Top 10 Most Popular Skift Stories of 2017


A Skift story explaining the difference, or lack thereof, among Marriott’s 30 hotel brands was the most popular Skift story in 2017. It was actually written and published in 2016, but readers still read it every day. Marriott

Skift Take: These 10 Skift stories got the most clicks in 2017, and none were clickbait. The list shows Skift readers love hotel and online travel stories, original reporting, analysis and breaking news.

— Dennis Schaal

While it doesn’t necessarily take a rocket scientist to decipher the distinctions among Marriott’s 30 hotel brands, it may indeed take a Tesla engineer, and perhaps that’s why our story, Every One of Marriott’s 30 Hotel Brands, Explained was the most popular news story on Skift in 2017.

It seems there is ongoing interest among travel industry wags, supertravelers and once-a-year vacationers in figuring out the globe’s largest hotel brand or, we should say, its 30 brands.

We took a look at the Top 10 most popular stories on Skift in 2017, and you can view our list below. We are proud to say that although these 10 stories got the most clicks, none of them were clickbait. All had plenty of substance and insights. Incidentally, Skift writers Deanna Ting and Greg Oates actually wrote the Marriott story in 2016, but it lives on.

The top four stories on Skift this year focused on the hotel industry, and explainer features resonated. In addition to the Marriott explainer, a Hilton explainer, Every One of Hilton’s 13 Hotel Brands, Explained, ranked fourth. Perhaps it ranked fourth, and didn’t match the Marriott story’s top click stature, because Hilton, with 13 brands and a few more on the way, has less explaining to do.

Stories revolving around online travel resonated among Skift readers in 2017, ranking 5th, 6th, 7th, and 10th. They ranged from a story about the Trivago ad pitchman having to share TV time with a Trivago pitchwoman (5th) to Skift’s Definitive Oral History of Online Travel (10th). Skift published the latter story, like the Marriott and Hilton explainers, in 2016, but readers still read them all. Just about every day.

The nature of the Top 10 Most Popular Skift Stories of 2017 list shows that Skift readers not only like analysis, as in the hotel explainers and the 25 Best Tourism Board Websites in the World in 2017 (6th), they also hunger for breaking news. We count at least four stories among the Top 10, namely the Trivago story (5th), Google Flights Gets Aggressive by Intercepting Airline Trademarks (7th), Muslim-American Travelers Are Quietly Having Global Entry Privileges Revoked (8th), and United Airlines President: Leaving New York’s JFK was the Wrong Decision (9th), in that category.

Whether you are working over the holidays, or kicking back, enjoy the list below. The Skift Editorial staff is already working on the deep dives and breaking news stories that will fill out 2018’s most popular stories.


Every One of Marriott’s 30 Hotel Brands, Explained

Ryan Wolkov

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CEO Interview: Veteran Hotelier Stephen Brandman on Reinventing Lifestyle Hotel Management

Journal Hotels

The lobby of the new Mondrian Park Avenue, the latest property to be managed by new hotel management company Journal Hotels. Journal Hotels

Skift Take: Journal Hotels is out to prove that you don’t necessarily need to be a brand to succeed in the increasingly crowded lifestyle hotel space.

— Deanna Ting

Stephen Brandman has a more than 30-year history of working in the hotel industry, including co-founding Thompson and Commune Hotels and working for more than 16 years for InterContinental Hotels Group.

In 2017, he made news again with the announcement that he would lead a new hotel management company, Journal Hotels, which was started by Goodwin Gaw and David Chang, the owners of The Hollywood Roosevelt hotel.Journal Hotels’ U.S. portfolio includes The Hollywood Roosevelt, The Standard High Line, the newly opened Mondrian Park Avenue, the Ambassador Chicago (formerly known as the Public Chicago), Two Bunch Palms, and the Hotel G.

With Journal Hotels, Brandman sees an opportunity to reinvent the business model of a lifestyle hotel company, and Skift recently spoke to the CEO about that model, as well as where he sees the future of boutique and lifestyle hospitality.

On What He’s Doing Differently With Journal Hotels

“What I am trying to accomplish is, in years’ past I founded and owned several different companies like Thompson Hotel, and Commune Hotels and things like that. This time around, what I am really trying to do is I’m not necessarily trying to create a brand,” Brandman said. “What I am trying to do is create a collection of lifestyle hotels. In years past, it was always about finding a project that had certain specific thing and then trying to brand it with the company name. And this time around, I’m not looking to do that. I’m looking to create a collection of lifestyle hotels where we can do multiple things. We can either own it, we ask to manage it, we could offer revenue management services — so there are a whole lot of things that we can do to help add value to a particular asset, as long as it lays in the lifestyle world.”

Brandman sees Journal Hotels as a lifestyle-focused collection of hotels, both branded and independent, where his company can work on assets to varying degrees.

“I think what we’re doing at Journal Hotels, what I’m trying to accomplish, is I’m trying to change the paradigm of what hotel companies look like,” he added. “In the past, hotel companies looked after their specific name and it was about their branding. The most important thing was their branding. And what I’m trying to do is I’m trying to offer services to maximize the value to the owners of assets. If we feel like the best use of the property on 30th and Park Ave is to make it a Mondrian hotel, then I feel it’s best to license it from Sam [Nazarian, CEO of SBE], bring him up to speed, and to operate the property ourselves.”

The Mondrian Park Avenue, which opened in the fall of 2017 in New York City, was originally slated to be an SLS hotel, but Brandman said that, “for several reasons, the ownership of the hotel wanted to look at some other options.”

“That’s when ownership and I sat down with SBE and said, ‘What really would be the best use of this development? Because of the international flavor of Park Avenue and being right there in Midtown New York, in the NoMad district, we thought, hey listen, what would be great is to create a Mondrian there.’ I’m not looking to call that Journal New York or Journal Park Avenue. I’m looking at how can I help ownership operate a property there that is profitable and gets the appropriate attention to make that something special. That’s when I decided to license the name Mondrian from SBE and manage that ourselves on behalf of the ownership group, which is the Moinian Group.”

He added, “I think it’s kind of a win-win for everyone, in a sense that SBE has a great property right there in the heart of the NoMad district of New York. It helps the Mondrian flag, which helps SBE. We’re there to manage that on a day-to-day basis which, obviously, is a benefit to the hotel owner. It’s kind of a good partnership that works out. SBE has the ability to grow from different brands and, at the same time, it adds to the collection of lifestyle hotels that I’m creating.”

The Bazaar Room at Cleo restaurant inside the Mondrian Park Avenue. Source: Journal Hotels

On Defining What Lifestyle Hotels Should Be

The types of lifestyle hotels that Brandman is adding to Journal Hotels’ portfolio are also deliberately curated.

“The category of lifestyle hotels is quite broad, right?,” he said. “There are two- and three-star brands that are using the term moniker lifestyle hotels, as well as four- and five-star hotels. So, it’s a broad term. But I think what we’re trying to do at our properties is make sure they reflect the local community that surrounds them. And try to work in a way that it’s offering and embrace of the community.”

He noted examples of that with the types of restaurants and bars at some of Journal’s properties. “It’s really about being made invaluable for the local community. We feel that they will embrace it and they will enjoy the offerings that we have and they will use other areas of the hotel, as well, while they’re there. It might be the library bar, or it might be some of the art exhibits we plan on showing in the lobby of the hotel. It really is about — not just traveling public — but the local community.”

And, he added, not just anyone can create or operate a lifestyle hotel, which is what gives Journal Hotels an advantage, he said. Lifestyle and boutique hotels, he said, are more than just good design.

“So often what happens in the lifestyle space, it means you have people that feel they can either create, through design, something that gives the feeling of lifestyle space,” he explained. “Or somebody is deeply involved in the nightclub world or restaurant world or the bar scene, and feels that they can recreate that into the hotel environment.”

He continued, “Oftentimes, you go to people that are in the lifestyle space and there’s already a predetermined formula that that company thinks works. Right? And I’m saying ‘No, I want to be more flexible because communities look different, owners have different desires, owners have a certain set of different exceptions.’ I’m not putting my desires and my expectations into the project; I’m listening to what the owners’ desires are. Then I go out and try to figure out what the community and traveling public to that area wants. And then we sit back and I help curate that whole experience, then operate it. I think it’s more thoughtful. And I think it’s more honest. And I think it is less formulaic, which makes it have real integrity. And I thinks that’s what makes the properties that I operate feel very real.”

Part of that authenticity, he said, is the fact that Brandman and his team share the lifestyles they are adding to the hotels.

“There are a lot of lifestyle brands out there. The challenge is that many of them are corporate driven. Many of them are really one single asset. I live this life and my team lives this life of being lifestyle, so we’re always finding out and discovering a great place that might’ve just opened up in Williamsburg, a little bar or a place to go have oysters, or an interesting art gallery that just opened up. We’re living this life and I think the thing that separates us from many companies — not all companies, but most of the lifestyle companies — sometimes become a little formulaic.

“A lot of those are driven by design. Lots of designers now designing lifestyle space. And a lot of nice, beautiful ones. When it comes to operating the business and, remember, we’re in the people business at the end of the day, people want to enjoy their experiences; even when they’re here for business, they still want to enjoy their experiences. I think what we do here at Journal Hotels is very authentic. It reflects, not a corporate mantra, but it reflects the local community. That’s very important.”

Brandman credited his experience of working in hotels with helping him have a more holistic understanding of what goes into operating a hotel, and what distinguishes a great lifestyle property from just another hotel down the street.

“What Journal Hotels is, is a more well-rounded option for hotel owners because I provide the traditional understanding of how hotels operate and, at the end of the day, in the heart of the house, you want to make sure the accounting systems work right, and the training systems work right, and the revenue management system works right. That the human resources issues are resolved and handled properly. I come from a very traditional background, or as part of my upbringing. And then I also bring to the table this element of lifestyle. And whether that means the type of restaurants that I put in, or the types of nightlife I curate, or the design I curate, what I think we at Journal Hotels provide is a more well-rounded approach to this lifestyle space.”

And that relates to why, with Journal Hotels, Brandman isn’t as focused on building a single brand, but on building a variety of different lifestyle experiences that appeal to guests but are also profitable for hotel owners.

“In the hotel world, oftentimes there are a lot of ego involved. The ego’s above building a brand. I don’t want to do that,” he said. “I want a property that the hotel owner wants to put forward and wants to be proud of. I work with hotel owners to find out what their goals are and what their desires are. Then I help curate and operate and develop the right experience. I think that’s something that’s not really being done in this industry.”

On Understanding Today’s Hotel Owner

Today’s hotel owner has a variety of options to choose from, whether choosing to be part of a brand, going with a soft brand, going completely independent, or deciding to work with a company like Journal Hotels. Brandman said each owner has to decide what works best for his or her property, and that it can be different for each one.

“I didn’t want to do a brand,” Brandman said. “Because there so many out there. It’s getting confusing as to who and what they are. My role, really, is to ensure that the owners of these assets — and sometimes we’re the owner of the assets — but the owners of the assets are getting maximum that they require whether that’s on a financial status, or whether that’s on an exposure. Everybody has different needs for different things.”

Brandman said he thinks that for some owners, going with a soft-brand collection might make sense, but again, it’s a different decision for each property or asset to consider.

“The reason there are so many different options out there nowadays is that a lot of the people who own the equity in the buildings have different objectives. Some are near-term objectives, some are long-term objectives.”

On Bringing Mondrian Back to New York City

When the new owners of the former Mondrian SoHo removed the Morgans Hotel Group flag and renamed the hotel as the Nomo SoHo back in 2015, New York City lost its only Mondrian hotel. Now, however, the brand has returned with Journal’s new Mondrian Park Avenue, and Brandman is hopeful that the new hotel will resonate with the local community.

“I think this is a terrific location with a very supportive owning company. They’ve allowed me to do some very interesting things like, I’ve done a collaboration with Richie Akiva from 1Oak in The Butter Group. We put on a concert with Debbie Harry for about 150 people in our club. We have had interesting part of events like we did the after party for Guns ‘n’ Roses. We did the after party for the Bill Murray show that he did at Carnegie Hall. We’re trying to, again, fit within that community so that’s it’s not just something that is interesting for a short period of time.”

The community that Brandman wants the new Mondrian to appeal to “is a combination of business people who work on Park Avenue and the surrounding office buildings on Madison and so on and so forth. But there’s a lot of apartment buildings and there are condos. And it has a broad demographic. What we do, it’s not about demographic. It’s about psychographics. Again, there are different things for people to enjoy in the building and the whole idea of what we try to accomplish — it’s to make sure people don’t leave the compound. That’s always been very important to me. No matter how small or large the compound is, you want to give them options to make them want to stay. That’s a theme that runs throughout all of our properties is you don’t want people to leave the compound.”

A Premier King guest room at Mondrian Park Avenue. Source: Journal Hotels

On Innovating the Hotel Experience

Appealing to the local community, and building a community will be crucial to the hotel guest experience going forward, Brandman said.

“I think, more and more, the idea of community is important to people. What we’re doing in a lot of our spaces is we’re trying to create spaces where people are working by themselves and this whole idea of community is very important. A lot of our properties have a lot of co-working places where people can sit and bring their laptop and feel comfortable that nobody’s going to chase them.

“Maybe they have a cup of coffee, or maybe they don’t have anything at all, but they’re part of the hotel, they’re the people part of that creative process. It’s O.K. to have a space that’s not high in revenue because it acts as a meeting place for people, both for locals and for the traveling public. I think this concept of community is very important to people nowadays — more so than ever — and I think that’s what we’re sensitive to when we’re curating spaces and experiences to make sure that there’s always something that invites people to be together, in a thoughtful way.”

On the Future of Journal Hotels

Brandman has big plans ahead for the company, which is actively looking at other assets and continuing to grow for the long term.

“I’ve always believed it’s about burning long, not necessarily burning bright,” he said.” A lot of clubs and restaurants and hotels, they open big and then they fizzle out very quickly. That’s not what I want to do at Journal Hotels. I always look at this as a marathon. Now a marathon can be five years, seven years, or 20 years depending on the owner’s outlook. But we want to make sure that these assets are successful for a very long period of time.”

Ryan Wolkov

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The Detroit Travel Story Is Starting to Get Rewritten by the Black Travel Movement

Michigan Municipal League  / Flickr

The famous Joe Louis fist sculpture in Detroit’s Hart Plaza, June 2015. Black travelers are redefining what it means to visit Detroit. Michigan Municipal League / Flickr

Skift Take: The mainstream media currently has control of the Detroit travel story, but the Black Travel Movement is about to redefine what it means to visit the blackest city in America.

— Sarah Enelow

Mainstream travel media, which has historically been led by white journalists writing for white travelers, has mostly defined Detroit’s travel story. But the Black Travel Movement could change that narrative for what’s arguably the blackest city in America.

“In a lot of ways [Detroit’s decline] affected the black community more than others,” said Evita Robinson, founder of Nomadness Travel Tribe, a black travel community. “There’s a personal element to a visit to a city like Detroit for a group like Nomadness or others that are part of the Black Travel Movement. It’s more personal for us, because it’s affected us personally.”

Nomadness, which has more than 15,000 members, will hold its seventh annual barbecue in Detroit on July 28, but it isn’t hosting it there for the same reasons that mainstream travel media hail the city as an up-and-coming destination.

“We’re doing it for us by us,” Robinson said.

Mainstream Travel’s Detroit

According to mainstream travel media, Detroit is hot right now. In 2017, The New York Times ranked the city number nine on its annual Places to Go list, calling it “a comeback city set to make good on its promise.” Lonely Planet ranked Detroit number two on its 2018 cities list: “Young creative types jump-started the scene when they began transforming the crazy-huge slew of abandoned buildings into distilleries, bike shops and galleries.”

A couple of Detroit’s new attractions receive frequent attention. One is the Dequindre Cut, a two-mile greenway with artwork that recalls New York’s popular High Line. In 2017, Detroit also launched a new streetcar called the QLine that follows the Woodward Avenue thoroughfare, stopping at ballparks, museums, and theaters. It’s mostly useful for tourists and serves few residents.

The endorsements in The New York Times and Lonely Planet can easily inspire two types of travel. One trip revolves around new, white-run restaurants, shops, and attractions in the gentrifying downtown of a majority-black city. Another involves curiosity about an economy that tanked so dramatically; Detroit in 2013 carried out the country’s largest municipal bankruptcy, and it hurt black residents disproportionately.

“Slum tourism” exists in many cities, including Detroit. In 2013 the Los Angeles Times investigated Detroit photography tours in which white tourists gawked at struggling neighborhoods. In 2017, a downtown Detroit high-rise displayed a tourism sign saying, “See Detroit Like We Do,” but the advertisement featured mostly white people. Along those same lines, the recent film Detroit was criticized for its tone-deaf and stereotypical representation of the city’s residents.

“You may have group trips with white travelers, them going on their own — [our] type of event is grander,” said Robinson. “I don’t think black spaces within the U.S. are shown with the levels and depth that they deserve, the nuances of our art, our culture, our music, our food.”

America’s Blackest Destination

In some cases, a comeback city can be just a city touting new attractions. But in what’s arguably the blackest city in America, it’s not that simple.

Detroit is 83 percent black and has the highest percentage of black residents among U.S. cities with a population of 100,000 or more, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. In an unusual turn for Detroit, the city has its first white mayor in over 40 years.

According to Visit Detroit’s latest study, from November 2016, 86 percent of its visitors reside in the U.S., with 76 percent coming from outside Michigan.

With such heavy domestic visitation from outside of the state, the Black Travel Movement would seem like a natural source to boost Detroit’s tourism.

Only 38 percent of Detroit’s visitors are women while Nomadness’ membership is approaching 90 percent female. Visit Detroit reported having no statistics on visitors broken down by race, and declined to speak with Skift about the Black Travel Movement.

Detroit hasn’t seen much visitation yet from groups in the Black Travel Movement, but the destination is on these companies’ radar. Shannon Washington, co-founder and director of Parlour, a tour operator and travel magazine for black women, said Parlour hasn’t yet held an event in Detroit, “but definitely would be interested.”

Kent Johnson, co-founder of tour operator and community Black & Abroad, said the company was more focused on the Atlanta and New York markets, but would consider Detroit if there is demand. Tour operator and community Travel Noire, acquired by Blavity in 2017, said it has also not held events in Detroit.

The Promise of Black Travel to Detroit

Nomadness’ decision to encourage black travelers to visit Detroit could be a breakthrough in how the industry sees this destination — through the eyes of black Americans who have a stake in the black community.

Robinson noted the importance of “being able to scope the scene for ourselves and create our own narrative,” in addition to getting Detroit residents involved in the group’s barbecue July 28 and doing a large-scale service project.

Nomadness selected Detroit by member vote on Facebook, and during the vote, one member commented, “If Detroit is selected just make sure money is spent in our communities or at B.O.B.s,” referring to black-owned businesses.

“I think some people are actually going to be taking the weekend and splitting it between leisure activities with us and some potential business partnerships or investments,” said Robinson. “Particularly with a president like Trump at the helm right now, it is a powerful, powerful statement for a community in large mass, hundreds of black people, going into Detroit to celebrate and invest.”

Numerous Tribe members either live in Detroit or lived there in the past, but in a broader sense, the Black Travel Movement includes many descendants of the Great Migration. During the Great Migration years, roughly 1910 to 1970, six million black southerners fled the violent Jim Crow south for the urban north, and Detroit received a tremendous number of these migrants. Many were drawn to jobs in the then-thriving auto industry. Detroit’s population changed drastically as black migrants flooded in and white residents fled.

Nomadness’ finalist destinations for 2018 were Atlanta and Detroit, the latter winning overwhelmingly with 71 percent of the vote. In 2017, the Nomadness barbecue took place in Philadelphia; in 2016, 2015, and 2014, Atlanta hosted the event; and there were two events in New York before that. Attendance more than doubled in recent years, from about 250 in Atlanta to nearly 600 in Philadelphia. Nomadness is pivoting away from group tours toward these types of events.

During the Atlanta versus Detroit vote, a Tribe member commented that the Charles H. Wright Museum of African American History was a Detroit-specific selling point.

The Wright is one of the largest, most-renowned black history museums in the country, and could inform part of the relationship between Detroit and the Black Travel Movement. The Wright delivers an immersive experience similar to that of the new Smithsonian in Washington, D.C., whose overwhelming success has already made it a black American mecca. The two museums have already collaborated in some areas.

When asked if the Wright had ever worked with a group in the Black Travel Movement, which boasts many millennials, a spokesperson said no, but that it had potential.“I think it’d be a great way to connect and engage a younger population. My team and I will look into doing some outreach.”

While part of the Black Travel Movement has black Americans traveling to international destinations that see few black visitors, Nomadness’ domestic trips lean toward established black hubs like New York, Atlanta, and Philadelphia.

Robinson said she’s had conversations about the possibility of events in Selma, Alabama, and Nashville, Tennessee, as well.

About visiting places with a significant black population, Robinson said, “I think we need it in this country right now.”

Ryan Wolkov

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Teague Works on a Design Fix to Cramped Middle Seats


John Barratt, president and CEO of design consulting firm Teague. Skift

Skift Take: Teague is trying to take creative approaches to solving some of the most annoying parts of travel.

— Hannah Sampson

Editor’s Note: This is one of a series of video interviews from the Skift Take Studio, presented by KDS, that were filmed at this year’s Skift Global Forum.

During the 2017 Skift Global Forum in September in New York City, we heard from a host of the travel industry’s top leaders from across every sector.

And after first speaking to them on stage in front of an audience of more than 1,100, we took another few minutes with them to get more insight in our backstage Skift Take Studio.

In our behind-the-scenes conversation, John Barratt, CEO of design consulting firm Teague, shared his thoughts about space tourism, overhead bin anxiety, and making the middle seat on planes more desirable.

“No one wants the middle seat; it’s kind of a crappy experience today,” he said. His fix: find a sponsor to add perks to the seat, such as an entertainment preview or a gift.

“The idea is to try to change this really crappy middle seat experience, partnering with other companies to create something a little bit more, a richer experience,” he said. “It’s again this notion of trying to remove friction from the system.”

Barratt is also thinking a lot about the experience of space tourism, which he called “some of the most fascinating and compelling work that we’re involved in right now.”

“We have a large team focused on it doing some truly breakthrough thinking, and that’s exciting for us,” he said. “Because we’re starting now to expand beyond how people are moving around the world to how people are going to be moving around the universe.”

Watch all the Skift Take Studio videos here.

Ryan Wolkov

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Brexit Uncertainties in Aviation and Tourism Loom Large in 2018


The Union Jack and Flag of Europe flying near the Palace of Westminster in London. Brexit is taking up a considerable amount of time for both the UK and EU. Bloomberg

Skift Take: With the situation still far from clear, the biggest Brexit-related problem is the uncertainty it has unleashed on the UK. Consumers are worried and businesses can’t plan for the future. Both of which point to a pretty bleak 2018.

— Patrick Whyte

The UK’s path to Brexit has been a slow and tortuous affair so far.

The initial referendum happened way back in June 2016, but 18 months later the country is only slightly closer to leaving the European Union.

Two significant milestones on the journey were reached in 2017. The first was the triggering of Article 50 – the mechanism within the Treaty of Lisbon by which a member state can leave the EU – and the second was an agreement between the UK and EU to move on to talks about a future trading deal.

The breakthrough followed “sufficient progress” made in three key areas: the border between the UK and the Republic of Ireland; EU citizens’ rights, and how much the UK is going to have to pay to leave.

While a little more clarity could be in the offing, there remains a huge amount of detail to be decided, some of which would have a huge impact on the travel and tourism industry.

The UK is the sixth largest tourism destination as well as being the number four outbound market. If Brexit does anything to inhibit travel, other countries will feel the effect.

With that in mind let’s take a look at two key areas.


Few sectors have received as much scrutiny as the airline industry. That’s because unlike in other areas, should the UK leave the EU without a deal being struck there would be no World Trade Organization rules to fall back on.

The UK’s modern aviation agreements are so entwined with those of the EU, that as things stand no flights would be able to take off or land on March 30, 2019.

Now, the likelihood of this actually happening is pretty remote. It wouldn’t benefit either side. But that hasn’t done anything to assuage the concerns of some airlines.

Ryanair has been one of the most vocal critics of the UK government’s action so far. In March, CEO Michael O’Leary said there was the “distinct possibility” of no flights for a number of months after March 2019.

In April, chief financial officer Neil Sorahan was in a cheerier mood, saying that the penny was “starting to drop” among politicians although he did warn that “there could be a period of time where flights cannot get in or out of the UK to Europe and vice versa.”

O’Leary reiterated his warning in August, saying “It’s becoming more and more likely that there will be disruption to flights in April 2019 and again in October.”

While other airlines may share his concerns, few have chosen to express them so publicly. At the same time, UK’s Transport secretary has done his best to extinguish any concerns.

Following the referendum, then-new Prime Minister Theresa May elevated Chris Grayling to Transport Secretary. Since then he has done his best to put a positive spin on what Brexit can do for aviation.

Speaking at an industry event in October, Grayling said he wanted the negotiations with the EU to “achieve the best possible access to European markets for aviation.”

Despite what Grayling and the government may say, it seems likely that whatever deal the UK gets from the EU, it will be a step back from what the UK has already.

For Grayling, it remains inconceivable that flights will simply stop, especially because so many EU members rely on British tourists.

“I think it is a big leap, to believe, to take one example, that the Spanish government will not want planes to fly from the UK to Spain in the summer of 2019. If that happens the economic impact in the regions of Spain will be enormous,” he said.

The EU has also negotiated open skies agreements with third-party countries on behalf of member states, most notably with the U.S.

These deals would have to be replicated at some point in the near future to make sure flights could continue. Grayling said in October that the UK was making “rapid progess” on securing deals with these third-party countries.

On its part, the European Commission, the executive arm of the EU, has outlinedclearly what will happen to airlines on the date the UK leaves

“Subject to any transitional arrangement that may be contained in a possible withdrawal agreement, as of the withdrawal date, the EU rules in the field of aviation no longer apply to the United Kingdom,” it said in a notice to operators.


As the UK government’s own sectoral assessment made clear, tourism is of huge
importance. In 2015 it contributed $83.5 billion (£62.4 billion) to the UK economy and “is predicted to grow at an annual rate of 3.8 per cent through to 2025.”

Although the British tourism industry is nervous about how Brexit might affect inbound visitation, so far it has been one of the chief beneficiaries of the depressed pound with overseas visitors keen to take advantage of cheaper travel.

“We make sure that we are keeping the doors open and that people want to come to England. Tourism has been a big success story since the referendum. I admit that is due in large part by the exchange rate, but it’s also driven by other factors and the way that we are putting our story and our position together,” Steve Ridgway, chairman of VisitBritain said earlier this month.

At this stage it still seems unlikely that the UK or EU would introduce tourism visas. The UK has suggested it would allow visa-free travel (as it does for a host of other countries), something the EU would probably reciprocate. UK citizens are likely, however, to lose the ability to live and work freely on the continent.

The one minor annoyance for UK travelers will be a new U.S. style electronic travel authorization system that the EU is gradually rolling out. As the UK will be classified as a third-party country, anyone from the UK raveling to Europe will have to fill out a form and pay a €5 fee for authorization.

Meanwhile, for the hospitality and restaurant industries the biggest concern is likely to be immigration. The British Hospitality Association estimates that around 15 percent of the sector’s workforce are EU migrants – equating to around 700,000 people.

The good news is that both the EU and UK have agreed to ensure migrant rights get protected. The problem for the industry is where will the new workers come from? Tourism work is seasonal and there is a high churn rate. If some form of deal on future immigration isn’t agreed upon, then there is the risk that the industry will be short of workers.

Ryan Wolkov

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Destinations That Will Be Popular in 2018

Virginia Mayo  / Associated Press

In this February 3, 2017, photo, a boat passes through the entrance to the Grand Harbour in Valletta, Malta. Virginia Mayo / Associated Press

Skift Take: Some tourists are looking to get away from the throngs in places that range from Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan to Jordan and Morocco. It’s not a bad idea, at all, as some of these destinations take advantage of troubles in other parts of the world.

— Dennis Schaal

From Malta to Minneapolis, here’s a look at some destinations around the world that will be making news in 2018. They include designated culture capitals, places hosting sporting events and even a couple of cities — San Antonio, Texas, and New Orleans — celebrating their 300th birthdays.


Minneapolis hosts the Super Bowl on Feb. 4 in Minneapolis. The city is encouraging visitors to embrace winter with 10 days of “Bold North” events and activities leading up to the big game. On the other side of the world, the snowy mountains of Pyeongchang, South Korea, host the Winter Olympic Games, Feb. 9-25.

Eleven cities in Russia — including Moscow and Sochi — host the FIFA World Cup, June 14-July 15. The dates coincide with St. Petersburg’s “white nights,” the summer solstice season when city skies never get completely dark. FIFA reports strong ticket sales from the United States even though the U.S. national team failed to qualify for the games. Host cities include lesser-known gems like Nizhny Novgorod and Kazan, while Yekaterinburg is a good jumping-off point for an adventure in Siberia.


Two American cities mark tri-centennials in 2018. San Antonio plans a commemoration week in May, a “Summer of Spain” marketplace highlighting Spanish food, art and culture, Day of the Dead events Oct. 29-30 and a Witte Museum exhibition about the city’s frontier history under the flags of many countries. The exhibit will include the keys to the Alamo and Davy Crockett’s fiddle.

In New Orleans, tricentennial events include the Prospect.4 art exhibition, which is already underway; a blow-out Mardi Gras, Feb. 13, with the Krewe of Rex procession themed on New Orleans’ history; various spring festivals; Luna Fete next December; and a New Orleans Museum of Art exhibition showcasing works by Raphael, Titian, Rembrandt and others from the Duke of Orleans’ collection.


Despite the recent car bomb murder of an investigative journalist in Malta, the island is on many “where to go” lists for 2018. Its capital, Valletta, is one of Europe’s 2018 capitals of culture and a UNESCO World Heritage Site with 7,000 years of history. Attractions include festivals, nightlife, ancient stone architecture, a rollicking Carnival in February and other festivals, plus World War II history, including scuba diving to wartime wrecks.

The other European capital of culture for 2018 is Leeuwarden in the Netherlands’ province of Friesland. Cultural extravaganzas include an Aug. 31-Sept. 1 event expanding an annual marathon across 23 villages with music, art, theater and unusual pop-up hotels.

Mexico City has been designated the sixth World Design Capital and the first city in the Americas to receive the title. It’s being recognized for sustainable design-led initiatives like bike-sharing, urban gardens, parks and playgrounds. Events will include exhibits, conferences and installations.


Elsewhere around the world, destinations on the travel industry’s radar for 2018 range from England to Ethiopia.

England is suddenly a pop culture darling. Fans of the Netflix series “The Crown” can visit one of Queen Elizabeth’s favorite places, Sandringham House, April-November, while those intrigued by the May 2018 wedding of American actress Meghan Markle to Prince Harry can tour their wedding site, Windsor Castle. Oscar-watchers interested in “The Darkest Hour,” starring Gary Oldman as Prime Minister Winston Churchill during World War II, should visit the Churchill War Rooms museum in London.

Also to keep in mind: The Lake District was just named a UNESCO World Heritage site. Visits by Americans to England were up 31 percent January-June 2017 compared with the same period in 2016, thanks in part to the U.S. dollar’s strength against the British pound.

Concerns about terror attacks and unrest have dampened travel to Egypt, Turkey and other destinations in North Africa and the Middle East. But that’s prompted interest in places in the region that are perceived as safe and just as compelling culturally, including Morocco and Jordan. In Africa, Ethiopia also popped up on a couple of where-to-go lists. Its magical attractions include the churches in Lalibela, carved from soft stone and dating to the 12th century.


U.S. visitors to Japan increased 10 percent January-October 2017 compared with the same period in 2016, and the upward trend is expected to continue as Japan pushes tourism ahead of the 2020 Summer Olympics. Where-to-go lists are highlighting not just Tokyo but also places like Sapporo and the Kii Peninsula, honored as a UNESCO World Heritage site for its pilgrimage routes and sacred mountains.

These days, many well-traveled millennials have already hopscotched around Western Europe by the time they’re done with college, so it makes sense that they’re turning to Asia for spring breaks and backpacking trips with stops in Thailand, Vietnam, Cambodia, China, India and Singapore. The youth-oriented travel company StudentUniverse says bookings for 18- to 25-year-old U.S. passport holders to Asia from the U.S. have risen more than 700 percent since 2014. And many of those travelers stay in Asia three weeks or more.

Another area that’s starting to intrigue travelers as they expand bucket lists beyond familiar destinations is Central Asia, which includes the countries of Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan and others with names ending in “-stan.” The country of Georgia also turns up on several where-to-go-in-2018 lists. Geographically it’s considered part of Asia but culturally it’s more Eastern European.

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

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Baha Mar Developer Sues Chinese Contractor for Massive Fraud

Tadeu Brunelli  / Grand Hyatt Baha Mar

The Grand Hyatt Baha Mar in Nassau, Bahamas in February 2017.

Tadeu Brunelli / Grand Hyatt Baha Mar

Skift Take: The Baha Mar project in the Bahamas has had its years of woes. Now that it’s finally been open for about eight months, BML properties is trying to recoup some of its losses.

— Dennis Schaal

China Construction America Inc. was accused in a lawsuit of ripping off the original developer of the long-delayed $3.9 billion Baha Mar resort in the Bahamas by submitting fraudulent bills and collecting undeserved fees.

BML Properties Ltd., led by wealthy Bahamas businessman Sarkis Izmirlian, sued CCA Tuesday claiming the state-owned Chinese contractor pulled off a “massive fraud” to enrich itself at BML’s expense, leading to the collapse of the project in 2015. Delays in the construction of the biggest and most expensive resort to be built in the Caribbean have been a drag on the Bahamian economy in recent years.

BML claims that CCA submitted hundreds of millions of dollars in fake bills, understaffed the project and used it as a training ground for inexperienced workers. CCA knew it wouldn’t be able to meet the planned December 2014 deadline to open the resort but created the appearance that it would, in order to remain on the project and collect undeserved fees, BML claims. BML is seeking at least $2.25 billion in damages.

CCA didn’t respond to phone messages and an email seeking comment on the suit.

BML filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Delaware in 2015. A U.S. bankruptcy judge dismissed the case in favor of a Bahamian court.

Baha Mar, which opened in April, is now owned by Hong Kong-based, Chow Tai Fook Enterprises Ltd. The development features more than 2,300 rooms, 40 restaurants and lounges, a convention center, a Jack Nicklaus-designed golf course, shopping and the biggest casino in the Caribbean, according to Baha Mar’s website.

BML outlined its claims in a 259-page complaint filed in state court in Manhattan.

The case is BML Properties Ltd. v. China Construction America Inc., 657550/2017, New York State Supreme Court, New York County (Manhattan).

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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EasyJet’s New CEO Hopes to Build on McCall’s Momentum

Jason Alden  / Bloomberg

EasyJet CEO Johan Lundgren detailed plans to grow the airline’s passenger numbers 13 percent in 2018. Jason Alden / Bloomberg

Skift Take: The pressure will be on EasyJet’s Lundgren after his predecessor put the airline in expansion mode. After purchasing some of Air Berlin’s operations, growth is on the agenda.

— Dennis Schaal

EasyJet Plc Chief Executive Officer Johan Lundgren laid out plans to serve 13 percent more passengers, widen links with other airlines and help pioneer testing of a hybrid-power plane in his first year of leading the discount carrier.

Lundgren, who succeeded Carolyn McCall as CEO on Dec. 1, said EasyJet will carry about 90 million travelers in 2018, helped by its purchase of Air Berlin’s operations at the German capital’s Tegel airport, the Luton, England-based airline said Wednesday in a statement. EasyJet’s transfer program with long-haul carriers will expand to cover about half of its routes during the year.

“My ambition is to help EasyJet go from strength to strength next year,” Lundgren said in the statement. “Reaching these milestones will be a result of the successful delivery of our strategy of purposeful and disciplined growth.”

The strategy builds on McCall’s efforts to turn EasyJet into a serious competitor to the likes of Dublin-based Ryanair Holdings Plc and Europe’s biggest flag carriers. McCall is set to join the ranks of British broadcaster ITV Plc after formally stepping down from the airline at the end of this year. Lundgren, 51, joins EasyJet after a career in the tourism industry, primarily at German-British leisure operator TUI AG.

EasyJet’s fleet of single-aisle Airbus SE planes will surpass 300 airliners by spring with the purchase of assets in Air Berlin’s liquidation, the U.K. company said. The first flights from its new base at Tegel will start Jan. 5. The carrier already operates a base at Berlin Schoenefeld airport.

The company is working with U.S. manufacturer Wright Electric to introduce a nine-seat aircraft that can fly on both standard jet fuel and battery power in 2018, EasyJet said. The partners outlined plans in September to produce an all-electric passenger jet within a decade.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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Luxury Travel Reshaped by Hurricanes and Wellness Trend in 2017

Eric Laignel  / Bloomberg

A sun deck on the Seabourn Encore, now taking travelers on intrepid trips around Alaska. Eric Laignel / Bloomberg

Skift Take: Natural disasters ruined certain luxury destinations in 2017, and class divisions between the front and back of the plane grew even wider.

— Dennis Schaal

A lot can happen in a year—but 2017 was particularly eventful when it came to how we travel the world. The threats that loomed largest in 2016, Zika and the migrant crisis, faded into the rear-view mirror as talk of a United States travel ban and Brexit suddenly dominated global headlines. And that was just the beginning. Here are six significant ways the world changed for globetrotters in the last 12 months.

Mother Nature Rewrote the Travel Map

Three hurricanes of extraordinary strength crashed into Texas, Florida, the Caribbean, and Puerto Rico this year; the effects of Harvey, Irma, and Maria continue in nearly every place that they were felt. Parts of the Caribbean have been written off the tourist map until at least late 2018, including St. Barth (the island’s villas are back online, but hotels will need the year to rebuild) and the U.S. Virgin Islands; the British Virgin Islands and Puerto Rico are showing slightly quicker signs of recovery.

Almost simultaneously with the storms, wildfires swept the West Coast in two bursts, one across California’s wine country and another in the greater Los Angeles area. The natural disasters have set travelers on hunts for new places to cure their winter doldrums: Trending warm-weather alternatives include New Zealand, Bermuda, and Mexico’s Los Cabos. But remember that trips to recovering areas provide much-needed tourism dollars that are crucial to restoration efforts.

Airlines Stooped to New Lows—and Hit New Highs

Travelers in the back of the plane were subject to several new kinds of torture in 2017. Passengers got physically assaulted or dragged off planes in a series of nightmarish incidents that catapulted “airline spokesperson” to one of the most-unenviable jobs of the year. It wasn’t just the inhumane in-flight brawls that raised eyebrows: In July, United Airines Inc. announced plans to resell fliers’ seats to other people for more money. Then in September, Jet Blue Airways Corp. decided to shrink its seats after years of prioritizing a customer-first philosophy.

And last month, British Airways announced a new policy whereby those who pay the least for their tickets also get to board last. All this, while Qatar Airways Co. and Emirates Airline defied luxury aviation standards with their upgraded premium cabin configurations that look less like leather seats and more like someone’s living room. What it adds up to: a wider-than-ever class disparity in the skies that’s only going to become more pronounced.

Cruising Grew Up (and Got Younger)

If you still think of oceangoing ships as a gathering place for the retired set, you’ve been living under a rock (far from the beach). This year, cruise companies made a concerted effort to attract younger travelers, with expedition-class ships sailing to uncharted Arctic territories and facilitating high-octane thrills around the world. For some companies, that meant offering bike tours of classic European destinations; for others, it meant open-water kayaking off the coast of Alaska.

It’s not just about adventure either: Cruise ships became more innovative in their dining and entertainment concepts, swapping tired revue shows for original (sometimes interactive) productions. The trend will continue in 2018, with a push for cutting-edge technological advancements coming to most major lines.

Unplugging Took on New Importance

With the volume of breaking news reaching what felt like an all-time high, travelers looked to get far, far away from it all in 2017. The destinations on travel agents’ lips earned stood out for their seclusion—Antarctica, the Maldives—and unplugged experiences in the great outdoors (Nepal, South Africa).

Around the world, mental well-being and holistic wellness took precedence over massages or facials, with companies from Four Seasons Hotels Ltd. to Seabourn Cruise Line launching programs on mindfulness and meditation. In fact, the social media analysts at Local Measure, a consumer insights firm, say that travelers referenced “detoxing” more than twice as often in 2017 as they did in 2016.

New Airport Rules Made for Enormous New Headaches

Nationalist fervor in places as disparate as the U.S., Great Britain, and Germany made closed borders one of the most commonly recurring themes of the year—alarming to travelers who live by the credo of a borderless world. It manifested itself most prominently in Trump’s infamous travel ban, now officially in effect, barring visitors from eight countries (including six with mostly-Muslim populations). You didn’t need to be from those places to feel the cascading effects of “enhanced security and screening.”

In airports around the world, additional safety measures included banning laptops on flights and at-the-gate pat-downs. Recently, airlines started cracking down on smart luggage with battery packs. With Europe voting to end visa-free travel in March—and Trump responding with new rules for inbound tourists earlier this month—this is a narrative that’s still unfolding.

The Effects of Overtourism Were Felt Around the World

A word that should have been added to the dictionary this year? “Overtourism.” In destinations that ranged from Venice to Peru, local governments confronted the fact that tourism is an important economic engine, but too much of it becomes destructive. In Ibiza, the unthinkable happened: The municipality of San Jose banned DJs from 16 beach clubs and started regulating the number of hotels and Airbnb listings available at any given time, in a pivot away from the island’s up-all-night reputation.

In Dubrovnik, Croatia, legislation capped visitors to the medieval walled city at 4,000 per day, creating a bit of much-needed elbow room. And in Peru, long-rumored limits on daily entries to Machu Picchu finally took off in a play to protect the historic site from the effects of excessive foot traffic. All this is good news, and not just for destinations at risk of being ruined. It means that in these fragile places, tourism will develop with a closer eye on sustainability—and some overlooked places will get the turn in the spotlight they’ve always deserved.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Nikki Ekstein from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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Best Travel News Stories of 2017

Michael Probst  / Associated Press

Supporters wave a European flags attending a rally of the Pulse of Europe movement in Frankfurt, Germany, March 19, 2017. Pulse of Europe goes to the streets equipped with the symbols of Europe, flags and Ode to Joy. The protesters take a stand for Europe in public for everyone to see.
Michael Probst / Associated Press

Skift Take: Our favorites of the year were stories that you could find nowhere else. Each featured hours — or months — of phone calls or in-person interviews, and provided insights about an important development or trend. Each of these talented journalists, you could find nowhere else, either.

— Dennis Schaal

We recently published the Skift 25 Travel Moments That Mattered in 2017, looking at the stories that likely had the most industrywide and global impact. Today, though, we asked each Skift Editorial staff member to detail the favorite story he or she wrote over the last 12 months.

Whether it was Hospitality Editor Deanna Ting’s Complete Oral History of Boutique Hotels or Business Travel Editor Andrew Sheivachman’s Channel Shock: The Future of Travel Distribution, many of our 2017 stories took stock of an industry and forecast where it is headed. But each of the stories our reporters describe below also had a personal angle for them, and writing these original pieces of journalism made them proud.

They made all of us at Skift proud, too, because they epitomized our mantra to deliver original, insightful reporting that you can find nowhere else.

Skift reporters describe below the stories they felt most proud writing in 2017:

Brian Sumers, Aviation Business Reporter

The Backstory: Before May, when I wrote For the First Time, Allegiant Air Learns What It’s Like to Configure a New Airplane, U.S. discount airline Allegiant Air had never bought a new airplane, preferring to take cheaper used ones. And because the company is so focused on cost-control, it often left the cabins as they were — so some planes had a bright Orange Stripe favored by EasyJet, while one had an unusual tree pattern on its side walls.

But once Allegiant ordered new planes — it took 12 Airbus A320s — it could decide how it wanted them configured, and it would be included in the purchase price. But for Allegiant executives, the process wasn’t so easy. “They kind of walk you through the process and say, ‘Now its time to make these 14 decisions,”’ said Brian Davis, then Allegiant’s vice president for marketing. “That’s when we open the catalogue and say, ‘Oh, shit, there are many, many options.’”

For the First Time, Allegiant Air Learns What It’s Like to Configure a New Airplane

Skift Editorial staff members Brian Sumers, Deanna Ting, Hannah Sampson, Patrick Whyte, Sarah Enelow, Andrew Sheivachman, Daniel Peltier, and Sean O’Neill contributed to this report.

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