Travel’s Tough Truths and Inspirations

Skift has never been shy about provoking our readers, and one recent story — The 21 Uncomfortable Truths That I Have Learned About the Travel Industry – certainly did that job. It was the musing of Skift Founder and CEO Rafat Ali, timed to run as the company marked its sixth year.

The response, as Ali has noted, was overwhelming. “Awesome truth bombs,” one person wrote on LinkedIn. Others were less enamored. As a follow-up, Ali recently wrote a love letter of sorts to travel, naming 25 things that inspire him about the industry.

On this episode of the Skift podcast, we talk about uncomfortable and occasionally unpopular observations about travel. Are industry associations useless? Is domestic travel ignored? Why, for the love of god, is MICE a term that the industry has embraced? (We’ll also touch on the inspiring stuff, like travel’s role in creating a global middle class.)

Our guests were Ali and co-founder Jason Clampet, who is also general manager of Skift Table.

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The Amazon Factor in Travel

Amazon has completely changed the retail landscape, and its purchase of Whole Foods last year is disrupting the grocery business. The company tried offering discounted hotel deals and hotel booking, but ended the service in 2015.

So when will the $850 billion behemoth tiptoe back into travel? And if that were to happen, how would it upend the industry? On the one hand, Amazon has a huge customer base built in with its Prime membership program; on the other, our poll shows consumers might still not be ready to trust the company with its travel purchases.

This episode of the Skift podcast dives into the Amazon factor in travel: the history, the opportunity, and the potential fallout.

Our conversation took the form of a recent Skift Call, featuring the expertise of Skift Executive Editor Dennis Schaal and Senior Research Analyst Seth Borko. The slides that they reference in the talk are embedded here.

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Why Marriott Is So Attached to Its 30 Brands

If anyone knows about owning a lot of brands, it’s Marriott International. The world’s largest hotel company, which acquired Starwood in 2016, now has 30 brands — and no plans to get rid of any.

Tina Edmundson, the company’s global brand officer, talked about why the company believes in its brands — all of them — at Skift Forum Europe recently in Berlin.

She insisted that there was “no such thing” as too many brands.

“I believe brands help consumers make choices,” Edmundson said. “The danger is having brands that don’t have a very clear point of view.”

She also spoke to Skift Senior Hospitality Editor Deanna Ting about how the role of luxury is changing, Marriott’s approach to millennials, and its experiment in homesharing.

This is one of several podcasts featuring conversations from Skift Forum Europe 2018.

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How European Tourism Came Back From the Brink

Europe had a gangbusters year for tourism in 2017, with 671 million international arrivals. That was an increase of 8 percent from the year before, and followed several years of much smaller growth.

Parts of the region, of course, have faced significant challenges in recent years that kept visitors away: terror attacks, political instability, financial struggles. But some have also been dealing with the problem of too many tourists, or at least an overwhelming number in one place at the same time. We at Skift call this overtourism, but at least one popular destination isn’t embracing that term.

We tackled these issues with some European tourism leaders at Skift Forum Europe in Berlin recently; this episode of the Skift Podcast features that conversation.

At the event, Europe Editor Patrick Whyte spoke to Jennifer Iduh, head of research and development at the European Travel Commission, and Inga Palsdottir, director of Visit Iceland and Creative Industries at Promote Iceland. They discussed strategies for tourism marketing, the need for destination management, and how the desires of visitors are shifting.

This is one of several podcasts featuring conversations from Skift Forum Europe 2018.

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Why Accor Had No Choice But to Change

If AccorHotels isn’t in the news for buying another hotel company, it’s earning headlines for acquiring an alternative accommodations provider, concierge service, or event specialist.

As CEO Sébastien Bazin told Skift Senior Hospitality Editor Deanna Ting recently at Skift Forum Europe in Berlin, Accor has spent more than 600 million euros ($715.4 million) in the last four years buying or investing in various startups. And while he expects some of the investments to fail, the CEO believes it’s more important to make big moves than to be a sleeping giant.

This episode of the Skift Podcast brings you that conversation between Bazin and Ting. They talked about why Accor wants to be part of travelers’ everyday lives, the lessons Bazin has learned from making so many acquisitions, and whether the hype around Accor matches reality. (The CEO, not surprisingly, believes it does.)

This is the first of several podcasts featuring conversations from Skift Forum Europe 2018.

Start listening to The Skift Podcast, today. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play, or RSS.

The Airbnb Threat to Hotels and Booking Sites

Airbnb says its goal is to become a “super brand of travel,” and the company that started as a homesharing platform 10 years ago has been taking major steps to make that a reality. In addition to alternative accommodations, dining, and tours and activities, Airbnb is also getting into the actual hotel business.

With a new public push to get boutique hotels and bed and breakfasts to list their rooms on the site, Airbnb is giving online travel agencies like and Expedia a run for their money. And hotels are still trying to figure out how to handle competition from the company.

On this episode of the Skift podcast, we’re talking about the Airbnb threat: What online travel agencies might be in for, the opportunities that exist for the hospitality industry, and what it all means for hotel owners.

Our conversation first took the form of a Skift Call not too long ago.

Skift Hospitality Editor Deanna Ting led the call, and she was joined by Executive Editor Dennis Schaal and Skift Research Senior Analyst Rebecca Stone.

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Megatrends Defining Travel in 2018

Every year at Skift, we zero in on the big trends transforming the travel industry. We call them the Megatrends defining travel, and this year was our most mega yet.

With a new regional spotlight and a fresh focus on restaurants thanks to our colleagues at Skift Table, we included 19 editorial megatrends in our annual magazine, which is available to download here.

In mid-January in New York, we held the first of three Megatrends events and drilled down on nine of those topics, including the way travel brands are turning into experience platformshow hotels are trying to be everything to everyone, the return of European travelers to disrupted destinations, and the way restaurants are fighting the delivery boom. We recorded that event and turned it into this episode of the Skift podcast.

Speakers were Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali, hospitality editor Deanna Ting, travel tech editor Sean O’Neill, Skift Table senior editor Kristen Hawley, and news editor and podcast host Hannah Sampson.

This year’s Megatrends are sponsored by our partners at AccorHotelsAllianz Worldwide PartnersHilton Garden InnIntrepid Travelonefinestay, and Upside.

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Finding Solutions for the Overtourism Dilemma

Skift has been reporting extensively on overtourism for more than a year now, examining the impact on places like IcelandBarcelona, and Amsterdam.

We’ve been writing about the issues associated with massive numbers of tourists, but we have also sought to find solutions. On the latest episode of the Skift Podcast, we offer a conversation about the way destinations can start to address the problems of overtourism.

Our conversation first took the form of a Skift Call.

Our guest was Megan Epler Wood, director of the International Sustainable Tourism Initiative at the Center for Health and the Global Environment at the Harvard School of Public Health. Her latest book, Sustainable Tourism on a Finite Planet, was released earlier this year.

Epler Wood spoke with tourism experts Andrew Sheivachman and Dan Peltier and news editor Hannah Sampson.

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What to Expect From the New Expedia

Anyone who follows travel knows that Expedia has been making a lot of news lately. Now-former CEO Dara Khosrowshahi left to take the top job at Uber, and Expedia promptly promoted its CFO Mark Okerstrom to the chief executive position.

At Skift, we’ve been all over this story since the news broke late one recent Sunday night, so we put together a team to do a newsy conference call in early September about Dara’s legacy, his replacement, Expedia’s financial performance, and the opportunities and challenges ahead.

We recorded that call, which is featured in today’s episode of the Skift podcast. To see the slides mentioned in the conversation, go to

Leading the call was Skift executive editor Dennis Schaal, who has been covering Expedia since 2000. He was joined by senior research analyst Jared Wein, research director Luke Bujarski, hospitality editor Deanna Ting, and senior writer Andrew Sheivachman.

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Skift Backstage Podcast: What Next-Level Hotels Have in Common

Cookie-cutter uniformity is not what most travelers are seeking from hotels these days. Instead, discerning guests want local food, curated experiences, thoughtful design, and even a touch of quirkiness.

On this episode of the Skift Podcast, we’re hearing from some of the pros who make a living connecting travelers with standout hotel experiences. James Lohan and Tamara Heber-Percy are the founders of Mr. and Mrs. Smith, a travel club that started out as a guidebook featuring under-the-radar boutique hotels. We also have an interview with Claus Sendlinger, CEO and founder of Design Hotels.

They all spoke at Skift Forum Europe in London earlier this year and sat down with us behind the scenes in the Skift Take Studio.

Our talks touched on the evolution of hotel design and consumer demands, the beyond-the-spa experiences that travelers are craving, and the needs that hotels still aren’t quite meeting.

This is one of several conversations we’re bringing you from backstage at Skift Forum Europe.

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