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The Skift Travel Podcast

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Get the latest from the most-trusted travel industry news source.

Skift sits down with creatives, executives, and entrepreneurs from across travel to discuss their insights and perspectives on the hows and whys of travelers’ habits, industry patterns, and the seismic changes happening across the industry.

Listen for exclusive conversations with travel leaders and Skift's own in-house editors and analysts.

Read the latest news every day at skift.com/news

160 Episodes
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India is projected to surpass China as the world's most populous country later this year, as China begins to decline and India's population growth shows no sign of slowing until 2064. That shift carries huge implications for travel across the globe, and has the potential to rewire the race for attracting global tourists around the world. Skift addressed this in its Megatrends 2023 package in the story India Becoming the New China in the Reordering of Asia Travel. For this episode of the Skift Travel Podcast, Skift Founder and CEO Rafat Ali is joined by Senior Research Analyst Varsha Arora and Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia, in a focused discussion on India's growth, the demographic and economic challenges before India could become as big a force as Chinese outbound travelers have become, what changes have come in the domestic tourism market during and post-covid, and what the global tourism community looking to attract Indian travelers has to keep in mind.  This podcast builds off the discussion Ali and Senior Research Analyst Seth Borko had at the Skift Megatrends event earlier this month about the seminal moment of demographic switch about to happen this year, where India will become the world's most populous nation overtaking China, estimated some time this April.
For this bonus episode of the Skift Travel Podcast, we turn to our colleagues at Airline Weekly for perspective on Southwest Airlines. As most of the traveling public knows, the airline had a terrible, horrible, no good, very bad holiday season. The cancellation of 15,000-plus flights between Christmas and New Years will weigh on its fourth quarter results, but consumers' memories are short and the airline will survive. Edward Russell and Jay Shabat discuss. Plus, what European country does Eurocontrol's latest data show led the continent's air traffic recovery last year? Further Reading: European Airlines Could Face Steep Operational Challenges in 2023 by Jay Shabat Southwest’s Meltdown Should Be a Technology Warning for Airlines by Justin Dawes
Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano took the stage at Skift Global Forum in September 2022 to discuss what the hotel giant had accomplished in 2022 and where it was headed in the coming year “I’m optimistic because we are a data driven company,” Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano told Skift’s Sean ONeill. “Not withstanding all the very real headwinds in terms of inflationary environment, rising interest rates, sociopolitical unrest. We’re just not seeing the impact yet in the data. We’ve had a great first two quarters of the year. When I look at the forward bookings through the end of the year, the resilience of travel is born out in that data.” It’s not just bookings by guests that make Capuano optimistic, its property partners give it reason as well. “We announced during our first quarter earnings call we had signed more transactions globally than in any first quarter in our history,” he told the audience. “Then we replicated that in the second quarter. In many ways, those votes by the wallet of our partners are the most telling indication of our owner community’s optimism about the pace of recovery.” Follow news about Marriott and the hotel business at https://skift.com/hotels Get daily updates about hotels deals around the world at https://dailylodgingreport.com/subscribe/
Skift founder Rafat Ali interviewed Hilton CEO Christopher Nassetta via hologram Wednesday at Skift Global Forum East in Dubai. Nassetta said Hilton expects to organically develop its own new brands rather than chase costly acquisitions in part because “we don’t want to have to fix other people’s problems.” He said Hilton’s brand portfolio more than doubled to 19 in the 15 years Nassetta has been at Hilton and they are all successful, although some are “a little bit early in gestation.” “We have designed these in a modern context around exactly what customers want and we built it out of the dust,” Nassetta said. “We built it with our own blood, sweat and tears rather than paying a big price. It’s been great for our shareholders, infinite yields effectively by creating these, and creating brands that really resonate with our customer base.” Learn more about hotels at Skift.com/hotels. Read more about Hilton at Skift.com/tag/hilton.
Something shifted in the last two weeks on the zeitgeist about the use of artificial intelligence in our daily personal and professional lives.  The launch of the first large-scale, general purpose chatbot using OpenAI‘s GPT3 AI engine on November 30 has reenergized the whole tech industry all at once. Skift CEO Rafat Ali wrote a story about it, which will give you a good sense why. To get an understanding of why there is so much buzz about Generative AI — the sub-sector with larger AI world which includes creation of text, images, audio and video — and what this means for our daily lives, for the travel industry and even travelers, Ali talked to the best expert analyst and writer on it I know: David Mattin. He writes an excellent newsletter called New World Same Humans on trends, technology, and our shared future and has been doing a deep dive into Generative AI all this year with his writings. This is a fascinating conversation you would want to listen to from start to finish, to understand the implications of it for our industry and indeed our daily lived reality.
A lot of ground was covered during Peter Kern’s appearance at Skift Global Forum in New York City on September 21. The vice chairman and CEO of Expedia Group gave his take on technology, micro-services, mergers and acquisitions, and outlined why the online travel agencies still only control around 20 percent of a “multi-trillion dollar” travel market. "There’s huge opportunity," Kern says. "You just have to innovate the products and innovate the business model over time." And of course he (delicately) responded to comments made earlier at the forum by Barry Diller, the chairman and senior executive of both Expedia Group and IAC, that working from home was “kind of stupid” and “a crock,”while in discussion with Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali. Listen now for the full conversation of the “Democratizing the Travel Ecosystem” session. Read more about Expedia on Skift. Get weekly updates about online travel by subscribing to our online travel newsletter.
"I’m really excited about the quality of the brand portfolio," IHG CEO Keith Barr said at Skift Global Forum. Barr goes on to describe the current realities of the hotel business: it's a real estate business at the end of the day, after all. But IHG has been hyper-focused on its brands and its franchise partners. "It’s been great because there’re such clearly defined brands that enable us to work with a number of opportunities," he told Skift's Sean O'Neill. Two weeks after this conversation, IHG announced its deal to market all-inclusive resort giant Iberostar. You can listen to the full conversation in this podcast. Read full coverage of IHG at https://skift.com/tag/ihg Read full coverage of the hotel industry at https://skift.com/hotels Get deeper insight into the business of hotels at https://dailylodgingreport.com
For this bonus episode of The Skift Travel Podcast, we turn to Dallas where we held our first in-person Skift Aviation Forum earlier this week. To begin the event, we invited American Airlines CEO Robert Isom to have a conversation conversation with Airline Weekly's Ned Russell about post-pandemic pattern changes and how his airline is preparing for the holiday season ahead. "One of the things that we’re seeing though, is that demand is more spread out," Isom told the audience. "It’s just really high, and at least from an airline perspective, we don’t have the ability to actually peak and valley as much as we’ve had in the past." You can listen to the full conversation, below. You can also watch the interview on our YouTube channel. For more airline news, visit https://skift.com/airlines For deeper understanding of the aviation industry, subscribe to Airline Weekly.
“I’m going to bring you behind the tent, tell you what we’re doing,” JetBlue Airways COO Joanna Geraghty said at Skift Global Forum earlier this fall.  In a conversation with Airline Weekly Editor Ned Russell, Geraghty laid out JetBlue’s current challenges with labor, sustainable aviation fuel, integrating Spirit Airlines, and competing in major U.S. markets. She also discussed the airline’s potential expansion in Europe, beyond it’s current London flights.  “We just have a very challenging environment that we operate in, so we must make sure that we’re providing a better level of resilience, whether that’s more pilots in reserve, whether that’s flying a little bit less, whether that’s staffing up in some of our airports.”  Listen to Geraghty’s full on-stage appearance, below.  Follow news about JetBlue on Skift. https://skift.com/tag/jetblue/ Follow all airline news at Skift. https://skift.com/airlines/
At at time when the travel industry is still grappling with a labor shortage, you have to think some companies in the sector are "labor hoarding," hanging on to workers that might have otherwise been downsized for costs savings or seasonality reasons, simply because of the fear of not being able to fill roles later. The continuing issue of delays and bottlenecks for the H1B visa program, which was a major feeder for tech talent in the U.S., must be giving some tech executives pause when contemplating layoffs, knowing that that supply of talent is not as easy to come by should demand for workers return.  On today's bonus podcast, we're joined by Skift editors and a Skift Research analyst to better understand what's happening in the tech sector and what it means for the travel industry. Some of the topics they discuss include: Tech headcount has grown during pandemic while travel has shrunk Lesson for travel is don't assume the 'boom' times of today will last forever Harder to reach sales contacts at tech firms Less business travel and meetings and conferences from tech companies VC slowdown could be possible as valuations of other firms dip Listen to the entire conversation here. For more insight into the business of travel, visit Skift Research.
Google is one of the undisputed heavyweights in online travel. So when one of the key masterminds behind all of its travel platforms and products talks about where the search giant is heading, it's worth paying attention to. The search giant has been busy these past few months, updating its options for rail travel but also making the news for its controversial move to remove contrail emissions data. But speaking at Skift Global Forum, Richard Holden, vice president of product management at Google Travel, also shared some future developments, including the return of its own fintech product whose life was cut short by the pandemic. Listen to Holden’s full on-stage appearance with Skift founding editor and executive editor, Dennis Schaal. More interviews from Skift Global Forum are available here. Subscribe to our Online Travel Newsletter here.
Waze has 151 million monthly active users, and is more than an app to beat traffic jams, Waze CEO Neha Parikh told Skift senior research analyst Seth Borko, as they dissected the intersections between maps and community. “Why should anybody feel emotional about a navigation app? Yet people do, including me,” said Parikh. “It’s not just a one-way app that uses technology. It is a two-way ecosystem where people actually contribute to help each other.” The duo also looked at future mobility possibilities, and how Waze can change the way cities move, while the CEO shared her own personal and professional journey from Expedia that led her to the driving seat of Waze. Watch videos and read more interviews from Skift Global Forum. Follow all Skift coverage of online travel and technology.
In one year, the Walt Disney Company will be an astounding 100 years old. At Skift Global Forum, Disney Parks, Experiences and Products Chairman Josh D’Amaro excitedly talked to Skift Senior Research Analyst Seth Borko about the company’s upcoming birthday and its dreams for the next 100 years.  In the on-stage conversation, D’Amaro spoke about how Walt Disney’s original business plans were far ahead of his time. Now, the company can further their founder’s vision with immersive storytelling that mixes virtual and physical experiences, he said. Borko and D’Amaro also discussed how Disney’s has recovered revenue and staff since the pandemic, ongoing projects, what it’s like to work there and D’Amaro’s leadership style. Listen to the full interview now, and read the transcript at Skift.com.
Skift founder and CEO Rafat Ali interviewed Chesky on stage at the Skift Global Forum in September 2022 in Manhattan, where the Airbnb CEO detailed his vision of the new era. Airbnb co-founder and CEO Brian Chesky said travel experts and analysts underestimate travel’s potential, and that the industry would soon witness a new “golden age of travel.” Fueling part of the trend, he argued, is that an estimated 50 percent of U.S. workers could potentially labor on their laptops from home, and they would travel to get out of the house, and seek human connections. Chesky termed it a “dystopian” risk to people to remain glued to their screens all their day, and they will leave their homes to travel and combat loneliness. And they won’t merely be traveling to places such as Las Vegas, Rome and Paris, but would venture out to some of the 100,000 cities and markets where Airbnb would try to inspire them to travel to. Listen to the podcast for the full discussion, and visit Skift Live for details about discussions like this.
The world’s largest travel company Booking Holdings is using people’s anxieties about their trips as a lens through which it prioritizes the products and services it is refining and introducing, such as flight search and insurance or other paid guarantees to cover when things go wrong. The company wants to make booking all of the components of a trip as low-stress and seamless as Uber has made booking a rideshare, said Glenn Fogel, president and CEO, on Tuesday at Skift Global Forum in New York. “When I’m in an unfamiliar city, I want to get a notification from the Booking.com app letting me know about a museum or other experience nearby that I can press a button to book right there,” Fogel said, in conversation with Skift Executive Editor Dennis Schaal. Fogel joined Schaal at Skift Global Forum on September 20, 2022 in New York City. For full coverage of the event, visit https://skift.com/tag/sgf2022/
Today on the Skift Travel Podcast we feature a session entitled "The Business Advantage of Sustainability" that was recorded live during this year's Skift Sustainable Tourism Summit.  In this session, Skift Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O'Neill spoke with Inge Huijbrechts of Radisson Hotel Group and Michel Gelobter of Cooler about a couple of issues that are very hot right now. A number of decision makers in travel worry about climate change, but it often seems like a tomorrow problem.  Today, many hoteliers have their hands full dealing with the chaotic recovery from the pandemic and some are also worried about recission and other things later this year. But talking with these leaders reveals real business advantages to travel companies if they get ahead of the crowd on lowering carbon emissions. This isn't just happy talk. There is a lot of pragmatic thinking and practical examples for travel decision makers.
The chairman and co-founder of Intrepid Travel has said there was too much “rhetorical flourish” from travel companies when it comes to discussing sustainability. Speaking at the Skift Sustainable Tourism Summit, Darrell Wade bemoaned how organizations were touting a “build back better” ethos, while failing to take action. “It’s disappointing, embedded into marketing, or even worse the boardroom,” he said during the online event. “Half of the companies, probably more, will have done nothing. At the World Travel & Tourism Council, a good number of companies are talking the right way, and committing, but not enough are putting the rubber on the road.” While some companies had managed to go beyond what he described rhetorical flourish, he said travel companies needed to ensure there was”company engagement” from the top, and they needed to commit measurable action, including science based targets. “You need to sign up to have that line in the sand,” Wade told moderator Rafat Ali, Skift CEO and co-founder. “Sustainability is not easy, it’s heavy lifting. Even one aspect like climate change, to work out a pathway to zero emissions, is a lot of work,” he added. For more insight into tourism, destinations, and sustainability, please visit https://skift.com/tourism.
Marriott’s Homes & Villas unit is taking a different approach to the home-sharing business than many of its competitors, focusing its growth on the company’s vast pool of loyalty members. This resource — Marriott Bonvoy — members is not a cap to Homes & Villas growth as some have claimed, Vice President Jennifer Hsieh said at the Skift Future of Lodging Forum on Thursday. Instead, she said this is a differentiator that a source of strength. “The industry has not anchored itself around a loyalty program,” Hsieh said of the short-term rental sector. “We lean into it.” Listen now for her full conversation with Skift Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O'Neill.
As damaging as Covid was for tour operators, the inability to conduct trips provided companies in the sector a valuable opportunity to reevaluate their all aspects of their businesses. Ulla Heffer Böhler, chief operating officer for the Travel Corporation, and Travis Pittman, the CEO & co-founder of TourRadar, told Skift Senior Travel Tech Editor Sean O’Neill at Skift Forum Europe 2022 on March 24 what changes they realized they had to make. Böhler said Covid forced her company to take another look at, among other things, group sizes and domestic offerings while Pittman stated TourRadar was forced to look at what markets it was targeting.  Listen to the conversation, or read a transcript of it here, to learn how Böhler and Pittman used the pandemic-induced pause to develop new tours.
While hospitality company Sonder has a complex digital strategy in place to fill its properties, what it really wants is for its mostly Gen Z and millennial guests to brag about their cool stays on social media. Sonder describes itself as a next-generation hospitality company, and its R&D budget is wide-ranging, with marketing a key focus, according to its senior vice president of revenue. “We have a very omnichannel approach to distribution, whether its sales or third-party distribution, things like Airbnb and booking.com,” said Sonder's Shruti Challa, speaking at the Skift Future of Lodging Forum in May 2022. Challa speaks with Skift's Seth Borko at the Skift Future of Lodging Forum in New York City in May 2022. You can listen to their entire conversation in today's episode. For more insight into the business of hotels and short-term rentals, visit https://skift.com/news.
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