Announcing Skift Tech Forum in Silicon Valley in June 2018

Skift Take: Skift Tech Forum will explore the tech disruptions happening in retailing, merchandising, and distribution of travel, with customer centricity as the connecting thread running across all the topics.

— Sean O’Neill

As we expand our authority to constantly develop new ways of looking at the global travel industry, we are going deeper into creating conferences that move beyond the big-picture thinking we drive with our Skift Forums.

As part of that remit, we are announcing Skift Tech Forum, to take place in early June 2018 in Silicon Valley.

And much like everything else with Skift, we are putting our own unique filter on travel tech. We have created a conference that is laser-focused on the tech disruptions happening in the retailing, merchandising, and distribution (RMD) of travel. New technologies and consumer behaviors have been opening up new ways of selling — not to mention new relationships between businesses.

Skift Tech Forum will explore these tech disruptions happening in RMD of travel, with customer centricity as the connecting thread running across all the topics.

The impetus for the Tech Forum comes out of Skift Research, which has been exploring these deeper tech subjects in its subscription reports and across the larger Skift Research canvas.

The Tech Forum will bring together CMOs, CDOs, CTOs, CIOs, and tech innovators from large travel tech companies, tech platform companies, and tech service providers. We’ll do this both on stage and through various networking events at the Skift Tech Forum. It will be the first such effort to bring together leaders from airlines, hotels, online travel agencies, and other sectors for whom innovations in retail tech drive their business agenda.

Super Early Bird tickets will be on sale soon. Super Early Bird tickets will be on sale soon. You can be the first to know and secure your spot when you enter your email.


Contact us at if you want to get involved. Stay tuned for more updates!

Sean O’Neill, Travel Tech Editor, Skift
Luke Bujarski, Research Director, Skift

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Amadeus Signs Premier Inn for Hotel Services While a Key Rollout Gets Delayed

Premier Inn

The UK-headquartered chain Premier Inn will roll out Amadeus’ combined Central Reservation System and Property Management System across its 765 properties. Premier Inn

Skift Take: In the context of Amadeus Hospitality’s progress, the Premier Inn deal gives a semblance of traction to woo other chains even as the complexity of the InterContinental Hotels Group rollout seems to have slowed things up.

— Sean O’Neill

Amadeus has made a big bet on tech services for the hotel industry, and InterContinental Hotels Group has been its high-profile launch partner for Amadeus’ new guest reservation system.

But Amadeus revealed Friday that the InterContinental rollout, which previously had been slated to take place in 2018, would now be delayed until 2019 at the request of the hotel chain.

But if the delay were to be seen as a momentum killer, Amadeus officials pointed to another win, albeit a smaller one than for InterContinental Hotels Group.

The Premier Inn hotel chain, owned by Whitbread Group, said it will roll out Amadeus’ combined central reservation system, property management system, and its payment system across its 765 properties.

In a conference call with financial analysts Friday, Amadeus executives did not give a timeline for the program’s rollout.

The goal is that by integrating systems, Premier Inn will see its corporate and property information — such as vacancies and rates and availabilities — sync up in real time, unlike today.

Cloud Advantages

The cloud-based model that Amadeus uses means Premier Inn pays a subscription rather than primarily spending up-front on hardware as is still common in the hospitality industry.

The hotel chain is the first major customer for Amadeus’ new payments platform, which helps process payments while checking for fraud and compliance with regulations.

Premier Inn said two weeks ago that the brand’s UK presence may soon grow to 100,000 rooms, and that the company is accelerating its expansion in Germany.

InterContinental Hotels Group Is in the House

In its budding hotel-services business, InterContinental Hotels Group is the biggest chain sign up and try the company’s new guest reservation system.

In the past few months, InterContinental Hotels Group began a multi-year move away from its in-house system, Holidex, to Amadeus’ new one. If the migration goes well, Amadeus intends to use the example to woo other major hotel chains.

“What’s good about the Premier Inn deal is that they’re taking all of our modules,” said Amadeus CFO Ana de Pro on Friday. “It will be a reference customer that helps us in showing to the industry that our integrated cloud-based modular solutions do work if you take all of them. But other customers, such as IHG, only take the guest reservation module, and that works, too.”

The Premier Inn deal also keeps momentum in the business from slowing — or at least Amadeus would be happy with that perception.

CFO de Pro said the InterContinental Hotels Group program delay is at its customer’s request. “There are no problems in our technology or that our solution is not working as anticipated, or anything like that. We are well on track and we are adapting to our customer’s needs,” she said.

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

InterContinental’s IT systems today have data scattered across databases that can’t communicate with one other. This siloed approach to data hampers the hotel group’s ability to make offers that are personal and relevant to guests.

In theory, Amadeus’s new reservation system would be able to recognize if a customer is a millennial who is a member of the loyalty program. That could help the hotel group offer the guest a relevant promotion at a premium price.

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Louisiana Food Tourism Backers to Promote Cajun Cooking in New York

Max Becherer  / Associated Press

In this August 17, 2015 file photo, Namese restaurant owner Hieu Doan talks with customers in New Orleans. Names is a Vietnamese restaurant in New Orleans, where the chefs infuse the famous flavors of New Orleans with traditional Asian favorites. Louisiana officials are touting the state’s restaurants in a New York visit to promote Louisiana tourism. Max Becherer / Associated Press

Skift Take: From one foodie destination to another, Louisiana tourism marketers are visiting New York to promote gumbo, jambalaya, and dirty rice, and the restaurants in places like New Orleans and Lafayette where visitors can imbibe. They should get a warm welcome in New York, whose citizens will travel long distances for hot eateries and correspondingly sizzling spices.

— Dennis Schaal

Louisiana Lt. Gov. Billy Nungesser is heading to New York with 10 chefs to promote Louisiana cuisine.

The tourism marketing trip is planned for Monday through Wednesday.

Nungesser’s Office of Tourism is partnering with the Louisiana Seafood Promotion and Marketing Board and the Louisiana Travel Promotion Association for the marketing effort.

The groups are setting up a Louisiana-style festival for visitors with live music and Louisiana seafood dishes to draw attention to the state’s Culinary Trails Campaign. Among those invited are writers, editors and producers interested in food and travel and companies who book tours.

Participating chefs are from Monroe, St. Martinville, Lake Charles, Covington, Baton Rouge, Lafayette and New Orleans.

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Bain Looking to Buy $500 Million Seaplane Operator in the Maldives

Trans Maldivian Airways

A deal to buy the airline could be valued at at least $500 million. It serves the Maldives, a group of about 1,190 coral islands located southwest of India. Trans Maldivian Airways

Skift Take: Mock the tiny seaplanes of Trans Maldivian Airways all you want. Its fleet may be worth $500 million if buyout firm Bain partners with Chinese conglomerate Tempus to acquire it from Blackstone as rumored.

— Sean O’Neill

Bain Capital LP is in the final stages of bidding for Blackstone Group LP’s seaplane operator in the Maldives, the tropical island chain known for its white sand and turquoise waters, according to people familiar with the matter.

The buyout firm is partnering with Chinese conglomerate Tempus Group Co. in its bid for control of Trans Maldivian Airways Pvt, the people said, asking not to be identified because the matter is private. The consortium has been discussing a valuation of about $500 million, though precise terms are still under negotiation, according to one of the people. Blackstone remains in talks with other potential acquirers, the people said.

Trans Maldivian, which owns one of the world’s biggest seaplane fleets, carries visitors from the country’s international airport to luxury resorts on other islands. Blackstone has been exploring options including a possible sale after receiving takeover interest in the company, people familiar with the matter said in September.

Blackstone aims to reach an agreement by the end of the year, according to the people. There’s no certainty the discussions will lead to a transaction, the people said.

Representatives for Bain and Blackstone declined to comment. Tempus Group didn’t answer several calls to its office and an email seeking comment.

Chinese Holidaymakers

Tempus Group runs businesses including tour operator Shenzhen Tempus Global Travel Holdings Ltd. Shares of Tempus Global Travel have fallen 11 percent in Shenzhen trading this year, giving the company a market value of about $1.3 billion.

The Maldives has attracted investment from Chinese online travel agencies and private equity firms seeking to cater to Chinese holidaymakers, who account for the largest group of arrivals in the Indian Ocean archipelago. The Maldives is one of the few countries where Chinese tourists are automatically issued a visa on arrival.

Bain has shown interest in leisure transactions in Asia before, investing in a Japanese hot spring operator in 2015. The private equity firm also formed a joint venture with billionaire Richard Branson’s Virgin Group in 2014 to operate a cruise line.

Blackstone bought control of two seaplane operators in the Maldives in 2013. Their combined business operates 46 aircraft with around 120,000 flights annually, according to Trans Maldivian’s website. Seaplanes are aircraft with pontoons mounted under the fuselage, allowing them to land on and take off from water.

Peter Grauer, chairman of Bloomberg LP, is a non-executive director at Blackstone.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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A Framework for Overtourism Solutions and 5 Other Tourism Trends This Week

Mark Lennihan  / Associated Press

Destinations are learning to manage and prevent crowds of tourists. Crowds gather for a celebration for the opening of the Westfield World Trade Center mall in the oculus of the Transportation Hub, August 16, 2016 in New York. Mark Lennihan / Associated Press

Skift Take: We coined the term “overtourism” last year, and more destinations are waking up to this new reality of crowd management and prevention. Don’t miss our Skift call on Tuesday, November 7 when our experts sit down and talk solutions.

— Sarah Enelow

Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines tourism.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>There’s not much theme park development in the United States, so growth has to come from somewhere. Six Flags sees a lot of potential in China and other destinations around the world: Six Flags Is Making a Bigger Entry Into China With Three More Parks

>>When your city sees demonstrations against tourists — or even expressions of discontent beyond peaceful protests — you know you have a problem. Destinations around the world are struggling to find the right balance between welcoming visitors and barring them. We’ll discuss a framework for figuring out solutions: Skift Call November 7: A Framework for Overtourism Solutions

>>The travel industry at large speaks eagerly and often about creating positive experiences for travelers. This contrasts heavily, though, with the fears and anxieties experienced by real travelers from diverse backgrounds: Travelers Get Candid About Their Struggles With Permanxiety

>>Tourism executives from around the world all have unique challenges as they promote their destinations, but they also have a lot in common: They want to avoid the pitfalls of destructive tourism, get a good return on their marketing dollars, and attract high-spending visitors: Video: Tourism Leaders on Planning to Avoid Overtourism

>>Upside hopes working with The Wall Street Journal will attract high-yield and repeat business travelers to its service. We’ve seen before that media-linked booking sites rarely have staying power. As a customer-acquisition move, though, it could pay off: The Race to Capture Unmanaged Business Travelers — Skift Corporate Travel Innovation Report

>>One of the buzz phrases in the cruise industry for the past couple of years has been “multigenerational cruising.” Virgin Voyages sees an opportunity in keeping one generation off its inaugural ship: Virgin Voyages Sharpens Its Focus With Adult-Only Cruise Plan

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Ski Resorts Embrace Experiences as Millennial Interest Wanes

Rich Pedroncelli  / Associated Press

In this March 1, 2016, file photo, a snowboarder takes a jump at the Sierra-at-Tahoe Ski Resort near Echo Summit, California. Rich Pedroncelli / Associated Press

Skift Take: Ski resorts are turning to the turning to technology and new experiences to attract millennials. But if they don’t like to ski or snowboard, it’s hard to imagine them hitting the slopes as they age.

— Andrew Sheivachman

The ski and snowboard industry is healthy — at least for now.

But there is concern throughout the snow sports industry as the baby boomers and generation Xers get older, the millennials are not picking up the slack and hitting the slopes as often as the aging generations.

“The industry is extremely healthy, we’ve been really consistent for a long time,” said Michael Reitzell, president of the California Ski Industry Association. “But we’re not like hotels, we’re not building new properties, and millennials, and even gen Xers, are going less often, less days per year than the previous generation.”

Reitzell said millennials, people who range in age from 17 to 37, are approaching life differently than previous generations. They are waiting longer to purchase homes and to have kids — much longer than the baby boomers, ages 53 to 77. The more narrow generation X group ranges in age from 38-52.

Reitzell said millennials want outdoor adventures but they look to do more than just hit the slopes while on vacation or on days off work. They may play in the snow one day and find other stuff to do on other days. Millennials make up the biggest group at resorts, said Reitzell, but they’re not consistently strapping on the board or skis.

Some also say it’s too expensive. But that perplexes Reitzell who says season pass prices today are as good as they’ve ever been.

“They are looking for outdoor adventures, but they’re not buying tickets,” Reitzell said. “It really does have a lot to do with demographics. What people are deciding to make as their priorities and do they want skiing to be part of their lives?”

The explosion of backcountry winter adventures is likely putting a dent into daily sales at resorts. Adventurers can earn their turns by hiking to a mountaintop and sliding down, avoiding lift ticket prices altogether, but also missing out on a leisurely ride up the slopes.

Additionally, adventures in the backcountry are not simple, or safe. Everybody who ventures into the snowy Sierra Nevada needs to have some education about essential gear and avalanche awareness.

Millennial-Friendly Marketing

Resorts are trying to get creative with how they market their product.

Sierra-at-Tahoe, an independently-owned resort about 20 minutes west of South Lake Tahoe off U.S. 50, wants their guests to leave their mountain with an “authentic and unique” experience, and be able to tell their story to others no matter what generation.

“We strongly believe that millennials along with others are driven by that ‘experience’ and being able to go home with a story,” said Thea Hardy with Sierra-at-Tahoe. “We work hard to craft our interactions, messaging and on-mountain experience to be a part of that story and something that keeps them coming back. The ‘millennial’ skier and snowboarder are strong in presence here. We believe because of our convenience, history as the place to learn, Olympic heritage, great value and location makes us appealing to the millennial generation.”

Technology Focus

Heavenly Mountain Resort, owned by Vail Resorts, is reaching out to millennials by teaming with Tahoe Mountain Lab to “re-imagine the definition of ‘work hard, play hard.’”

There is on-mountain shared workspace, about 600-square feet, with Wi-Fi for remote professionals who want to take a few runs then return to the mountain office.

Their guests can also be toured around the mountain by a certified ski and ride instructor while learning how to use a borrowed GoPro camera to capture their adventure.

“Millennials are attached to their technology,” Reitzell said. “Resorts should tie that in with what they do, it helps people decide what resort they choose. They like to post photos and videos and they might get service at certain places and that affects their decisions.”

Heavenly and Kirkwood mountain resorts senior communications manager Kevin Cooper wants to make it easier for people to have a good time. He says it’s not about racing or competition, but to get out there, have fun and get away.

“We’re looking for intimacy through social media and we want people to get what they want out of their experience,” Cooper said.

With the ever-changing technology and new digital gadgets seemingly offered every few months, resorts are scrambling to keep up and trying to come up with fresh ideas to attract and keep people coming back, especially the millennials.

“Times are changing,” Retizell said. “We’re going to have to start thinking about different ways to keep people in the sport. If you’re a die-hard you can show people how fun it is. As the industry goes, so does the community that it supports.”

“We know our relevance and adaptability is key,” Hardy said. “We will continue to grow with trends and create a welcoming and experience-driven ski environment that will keep them coming back.”

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

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Idaho Sees Dark Star-Filled Skies as Key to Driving Tourism

Nils Ribi Photography via Associated Press

This June 18, 2017, photo provided by Nils Ribi Photography shows the Milky Way over the Smoky Mountains near Ketchum, Idaho. The city was just named an International Dark Sky Community. Nils Ribi Photography via Associated Press

Skift Take: Natural beauty is a big draw, especially if visitors can see it clearly. Idaho is smart to maximize its resources and take extra steps to earn a dark-sky designation.

— Hannah Sampson

The stars are aligning for Idaho — mainly because they’re visible.

The International Dark-Sky Association this week named the central Idaho city of Ketchum an International Dark Sky Community, only the 16th in the world, after years of efforts to limit excess artificial light. It comes as bigger parts of the state received or are seeking rare dark-sky designations that can attract stargazers and boost home values.

Craters of the Moon National Monument and Preserve in south-central Idaho, a prime destination for astronomy buffs, became an International Dark Sky Park earlier this year, one of about 40 in the United States.

And the rarest prize of all could come in December when the association decides whether to designate 1,400 square miles (3,600 square kilometers) in central Idaho an International Dark Sky Reserve. It would be the first in the nation.

Idaho is “becoming one of the centers of interest in dark skies in the country,” said John Barentine, program manager at the Tucson, Arizona-based International Dark-Sky Association.

Much of Ketchum’s economy runs on tourism, and the designations could bring in additional visitors. Thousands descended on the mountain resort town for last summer’s total solar eclipse, and it’s sandwiched between the ritzy Sun Valley to the east and Sun Valley Resort’s ski area on Bald Mountain to the west, which draws tourists from across the globe.

The town’s designation is due to the “work of so many who have devoted time and energy to reducing light pollution across our city and neighborhoods so that we can enjoy the truly amazing views we have of the night sky,” Mayor Nina Jones said in a statement.

Ketchum, with some of the highest home prices in Idaho, is the first city in the state to be named a Dark Sky Community. The association started making such designations in 2001, which also include Sedona, Arizona; Beverly Shores, Indiana; and Moffat, Scotland.

Dark-sky measures have drawn opposition in the U.S. from the outdoor advertising industry and those against additional government regulations.

The Ketchum designation could help as the International Dark-Sky Association considers a 127-page application for the reserve in Idaho. Barentine said the group looks at what surrounding communities are doing to protect the dark core area of the reserve.

“It’s more like a restoration effort in the communities, and it’s more of a preservation effort in the parks and reserves,” he said.

Barentine said Craters of the Moon monument is too far away from the proposed reserve to be a factor in the decision, expected in mid-December.


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

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Hyatt Goes Asset-Light and 6 Other Hospitality Trends This Week


Grand Hyatt at Baha Mar. The company is shifting to an asset-light strategy. Hyatt

Skift Take: This week in hospitality, we considered why certain hotel companies go asset-light, asset-heavy, or asset-recycler. On the homesharing side, how is it possible that most avid U.S. travelers have never used Airbnb?

— Sarah Enelow

Throughout the week we post dozens of original stories, connecting the dots across the travel industry, and every weekend we sum it all up. This weekend roundup examines hospitality.

For all of our weekend roundups, go here.

>>Another day, another hotel soft brand collection. So, who’s next? Hilton or IHG? Best Western Launches Its Third Soft Brand Collection

>>It’ll be interesting to see what works better for relatively smaller hotel companies like Loews, Red Lion, and even Hyatt with each of their respectively divergent business strategies: traditional asset ownership; totally asset-light; and asset recycling: Loews Hotels Is Taking a Contrarian Approach With Its Asset-Heavy Strategy

>>Despite Airbnb’s precipitous growth in the travel industry, our latest survey results show that the company still has lots of room for growth among U.S. travelers: A Majority of Avid U.S. Travelers Have Never Used Airbnb

>>Although women are particularly well-positioned to lead in the nuanced luxury market, it will take the effort and collaboration of men and women already within the industry to bring about change and more equal leadership teams: Women in Luxury Travel Share Perspectives on the Glass Ceiling

>>The bigger question, however, is whether these campaigns will still work in 2017 and beyond; offering discounted rates can only last for so long. Hotels need to start thinking about how they can ensure this momentum continues in the long run without having to use discounted rates: Hotel Direct-Booking Pushes Really Worked and Owners Were Big Winners

>>Marriott More now allows shoppers in the U.S., UK, and Canada to earn and spend Rewards points on retail purchases. And while the value proposition for spending points is a bit fuzzy, it may be a good tool for some with stray point balances: Marriott Rewards Debuts Tool to Preload Points Balances When Shopping at Retail Sites

>>From “asset recycler” to “asset light,” Hyatt is beginning to embrace a favorite industry strategy for making more money: Hyatt Shifts Strategy in Plan to Sell $1.5 Billion in Hotel Real Estate Over Next 3 Years

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South Korea Tourism Slump Raises Fears About Upcoming Winter Olympics

SeongJoon Cho  / Bloomberg

Only about 30 percent of the tickets for next year’s Winter Olympics have been sold. The Alpensia ski jumping center for the PyeongChang Games is pictured here. SeongJoon Cho / Bloomberg

Skift Take: Threats from North Korea and prolonged conflict with China are keeping tourism down in South Korea as preparations continue for the Winter Olympics next year. With domestic interest lacking as well, will the Games be a failure for the host country?

— Hannah Sampson

In South Korea’s mountainous Gangwon province, construction workers are putting final touches on the 35,000-seat outdoor stadium that will be used for the opening and closing ceremonies for the PyeongChang Winter Olympics.

Mission accomplished, except for one thing. It’s unclear at this point just how many sports fans will actually show up.

With less than 100 days to go before the Games start on Feb. 9, organizers have sold little more than 30 percent of the target of 1.1 million tickets, which range from $18 to $1,340. And there’s still a $270 million shortfall in the local Games committee’s $2.5 billion budget.

Ominously, most of the venues lie just 90 kilometers (60 miles) from the border with North Korea amid military tension that’s rarely been so high since war on the peninsula ended in an uneasy truce in 1953.

Some things are going right. South Korea’s world-class engineering firms are on target to have all the facilities ready — free of the problems that plagued the last Winter Olympics in Sochi. And organizers have met their corporate sponsorship goals. But the question is, will the nation reap long-term economic benefits?

South Korea has a lot riding on PyeongChang, which it hopes will showcase the country “as the new hub for winter sports in Asia.” On top of the Games committee’s budget, $10 billion is being poured into infrastructure to support the Olympics, much of it on road upgrades and the extension of a high-speed rail network into the heart of the ski fields.

Yet international tourists are shunning the nation, with visitor numbers down 24 percent this year as North Korea ramps up rocket launches and nuclear tests. Making matters worse, a U.S. missile shield that Seoul deployed to guard against the threat raised the ire of Beijing. It lashed out with a ban on package tours to South Korea that halved the number of travelers from China.

South Korea and China indicated this week that they want to put the dispute behind them, which should pave the way for tourists to return. It’s still hoped that Chinese skiers, who have flocked to Japanese resorts in recent years, will become a source of growth for winter tourism in South Korea, which is less than two hours flight time from Shanghai and Beijing.

When PyeongChang beat Munich and France’s Annecy in 2011 to host the Winter Olympics, local think tank Hyundai Research Institute said the Games could draw an additional 1 million foreign tourists to the region each year for a decade. Transforming the area into a global winter tourism destination and raising South Korea’s profile in the world could bring the nation almost $40 billion in economic benefits, according to the institute.

Hyundai Research hasn’t updated its estimates but recently acknowledged that current tourist numbers no longer match the projections. History isn’t on PyeongChang’s side. Numerous studies of the costs and benefits of the Olympics show that many Games hosts lose money.

Perhaps unexpectedly, international ticket sales are doing much better than those in South Korea. Buyers overseas have taken up about 56 percent of the 320,000 target set by organizers while locals have bought just 22 percent of the 750,000 goal for domestic sales.

“I don’t think the Games will do anything to improve my life,” said Gu In-mo, who works at a motel near the stadium. “The tickets are too expensive for ordinary people like me. I’ll just watch on TV.”

Spectators can get into the cross country skiing, a sport that lacks a strong following in South Korea, for as little as $18. But many seats at the figure skating, which is hugely popular, go for about $500, while premium tickets for the opening ceremony are more than double.

“I wouldn’t say the current pace of ticket sales is what it should be,” Yeo Hyung-koo, secretary general for the PyeongChang organizing committee, said in an interview. The start of the torch relay should increase interest and other Games saw sales increase in the final three months, said Yeo.

Kim Jin-seok, another local resident, said there hasn’t been enough done to promote the event. “I see more South Korean flags around here than Olympic banners,” said Kim. “Local people aren’t excited.”

Overseas demand partly reflects tickets for sponsors and a hardcore of global winter sports fans. Jet Set Sports, one of the authorized ticket re-sellers for markets including the U.S., said questions from customers at every Games are typically about safety around venues and the local area, as opposed to geopolitical concerns.

South Korea has a good record protecting athletes and spectators at previous events, but North Korea’s past actions give reason to worry. The year before the 1988 Summer Olympics in Seoul, agents from Pyongyang bombed a Korean Air flight, killing all 115 passengers and crew. In 2002, when South Korea was hosting the soccer World Cup, North Korean patrol boats crossed into disputed waters, sparking a naval clash that sunk one South Korean ship and claimed the lives of six sailors.

With its growing technical sophistication, North Korea doesn’t have to rely on its military to disrupt the Games. This time it could easily launch a cyber attack, which is cheap to execute and difficult to attribute, said Mason Richey, associate professor of international politics at Hankuk University of Foreign Studies in Seoul.

While these kinds of events are beyond the reach of Olympics security, the government, police and military have set up a special headquarters to coordinate personnel. Organizers declined to reveal the size of the security force that will protect the Games.

Amid all the fears, the U.K. is reportedly drawing up evacuation plans for its team in case tensions escalate while other nations have expressed reservations about sending athletes. PyeongChang organizers say no teams have withdrawn and South Korean President Moon Jae-in has urged North Korea to send competitors.

With no winter sports champions now with the same star appeal as figure skater Kim Yuna — who won gold at the Games in Vancouver and silver in Sochi — South Koreans have had their attention pulled away by disheartening scandals. The biggest of them ousted the President from office and landed her and the heir to the Samsung empire (a partner of the worldwide Olympic movement and PyeongChang Games no less) — in jail.

“There’s a broad consensus that unless there’s a big change in the run up to the Games, they’ll be seen as a failure, no matter how you look at it,” said Kim Yukyoum, a professor of sports management at Seoul National University. “The biggest problem with PyeongChang is that it doesn’t have a message to send to the the public — both at home and overseas — on why these Games are meaningful and what Korea can achieve through the event.”

–With assistance from Kanga Kong Hannah Dormido and Henry Hoenig

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.


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Tennessee Invests in Welcoming Colorblind Tourists to Autumn Hotspots

Jonathan Matisse  / Associated Press

This Oct. 26, 2017 photo shows Amber McCarter, a 22-year-old from Tennessee who is colorblind, looks out from Mt. Harrison at the Ober Gatlinburg resort through a viewfinder designed to help see more colors. Tennessee tourism officials have installed the colorblind viewfinder there, in addition to viewfinders in two other scenic spots in the state. Jonathan Matisse / Associated Press

Skift Take: This is a great way to make the country’s most-visited national park, and the equally beautiful surrounding area, more accessible during peak fall season.

— Sarah Enelow

Even when the rugged expanses of the Great Smoky Mountains were bursting with their famous fall colors, they always looked dull black and tawny to Lauren Van Lew from the 3,590-foot-high (1,090-meter) perch of Mt. Harrison.

For the 20-year-old Van Lew, who has been colorblind her whole life, some colors have just been left to the imagination. She loves painting, but her wife Molly has to help her pick and mix colors.

Last week, however, when Van Lew visited the scenic mountaintop again and looked through a special viewfinder, for the first time she saw yellows, oranges and reds exploding across the landscape.

“Red was the biggest difference. I mean, I can’t describe it,” said Van Lew, who lives in Sevierville, Tennessee. “It’s the most beautiful thing I’ve ever seen in my life. That red, it’s just gorgeous. It’s incredible.”

She wondered, “How do you see like that all of the time?”

The colorblind viewfinder installed atop the Ober Gatlinburg resort by the Tennessee Department of Tourist Development will be one of three in the state that debut Wednesday, letting people gaze upon colors that they may have never seen before. The other two viewfinders are at scenic areas of Big South Fork National River and Recreation Area near Oneida, and at the westbound Interstate 26 overlook near Erwin in Unicoi County.

Although the technology isn’t new — eyeglasses that let colorblind people see colors are already available — state officials believe this is the first time it’s been incorporated into a viewfinder, at a cost of $2,000 apiece, to help people with red-green color deficiencies. How crisply the viewfinders display new colors can vary from person to person among the 13 million or so people in the country with color deficiencies.

State tourism officials invited people to try it out last Thursday at Ober Gatlinburg, bringing them up by ski-lift, but left the details somewhat vague to maintain the element of surprise. A crew filmed their reactions for marketing material.

Their first glimpses drew tears, smiles and faces stunned by wonder and awe.

“My heart just started beating fast,” said Todd Heil, who generally sees a lot of green. “I felt like crying, man. Too many people around.”

Amber McCarter works in real estate, so part of her pitch is the fall foliage that drapes the Great Smoky Mountains, even though she can’t entirely see it herself. The viewfinder gave her a firsthand look of the views she’s been selling.

“It’s like, if you want to go see a show somewhere, you don’t want to hear from somebody whose family went. You want to hear from somebody who actually went,” the 22-year-old said.

For Van Lew, nothing looks the same now. It can be a little disheartening to know what she’s been missing. But the possibility of tapping into a long unseen world of vibrant color is uplifting, she added.

“It’s going to enable more people to experience the beauty that we live in, that I didn’t know we lived in,” she said.

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

Ryan Wolkov

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Author: Ryan Wolkov

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