C+T every Monday and Wednesday.

Instagram Makes Big Business for Amateur Bakers

I don’t care if it’s delicious — does it look good? Bloomberg Pursuits explains how bakers are making money off of cakes that look good, regardless of what they taste like. (Fun fact: I used to work at a bridal magazine and for photo shoots, we’d often enlist bakers to cover pre-cut styrofoam in fondant. A little secret sauce for you there.) One baker profiled in the piece makes more money creating cake content for the internet — that is, well-composed photos of intricate cake designs — than she did as a baker for hire. The cake craze took off in part thanks to Instagram, where #cake and #cakestagram yield millions of results. Besides pure visibility, social media gives in-home bakers a business model: according to the article, companies reach out to them for sponsorships or tutorials. Secondarily, these bakers sometimes take orders for actual cakes, but this is far less lucrative than other options.

Instagram seems to have ushered in a new category of food. There’s food that tastes good, food that looks good because it tastes good (think: old-school food porn here), and now, food that just looks good. Sure, food stylists have been around as long as we’ve editorialized images of food, but social media has taken it to a new level. Still, it’s hard to be mad at anything that encourages creativity and experimentation; here’s hoping these cakes actually taste good, too.

Silicon Valley Tech + Restaurants: What Could Go Wrong?

By now, you know the answer to this question. In the case of The Melt and the grilled cheese sandwich, more than expected. The Melt, a small Bay-area-baed chain, was conceived by bright tech minds and backed by respected capitalists and hallowed Bay-area chef Michael Mina worked on the project. The restaurant’s founder Jonathan Kaplan, who previously sold his Flip cameras to Cisco for millions, claimed to create a breakthrough device for producing grilled cheese in less than a minute. The short version of the longer (and very well-written) story: trying to apply Silicon Valley principles and innovation to food is harder than it seems. “In short, like many entrepreneurs, Kaplan harnessed software and hardware to tackle the critical problem of his own satisfaction,” writes author Bianca Bosker of the chain’s troubles.

The piece goes on to explain the restaurant’s troubles, which seem to echo many food-tech startup failures: a lot of money and the best intentions can’t always change a fundamentally human, tangible industry whose products have an expiration date. And so, The Melt has revamped its image, changing its approach, decor, and technology. “But the more dramatic changes have centered on the old-fashioned business of making good food and courting diners,” the article states. Indeed.

Technology’s Effect on Casual Dining

Remember the first time you visited a Chipotle? Did it blow your mind? I remember realizing it wasn’t quite fast food but not sit-down either. Chipotle was the first introduction to the fast-casual concept for a lot of people, including me, and now the popularity of fast-casual has absolutely exploded. So what does that mean for the casual dining chains of yesterday? In at least one case, Red Robin has a plan to change with the times, overhauling its operations and considering a shift in strategy. Specifically, they’re thinking about distancing themselves from the malls and big-box stores that helped the casual dining industry take off. They’re also, according to the piece in Nation’s Restaurant News, considering self-service “beer walls” (fun!) and exploring different service models to find the best and frictionless. The COO quoted in the piece does not call out technology specifically here, but one has to imagine that’s what she’s talking about.

All of these changes move Red Robin toward a fast-casual model: self-serve and streamlined operations especially. Have Americans tired of casual dining, or has technology ushered in a different experience with a different set of expectations?

Why So Fast?

When you pay attention to technology and startups, you gain an appreciation of the importance of speed. “Move fast and break things” used to be Facebook’s actual motto. Speed is great when it comes to computing and processing and all of the things that go into making a piece of software or a digital product successful. But should innovation in food technology follow that same line of thinking? Is speed really a metric by which we should judge a new food or restaurant company’s success?

There’s obviously quite a market for fast food, though by reading industry news over the last few years, it seems more like “good food fast” than fast food in a traditional sense as producers like McDonald’s and KFC place more emphasis on ingredient freshness and sourcing. Speed is in the headlines again, though, as technology infiltrates restaurants. Except now we call it streamlining and efficiency lest new businesses and products get slapped with the still negative connotation of “fast food.” VC-backed Allset, for example, allows diners to book a table, order, and pay for food before arriving at the restaurant. Its founders bill this as time-saving; no one likes waiting for a table, they say. Ironically (and speaking of fast-casualization), they’re effectively turning any restaurant into a fast-casual restaurant since you don’t have to “waste time” ordering off the menu when you arrive; your food is still made to order, but faster than it would be.

This is a worldwide thing: In China, you can use a couple of QR codes and WeChat to order and pay for food, hardly any human interaction required. The push everywhere for speed and convenience doesn’t seem all that different from the push for speed and convenience we experienced here as fast food and TV dinners grew in popularity. Maybe my idea of dining out is too romantic, but innovation in speed is something I want for my laptop, not necessarily my lunch.

Digestifs

  • And another one: Bay-area delivery service Sprig ceased operations last week —Sprig
  • Why your next favorite restaurant will be a bar — Bloomberg
  • What does a McDonald’s comeback mean for its competition? — Nation’s Restaurant News
  • A eulogy for the golden era of VC-subsidized meals, which is finally over —Quartz
  • New York City’s ice cream turf wars — Food & Wine

Ryan Wolkov

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Author: Ryan Wolkov

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