Barcelona Is Trying to Come to Terms With Its Overtourism Problem

Mathieu Marquer  / Flickr

La Rambla in central Barcelona. The backlash against tourists in the city has been building. Mathieu Marquer / Flickr

Skift Take: The backlash against tourism in Barcelona is building. Authorities in the city are trying to quell the anger by bringing in certain restrictions but at the moment it doesn’t seem to be working.

— Patrick Whyte

When Edgar Torras started leading tours of Barcelona, locals thanked him for bringing in tourists. Seventeen years later, they pelted his customers with eggs and the city has further restricted his route to avoid over-crowding in the historic center.

“Suddenly we seem to be the enemy,” said Torras, founder of Barcelona Segway Glides.

It’s becoming part of the tourist scene not mentioned in the guidebooks. Some Spaniards increasingly view visitors as a burden rather than an economic boon, with a backlash building in Barcelona and other hot spots. Last month, masked youths attacked a tourist bus in the city, and a protest against incomers is set to take place in the Basque resort of San Sebastian on Thursday.

With Spain the world’s biggest tourist destination after France and the U.S., the government is beginning to worry that the unrest could undermine that status. Tourism accounts for about 13 percent of all jobs in Spain. The number of foreign visitors will rise about 12 percent this year to a record 84 million in 2017, according to analysts at CaixaBank SA.

“It’s one of the sectors that is most driving our economy today and we have to look after it and support it,” Prime Minister Mariano Rajoy said this month. “If people come here it is because they like Spain.”

On Aug. 12, about 200 people from the Barceloneta neighborhood took to the city’s beach to protest the proliferation of tourist apartments, the El Pais newspaper reported. Youths targeting a tourist bus in Barcelona last month punctured a tire and sprayed it with a slogan saying “tourism kills neighborhoods.”

Locals object to the hoards of tourists crowding city streets and sometimes their antisocial behavior. Barcelona has cracked down on unlicensed rentals for tourists that residents blame for the surge in tourist numbers.

“If you go to one of the Barcelona neighborhoods affected, you can understand the anger,” said Jordi Alberich, director general of Cercle d’Economia, a Barcelona-based business association. “There has been a lot of complacency about the cost of tourism and now the model is very hard to change.”

If anything, numbers are set to increase, with cruise ships pouring into ports across the nation. As many as 3.6 million cruise passengers disembarked in Spanish ports in the first half of 2017, double the amount of a decade ago, according to the Public Works Ministry.

Fighting Back

As well as restricting Segway tours, Barcelona Mayor Ada Colau has taken more sweeping steps to forbid new hotels to open in the center of the city and clamped down on unlicensed room rentals through platforms such as Airbnb Inc.

For Torras, the latest restriction is a fresh blow to his business after the council stopped him taking tours down the Barcelona beach front last year. Typically, he leads two three-hour tours each day for up to six people who pay 70 euros each to be guided round neighborhoods such as the Gothic Quarter, Ramblas area and old port. He relies on his summer business to get through the winter.

“This is the time when we have to save,” Torras said.

 

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

 

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

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Airline Loyalty Programs Are Losing Their Luster — Even for Frequent Flyers

Associated Press

A travel walks in front of an advertisement for a Delta Air Lines branded credit card. It’s now easier for many travelers to earn miles through credit cards than by flying. Associated Press

Skift Take: Airline miles aren’t worth as much as they once were. But should that come as a surprise? Four airlines control the vast majority of U.S. domestic market share. With less competition, carriers don’t need to be as generous to spur loyalty.

— Brian Sumers

Airline loyalty programs are losing much of their allure even for frequent flyers, and the rules for navigating the system have changed.

Flying is no longer the best way to earn miles or points. The biggest bang for your buck comes from signing up for the right credit card.

And those come-ons from the airline to sell you miles? Ignore them unless you are very close to a qualifying for a big trip.

Frequent-flyer programs get relatively little attention from Wall Street, and their financial importance to the airlines is not widely understood by travelers, who just hope to earn a free flight now and then.

Airline profits are subject to vagaries like the price of fuel, the actions of competitors on key routes, even the weather. Amid all that uncertainty, the airlines have found a reliable source of revenue in selling miles to banks, which then use the miles to persuade consumers to sign up for the cards and use them as much as possible.

“The bottom line is that the business of selling miles is a very profitable one and has proven historically to be far less cyclical than the core airline,” Joseph DeNardi, a Stifel analyst who tracks airlines, said this month in a note to clients.

The downside for airline customers is that the world is awash in frequent-flier miles, and the airlines are constantly making each mile, or point, less valuable. Many trips don’t earn as many miles or points as they once did, and the price for claiming a reward flight keeps going up. In many cases, availability of reward seats on flights has gotten worse.

“It is harder to use miles at the price that people are expecting to pay,” says Gary Leff, who writes the View from the Wing travel blog.

Even for frequent flyers like Leff, a once-cherished benefit of the miles — using them to upgrade to first class — has been diminished because airlines sell more of those upgrades for cash.

That doesn’t mean travelers shouldn’t sign up for the airline programs. After all, there is no charge for joining.

It does require rethinking how to earn, keep and redeem miles. Many of the strategies revolve around credit cards:

— Watch credit card offers for bonuses. Banks often offer the biggest bang. JPMorgan Chase shook up the sector last year with a 100,000-mile bonus for signing up for the Sapphire Reserve card, which came with a hefty annual fee.

— Even if you make purchases with another card, consider getting the card of the airline you usually fly to enjoy benefits such as priority boarding and free bag-checking, even on so-called basic economy tickets. If you check a bag a few times a year, you will more than offset the annual fee.

— To stretch your miles, redeem them to fly midweek. Brian Karimzad of MileCards.com says it takes an average 30,574 miles for a Tuesday flight but 41,332 for a Sunday trip.

— Don’t let miles expire. On American Airlines, which runs the biggest frequent-flyer program, you don’t have to fly, you just have to make a purchase within 18 months on partners that range from other airlines to restaurants and flower shops. Miles on Delta Air Lines and JetBlue Airways don’t expire.

— Ignore your airline when it sends yet another email asking if you’d like to buy miles. The exception is when you are just a few miles short of earning a big trip, says John DiScala, who runs the JohnnyJet.com travel website.

—Use ’em while you’ve got ’em. The value of your miles won’t go up.

Airlines often raise the number of miles needed for certain flights, with United Airlines being the most recent example. Airlines used to announce big mile-price increases once every several years but now make smaller hikes more frequently. “Either way you’re going to pay more three years from now,” says Karimzad.

Over the past several years, American, Delta, United and Southwest have all linked rewards to how much customers spend, not how many miles or flights they take. That means frequent-flyer programs are a better deal now for people who buy expensive tickets, such as business class.

The change has put an end to “mileage runs,” the cheap but long flights that die-hards would take just to puff up their frequent-flyer accounts.

“It has weeded out a lot of people who were gaming it — you can’t blame the airlines for wanting to do that,” DiScala says, “but it stings as a consumer.”

___

This article was written by David Koenig from The Associated Press and was legally licensed through the NewsCred publisher network. Please direct all licensing questions to legal@newscred.com.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Hotel CEOs Say They’re Cautiously Optimistic About Corporate Travel

Abel Uribe  / Chicago Tribune

A guest checks in at a Le Meridien hotel. Hotels are still seeing weakness in their corporate and group business, even though occupancy rates are at all-time highs. Abel Uribe / Chicago Tribune

Skift Take: But shouldn’t hotel executives be a bit more concerned? At least that’s what one analyst is wondering, and we are too.

— Deanna Ting

Hotel occupancy in the U.S. was the highest it’s ever been during a second quarter — 69.5 percent, according to STR in 2017. Unemployment is at a record low of 4.3 percent. The gross domestic product, or GDP, is sluggishly moving up.

But you wouldn’t know it if you were to examine the major hotel companies’ revenue per available room (RevPAR) indices, or their average daily rates for the most recent quarter, says Michael Bellisario, senior research analyst for Baird Equity Research.

“Consumer confidence is at near all-time highs,” he said. “Almost any macro indicator we’ve looked at would say the setup for 2017 would be a lot better, election and improved sentiment aside. Why isn’t RevPAR better?”

While domestic RevPAR was up for most major hotel companies in the second quarter, it wasn’t quite as high as you might expect given the current economic indicators. The second quarter was also, generally, still weak in the areas of corporate and group travel, as noted by the CEOs of Hilton and Marriott International.

Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta described the corporate travel environment as “cautiously optimistic” and said he hoped there would be more activity in terms of tax reform to “help change the psychology with our corporate customers.”

He noted: “The impact of it would be positive in the sense of driving more free cash flow into people’s businesses, so they’d have more to play with to hire and invest.” Nasetta also noted that group business at his hotels was “weaker.”

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson echoed similar sentiments, saying “companies…are being very cautious about travel and very cautious about managing expenses, and [there are] others which seem to be spending as if they’re having a great party.”

He described corporate transient travel — or business travel that doesn’t include conferences or meetings — as being “anemic” and said Marriott’s group business was also “weaker” in the second quarter. Sorenson believes the best indicator of the health of the economy is the GDP, and he said that too “has been quite anemic.”

Many hotel company executives noted weakness in their group business, primarily due to calendar shifts: Easter moved into April during the second quarter and because Jewish holidays are shifting into late September this year, companies anticipate the third quarter will also be weaker for group business, said Bellisario.

Even so, Bellisario said, “We don’t want calendar shifts to be an excuse for weakness. Ninety days later, we might find some weakness. It does feel like there’s something else going on out there that’s not just calendar shifts that are impacting weaker near-term results.”

Mitigating Factors

What might be causing this softness? Bellisario isn’t sure, and it seems like the industry doesn’t quite know yet, either. The early optimism we saw from the hotel industry at the beginning of the year, post-election, hasn’t quite played out the way we thought it would, even though consumer sentiment has improved and the stock market is doing well.

He said that while demand for corporate travel is still there, “it’s really a price sensitivity issue” whereby “big companies are cutting costs and watching them very closely.” He said companies are having their employees travel for fewer days, and staying at select-service brands versus full-service ones. “It’s a combination of new supply and customers having a lot more options, so they’re being more price sensitive and not paying up for the better room.”

Bellisario also said that real estate investment trusts — also known as REITs, which usually fund the development for and often own the hotel properties consumers stay in — are suffering in big cities because so much of their business is skewed toward corporate travel. Those REITs, he noted, were “more negative and pessimistic” in their second-quarter earnings calls than the hotel management companies.

Another factor that may be coming more into play is what many in the industry refer to as “shadow supply,” the result of the growing popularity of alternative accommodations platforms like Airbnb. These are situations during which extra accommodations become available during high-demand times like a city-wide event, making it harder for hotels to raise their rates as much as before.

“That average daily rate pop is what’s missing in hotels today,” Bellisario said. “That has structurally changed because of all these home sharing options.”

Still, some CEOs aren’t so convinced that alternative accommodations are having an impact on their corporate travel business.

“It’s easy to get caught up in these big shifts that are going on, quarter to quarter. If you cleanse [that data], there’s really not that much going on quarter to quarter,” Nassetta told analysts. “You can’t say, when you sit where I sit, that the factors you just described — or heaven forbid I talk about the other things I know that are on your mind for fear of going into the black hole of Airbnb — but that some of those things don’t have some impact. But here’s the thing…nothing that we’re looking at suggests any of those things are having a material impact. It really is the economy. It really is that you’ve got growth, but it’s fairly anemic, broader growth.”

In fact, Nassetta also noted he thinks competition from Airbnb may actually be assisting hotel companies, at least in terms of their distribution agreements with the online travel agencies such as Booking.com and Expedia.

Sorenson, who also noted that his company had a system-wide occupancy rate of nearly 80 percent for the second quarter in North America, said “you would expect a little bit more pricing movement. But I think underneath that, you’ve got relatively more strength in leisure, which is more price-sensitive than corporate business is.”

He added that because the lodging industry has “thousands of franchisees who are pricing their own hotels on a day-to-day basis” and there is “radical transparency in pricing” thanks to online travel agencies and metasearch sites, “that may have some impact on our ability to move rates in this cycle compared to prior cycles.”

Whatever the reasons for this weakness in corporate and group travel, it will be interesting to see how the Marriott and Hilton’s recent cancellation policy changes also have an impact on their ability to keep average daily rates high. Those moves are signs that the hotels are trying to find other ways to keep revenues up, and to keep hotel owners happy.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Travel-Tilting Hedge Funds Are Investing in Airlines and Online Travel Agencies

United Airlines

An interior of a United plane. Both Par Capital Management and Altimeter Capital Management are major investors in United Airlines. United Airlines

Skift Take: Follow the money — at your own risk, of course. These two hedge funds are putting their money in airline and online travel agency stocks, often investing in competitors. Rising tides lift all boats, after all.

— Dennis Schaal

Where is the supposed smart money investing in travel these days? What’s hot and what’s not?

Two of the most prominent hedge funds with a big travel focus, Paul Reeder’s Par Capital Management and Brad Gerstner’s Altimeter Capital Management, are investing heavily in airlines and online travel agencies, and both started or increased their investments in Avis Budget Group in the second quarter. Avis Budget Group had a tough second quarter, however.

Par Capital Management in the second quarter increased its stakes in Avis Budget Group, Delta, El Dorado Resorts, Red Rock Resorts and Trivago while it disposed of its stocks in Xenia Hotels and Isle of Capri Casinos. The hedge fund, which had $8.7 billion in total market value at the end of June, also downsized its holdings in Alaska Airlines, MGM Resorts International, Penn National Gaming, and TripAdvisor.

Stephen Kaufer, CEO of TripAdvisor, is speaking at Skift Global Forum 2017. Get Tickets Now

Meanwhile, the smaller Altimeter Capital Management increased its stakes in Alaska Airlines, United and Yelp while disposing of its shares in Allegiant Travel, which owns Allegiant Air. Altimeter made new investments in Avis Budget Group and TripAdvisor. Altimeter had a total market value of $2.4 billion at the end of June.

Hedge funds such as these two are required to disclose their holdings in quarterly Securities and Exchange Commission filings; the most recent Altimeter Capital disclosure is linked here, and Par Capital is here. Skift broke out their travel holdings and any changed positions in the charts below. You can quibble with companies we categorized as “travel,” including Yelp and Global Eagle Entertainment, for example, but Yelp is obviously big in restaurants and has some travel-booking partnerships, and Global Eagle Entertainment provides content and Wi-Fi connectivity to the airline industry.

We toyed with including Alphabet Inc. (Google) in our charts since it has such huge travel business, but in the end we didn’t because travel makes up perhaps — very roughly — just 13 to 16 percent of its total revenue. Altimeter Capital Management had 6,400 shares of Alphabet worth $5.96 million in the second quarter, and Par Capital Management had no stake.

Alibaba might also have been included — we could make an argument either way — although the China-based e-commerce company doesn’t break out revenue for Fliggy, its marketplace that includes both online travel booking and second-hand auctions. Alibaba’s core commerce segment accounted for 85 percent of revenue in fiscal 2017, but the platform offers a lot more than travel. Altimeter has 25,750 shares in Alibaba that were valued at $3.62 million on June 30; Par is not an investor.

Among the takeaways, it is interesting to see that some airline stocks are hot after years of losses. The two hedge funds incidentally led a proxy fight at United Airlines in 2016.

Another trend, which won’t comes as a surprise to seasoned investors, is that these hedge funds buy stocks in competing players whether they are investing in airlines or online travel agencies.

But won’t any United gains hurt Delta and any Priceline Group inroads pinch Expedia, for example? Not necessarily.

Par Capital Management has investments in Alaska, American, Delta, JetBlue, Southwest, and United, as well as Ctrip, Expedia, Priceline, TripAdvisor, and Trivago, for instance.

That sector-wide focus has its limits, of course. While Par Capital Management maintained its holdings in Ctrip, Expedia, and Priceline, it sold some of its shares in TripAdvisor, which has seen its stock price tanking as it transitions to mobile and metasearch.

Par Capital Management’s investment focus was even more uneven in gaming-related stocks. While the hedge fund held onto its 9.25 million shares in Boyd Gaming in the second quarter, Par Capital downsized its stakes in MGM Resorts, Penn National Gaming, and Pinnacle Entertainment.

Meanwhile, Altimeter Capital Management has investments in Alaska Air Group, American Airlines Group, Delta, and United. Unlike Par Capital, Altimeter has no investments in low-cost carriers JetBlue or Southwest, and disposed of its stake in Allegiant Travel in the second quarter.

In its own endorsement of the trajectory of online travel, Altimeter had investments in Ctrip, Expedia, the Priceline Group, Yelp, and a new one, TripAdvisor.

In the second quarter, Par Capital Management’s top three travel investments were in United ($1.22 billion), Expedia ($1.16 billon), and Delta ($702.16 million).

Altimeter Capital Managements top 3 investments as of the end of June were United ($775.7 million), Expedia ($700 million), and the Priceline Group ($230.07 million).

While Par Capital Management had some hotel/gaming investments (Boyd Gaming, Caesars Acquisition Co., Eldorado Resorts, MGM Resorts, Penn National Gaming, Pinnacle Entertainment, and Red Rock Resorts) in the second quarter, Altimeter Capital Management had none.

Neither had any cruise investments.

Of course, there are many other hedge funds and institutions that invest in travel. Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway has famously returned to airline investments. And hedge fund Tiger Global secured a new investment in the Priceline Group in the second quarter. Tiger Global purchased 1.04 million shares ($1.95 billion) in the second quarter.

Here’s at look at the travel holdings of two prominent travel-oriented hedge funds. Both invest in other sectors, too.

Par Capital Management Postions Q2 2017
Total Positions in Travel 22
New Positions 1
Increased Positions 5
Same Positions 11
Decreased Positions 5
Disposed Positions 2

 

Par Capital Management Travel Investments Q2 2017
Investments Value x $1,000 Percent Change Shares Percent Change
Alaska Air Group $22,400 -99.99% 2,500,000 -44.47%
American Airlines Group $83,851 18.95% 1,666,351 0.00%
Avis Budget Group $178,362 30.45% 6,540,608 41.51%
Boyd Gaming $229,659 12.72% 9,256,701 0%
Caesars Acquisition Co.* $10,682 N/A 560,719 N/A
Canadian Pacific Railway $39,632 9.45% 246,450 0.00%
Ctrip $2,154 9.56% 40,000 0.00%
Delta Air Lines $702,157 38.06% 13,065,809 18.07%
Eldorado Resorts $149,496 96.74% 7,474,779 86.17%
Expedia $1,164,042 18.08% 7,814,983 0%
Global Eagle Entertainment $103,173 11.59% 28,981,072 0%
Hertz $67,719 -34.43% 5,888,576 0%
JetBlue $72,903 10.77% 3,193,290 0%
MGM Resorts International $123,433 -35.11% 3,994,800 -42.47%
Penn National Gaming $38,694 -29.04% 1,808,113 -38.89%
Pinnacle Entertainment $1,005 -83.57% 50,854 -83.77%
The Priceline Group $258,141 5.08% 138,005 0.00%
Red Rock Resorts $55,626 33.42% 2,362,032 25.66%
Southwest Airlines $349,115 15.58% 5,618,200 0%
TripAdvisor $102,971 -49.85% 2,695,569 -43.34%
Trivago $147,496 101.37% 6,234,000 10.89%
United Continental Holdings $1,226,177 6.52% 16,294,711 0%

* Class A shares

Altimeter Capital Management Positions Q2 2017
Total Positions in Travel 10
New Positions 2
Increased Positions 3
Same Positions 5
Decreased Positions 0
Disposed Positions 1

 

Altimeter Capital Management Travel Investments Q2 2017
Investments Value x $1,000 Percent Change Shares Percent Change
Alaska Air Group $85,495 -0.89% 952,489 1.82%
American Airlines Group $42,772 18.80% 850,000 0%
Avis Budget Group $818 N/A 30,000 N/A
Ctrip $69,318 9.58% 1,287,009 0%
Delta Air Lines $46,402 16.92% 863,455 0%
Expedia Inc. $669,994 18.05% 4,498,111 0%
The Priceline Group $230,074 5.08% 123,000 0%
TripAdvisor $5,570 N/A 145,800 N/A
United Continental Holdings $775,659 10,307,765 7.04%
Yelp* $6,946 104.89% 231,370 123.54%

* Class A shares

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Tour Operator CEOs Say Turkey Is Coming Back to Take the Strain Off Spain

TUI Group

TUI Group’s Magic Life Jacaranda resort in the Antalya region of Turkey. The tour operator has seen an upturn in fortunes for the country. TUI Group

Skift Take: Tour operators have longed for Turkey and, to a lesser extent, Egypt and Tunisia to return to their previous popularity. All of these destinations offer better value to consumers than Spain, which is at close-to-full capacity and more expensive. Their return is also good news for the people who rely on tourism for a living.

— Patrick Whyte

“Spain is full” has been a familiar refrain from European travel bosses for the last year or so.

The Mediterranean destination has long been popular, especially with sun-starved Northern Europeans, but recently its historic cities and sandy beaches have pulled in even more tourists.

The UNWTO’s latest tourism report revealed that in 2016 Spain saw its international arrivals increase by 10.3 percent to 75.6 million.

While Spain might be trending upward (as indeed are the likes of Cyprus and Portugal) other destinations popular with European vacationers found it much, much tougher.

In 2016, Turkey reported a 30 percent drop in foreign arrivals, Egypt’s international tourist number declined by 43 percent, and although Tunisia saw a 6.8 percent rise, the figure is still down from 2014.

All these declining numbers are a result of terrorism and other geo-political issues that have dogged each of these countries in their own specific ways.

This made things hard for tour operators in 2016, who couldn’t rely on the usual supply of cheap hotel beds in the Middle East and North Africa and instead had to fight for hotels in pricier Western European destinations.

Recent results for the big European travel companies show that this might be changing.

TUI Group’s chief executive Fritz Joussen said the company was “pretty bullish on Turkey,” adding: “I mean we see not only a stabilizing demand, not only Russia coming in, but also rebuilding demand in Europe.” This certainly wasn’t the case for TUI earlier this year.

The same trend has been seen by TUI’s smaller rival Thomas Cook with chief executive Peter Fankhauser saying, “we have seen a continued pick-up in demand for Turkey.”

According to Fankhauser, there has also been growth in both Tunisia and Egypt, as well, and this will help ease the situation in Spain.

“The pressures on margins in Spain, at a certain level, are going to be less because… the more Turkey is normalizing, the more Tunisia is coming up as a fully fledged destination, the more Egypt is coming up, especially during winter, the less we have cost pressure on Spain. And this situation is going to normalize,” he said.

Turkey at least looks like it is winning back consumers. For the first six months of the year foreign visitor numbers are up by 14 percent. Tunisia can also expect to bounce back in 2018 after the UK Foreign Office relaxed its travel advice.

Monarch Still Suffering

Both TUI and Thomas Cook saw an improvement in their respective third quarter financial results, something that should not come as a shock given the kinder operating environment so far in 2017 – a very different story from 2016.

UK airline and tour operator group Monarch is not a publicly listed company and only has to file accounts once a year and its results for the year up to the end of October 2016 have just been released.

Revenue slumped by 18.6 percent to $868.6 million (£674.3 million). It crashed from a pre-tax profit of $23.8 million (£18.5 million) in 2015 to a loss of $383.8 million (£298 million) last year. Granted much of this was down to accounting write-downs related to aircraft leases and impairments but it is still a troubling sign.

Monarch cited the closure of Egypt’s Sharm el Sheikh airport to UK airlines, terrorism in Turkey, and Brexit as three of the reasons for the revenue drop.

The worrying thing for Monarch is that trading doesn’t seem to have improved so far this year either as the accounts note that “yield pressure” has continued, which will lead to “a large year over year fall in annual revenue.”

It shouldn’t be forgotten that Monarch came close to going out of business last year and has struggled on a number of occasions in the past. But its continuing woes show it isn’t simply a case of having a benign operating environment, you need to have a viable business model, too.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

When Event Technology Is the Problem Instead of the Solution — Meetings Innovation Report

Cvent

Some planners are struggling to keep up with the pace of evolution in technology designed for meetings and events. Cvent

Skift Take: While technology specifically designed for meetings and events continues to evolve, planners are, in some cases, struggling to keep up with the fast pace of that evolution.

— Deanna Ting

The Future of Meetings & Events

Be careful what you wish for?

That might be the case when it comes to event technology. While advances in technology specifically designed for meetings and events continues to evolve, planners are, in some cases, struggling to keep up with the fast pace of that evolution.

Almost one out of two meeting planners today says that event technology is a primary pain point, according to a new study published by etouches. And another new report from Cvent revealed similar sentiments among planners. When it comes to cloud management platforms, the report said, “Planners cite poor transparency and accuracy over pricing, along with lack of clarity and poor response rates, as their main pain point with venue selection.”

That’s the topic of this week’s main Meetings Innovation Report feature, penned by SkiftX Editor Greg Oates. Read the full story here. While there are many pain points to be solved, Oates also examines some possible solutions designed to not only make it easier for organizers and suppliers to host meetings and events, but to make the actual attendee experience that much better, too.

And speaking of making a meeting experience better and more personalized for attendees, it looks like PCMA is doing just that for its upcoming PCMA Convening Leaders conference in January 2018. If you’re planning on attending, check out this great survey to let PCMA know exactly what you’d like to see in the program next year, from event experience design to responsible business practices.

— Deanna Ting, Hospitality Editor

Subscribe to the Skift Meetings Innovation Report

Social Quote of the Week

“What’s your story? @helenjstoddard of Twitter discusses how heartfelt narratives create authentic connections.” https://t.co/eswwB31ZnI

@FreemanXP on Twitter

The Big Picture

Meeting Planners Are Struggling With the Fast Evolution of Event Technology: Innovation in event technology today relates as much to how planners use the platforms that already exist, as compared to new advancements in the technology itself. Read more at Skift

The NAACP’s Travel Advisory Is Having an Impact on Meetings in St. Louis:  As we’ve seen in other cities and states, local economies will suffer when the government doesn’t make the effort to ensure that all are not only welcome, but that they feel safe, and know they’ll be treated equally and fairly. This is especially the case when it comes to choosing a destination to hold a meeting or event. Read more at Skift

How the Meaning of Digital Transformation Has Evolved:  The human experience is vital to raising an organization’s Digital IQ, and businesses need to think critically about how their digital initiatives affect the experiences of their customers and employees. Read more at Harvard Business Review

Overtourism Issues Can No Longer Be Brushed Aside as Someone Else’s Problem:  After a couple of years bubbling below the surface, the overtourism concept has broken into mainstream public consciousness this summer. Tourist boards and travel companies can no longer deny its existence; there is an urgent need for these groups to work with destinations to ensure a better balance. Meetings and events play a big role, too. Read more at Skift

How the Travel Industry Has Changed in 5 Years:  When Skift launched five years ago the travel industry was in a much different place and it’s changed quite a bit. We run down a few of the biggest changes and shifts that have happened since. Read more at Skift

Next Generation Meetings UX

Call Of Duty Cofounder Is Using VR To Create The Meetings Of The Future: Glasco thinks that the VR meeting is one of those things that people don’t know that they want, until they put on a headset and try it on for size. Read more at Forbes

How to Fix the State of Event Sponsorship: For event organizers, recruiting effective sponsors has become very complicated. Cramming an event with hundreds of brands, each competing for the same audience, doesn’t work. Who wants to share their logo with 50 other brands jammed on a billboard? Sponsors expect more; so do participants. Read more at Eventbrite

Event Tech Competition Selects Concierge EventBot as Most Innovative: The Event Innovation Battlefield during SISO’s Leadership Conference highlights promising new products and services for the industry. Read more at BizBash

The Most Interactive Events that Used Slido in 2017: Slido, an event tech platform that helps meeting and event participants ask questions from any device without downloading a thing, gives us a rundown of some of the most interactive events that used its technology. Read more at Slido

Skift Global Forum 2017

Companies Attending the Skift Global Forum 2017: We don’t mean to brag, but we’ve got nearly 300 different companies planning to attend our upcoming annual forum. Check out the list, and join us in September if you can. Read more at Skift

Subscribe

The Skift Meetings Innovation Report is curated by Skift Hospitality Editor Deanna Ting [dt@skift.com] and SkiftX Editor Greg Oates [go@skift.com]. The newsletter is emailed every Wednesday.

Subscribe to the Skift Meetings Innovation Report

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Skift Global Forum 2017: Hear From Marriott, Airbnb and the Biggest Names in Hospitality

Skift

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson, speaking on stage at the Skift Global Forum 2016. Skift

Skift Take: From direct booking campaigns to the growing popularity of Airbnb, there’s a lot to talk about with the most influential decision-makers in hospitality.

— Deanna Ting

Marriott International CEO Arne Sorenson, just days after completing his company’s long-awaited $13.3-billion acquisition of Starwood Hotels & Resorts, spoke at length about Marriott’s plans for linking both companies.

Former Starwood Hotels & Resorts CEO Frits van Paasschen said he didn’t think the timing of the Marriott acquisition wasn’t in his former company’s favor, especially for its shareholders.

Veteran hotelier Chip Conley, founder of Joie de Vivre Hotels and former global head of hospitality and strategy for Airbnb, told the audience what hotels could learn from Airbnb, and vice versa.

Former Two Roads Hospitality CEO Niki Leondakis, now CEO of Equinox Fitness Clubs, said that real innovation in hospitality comes from internal disruption.

Standard International CEO and managing partner Amar Lalvani, along with Bunkhouse COO Liz Lambert, said that hotels with a lifestyle edge will continue to thrive, even in the sharing economy age.

And former Generator Hostels CEO Fredrik Korallus listed the many reasons why the hotel industry should be paying more attention to hostels.

Those were just a few tidbits from Skift Global Forum 2016 (all of which you can revisit in the videos below). But get ready for 2017.

Arne Sorenson, CEO of Marriott International, is speaking at Skift Global Forum 2017. Get Tickets Now

From fighting the online travel agencies like Booking.com and Expedia in their efforts to get more direct bookings, the state of the mergers and acquisitions scene, developments in both artificial intelligence and mobile technology, and the ever-looming threat of Airbnb, the most influential CEOs in hospitality will all be at Skift Global Forum 2017.

They include:

  • Airbnb co-founder and chief strategy officer Nathan Blecharczyk
  • Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson
  • Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta
  • Wyndham Hotel Group CEO Geoff Ballotti
  • InterContinental Hotels Group CEO Keith Barr
  • Vacasa co-founder and CEO Eric Breon.

All of them will step up to the stage at Skift Global Forum 2017 in New York City September 26–27 to state their cases about where they think their companies and the travel industry are heading.

Rounding out the field of hospitality veterans will be LaQuinta Inns & Suites EVP and CMO Julie Cary and Aman COO Roland Fasel.

Attend Skift Global Forum 2017

What Happened in 2016

To get a sense of what you can expect from speakers and the event, watch these conversations that took place at last year’s event.

Marriott CEO Arne Sorenson

Attend Skift Global Forum 2017

We couldn’t bring our event to life every year without the support of our incredible sponsors: AccentureAdobeAIGAmadeus AirlinesAmerican Express, Away Luggage, ButtonCriteoFareportal, Hobo Bags, HotelTonightITP, KDS, Luggage HeroMapboxProColombia, SimulmediaSmartlingSojernThe Points GuyTravelsify and Visit Jordan.

To become a sponsor or for any other questions you may have, email forum@skift.com.

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Chefs+Tech: How UberEats Works with Restaurants

Jason Clampet

The work UberEats has done with McDonald’s has influenced its software for all restaurants. Jason Clampet

Skift Take: Hungry people will be loyal to the delivery app that gets them their food fastest, period. UberEats touts algorithms, analytics, and a little bit of the human touch in its work with restaurants.

— 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.

We publish C+T twice weekly.

How UberEats Works with Restaurants

UberEats started nearly three years ago as an experiment in Los Angeles. The service, then called UberFresh, started differently than other delivery apps and offered a selection of only five items per day, on demand, as part of the Uber app. The experiment went so well that Uber decided to increase its offerings, pivoting toward a more traditional food delivery model — as it turns out, the dining public prefers food selection to pure speed. In late 2015, the UberEats app launched in Toronto, and has since grown to include over 60,000 restaurants in 112 cities. “Now that we’re at scale, there’s a big opportunity to continue to push the boundaries of food delivery forward and a lot of that has to do with building trust with restaurants and helping advance this world of restaurant and technology,” Chetan Narain, senior product manager for UberEats, told Chefs+Tech.

UberEats offers two pieces of software to its restaurant partners: Restaurant Dashboard, which runs on a tablet inside the restaurant, and Restaurant Manager, a tool for owners and managers to see analytics including dish popularity and performance over time. Restaurant Dashboard and the associated app for couriers look a whole lot like the Uber app you’re used to (the courier app is actually the exact same that a traditional Uber driver uses). Uber drivers can be couriers but not all couriers are Uber drivers; couriers don’t need a car and can walk, bike, or scooter to deliver food, too. Uber’s process of delivering food from restaurant to your door uses much of the same technology that matches you with a driver: When a restaurant signifies an order is ready, Uber searches for the closest available couriers. In an interview with Chefs+Tech, Narain explains the technology, its recent changes, and all of the opportunity to innovate in the space moving forward. Read the full interview here.

There’s a Restaurant Chain Digital Arms Race. Really.

This headline made me giggle, but it’s true: Restaurant technology may have started as a novelty, but has moved from its position in the nice-to-have category to the absolutely-must-have-or-else category. The industry has always been competitive, but now that reviews, ratings, recommendations, and listings fly around the Internet with unprecedented speed, it’s up to restaurants to prove their tech savviness in order to maintain a happy and engaged customer base. Bloomberg reports on the many options available to restaurants, including new payment options, new ordering options and how restaurants are, in a sense, similar to the traditional retail outlets that have been experiencing trouble thanks to the prevalence and ease of ecommerce.

Also interesting: Restaurants — even the most established ones — are partnering and aligning themselves with existing technology companies like Amazon and Facebook to prove they’re still relevant. In that sense, the convenience of delivery is taking over restaurant visits as businesses like Domino’s and even McDonald’s rework their physical locations to accommodate order pick-ups instead of order-ins. In another sense, this has changed the way that restaurants design and run their physical locations. Restaurants become destinations, not just a place to sit at a table and eat. Decor is designed to stand out and look great on Instagram. Sharable plates, small dishes, and family-style meals aim to make the dining out experience different than the eating in experience. Restaurants use the marketing power of social media to draw you in the door to the experience. But just as much as a restaurant — especially a chain restaurant where food is a commodity — must focus on food quality and execution, it now must focus on technological execution to survive in the evolving market.

The Super Fast, Shockingly Impressive Rise of Craft Breweries

What does craft beer have to do with the changing face of a neighborhood? A lot, apparently. According to a fascinating piece in City Lab, between 1985 and 2010, the number of craft breweries in the U.S. jumped from 27 to 1,754. In 2015, the number grew to 4,225(!), making it impossible to ignore the rise of craft brewing as a larger statement about the country’s food and beverage industry.

The piece details a recent study of craft breweries, yielding some interesting info about how so many of these businesses were able to rise and thrive. They cluster together in order to take advantage of shared equipment, ingredients, staff training, and even patron foot traffic. The strongest predictor of where a craft brewery would open was the presence of another craft brewery in the neighborhood. And instead of offering similar products to “big beer” (like Anheuser-Busch), craft breweries purposely differentiated themselves, offering a huge variety of flavors and styles. And of course, there’s the millennial effect — sheer popularity has increased beer tourism in plenty of places across the country.

In this way, the craft brewery industry has mirrored restaurants: Smaller, independent restaurants have clustered in larger cities offering more diverse options than the large chains and conglomerates of my childhood. It’s worth watching, though, what happens if either of these industries reaches a tipping point. Much has been written in recent weeks about the restaurant industry and whether or not it can sustain such growth. How much beer is too much beer — and what comes next?

Digestifs

  • Bon Appetit announces its list of the best new restaurants in America, and it’s a good one— Bon Appetit
  • This lab analyzed tweets and found out (among other things), Colorado residents tweet the best caloric-intake-to-activity-level ratio. (Mississippi has the worst.) — Outside Magazine
  • Brooklyn’s Ample Hills wants to be the next Ben & Jerry’s — Bloomberg

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Puerto Rico Isn’t Really Having a ‘Despacito’ Tourism Boom Yet

Lynne Sladky  / Associated Press

Singers Luis Fonsi, left and Daddy Yankee perform during the Latin Billboard Awards in Coral Gables, Fla. Lynne Sladky / Associated Press

Skift Take: Simple lesson here is that young people who love a pop song are not always the first people to book a trip to a new destination.

— Jason Clampet

Since the song Despacito, by the Puerto Rican artists Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, came out last January, its YouTube video has been viewed more than 3.2 billion times, demonstrating that all you need to succeed in pop music is a catchy hook—plus nearly five minutes of incredibly hot men and women dancing sexily in the colorful, if gritty, beachside neighborhood of La Perla. (It also helps if you have Justin Bieber; a remix featuring him is officially the most streamed song of all time, barring Malaysia.)

But is that enough for Puerto Rico, battered by the Zika virus and an island-wide bankruptcy, to succeed in tourism? Well, possibly! According to sources quoted in Travel Weekly, search queries for the island have risen year on year across major travel sites. “We know that popular culture has a strong influence on our travel decisions,” Taylor Cole, a spokesman for Hotels.com, told the publication. “Puerto Rico is the home of the singers Luis Fonsi and Daddy Yankee, and it gets a big shout-out in their hit song. Our search data suggests that Despacito is encouraging more people to explore this destination.”

Search queries, of course, are not the same as actual bookings or visits. An analysis by the Washington Post last month disputed breathless claims of a “45% hike in tourism.” And the island’s tourism statistics, which have only been updated through February, do not yet show much of an uptick.

“We are closely monitoring official data sources to evaluate how the increase in searches and interest correlates to the number of visits and sales,” Jose Izquierdo, executive director of the Puerto Rico Tourism Co., told Travel Weekly. “We know that Despacito has been more than just a catchy summer tune.”

The connection between pop culture and tourism, however, may be a deceptive one. Sure, it seems natural: Tourists want to participate in the pop culture of the places they visit. In Croatia, where Game of Thrones is partly shot, so many visitors have been coming to Dubrovnik, which stands in for the show’s King’s Landing and where you can take GoT tours, that the city is using surveillance cameras to limit their entry.

You can’t get off the plane in New Zealand without considering a trek to the “Hobbit” village where Lord of the Rings was shot. And when European friends visit me here in New York, for instance, they always seem to want to go to jazz clubs; and Roman Holiday is fantastic inspiration for anyone who feels like traipsing around the Italian capital pretending to be a commoner.

But does anyone actually choose a destination based on pop culture? The best example we have of this is South Korea, which in the late 1990s, after the Asian financial crisis, embarked on a campaign to modernize and export its music, movies, and soap operas, and thereby increase the nation’s international cultural standing. This “hallyu wave,” as it’s known, really got going around 2010, and tourism statistics show that over the next five years arrivals increased by almost 50 percent, from 8.8 million to 13.2 million (2015 is the most recent year for which there are numbers). But that might not all be due to Gangnam Style, the Despacito of 2012.

“If I had to guess, I’d say that food and surgery are a far bigger draw,” said Euny Hong, author of The Birth of Korean Cool: How One Nation Is Conquering the World Through Pop Culture. Though Korea’s pop-culture campaign was certainly successful, Hong says tourism didn’t necessarily appeal to those who fell deeply in love with K-pop. They “aren’t that curious about visiting Korea,” she said. “Because, I mean, what’s their plan, hoping to run into G-Dragon on the streets of Seoul?”

Good Korean food (like oysters) would be a stronger draw, she said. It’s the kind of thing that’s harder to reproduce abroad, whereas a YouTube video is the same no matter which country you play it in.

And when it comes to analyzing statistics, Hong said one must be skeptical. “There is no real way to quantify the effect of K-pop culture—it would be a post hoc, ergo propter hoc fallacy,” Hong said. “I even spoke to the Ministry of Culture some years back, and they admitted (rightly!) that it was impossible to quantify the effect.”

(For that reason, I’m skeptical of Slovenia’s recent claim that its 15 percent increase in tourist arrivals from the U.S. during the first half of 2017 is due to Melania Trump. Again, let’s look to the food.)

If Korea has a lesson for Puerto Rico in here, it might be this: You can play up Despacito all you want (not that there’s any avoiding it right now), but tourists are going to continue to come for the same reasons as always: beaches, seafood, and salsa dancing. Catchy summer tunes may come and go, but hot locals are forever.

©2017 Bloomberg L.P.

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

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico

Meeting Planners Are Struggling With the Fast Evolution of Event Technology

etouches

The etouches group at IMEX America 2016. The company recently acquired another company to provide AI-powered, personalized event experiences. etouches

Skift Take: Innovation in event technology today relates as much to how planners use the platforms that already exist, as compared to new advancements in the technology itself.

— Greg Oates

Almost one out of two meeting planners today says that event technology is a primary pain point, according to a new study published by etouches.

Another new report from Cvent revealed similar sentiments among planners relating to cloud-based event management platforms, stating, “Planners cite poor transparency and accuracy over pricing, along with lack of clarity and poor response rates, as their main pain point with venue selection.”

In the etouches report, the top concerns among planners pre-event are: selecting the right content (56 percent) and managing attendee registration (51 percent). During the event, the biggest pain points are: communication with attendees (44 percent) and registration/check-in (42 percent).

Post-event, 65 percent of planners say that they’re using technology to measure the overall return on investment (ROI), but at the same time, how they analyze and use that data to inform future event programming and design remains a challenge.

In the Cvent study, the overwhelming pain point for planners is the length of time it takes to receive responses from hotels for their digital requests for proposals (RFPs), and the often inaccurate and/or omitted costs supplied within those responses.

Speaking at the annual Global Business Travel Association (GBTA) conference in Boston last month, representatives at both etouches and Cvent addressed the ongoing challenges with event technology adoption, and how their services are evolving to make tech more user friendly and effective for the planner community.

“In the media and event space, technology was for so long an efficiency play, in terms of it’s just a better way to do business when you can capture some data automatically,” said Mike Mason, VP, sourcing and hospitality solutions with etouches.

“I think it’s now evolved, and what you’re seeing is the importance of the onsite experience. During the event, attendees need more than just content. It’s really about, how do you engage that attendee at a level with them they’ve never had before? Because, you know, everyone’s fighting for attendees.”

Earlier this year, etouches acquired the Loopd platform to deliver new solutions for on-site engagement, using artificial intelligence to provide a more personalized event experience.

Loopd integrates bi-directional wearable smart badges, a mobile event app, and a cloud-based analytics engine. When attendees are using the Loopd badges, which can transmit contact information and any other kind of digital content, event organizers can track how attendees are moving through the event, and which programming is most popular.

Attendees also have a record of every vendor they approached and who they met, and based on commonalities across the spectrum of those event and vendor contacts, Loopd’s machine learning provides suggestions for similar participants that may be of interest for the individual attendee.

“If the device understands that you’re talking to me and we’re sharing information, and it looks at what is important to me and what’s important to you, it can begin to build a profile of who you might be interested in talking to,” said Mason.

“Tie that into the mobile app where event managers can now feed you information that might be important to you based on where you are,” said Mason. “You might be walking by a session that you didn’t think about, and [the app] will say, ‘Hey listen, you mentioned this before. You might want to step inside here. This is what they’re talking about right now.’ So it’s real time, and we’re just on the front end of that.”

However, Mason added that it’s incumbent on event tech firms across the industry to do a better job managing expectations and delivering the support necessary to help planners use technology more effectively.

“With technology companies, we need to play a much more concentrative role in the process to help you benefit from it, because unless you benefit from it, and see the ROI, it’s just gonna be a pain in the butt,” he explained. “So, we have an ROI tool that we launched at the end of last year, and we’ll sit down and spend time with our customers to establish their baseline key performance indicators, metrics, and goals. So they can see at any point, before, during and after an event, because it’s all real time, how they’re impacting the trajectory of an event.”

Fixing the Dreaded RFP Process

With the exponential rise of digital RFPs, hotels are challenged with prioritizing the onslaught of proposals they receive, which is the root cause for the lengthy time it often takes to respond to planners.

“There’s no doubt that the increased volume in the RFPs is putting pressure on hotels to respond,” said Brian Ludwig, SVP of sales at Cvent. “One of the things that proves to be most effective in getting awarded business is how quick and responsive you are to the planners that are submitting that proposal. So for hotels, it’s about how do we effectively process all these incoming leads. And then how do we deal with the smaller meetings that might be able to be done in an automated fashion, so that we can focus the manpower on the more complicated pieces of business.”

Toward that end, Cvent launched a new Group Business Intelligence tool this summer, designed to provide real-time data and analytics of hotels’ group business leads, and those of their competitors, in a single platform, helping hotel sales staff prioritize incoming queries and score leads.

The tool is also intended to make it easier for hoteliers to examine leads, dissected by specific time periods, customer segments, competitor rates, response times, and peak night volume, helping calculate the potential value of each piece of group business with more context and business insight than before.

“It’s really about bubbling up that data in a way that can be used and leveraged by organizations more intelligently,” said David Quattrone, chief technology officer at Cvent. “It’s really taking it up a level where you get some insights into how you’re competing and where you’re effective versus not, and how you can adjust things.”

Ludwig added that the Business Intelligence tool is also designed to help hotels schedule group business more strategically to maximize their open dates, soft weeks, and overall event calendars.

“So, for a hotel rep now, you’ll compare what your turnaround time is versus your competitors, whether you’re adding in the right information around alternative dates, whether you’re able to shift business,” Ludwig said. “For example, you could have a piece of business that might from a lead-scoring perspective not look that attractive, but if you expand out to an alternative date, all of a sudden it becomes a very lucrative piece of business.”

Ryan Wolkov

PRC Time Shares

Author: Ryan Wolkov

Powered by WPeMatico