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.

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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.


  • 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

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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

Subscribe to the Skift Meetings Innovation Report

Social Quote of the Week

“CES is going to the Netherlands with CES Unveiled Amsterdam:

@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


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

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United Brings Back Hot Food on Some Routes — But Only in Economy Plus

United Airlines

A United Airlines business class meal. United is upping its game for premium customers on three coast-to-coast routes. United Airlines

Skift Take: United is making a sound business decision by rewarding its best customers. But in recent years, we’ve seen the chasm grow between the flying haves and have-nots. This will only further that trend.

— Brian Sumers

Months after Delta Air Lines and American Airlines said they would feed economy class customers on some lucrative coast-to-coast routes, United Airlines made a similar announcement, but with a twist. Unlike its competitors, United will only provide free food to passengers seated in its extra legroom economy class section called Economy Plus.

United said Wednesday it soon will give free hot and cold meals, depending on the time of day, to customers flying on three routes — Newark-Los Angeles, Newark-San Francisco, and Boston-San Francisco. Along with main course like roasted chicken with smoked barbecue sauce and butternut squash tortellini with sage cream sauce, they’ll also get free booze and a “pre-arrival refreshment.”

In some ways, United is treating customers better than Delta, which only serves cold food, like sandwiches and fruit plates, on those routes. But Delta also feeds everyone on the Boston and New York routes, including passengers on the cheapest fares, called Basic Economy. Delta also offers free food 12 cross-country routes, rather than three, so passengers on routes like Seattle to Fort Lauderdale and Boston to Los Angeles still get fed. Delta also gives free substantial snacks and free alcohol to its premium economy customers on most other routes.

American, meanwhile, only provides free meals on the New York-L.A. and New York-San Francisco routes, but like Delta, feeds everyone.

But in a message to employees, United said Wednesday that feeding all passengers makes no sense. Instead, the airline wants to reward elite frequent flyers called “premier members,” who sit in Economy Plus for free, as well as customers who pay extra for a seat with more legroom.

“Customers seated in Economy Plus tend to be some of our most loyal customers,” the airline told employees. “Many are Premier members and others paid extra to buy into this section. By offering a differentiated and improved dining service, we are adding more value to Economy Plus and ensuring that our investments continue to reward loyalty.”

United said it was also adding free meals on three routes, because they’re among the most important — and potentially profitable — in the airline’s system. Even routes like Washington, D.C. to L.A. and San Francisco don’t warrant the investment in special planes with extra amenities, the airline said.

Investments in Business Class

Also Wednesday, United said it would make improvements in business class on the three routes. Flights from New York to L.A. and San Francisco have long had flat-beds up front, but United now will also guarantee them from Boston to San Francisco. It’s a route JetBlue Airways also flies, with its Mint business class cabin, and United loyalists may have been tempted to try the competition.

United’s customers in domestic flatbed business class seats are already treated well, but they’ll now receive a Saks Fifth Avenue-branded duvet and pillow. They’ll also get a featured cocktail — a Moscow Mule with a candied ginger skewer and lime wedge — as well as new dessert choices, and pre-meal and pre-arrival hot towel service.

United said business class on these routes are usually filled by some of its “most valuable flyers,” who expect more than the typical first class product on flights that can be longer than six hours.

“These routes have a longer flying time than some international routes, so it makes sense that the experience should be similar to an international flight,” it said.

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Sharing Economy Tensions Lead to Torched Cars in Spain


Car2go, a car-sharing fleet in Madrid owned by Daimler AG, has suffered attacks on 70 of its cars over the last 18 months. Pictured is a Car2Go 4-door Mercedes Benz. Car2Go

Skift Take: These kinds of clashes will be almost inevitable until workers being displaced by new technologies get adequate retraining and employment opportunities to make a transition.

— Dennis Schaal

In a sign of the tensions stirred by Spain’s embrace of the so-called sharing economy, cars were set ablaze near Seville in May.

Nine drivers for the ride-hailing service Cabify had their vehicles torched at the start of May after pitching up in the Andalusian city to seek custom at its spring festival. Car2go, a car-sharing fleet in Madrid owned by Daimler AG, has suffered attacks on 70 of its cars over the last 18 months. And Spanish “taxistas” went on strike Tuesday in protest at competitors whom they say mimic their service without forking out for a cab license that in Madrid can cost as much as 130,000 euros ($145,496).

Spain with its still-high unemployment and reliance on mass tourism is proving fertile ground for companies such as Cabify, a home-grown rival to Uber Technologies Inc. The tensions being created by the new competitors in Spain are on display in other countries from the U.K. to France and Italy that have also seen protests.

“There’s no doubt it’s a source of tension,” said David Murillo, a lecturer on globalization and business ethics at ESADE business school in Barcelona. “Workers are concerned about their jobs becoming obsolete, national regulators get sidetracked and there are also tax loopholes.”

Temporarily Banned

Uber and Cabify, a service that counts Japan’s Rakuten Inc. and Telefonica SA’s pension fund among its backers, rely on clients using internet-based applications to hail a ride, budget a trip and pay. While Uber’s main and most popular service, UberPop, is temporarily banned by court order in Spain, it does have licensed-chauffeur services operating in the country, similar to those offered by Cabify.

“Current tensions are linked to the disproportionate increase of authorizations to chauffeur-driven vehicles,” Julio Sanz, president of CTAC, one of Spain’s largest taxi unions, said in an interview by phone. “They work as if they were a taxi even without a license to do so. That’s illegal, and for us it’s impossible to compete.”

Cab licenses can fetch high prices in the secondary market because some cities haven’t issued new ones for years, said Sanz. For instance, the last time the city of Madrid gave out the documents was in 1978. He says there are now more than 2,200 vehicles offering Uber and Cabify service in Madrid, compared with fewer than 600 in 2012. That number compares with about 15,700 licensed cabs now plying their trade in the Madrid metropolitan region.

Smashed Up

It’s not only ride-hailing services that have faced protests. Car2go, a car-sharing unit of Daimler AG that allows users to pick up cars and drop them off anywhere in Madrid, have been targeted for attack. In the worst incident in December 2015, 60 cars were smashed up.

“Tension is increasing in Spain because of the lack of legislative clarity when it comes to identifying services such as Uber or Cabify,” said Orazio Corva, manager in Madrid for the company, in a phone interview. “It’s time to change the law that regulates them.”

Spain’s public works ministry said it would keep working to ensure an “ordered equilibrium” between the taxi industry and services such as Cabify. In a statement on Tuesday’s taxi-drivers’ strike, Cabify said it wasn’t seeking to compete with them.

“The mission of the company since its foundation in Madrid in 2011 has been to substitute individual vehicles in cities to do away with urban traffic and contamination,” it said. “If this aim is achieved it would increase the demand for public services like ours and those of taxi drivers.”

Striking taxi drivers striking in Madrid didn’t buy that argument.

“We’re worried about our jobs,” said Ignacio Pico, who has been working as a taxi driver in the Valencia region for the past 13 years as he took part in a protest Tuesday outside the Spanish parliament in Madrid. “They’re cannibalizing our industry.”

–With assistance from Esteban Duarte

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

This article was written by Thomas Gualtieri, Rodrigo Orihuela and Maria Tadeo from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

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Google Expands Waze Carpooling Across California

Pictured is the Waze app. Waze expanded its carpooling services throughout California.

Skift Take: Waze carpooling isn’t going to upend Google’s business model but it can provide Google with valuable data for targeted advertising, and future ride-sharing and driverless car services.

— Dennis Schaal

Google is expanding its paid carpool service throughout California, building on an effort to get more traffic-weary drivers to share their rides to work — and to collect data that could be useful for future transportation services.

The Wednesday move by Google’s Waze unit, best known for its navigation and traffic monitoring app, extends the year-old carpooling service outside its initial markets of northern California and Israel. Waze will now be pairing up drivers and passengers across a wider expanse that includes heavily congested highways in Los Angeles and other parts of southern California.


Waze connects drivers and riders with similar commutes based on their home and work addresses. Riders request carpool rides in advance, but aren’t guaranteed matches. Drivers can only pick up one rider; they also get to review the profiles of potential riders in advance and to select the ones they prefer. Riders can only request two rides a day.

The service is primarily focused on rush-hour commutes, when the odds of successfully matching drivers and riders are highest. Waze said tens of thousands of drivers and passengers have registered for carpooling in northern California. It won’t begin booking carpooling requests outside northern California until June 6 to give interested drivers and riders a chance to sign up for the program.

Since signing up for Waze’s carpooling service in February, Lesley Watson says she gets paid $3.50 to $5.50 every time she gives someone a ride on her morning commute from her home in Oakland to her job at an advertising agency in San Francisco. Sometimes, she also picks up a passenger on her evening commute home, although she usually drives solo on her return trip.

“It has helped me offset my commute costs for gas, tolls and parking,” Watson, 28, says. It also has given her a chance to make new friends among the five or six people she regularly picks up through the Waze app.


Although the expansion could pose a threat to Uber and Lyft, most people who use ride-hailing services don’t rely on them to get to work, according to survey data. Instead, most people use Uber and Lyft for recreational or social reasons, particularly between 10 p.m. and 4 a.m. when public transit shuts down in many places.

That’s according to a survey of 4,500 people conducted last year by the Shared-Use Mobility Center, a group that focuses on public transit and ways to reduce the number of cars on the road. Only 21 percent of the respondents summoned a raid-hailing service to commute to work, and then did so sporadically, the study found.

Cost could easily be a factor. For instance, commuting to downtown San Francisco from the suburb of Lafayette via Uber could cost between $30 and $40 each way using the service’s own carpool option, according to Uber’s fare estimator . On Waze, that 22-mile (35-kilometer) ride would cost no more than $12.42.


Unlike ride-hailing services, Waze’s carpooling service isn’t designed to provide drivers with a major source of income. It tries to calculate a price that’s most likely to encourage two people to carpool instead of driving separately. At most, drivers are paid 54 cents per mile — the rate that Internal Revenue Service allows to account for gasoline, insurance and maintenance for a vehicle used on business.

“We want the ride to be affordable enough for riders so they use it frequently and we want drivers to be rewarded for taking a detour to fill an extra seat,” said Josh Fried, head of business development for the carpooling service.

The service also doesn’t make much money for Google, which derives most of its income from digital advertising. But the company will be amassing data on commuters and their travel habits. That could be useful to Google for a variety of purposes, including targeted advertising and planning potential future transport services, including any involving the self-driving cars one of its spinoffs, Waymo, is currently testing.


While carpooling has been around for decades, it’s never been particularly popular. “People don’t want to get tied to something that requires them to ride with the same people and be in a certain place at a certain time,” said Sharon Feigon, executive director for the Shared-Use Mobility Center.

Using technology to match drivers and passengers on days they want to participate in a carpool offers more flexibility that may get more people to try it out, and discover they like it, Feigon said.

But it’s not an easy business. Lyft ended its carpool service nine months ago, citing a shortage of drivers willing to meet the demand. It’s currently experimenting with another commute-hour option called Shuttle that makes designated stops on routes in two test markets — San Francisco and Chicago.

The expansion makes it more likely that Waze will offer carpooling in other urban regions, although Fried declined to comment on that possibility. So far, the only other market that Waze has confirmed is Brazil, where the carpooling service will begin operating later this year.

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

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Hilton’s New Design Brings the Gym to the Guest Room


Hilton’s new Five Feet to Fitness room design for full-service hotel brands brings the gym into the guest room. Hilton

Skift Take: This is especially ideal for guests who (1) don’t want their colleagues (or the general public) to see their sweaty selves in the hotel gym and (2) those rare souls who want to work out 24/7 as if no one is watching.

— Deanna Ting

Hilton has designed a new room category for its full-service brands that brings the fitness center into the guest room. Called Five Feet to Fitness, this new room type includes more than 11 pieces of fitness equipment and accessories that make it easier for travelers to work out privately in their own guest rooms.

Hilton isn’t the first hotel company to include fitness equipment in the guest room. Even Hotels from InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG), for example, has had this feature, gym equipment in guest rooms, as a brand standard across all rooms from its start in 2012.

However, the types of fitness equipment Hilton is placing in the room, and the way it’s being utilized in a standard room setting is unique, said Ryan Crabbe, senior director of global wellness for Hilton.

“This room is a really different offering,” Crabbe said. “Five Feet to Fitness is a purpose-built environment. It’s easy to deliver or just place a piece of fitness equipment or accessory into a room, but it’s harder to transform the room so that it actually becomes a credible space for that activity. We could have just thrown everything into a room and placed a cardio bike on a carpeted guest room floor. But we ripped out the carpet and put down performance flooring that you’d find in the world’s best fitness centers.”

Equipment in the room includes an indoor bike from Wattbike and a training station called Gym Rax that lets guests do strength, core, suspension, and high-intensity interval training-style exercises. Embedded into the Gym Rax apparatus is a digital Fitness Kiosk, a touchscreen display where guests can watch equipment tutorials and more than 200  workouts that include cardio, cycling, endurance, strength, high-intensity intervals, yoga, stretch, and recovery. There’s also a meditation chair and blackout shades provided in these rooms.

Amenities include Biofreeze to ease achy muscles, and protein and hydration drinks. Phase two of this room category will also include Atmos air filters to purify the air, while phase three may include a brand partnership related to a better sleep experience.

The ROI of In-Room Fitness

To book one of these new room types, Hilton generally adds $45 to its best available room rate, and that rate depends on floor level, view, and market. Currently, Five to Fitness rooms are available for booking at the Parc 55 San Francisco and Hilton McLean Tysons Corner. Hilton expects to soon add more of these rooms to hotels in Atlanta, Austin, Chicago, Las Vegas, New York, and San Diego.

Are hotel guests willing to pay a bit more for these rooms? And what about the costs for hotel owners?

Crabbe said that Hilton began testing an in-room fitness concept three years ago at its McLean property and that the “rooms went over exceptionally well.” What Hilton found, however, was that people “wanted more options;” just having yoga equipment or just cardio equipment was too limiting.

“They wanted everything to sit under one big roof and more opportunities to engage in different types of movement,” he said. “That was a big lesson for us.”

Crabbe noted that in doing customer research, Hilton also found that 28 percent of its guests across all segments, not just full-service hotels, said they were interested in pursuing in-room fitness. He said the company also took note of a recent Cornell University Center for Hospitality Research study which showed that 46 percent of guests intend to work out during their hotel stay, but only 22 percent actually wind up using the hotel fitness center.

“That gap, for us, confirmed there was a significant opportunity to enable fitness for our customers so they could stay well on the road,” said Crabbe. He also said the growing popularity of boutique and studio fitness classes, as well as digital fitness experiences, were further proof that a guest room like this could be successful.

For hotel and property owners, Crabbe said they usually see a return on investment for these rooms within a year, while also “driving incremental rate and revenue.” Owners must commit to converting at least three of their guest rooms to the new room category, although Hilton suggests they convert five. The room design is also meant for standard rooms, not larger suites or room categories.

The cost for an owner to build one of these Five Feet to Fitness guest rooms ranges from $9,000 for a Streamline Bay Gym Rax and $10,500 for a Full Bay Gym Rax to $12,000 for an Extended Bay Gym Rax. The difference among the different Gym Rax models relates to size and the ability to do suspension training, and have more pull-up grips.

Hilton hopes to have at least 100 of these rooms available for booking throughout the U.S. by year’s end, and Crabbe said the company is also looking at taking this concept and modifying it for other brands within the Hilton family, including its all-suite, select-service, and extended stay hotels.

The Future of In-Room, On-Demand Hotel Fitness

Wellness, which encompasses fitness, is a big business today, and that’s a fact not lost on Hilton or its peers. According to the Global Wellness Institute, the global wellness industry overall was worth $3.7 trillion in 2015, and wellness tourism accounted for $563 billion.

“The global wellness movement — people who are tuned into health and better living — is larger than it’s ever been,” said Crabbe. “The phenomenon, to me, totally transcends demographics and segments, and the fact that you’re seeing wellness activity across a number of brands and a number of segments is a really positive sign. The hospitality industry is actually catching up and leaning into a trend that has been with us for a long time, and we’re all sensing an opportunity for travelers to feel more looked after and have their wellness routines more enabled on the road.”

A king guest room at the EVEN Hotels Brooklyn features a variety of fitness equipment. Photo: InterContinental Hotels Group

In-room fitness equipment has been part of Even Hotels since the brand was being developed, and all of the its guest rooms have an in-room training zone that includes a foam roller, yoga mat, yoga block, core exercise ball, and the Even Hotels Trainer, a mounted fitness wall that includes resistance bands. Guests can also choose from 19 fitness videos and there’s an in-room training guide for the in-room equipment, and all videos/guides are also available for viewing on the Even Hotels YouTube channel.

Jason Moskal, vice president of lifestyle brands for IHG said, “The No. 1 insight we’ve learned from guests when we were developing Even Hotels was that they didn’t have access to equipment or classes that meet their needs when they travel. There’s nothing more disappointing when you head down to the fitness center with a limited amount of time and you find dated machines or lines to use the equipment. Guests really want flexibility and have responded positively to the fact that they now have the ability to choose whether they take a class, strength train, do cardio or yoga in their room or in the Athletic Studio. We provide the options they need to fit their lifestyle and schedule.”

He also noted, “Our female travelers have expressed how refreshing it is that they don’t have to visit a hotel gym to continue their fitness routine. They really enjoy the privacy of working out in their room.

Moskal said Even Hotels doesn’t have plans to install additional in-room fitness features at this time.

In April, Westin debuted its new partnership with boutique cycling company Peloton at 31 of its hotels throughout the U.S. At participating properties, guests book a WestinWORKOUT guest room that includes the Peloton Pro bike and do live and/or on-demand Peloton cycling classes from the privacy of their own rooms. The Peloton Pro bike is also available for use in some of the hotel’s fitness centers.

WestinWORKOUT guest rooms feature Peloton Pro bikes for guests to use in their own rooms. Photo: Westin Hotels & Resorts

Another hospitality company enabling on-demand fitness is luxury alternative accommodations platform onefinestay. On May 1, the company launched a partnership with fitness expert Tracy Anderson enabling onefinestay guests to access three of Anderson’s online video workouts from during their stays. The workouts are designed for at-home use.

“We’re honored to have had Tracy [Anderson] stay with us many times, and know that many of our guests are fans of her method,” said Jason McGrath, vice president, U.S., for onefinestay. “It’s a huge thrill to have her as the face of this new and exclusive fitness amenity for our guests; it’s a truly special layer to the onefinestay service and experience that our guests love.”


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JetBlue to Test Facial Recognition for Boarding Without Passports


A customer uses facial recognition software to board a KLM flight in Amsterdam. JetBlue soon will become the first U.S. airline with a similar program. KLM

Skift Take: Even as tests go, this is a tiny one. But it shows what’s possible with biometrics. Wouldn’t it be nice to be able to go through the airport without showing a boarding pass or passport?

— Brian Sumers

In a first for a U.S. airline, JetBlue Airways in June will allow passengers to board some international flights in Boston by submitting to a facial scan at the gate, rendering passports and boarding passes unnecessary.

It’s a small test, with JetBlue only planning to use the optional program on flights from Boston to Aruba. And it might not save passengers much time since they’ll still need to show identification and boarding passes elsewhere, including in the airport lobby, and at security screening. But if it goes well during the 45 to 90 day test, JetBlue said it might look to expand the program.

Airlines outside the United States, including Air New Zealand, British Airways and KLM, have implemented biometrics-based boarding at some gates, and Delta recently said it would test using facial scans to authenticate some passengers in the Minneapolis airport lobby, including for baggage drop-offs.

But no carrier in North America has tried using scans to facilitate boarding. JetBlue is calculating facial recognition will make boarding easier for passengers while freeing airline employees for tasks other than scanning boarding passes and checking documents. Eventually, JetBlue is hopeful it can use biometrics throughout the journey so travelers wouldn’t need to show their boarding passes or documents anywhere.

“You could in theory literally walk through the entire process without taking out your boarding pass,” said Joanna Geraghty, JetBlue’s executive vice president for customer experience. “This is obviously just one small test as part of the overall travel experience. But we think there is a real potential here, long term, to create what everyone wants, which is seamless and easy air travel.”

‘Like a Selfie’

Starting June 12, JetBlue will rely on passenger data supplied by U.S. Customs and Border Protection for the test. At boarding, travelers who participate will have their picture taken, and the camera will transmit images to authorities. “It’s like a selfie,” Geraghty said.

Both U.S. citizens and non-citizens may participate, and the system will take five to seven seconds to process, said Sean Farrell, head of Portfolio management at SITA, the technology company that is helping organize the test. Then, it will return an answer — board, or do not board.

“It certainly will be as fast or even faster than the other methods available to board,” Farrell said.

Since customers won’t have boarding passes to display, Geraghty said some may forget where they’re sitting, so JetBlue will have tablet-holding agents at the gate. Rather than repeatedly scanning boarding passes, they’ll remind passengers where to go, and answer other questions about travel.

“We think the opportunity is freeing our crew members to do meaningful activities,” Geraghty said.

Biometrics a priority for U.S. Customs

While the test is the first of its kind for U.S. airlines, it’s not for U.S. Customs, which has for several years been trying strategies to track visitors using biometrics.

Last summer, it worked with Delta Air Lines to monitor customers on one daily flight from Atlanta to Tokyo. At the time, the government said it wanted to determine whether it could successfully compare an image of a customer taken at departure to a previous image of the same traveler.

This is part of a priority for customs to develop biometrics strategies so it can track visitors and know definitively when they leave the country. More than a decade ago, the 9/11 commission recommended the United States use biometrics to learn when visitors departed. 

The government is finally taking more interest in tracking exits, Neville Pattinson, senior vice president of government sales for Gemalto, a company that creates biometrics solutions, said in a recent interview. And as the government invests in the technology required, he said, airlines may decide they want to use biometrics as well.

“This is the tipping point,’” he said. “[Airlines will say] ‘OK, if the government is requiring it, how can we take advantage of it.’”

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Don’t Look for Trivago to Jump on the Metasearch Buying Spree


Trivago CFO Axel Hefer thinks huge acquisitions would be too much of a distraction for the company at this juncture. Trivago

Skift Take: Trivago is hotel-only and is focused on growing its own brand without the headaches of trying to figure out what to do with an additional brand. Trivago isn’t talking about it, but would gladly leave it to Kayak to try to determine what to do with multiple brands such as Momondo and Cheapflights.

— Dennis Schaal

Trivago is very content with its own brand and despite having $240 million in cash on hand, the hotel-search site isn’t planning on making big acquisitions anytime soon.

That’s the word from Trivago Chief Financial Officer Axel Hefer, who told Skift that the company’s leadership discussed merger and acquisition strategy after Ctrip acquired Skyscanner last year and earlier this year after the Priceline Group entered into an agreement to buy the Momondo Group.

“So from our perspective one of the key reasons for our success is that we are extremely focused,” Hefer said, adding that a large acquisition might dilute the company’s focus. There are other drawbacks as well, he said.

What would you get?

“What would you really get?” he asked rhetorically during an interview at Skift’s offices in New York City last week. “We would get or we would buy a competitor: We would get a brand that we don’t want because we [already] have a brand and we like the brand. You would get a technology that is different and probably not as good and focused as ours has been, and the third one is we would get a second location which we don’t really like.”

Trivago has developers in Amsterdam, the Netherlands; Leipzig, Germany, and Palma de Mallorca, Spain. By “second location,” he was talking about the disadvantages of adding a tech team in some far-flung geography.

“To have a really entrepreneurial environment where you do a lot of tests and then take risks and optimize very quickly, for that, communication, of course, is very crucial,” Hefer said. “So that you have an overview of who’s actually doing what and how to move fast. So as a consequence, it’s very hard to imagine that there is an acquisition that could make sense and could justify such a distraction to then move from our very clear and focused model into a more complex model, and then integrate it or not integrate it.”

Hefer didn’t mention it, but Trivago need look only as far as Expedia to appreciate the complications that come with acquisitions. Expedia stumbled in 2016 when it directed a ton of resources into integrating its 2015 acquisition of Orbitz Worldwide.

Trivago went public last year and although Expedia still controls Trivago, the hotel-metasearch company still operates fairly independently from its parent.

Trivago Has Made Technology Acquisitions

Hefer said Trivago isn’t against doing acquisitions when they would speed things up on the technology front. In fact, in 2015 Trivago acquired a 52.3 percent stake in property management system Base7booking for about $2.3 million.

“So we’ve acquired the technology that we would love to develop ourselves but by acquiring it we can just accelerate our organic growth rather than decelerate because we get distracted,” Hefer said. “So that is very much our thinking there. If we can find technology that is on our roadmap anyway and we can get it much cheaper but faster — I think faster is the key motivation — then we would consider that.”

So that’s the strategy for now: Trivago will do smallish, tack-on technology acquisitions, but don’t look for huge buys of metasearch competitors to spur growth because they would be too complicated.

Besides, with a 68 percent revenue jump in the first quarter of 2017, Trivago’s top line — responding to its bevy of TV advertising — is expanding at a very nice clip anyway.

Note: Check Skift later this week for an in-depth interview with Hefer on the company’s TV strategy, quest to personalize hotel shopping, and road to profitability.

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Skift New Luxury Newsletter: Vacation Rentals for the One Percent

Oasis Collections

A home in Santiago, Chile that is available through luxury home-rental site Oasis Collections. Oasis Collections

Skift Take: Luxury travelers like vacation rentals, too. They just want to make sure they’re well taken care of along the way.

— Jason Clampet

The Skift New Luxury newsletter is our weekly newsletter focused on the business of selling luxury travel, the people and companies creating and selling experiences, emerging trends, and the changing consumer habits around the sector.

We’ll keep in mind the needs of the specialist travel agents who sell these products as well as the sophisticated consumers who shop for them.

Today we look at four different areas where consumers are welcome to change.

In Miami we talk to the new East hotel about its Hong Kong origins and how it is approaching the U.S. market. Not everyone wants to stay in hotels all the time, so we also talk to both Inspirato and Oasis Collection about what consumers really want from vacation rentals.

On the passenger experience front, American Airlines has a new product for its most valuable passengers: decent airport food. And we also tell you something you may already know: Men spend a lot on luxury goods, too (actually, even more). — Jason Clampet, Editor-in-Chief

4 Luxury Looks

Men spend more on luxury goods than women do, says a new study.

Men Are Spending More in the Luxury Sector Than Women, Research Shows

Women are commonly considered the decision makers in the travel industry, however, a recent report from the Shullman Research Center (link opens PDF) shows that men spent more, more frequently, and for other people more often than women.

Based on reported purchases of 1,690 participants across the United States, an estimated 67 million adults bought one or more luxury item last year. The majority, 58 percent or 39 million, are men while 42 percent or 28 million, are women. The median number of luxury purchases was about the same – 2.9 for men and 2.8 for women – suggesting that men spend more than women per purchase.

What Wealthy Travelers Look for in Their Vacation Rentals

Whether the wealthy are looking for multi-million dollar beachfront villas or penthouses soaring into the Manhattan skyline, the options for finding such ritzy accommodations are increasing in number.

But it’s not just home sweet home that the luxury market is seeking, according to Jeff Hartman, senior vice president of marketing and communications for Inspirato. The wealthy want their rental homes to come with “seamless service, certainty, and a guarantee of excellence.”

Interview: Swire Group Brings Its Brand of Luxury to the U.S.

Swire isn’t a household name for most of the world. But for those in the know, they own Cathay Pacific, and also some of the most remarkable hotel properties around.

It’s no secret I am a huge fan of their flagship property, Upper House, in Hong Kong, and also Opposite House in Beijing and Temple House in Chengdu. The brand is also known for a series of high-end real estate developments around Hong Kong, notably Pacific Place near Star Street.

American’s Flagship Dining experience started running at JFK in late May.

American Airlines Launches Flagship Airport Dining for Top-Tier Fliers

Flying on American Airlines for the 1% just got a little bit nicer.

Last week, American Airlines launched a new airport dining experience at New York JFK for its international first class customers. The so-called “Flagship Dining experience is built as a free, in-airport, sit down dining service for premium travelers to supplement the onboard experience. Attached to the airline’s Flagship lounges, which are effectively supercharged Admiral’s Clubs, it effectively delivers free restaurant service to passengers who can avoid the headache of the crowded terminal — or in some cases, the often-middling airplane food.

Sign up for Skift’s New Luxury Newsletter

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