Airports Installing Quiet Rooms for Autistic Children

Diarmuid Greene  / True Media/Shannon Airport via Associated Press

This March 29, 2017 photo shows Ryan Cunningham in the Sensory Room at Shannon Airport in Shannon, Ireland. Shannon is one of several airports offering quiet rooms for travelers on the autism spectrum. Diarmuid Greene / True Media/Shannon Airport via Associated Press

Skift Take: Kudos to airports that are providing services for an often-forgotten segment of the population, autistic kids.

— Dennis Schaal

Quiet rooms for children on the autism spectrum are popping up at airports.

Shannon Airport, which serves the southwestern region of Ireland, opened a “sensory room” for children and adults with neurodevelopmental challenges, including autism, on March 29. The room is located off the airport’s departure lounge. It’s designed to be a soothing place, with features like a wavy wall and color-changing lights. The official opening of the room came ahead of World Autism Day on April 2.

On this side of the Atlantic, there are quiet rooms at airports in Myrtle Beach, South Carolina, and in Atlanta.

Delta opened a multisensory room at Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport in April 2016 in partnership with The Arc, an autism advocacy group. The room, located in a quiet space on F Concourse, contains a mini-ball pit, bubbling water sculpture, a tactile activity panel and other calming features.

The quiet room at the Myrtle Beach airport also opened in April 2016. It came about after a local mom, Becky Large, approached airport administrators about providing “some sort of support for families.”

“We came up with a quiet room at baggage claim, which has worked out wonderfully,” said Large, who runs a group called Champion Autism Network and has two children, one of whom has Asperger’s. A caregiver can stay with a child in the room while someone else “retrieves bags and rental cars. There are cubbies and seating and a glass door so the child can be cordoned off and can’t run away. It gives them a place to decompress.”

London Heathrow opened a quiet room in 2013 as part of a family lounge in Terminal 3. Though it’s mainly for children, it’s not necessarily for those with autism. It’s open to any family that would like to use it.

Some airports and airlines also offer families with travelers on the spectrum opportunities to become familiar with airport experiences that may be stressful. Harrisburg International Airport in Pennsylvania, for example, offers a “Wings for All” program that allows children with autism and sensory processing disorder to experience a run-through of what it’s like getting on a plane, getting ticketed and getting seated so that they’ll know what to expect when it’s time for a real trip.

A similar program took place at Myrtle Beach earlier this year, and Shannon launched a customer care program last year, providing special caps and wristbands for travelers with autism and other special needs so staff can identify them and interact appropriately.

“Going through security even for those without autism can be challenging,” said Michael Schiferl of Chicago, whose daughter is on the spectrum, but it’s even more challenging for kids who are easily overwhelmed by beeping machines, taking off shoes and crowds. He said TSA workers have been “very helpful” when told of his daughter’s special needs.

Large also had her hometown, Surfside Beach, which is near Myrtle Beach, declared an “autism-friendly destination” last year, after restaurants, hotels, parks and other venues participated in training on how to interact with children with autism. For example, she said, they may “become overstimulated by light, sounds, smells, crowds,” so a restaurant might seat their family in a “low-traffic area away from the kitchen.”

Large said a bigger goal is to increase understanding at all levels for special-needs children who may exhibit unusual or awkward behavior.

“Many times when we leave the house with our kids, people look at you like you’re a horrible parent,” she said. “It results in a lot of judgment. Many people stay home. Our mission is to have them come out and play with us.”

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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The Digital Battle to Improve Traveler Experience — Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report

Jana Asenbrennerova  / Reuters

Corporate travel management companies are developing new solutions to solve problems for travelers. Passengers wait for their delayed flights after an Asiana Airlines Boeing 777 crashed and burst into flames as it landed at San Francisco International Airport in San Francisco, California July 6, 2013. Jana Asenbrennerova / Reuters

Skift Take: Big corporate travel players are finding solutions to improve the experience for their travelers. American Express Global Business Travel’s acquisition of booking tech company KDS last year shows one way forward.

— Andrew Sheivachman

The Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report is our weekly newsletter focused on the future of corporate travel, the big fault lines of disruption for travel managers and buyers, the innovations emerging from the sector, and the changing business traveler habits that are upending how corporate travel is packaged, bought, and sold.


The Future of Corporate + Business Travel

As we’re wrapping up our month-plus Corporate Travel Disruptors Series here at Skift, one of the most prevalent themes among corporate travel’s biggest companies is the daily challenge presented by both technology and world events.

Doug Anderson, CEO of American Express Global Business Travel, told us this week that shifts in technology aren’t the only challenges facing the corporate travel industry.

“The disruptors are called disruptors because they create challenges, they create the need to change and innovate,” said Anderson. “I think we’re in a good position in that regard. Some of the things that are current events today create challenges; hopefully they’ll be short term, like the travel ban that is now working its way for the second time to the court system… There are always technical challenges; technology doesn’t always work perfectly. But we strive and drive to make sure that our technology is reliable and that our systems and our applications are up and running all the time, every time. Those are challenges.”

In a world where perfection is almost impossible to achieve, corporate travel giants are partnering with technology providers and startups that provide new ways to solve old problems. Check out our Q&A with Anderson to find out more.

— Andrew Sheivachman, Skift

Social Quote of the Day

United: Cops will drag you off.

American: Same

Delta: Same

Spirit: You have to drag yourself off, but we will punch you in the face.— @Lollardfish

Business of Buying

CEO Interview: How American Express GBT Tackles Innovation: American Express Global Business Travel is investing in technology to give travelers better digital tools and a more streamlined booking experience. Read more at Skift

Virgin America’s Elevate Loyalty Program Will Fold on January 1, 2018: Virgin America’s Elevate members now have an official timeline for when their loyalty program is going to fold. Read more at Skift

Delta Execs Downplay Importance of Basic Economy: Delta says it is using basic economy fares to help better differentiate its products. The jury is still out on whether it will help them compete on routes where they face low-cost competitors. Read more at Skift

How the Meetings Industry Is Attempting to Redefine Its Value Proposition: The Joint Meetings Industry Council’s “Iceberg” project is ambitious in terms of defining the value of the meetings industry more holistically, but there are a lot of challenges to provide the in-depth case studies required to quantify that successfully. Read more at Skift

EU Finds Most Travel Websites in Europe Mislead on Pricing Information: It is not a shock that some websites in Europe — and elsewhere — mislead consumers on pricing as initial search results don’t match final price. But the extent of the problem as cited by the European Commission, without naming names, is appalling. Read more at Skift

British Airways Announces a $495 Million Investment in Premium Experience: British Airways has finally come around and started investing in its business class cabin. But it may be too late to catch up with Delta, United, and the Middle East carriers. Read more at Skift

Disruption + Innovation

Hyatt to Offer In-Room Streaming Entertainment Worldwide: Our guess is, pretty soon, this will be as standard as those in-room iHome docking stations for your iPods, only a whole lot more useful. Read more at Skift

Microsoft Bets on Artificial Intelligence to Help It Succeed Again in Travel: Microsoft thinks that voice-powered internet gives it a shot — via voice assistant Cortana — at upending today’s travel search funnel, which is dominated by Google’s search results. The theory’s plausible, but Microsoft needs to move faster to win. Read more at Skift

Airlines and Airports Look to Biometrics to Improve the Passenger Experience: Consumers are more comfortable with biometrics than ever, and we can probably thank Apple for that. Now airlines are starting to ask whether they might use facial recognition, fingerprints or iris scans to make the passenger experience better. Here’s hoping they succeed. Read more at Skift

Good Airline News Today? You Still Won’t Be Able to Make Calls on Flights: While we were never really excited about the move to make calls on planes, the other lesson from this is that Americans really don’t trust their fellow Americans to have any manners whatsoever. Read more at Skift


Skift editors Hannah Sampson [] and Andrew Sheivachman [] curate the Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report. Skift emails the newsletter every Thursday.

Subscribe to Skift’s Free Corporate Travel Innovation Report

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Trump Hotels’ New Scion Brand Won’t Arrive in Dallas Anytime Soon

Trump Hotels/Scion Hotels

A rendering of a hotel lobby, as depicted on the Scion Hotels’ website. Trump Hotels was in talks to bring the Scion brand to Dallas but plans have fallen through. Trump Hotels/Scion Hotels

Skift Take: … And so the political blowback begins.

— Deanna Ting

Plans have been shelved for a proposed Dallas hotel carrying the Trump Organization’s Scion brand, according to a city council member who met with the developer of the proposed $50-million project on Tuesday.

Dallas councilman Philip Kingston said he was informed by Mike Sarimsakci, founder of Alterra International, that he plans to team with a different hotel operator for the downtown site. Kingston said he met with Sarimsakci and others yesterday at Dallas City Hall at Sarimsakci’s request. The decision came after Kingston and another council member criticized the developer’s plans to go into business with President Donald Trump’s company, Kingston said.

“Mike is trying to proceed with the project but the Trump Organization is no longer the operator he is seeking to do a deal with,” Kingston said.

Neither Sarimsakci nor representatives of the Trump Organization immediately responded to calls and emails for comment after regular business hours. The news was reported earlier Wednesday by the Dallas News website.

Sarimsakci said in February that the Scion project would be funded by individual investors in countries including the U.S., Turkey, Qatar and Kazakhstan. The 220-room hotel was set to open in the first quarter of 2019. Trump’s family company, now run by his two oldest sons, would have licensed the Scion brand and managed the hotel, and didn’t plan to invest any equity capital, Sarimsakci said at the time. He said he had signed a letter of intent with the Trump Organization.

‘Bad Brand’

Kingston said he is a Democrat who voted for Hillary Clinton in the November election. He said Trump’s anti-Mexican and anti-Muslim campaign rhetoric, along with his actions and conflicts of interest as president, influenced his objections to the Scion project.

“The president is a bad brand and we have to protect the Dallas brand,” Kingston said. “We’re trying to sell ourselves internationally as a city that’s welcome and open for business travelers, new residents, innovators, young professionals and the president is an extremely bad brand,” Kingston said. “He’s a hateful and ignorant man who says things that are hurtful to the people I care about.”

Kingston, a practicing lawyer, said Trump’s “disregard for the rule of law and for the decisions of the judiciary is specifically hurtful to me and my profession.”

The new hotel Sarimsakci plans to develop is “still likely to have foreign money backing it,” Kingston said, citing his conversation with the developer.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P. This article was written by Hui-yong Yu from Bloomberg and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to

Skift Editor’s Note: Read Skift’s interview here with Trump Hotels’ CEO Eric Danziger. It includes a discussion about whether the Trump name could potentially impact the hotel business’ growth.

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Airlines Tie CEO Pay to Customer Satisfaction

Southwest Airlines

Airline CEOs Gary Kelly of Southwest (shown above), Oscar Munoz of United and Ed Bastian of Delta have part of their compensation linked to how customers view their airlines. Pictured is Kelly at a Metro Atlanta Chamber Insights on Leadership Luncheon August 22, 2011. Southwest Airlines

Skift Take: Well, this is something that airlines do right: Linking their CEO pay to customer satisfaction. Perhaps the linkage should be even greater although perhaps Southwest has a bit more respect for its customers than some of the others.

— Dennis Schaal

Angry United Airlines customers can now vent their fury at a juicy target: the chief executive’s pocketbook.

United ties about $500,000 of CEO Oscar Munoz’s annual bonus to customer satisfaction questionnaires. The manhandling of a doctor dragged off an overbooked flight in Chicago– and Munoz’s response, widely viewed as ham-handed — doesn’t figure to help his cause.

Each day, United collects about 8,000 customer surveys on items such as legroom and the quality of in-flight coffee. Fliers were already pretty disgruntled. In 2016, researcher J.D. Power rated United dead last of traditional North American carriers. Early returns are now even less promising.

“United Airlines just sent me a customer survey about my flight yesterday,” Meredith Tucker deadpanned on Twitter after the overbooking episode. “Looking forward to sharing my thoughts.”

Of course, Munoz won’t be begging on street corners if he’s docked the half a million. The CEO has 2016 target compensation of about $14.3 million, according to his employment agreement. The actual amount for last year is expected to be disclosed by month’s end.

In a filing, the company’s board said executive pay is “designed to further our objective of aligning the interests of our employees with those of our stockholders and customers.” United declined to comment.

Hashtag: Awkward

Southwest Airlines Co. also ties part of CEO Gary Kelly’s bonus to a measure of customer loyalty. Delta Air Lines Inc. links a part of CEO Ed Bastian’s annual long-term stock award to customer service.

At the airline officially known as United Continental Holdings Inc., the board mentions “customer satisfaction” in the pay filing no less than 20 times. The company didn’t specify exactly how that’s calculated, though the bonus is tied to improvement of the survey results.

Presumably, dragging customers out of their seats won’t help. A Twitter wag named Joe Householder wrote, under the hashtag, #awkward: “Based on experience, the guy on the #united flight is getting his, ‘tell us about your trip,” email survey about now.”

Another Twitter commentator said he actually received one, which asked, “According to you, why do we consider ourselves the best airline to fly with?”

His answer: “beats me.”

–With assistance from Michael Sasso

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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

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Skift Podcast: What Hotels Are Doing to Win Your Loyalty

prayitnophotography  / Flickr

The Hyatt Regency Orange County is shown in this photo. prayitnophotography / Flickr

Skift Take: Tune in to hear how hotel loyalty programs are changing — and what that means for the traveling public.

— Hannah Sampson

skift-podcast-logoThis is the year that travelers might have to start questioning their hotel loyalties, if only because hotel loyalty programs are changing so much.

Marriott is merging its program with Starwood’s SPG. Hyatt’s new program just launched. And Hilton recently announced a slate of new features.

And all of these changes are taking place as online travel agencies continue to lure many travelers driven by price rather than points, and up-and-coming accommodations providers like Airbnb win fans without even offering a loyalty program.

On today’s episode of the Skift podcast, we’re talking hotel loyalty: who’s doing it right, who’s still trying, and how it is continuing to evolve.

Our guest is Gary Leff, founder of the View from the Wing blog and an expert on points programs. He joins podcast host Hannah Sampson and Skift hospitality editor Deanna Ting.

We’ll also hear from some interviews that Ting did at the Americas Lodging Investment Summit in L.A. with Scott Berman, U.S. hospitality and leisure practice leader at PwC; Best Western Hotels & Resorts president and CEO David Kong; and Langham Hospitality Group CEO Robert Warman.


Start listening to The Skift Podcast, today. Subscribe via iTunesSoundcloud or RSS.

Listen to all the Skift podcasts here.

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Everything AccorHotels Has Acquired and Invested in Over the Past Year


AccorHotels’ $2.7 billion purchase of Fairmont Raffles Hotels International was the biggest of many investments and acquisitions the company made within the last year. AccorHotels

Skift Take: AccorHotels is buying up and/or investing in a lot of other companies in its pursuit to become an entirely new breed of hotel company.

— Deanna Ting

If it feels to you as though AccorHotels has made a new deal every few weeks or days for the past year, you wouldn’t be far off the mark.

Indeed, the Paris-based hospitality company has completed a number of investments over the past year, snapping up other hotel brands or entering into partnerships with them, getting into alternative accommodations, and acquiring adjacent businesses that can supplement its core hospitality business.

It’s only April now, and already the company has announced five deals and partnerships for 2017. In 2016, the company had approximately eight of those transactions, the largest of them being its $2.7 billion purchase of the Fairmont, Raffles, and Swissotel brands.

What follows is a closer look at each of AccorHotels’ most recent acquisitions and/or investments, including some insight into why and how each one plays a part in the company’s plans to be a new kind of hotel company.

Joining the Alternative Accommodations Revolution

Unlike its peers, AccorHotels hasn’t been shy about actively investing in or even buying alternative accommodations providers. While the rest of the hotel industry is content to say that sharing economy businesses like Airbnb and the like aren’t much of a threat, or that they cater to a different clientele, AccorHotels CEO Sebastien Bazin thinks that kind of thinking isn’t just bad but “irresponsible.”

“It would be absolutely foolish and irresponsible to fight against any new concept, offer, or services like this, let alone fighting against the sharing economy,” Bazin told Skift shortly after the company announced its $168-million purchase of onefinestay. “This is where the world is leading us. All of those new services are very powerful and very well implemented and executed. You need to embrace it.”

In addition to buying onefinestay last year, Accor also made a 49-percent investment in Squarebreak, a French-based high-end vacation rental platform that specializes in Europe, and 30-percent investment in Oasis, a Miami-based platform for “home meets hotel” lodging.

Earlier this year, Accor also announced its intent to buy Atlanta-based Travel Keys, a private vacation rental broker with more than 5,000 villas worldwide. Accor has said it expects to close this deal by the second quarter of 2017.

With each of these investments, it’s clear that AccorHotels is positioning itself for a long-term advantage over its peers, and even Airbnb itself, especially now that Airbnb also owns its own private, luxury vacation rental platform too. When combined, each of AccorHotels’ investments fill out a comprehensive portfolio of alternative accommodations, from upper upscale (Oasis and Squarebreak) to luxury (onefinestay and Travel Keys).

Source: AccorHotels financial filings

Expanding Its Luxury Portfolio

Another area in which it’s clear AccorHotels wants to grow its portfolio is its collection of luxury hospitality brands, a sector where Bazin has admitted AccorHotels has previously lacked strength and expertise. Now, however, with AccorHotels’ multi-billion-dollar purchase of the Fairmont Raffles Hotels International (FRHI) in 2016, as well as its strategic partnership and 5-percent investment in Banyan Tree, the company is proving it’s a formidable player in the luxury space.

Last year, the company carved out its own luxury division, AccorHotels Luxury Brands collection, to be led by veteran luxury hotelier Chris Cahill who previously served as COO of FRHI until 2012. This division includes the Fairmont, Raffles, Swissotel brands, as well as the Sofitel, Pullman, and MGallery brands, among others.

And while AccorHotels’ partnership with Banyan Tree could prove challenging, the company is already seeing success since its acquisition of FRHI last summer. During AccorHotels’ full year 2016 earnings presentation, Bazin said, “Within barely seven months we have signed 20 new contracts at Fairmont, Raffles — more than they had signed over the last two years in fact.”

Forming Very Strategic Hotel Partnerships

In addition to AccorHotels’ partnership with Banyan Tree, the company has also made a number of focused investments in other hotel companies — Huazhu, 25hours Hotels, and Rixos Hotels — in an effort to grow the company’s presence in these global regions (China, Germany/Europe, and Turkey).

The first of these was with China-based Huazhu, which is listed on Nasdaq as China Lodging. In January 2016, Accor struck a deal with Huazhu to work with the company to grow its portfolio in China and in doing so, it signed contracts for 70 hotels in 2016 alone in China, three times more than the company did in 2014, and with another 150 in Accor’s pipeline. As part of Accor’s partnership with Huazhu, Accor also took a 10-percent stake for $193 million in the share capital of Huazhu, and Bazin joined Huazhu’s board of directors. That investment, Bazin said, has more than doubled to be worth $390 million as of February of this year.

“That’s because this market cap has increased from €1.9 billion to €3.9 billion on the NASDAQ, the market cap,” he said. “And the last year in China, we probably made much more than we made in China over the last 35 years. That was exactly what we told you we would do a year and a half ago when we talked with you about this partnership in China.”

In November 2016, AccorHotels announced it had made a 30-percent investment in Hamburg-based boutique/lifestyle chain, 25hours Hotels, in an effort to help that brand grow globally. 25hours Hotels CEO Christoph Hoffmann told Skift that AccorHotels wants to help his brand grow in markets that include Asia and the U.S. and to increase the brand’s distribution channels.

In March 2017, the company also announced a long-term joint venture with Antalya, Turkey-based Rixos Hotels, which operates 20hotels primarily in Turkey and the Middle East. Under this partnership, AccorHotels will eventually own a 50-percent stake in the joint venture management company and will integrate 15 Rixos properties into its network. The remaining five city center hotels will be reflagged to AccorHotels brands and will be managed by Accor.

Adding Complementary Services

AccorHotels’ ambitions of being a new breed of hospitality company are also reflected in its investments into complementary service providers like concierge service John Paul, and soon enough, events specialist Potel & Chabot.

During the company’s most recent investor presentation, Bazin said the addition of John Paul, in particular, would play a major role in how people interact with AccorHotels as part of its efforts to provide services for locals who live and work near the company’s hotels. Accor bought an 80-percent stake into John Paul in November 2016.

“What can I offer them by way of service?,” Bazin asked the audience. “Food and beverage? Dry cleaning? Key service? Leave their luggage? Recover a rental car? Drop it off? When you enter that universe, you say, ‘My God, I have everything that the digital world wants.’ I have John Paul [concierge services] where I can interact with them. [We’re] changing, radically, your mindset, and entering revenue that can grow 20 to 30 percent a year.”

In March, AccorHotels announced it would partner with Edmond de Rothschild Investment Partners to buy French events company Potel & Chabot, which operates major sporting events like the French Open tennis tournament and the 24 Hours of Le Mans endurance race. If Accor is successful in the deal, it will own 40 percent of the company, its partner will own 51 percent, and the remaining 9 percent will be retained by current majority stakeholder 21 Centrale Partners.

AccorHotels has said that an investment in Potel & Chabot would help the company develop new food and beverage offerings for MICE (Meetings, Incentives, Conferences and Events) guests, as well as locals through a concierge service. Investing in the company would also open up opportunities for Accor to offer exclusive experiences at these events for its loyalty members.

Driving Bookings

Following AccorHotels 2015 acquisition of Fastbooking, which allowed the company to open up its booking platform to independent hotels who are not otherwise affiliated with AccorHotels, the company has also made a number of recent investments into driving even more hotel bookings, both for its own properties and those independents whom it works with via Fastbooking.

Both of these very recent investments include the April 3 acquisition of VeryChic, a website platform that specializes in flash sales for hotel rooms, and the April 5 purchase of digital specialist Availpro for an undisclosed amount.

All three of these investments (Fastbooking, VeryChic, and Availpro) demonstrate Accor’s commitment to being a trusted third-party provider of services for independent hotels, and not just the hotels it directly operates or manages.

Graphic Design: Ping Chan

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The State of Global Tourism Competition in 6 Charts

computix  / Flickr

Destinations have made progress on sustainability and visas but more work lies ahead. Pictured are tourists on a river cruise on the Seine in Paris. computix / Flickr

Skift Take: Travel brands have an economic incentive to push policy makers and private sectors in their destinations on sustainability and leaner visa policies because tourists will reward them with higher spending and likely repeat visits.

— Dan Peltier

While many travel industry brands have introduced more eco-friendly practices and made it easier for travelers to enter a destination, tourists around the world are increasingly concerned with their carbon footprints and destinations’ level of openness as the U.S. travel ban weighs on minds of global travelers.

Tourists spend more in destinations when they perceive them to have sustainable or environmental-friendly practices in place, according to the World Economic Forum’s 2017 Travel & Tourism Competitiveness Report.

“Although this relationship is complex, and there is no evidence of direct causality, the more pristine the natural environment of a country, the more tourists are inclined to travel there, and the more they are willing to pay to access well-preserved areas,” the report states. “Consequently, as the natural capital depletes, destinations lose revenue.”

But according to the Executive Opinion Survey which is based on a survey of about 100 business executives in each of the 136 countries analyzed for the report, many business executives and travelers perceived the travel industry as less environmentally friendly in 2016 than they did in 2006.

Some 17 of the top 20 countries ranked for environmental sustainability are in Europe including Switzerland, Norway, and Iceland. “Globally, there is little sign of
improving travel and tourism development standards,” the report states. “In
particular, the footprint of the sector has been reduced in the majority of countries of Northern and Western Europe while it has increased in most developing nations, especially in Asia.”

Visa Requirements

Visa requirements also weigh heavily on travelers’ decisions to visit destinations. In 2015, tourist destinations worldwide required 61 percent of the world’s population to obtain a visa prior to departure — an improvement from 2008 when 77 percent of the world’s population needed a visa to visit a given destionation.

Speaking at Skift Forum Europe in London last week, Gerald Lawless, head of tourism and hospitality for Dubai Holding and chairman of the World Travel & Tourism Council, said a global trusted travel program is something the travel industry should pursue. “You could go through the fast lane in these blocks of countries that participate, why shouldn’t we try to combine this? said Lawless. “India just introduced visa on arrival and Duba just gave visa-free travel to China.”

Electronic visa systems have proven effective and should be widely implemented, Lawless said. “15 years ago we persuaded visa authorities in Dubai to give visa waivers to 32 countries that weren’t threats,” he said. “But we asked them not to ask for reciprocity from the other countries and it’s taken 10 to 15 years for reciprocal visa policies from the Schengen block to the UAE.”

U.S. and Canada, for example, don’t want to recognize some European countries for their visa waiver programs. “Therefore the EU by its own laws needs to take reciprocal action,” said Lawless. “We ask politicians to be sensible and it takes effort and will on both sides. Don’t do things just for political reasons.”

Below are six charts that display how 136 countries compare to business executives’ and travelers’ perceptions of hotel infrastructure, airport infrastructure, destinations’ degrees of openness and how the travel industry is working to combat negative side effects of tourism.

Interestingly, the U.S. and European countries scored high rankings for tourism infrastructure and aviation infrastructure but scored lower for perceptions of openness as waves of populism have swept across both regions in the past year.

Destinations such as France and Belgium also ranked lower than Latin American, Asian or African destinations in some cases such as safety and security following terrorist attacks in both countries in the past year.

Chart 1: Western Europe is perceived to have high-quality tourism infrastructure including hotels, car rental availability and solid financial institutions that tourists rely on.

Quality of Tourism Infrastructure (hotels, car Rentals, ATMs, etc.)

Rank Country Score (1 to 7, 7= highest)
1 Austria 6.67
2 Spain 6.66
3 U.S. 6.59
4 Portugal 6.37
5 Croatia 6.26
6 Switzerland 6.2
7 UK 6.16
8 Australia 6.06
9 Germany 6
10 Canada 5.97
11 Italy 5.96
12 Luxembourg 5.91
13 Iceland 5.82
14 Bulgaria 5.8
15 Ireland 5.76
16 Thailand 5.76
17 France 5.7
18 Greece 5.7
19 New Zealand 5.69
20 Cyprus 5.3


Chart 2: U.S. airports have gotten a bad rap for their aging and deteriorating conditions but U.S. airports and airlines still managed a number two ranking when considering each country’s airport infrastructure and airline connectivity.

Quality of Aviation Infrastructure (airport infrastructure and air connectivity)

Rank Country Score (1 to 7, 7=highest)
1 Canada 6.76
2 U.S. 5.96
3 UAE 5.84
4 Australia 5.69
5 Hong Kong 5.52
6 Singapore 5.29
7 Norway 5.28
8 UK 5.2
9 Spain 5
10 Netherlands 4.95
11 Switzerland 4.94
12 Germany 4.92
13 France 4.9
14 Turkey 4.74
15 New Zealand 4.7
16 Panama 4.69
17 Iceland 4.69
18 Japan 4.6
19 Sweden 4.59
20 Thailand 4.56


Chart 3: Singapore ranks highest for its ease of visa requirements and general perception of openness to travelers. Other Asia-Pacific destinations such as Australia, Japan and Indonesia ranked higher than France or the UK, for example. Chile, Colombia, El Salvador and Panama in Latin America also ranked in the top 10.

Perception of International Openness (visa requirements, bilateral aviation agreements, regional trade agreements in place)

Rank Country Score (1 to 7, 7=highest)
1 Singapore 5.21
2 Australia 4.77
3 Chile 4.65
4 Colombia 4.64
5 New Zealand 4.52
6 El Salvador 4.51
7 Ireland 4.51
8 Panama 4.44
9 Iceland 4.4
10 Japan 4.38
11 Denmark 4.36
12 Peru 4.3
13 Nicaragua 4.29
14 Korea 4.28
15 Luxembourg 4.27
16 Netherlands 4.27
17 Indonesia 4.27
18 Germany 4.26
19 France 4.24
20 UK 4.24


Chart 4: Global visa policies are becoming more lenient — some 85.5 percent of countries have a more liberal visa policy in 2017 compared to 2015.


Chart 5: Overall, global travelers’ perceptions of the travel industry’s environmental impact on destinations have worsened during the last decade as millions of more tourists cross borders each year. Research suggests that tourists tend to consume around three to four times more water per day than permanent residents, the report states.


Chart 6: The report found that the environmental strength of a country is directly related to tourism revenue and tourists spend significantly more if a country is perceived as environmentally-friendly.


Source: World Economic Forum

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TowneBank acquires Railey Mountain Lakes Vacations

Virginia-based TowneBank has acquired Railey Mountain Lake Vacations in McHenry, Maryland. Railey Mountain Lake Vacations manages 280 vacation homes and 2 hotels in the Deep Creek Lake area. According to Lakefront Magazine, “after graduating from Garrett College, Nancy Railey planted roots and began a family in Garrett County, Maryland in the 1980s. Nancy took $300, and […]

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Ryan Wolkov

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United to Compensate All Passengers on Flight That Stirred Controversy

Chris Sweda  / Chicago Tribune via Associated Press

People with Asian community organizations from Chicago hold signs to protest after Sunday’s confrontation where David Dao, 69, of Elizabethtown, Kentucky was forcibly removed from a United Airlines airplane. Chris Sweda / Chicago Tribune via Associated Press

Skift Take: Compensating all 70 passengers on the flight that Dr. Dao was bumped from is a small gesture from United. It might serve the airline well to reform its contractual relationship with customers and to establish a passengers’ rights commitment.

— Dennis Schaal

United Continental Holdings Inc. will compensate all passengers for the cost of the flight in which a man was forcibly removed by security officers.

Megan McCarthy, a spokeswoman for the airline, declined to say Wednesday if the payment would be in cash, frequent-flier miles or other forms. Video posted to Facebook and Twitter showed the passenger, David Dao, as he was dragged out of his seat and down the aisle of the plane after refusing to give up his seat.

The extraordinary move comes following an extraordinary event. Rarely has an airline — or any company — faced the kind of global condemnation that has buffeted United over the last several days. After the blunder of the initial incident was compounded by a series of botched public responses, the Chicago-based carrier is stepping up the effort to get back in consumers’ good graces.

Chief Executive Officer Oscar Munoz’s initial response made the company a punch line on social media as far away as China. He said United had to “re-accommodate’’ the man, who was bloodied in the encounter with security officials. In a subsequent letter to employees, the CEO called the customer “disruptive’’ and “belligerent.’’

It wasn’t until Tuesday that Munoz was more contrite.

“I deeply apologize to the customer forcibly removed and to all the customers aboard,” he said. “No one should ever be mistreated this way.”

Dao was treated in a Chicago hospital for his injuries, according to a statement from lawyers who said they represent him. The lawyers sought a court order Wednesday in Chicago to preserve evidence, including surveillance videos, crew lists and other information, that could be used in litigation. A lawsuit hasn’t been filed.


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Cathay Pacific Names New CEO After Financial Setback

Cathay Pacific

A Cathay Pacific B777-300ER aircraft. The airline named a new CEO after notching its first loss in eight years. Cathay Pacific

Skift Take: Faced with competition from low cost carriers and Chinese airlines amidst a decline in business travel, something had to give at Cathay Pacific — and it just did with a change in CEOs.

— Dennis Schaal

Cathay Pacific Airways Ltd. named Rupert Hogg as its chief executive officer, replacing Ivan Chu, as Asia’s biggest international airline struggles to revive earnings after reporting its first annual loss in eight years.

Hogg, 55, chief operating officer since March 2014 and a 30-year veteran at parent Swire Group, will take over May 1, Hong Kong-based Cathay said in a statement to the stock exchange Wednesday. Chu will become chairman of John Swire & Sons (China) Ltd., according to the statement.

The change at the top, which usually occurs every three years at the carrier, comes in the midst of the biggest business revamp Cathay has embarked on in two decades to help reverse the decline in performance. The premium carrier has been under pressure from low-cost rivals in the region and Chinese airlines that are offering direct routes, even as demand for business travel dips.

While sharing sketchy details of its review in January, Cathay said changes “will start at the top” and it would eliminate some positions as part of the reorganization, with key changes taking effect by mid-year. The airline has set a target of 30 percent savings in employee costs at its Hong Kong head office, it said last month.

Chu was appointed CEO on March 14, 2014, taking over from John Slosar, the current chairman of Swire Group. The carrier’s three most recent CEOs — Chu, Slosar and Tony Tyler — were all operating chiefs before assuming the top post, with each holding the job for about three years.

“Succession plan is well orchestrated,” said Will Horton, a Hong Kong-based analyst at CAPA Centre for Aviation. “By the time someone is COO, there’s effective support from the board for that person to be the next CEO. Rupert is pragmatic that it’s beyond time for Cathay to move on and seek a stronger future.”

Shares of Cathay dropped about 30 percent since Chu became CEO, compared with a 12 percent gain in the benchmark Hang Seng Index in the same period. The carrier last month reported a net loss of HK$575 million ($74 million) for 2016.

Asia’s largest international airline has announced a three-year “corporate transformation” plan to reduce costs by as much as 3 percent, while seeking to increase passenger capacity by as much as 5 percent a year through measures including nonstop flights to new markets.

Hogg joined Swire Group in 1986 and became a director and COO of Cathay when Chu took over as CEO. He was previously director for cargo and sales and marketing at the airlines.

Cathay Pacific Group employed more than 33,700 people worldwide, including about 23,400 for the main airline, according to the interim report for the half year ended June 2016.

To contact Bloomberg News staff for this story: Kyunghee Park in Singapore at, Dong Lyu in Beijing at

To contact the editors responsible for this story: Anand Krishnamoorthy at, Sam Nagarajan

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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