Southwest Looks to Tap ‘Clear, Steady’ Upward Trend in Corp. Travel Demand


Southwest’s Andrew Watterson discusses:

  • A surprise rebound in convention/meeting business
  • Channel shift from Southwest’s GDS strategy
  • Getting operations beyond “acceptable” levels

Southwest Airlines last week celebrated the 15th anniversary of its launch of operations in Denver, which since has grown into one of the largest centers of business for the carrier. Southwest EVP and chief commercial officer Andrew Watterson spoke with BTN transportation editor Michael B. Baker during the event about the effect Southwest’s growth in Denver has had on corporate travel, the carrier’s strategy to recover from recent operational challenges and his outlook for corporate travel recovery.

BTN: Airline executives generally have said they expect slower business travel growth this year and then acceleration next year. Is that what you expect?

Andrew Watterson: That’s the current supposition, though predictions for business travel return have been erroneous for a year and a half now, but it’s a clear, steady, upward trend that we’re seeing. [Small and medium-sized businesses] were first to get back out on the road, but we’re seeing the supermajority of our accounts are active. It’s the travelers per account that’s really depressed, but for the travelers who are traveling, their rate of travel is down only about 10 percent. 

A year or so ago, people would say conventions and internal travel are not coming back, but we’re seeing a lot of meetings and convention business, because those are open. People are traveling on business to Las Vegas or Orlando to have a convention or meeting and interact with others, and we’re seeing a lot of companies, especially professional services companies, getting together in their offices. They can’t go to a client site, so they’ll fly their teams to a centralized office, work there a couple of days a week and then go back to their home office. That has been a surprise, because if you’d asked anybody 12 to 15 months ago, they’d say those would be the last things to come back, but they’ve been the first things.

BTN: Will it ultimately return to pre-pandemic levels?

Watterson: A lot of times people get overly focused on whether we’ll get to 100 percent of travel demand. The business travel community just being back to 80 percent or 85 percent is material. There will be different types of business travel. While I don’t minimize that, it’s true with every recession. If you go back to the Great Recession or 9/11, those changed the nature of business travel, so it’s common for an economic downturn to result in a change of busines travel perception. After 9/11, we had the security hassle, which put a damper on short-haul flying. During the Great Recession, a lot of the big conventions were vilified, and so there was a stigma on conventions that lasted a few years. 

BTN: After your recent announcement of capacity adjustments, are you confident that Southwest will be ready for the upcoming holiday demand?

Watterson: You never know what the weather is going to be like. What we’re seeing is that with summertime, we had ramped up our capacity, and we didn’t lay anybody off or furlough anybody, but we did have people on extended leave. We were calling them back, and then we were hiring more people, and just like the rest of the economy, we found out we couldn’t hire people as fast as we used to be able to hire, and some people who came back from leave for whatever reason would turn around and ask for unpaid leave. A combination of coming up short in hiring goals and unpaid leaves meant staffing wasn’t right this summer. So, we immediately adjusted for capacity and brought down our capacity. We won’t be back to the same levels we were this summer until the earliest March or perhaps later on, so that gives us more time to ramp up the hiring we need. There will be less flights this holiday season versus the summer, and more people we’ve been hiring, which puts us in a good position.

BTN: Outside of that one weekend, how has Southwest’s operational performance been in recent months?

Watterson: Since we did the immediate reduction we started in September and beyond, we’ve had acceptable on-time performance. We’d like to do better than that, but it’s good enough. We’re not getting complaint letters from it. We know the day-to-day recoverability will be helped by a more dense network that we get each month that goes by. Right now, the reliability is at an acceptable level, but it needs to be better than that. We generally had timed the increase in our depth for the return of business travel, which we expect to be during 2022.


We won’t be back to the same levels we were this summer until the earliest March or perhaps later on, so that gives us more time to ramp up the hiring we need. There will be less flights this holiday season versus the summer, and more people we’ve been hiring, which puts us in a good position.”


BTN: What feedback have you gotten from corporate customers regarding the new destinations Southwest has added?

Watterson: A good portion of them are leisure, and for business travelers, they like that, because they can use the points they earn on business to fly leisure. The one that have a direct business benefit are the bigger city airports, like Chicago O’Hare, Bush Intercontinental and Miami, but we also have medium-sized city airports like Colorado Springs, Fresno and Bozeman, (Mont.,) where there’s business going on there as well and corporations located there or that send people there are happy. We see in big metro areas, where we’re in multiple airports, that gives people choices.

Denver is a big focus for us. It’s our largest airport. We entered 15 years ago in a modest fashion and then, as we’ve seen an increasingly robust response, we’ve ramped up to be what we are now. We are getting 16 more gates as they finish our concourse, which is a total of 40 fights, so we’ll have ample opportunity to fly to new destinations and add more frequencies. We find Denver is a market where air travel is essential to doing business. If you think about big cities, in most you can drive to another big city. We’re based in Dallas, and you can drive to Austin if you want or Houston if you want. If you live in New York, you can drive to Boston or Philly or take a train. But Denver, the big cities aren’t within driving distance, so you need to fly to do business. It’s brought a greater utility to the business community in Denver, especially with our flexibility in and out. We keep adding more people here and more flights here, and we’re grateful to have been embraced by the city and business community. 

BTN: Now that you are live with all the major global distribution system suppliers, have you seen much channel shift?

Watterson: We’re seeing definitely incremental business from being in the three GDSs with full functionality. We know there’s some shift, and when we did the business case and plan for doing this, we counted on the big shift. What we are seeing now is that corporations will still use multiple channels for different purposes. There may be a senior group that gets high-touch support from the travel management company and goes through the GDS, and there may be a self-service, stand-alone business unit that uses Swabiz. Something in between might use a direct connect. The ultimate channel shift will depend on what the travel purpose is for each of those segments. 

BTN: What response have you seen to the recent announcement of a new Rapid Rewards Business program?

Watterson: We’ve been doing beta for quite a while just to get the kinks out. We had a real surge of interest once we went public on it, and we’ve seen lots of sign-ups. It’s a way for corporations that aren’t big enough to have a negotiated discount but still want to favor us with some activity to de facto to get a discount, in terms of earning points they can redeem for company travel. This is a way for them to earn a discount through demonstrated performance. 

BTN: What about your recent announcements on sustainability?

Watterson: We’re allowing multiple options for corporations, depending on their sentiment and how they want to engage. If your company is large enough that you can fund acquisition of sustainable aviation fuel, we can work together to get a direct line for that for you, all the way down to the lower end, as an individual or company, where we offer to offset a particular flight you are taking. We will give you Rapid Rewards points for that and match your gift, so we end up contributing more than you. 

BTN: Is codesharing or interlining with other carriers still something Southwest is considering?

Watterson: It’s on our radar. Each year we look at our tech budget to see what to spend it on. Things like [Extended-range Twin-engine Operational Performance Standards] to fly to Hawaii, the GDS or refreshing Swabiz. We also just went live with a brand-new maintenance system. You can also use it for something like codeshare and interlines, so that had not yet made it into that short list to do. It’s something we still want to do moving forward. We think it’s a good financial benefit as well as offering travelers extra options, but it’s the icing, not the cake, for us.



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Hyatt: ‘Upward Momentum’ for Group, Corp. Transient in Q3


Similar to other major hotel companies during
the third-quarter earnings season, Hyatt Hotels Corp. reported that leisure
continues to drive the recovery, but there is “progression of group and
business transient demand.” Revenue from those two segments improved more
than 40 percent from the prior quarter, according to the company.

“While [corporate transient and group] demand did not
accelerate immediately following Labor Day due to the delta variant, the upward
momentum has been steady throughout September and October,” said Hyatt
president and CEO Mark Hoplamazian on Thursday’s quarterly earnings call.
“The rate of improvement in group during October has been particularly
meaningful after seeing elevated levels of cancellations in August and early September
due to the delta variant. Since that time, cancellations have receded while
short-term group demand has strengthened.”

Hyatt’s systemwide group revenue jumped 16 percent in
October compared with September and is trending at 50 percent of fully recovered
levels, Hoplamazian said, adding that group bookings for 2022 are also showing
significant improvement. “In October, our leads for 2022 grew by 38
percent compared to September, and we are now 10 percent ahead of 2019 levels
for group business that is likely to book,” he said.

Group pace for 2022 is approximately 80 percent, a bit
weaker than reported for the second quarter, but the company is confident that
with growing lead volume, the momentum will build into 2022.

Business transient recovery has been softer than group,
“but it is still showing steady momentum, with demand recovering to 46
percent of 2019 levels in October,” Hoplamazian said. “We continue to
see stronger growth in our regional as compared to our larger national accounts,
however that gap is narrowing. Our largest corporate accounts have grown by 50
percent since June, and we continue to be encouraged by dialogue with corporate
customers who are returning to offices in bigger numbers, with many planning a
more robust return to travel in 2022.”

Q3 Key Performance Metrics

Hyatt’s third-quarter 2021 comparable systemwide revenue per
available room was $93.70, representing a decrease of 31.8 percent compared
with the third quarter of 2019, according to the company. Both occupancy and average
daily rate contributed to the sequential growth, with occupancy improving by
700 basis points and rate growing by 12 percent from the second quarter, said
Hyatt CFO Joan Bottarini. “The improvement in rate is especially notable
as it reached 96 percent of 2019 levels on a systemwide basis,” she said.

Hotels in resort locations were the primary driver of the
recovery during the first two months of the quarter, with a more notable
improvement from urban locations in September driven by growing demand for
business transient and group, Bottarini added.

Hyatt opened 20 new hotels with about 4,600 rooms during the
quarter, contributing to a 6.9 percent year-over-year increase. The company
executed management or franchised contracts for approximately 103,000 rooms for
its pipeline for a year-over-year increase of 2 percent for the quarter. 

Earlier this week, the company completed its acquisition
of Apple Leisure Group
.

RELATED:Hyatt
Q2 earnings



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Marriott: Q3 Corp. Transient Growth Slowed, Group Business ‘Accelerated Nicely’


Marriott International’s corporate transient and group
business continue to show improvement during the recovery, but the latter took
a bit more of a hit during the third quarter, said Marriott CEO Anthony Capuano
on a Wednesday quarterly earnings call.

“In the U.S. and Canada, special corporate was the segment
most impacted by the delta variant during the quarter, given the delay in the
return to office timelines,” Capuano said, explaining that the company
identifies special corporate as business transient customers who book at
pre-negotiated rates. “The [segment] gives us the best indication of
business demand trends. Special corporate bookings showed steady recovery each
month this year until we saw a slight pullback in the back half of the third
quarter.”

Capuano added that the segment’s upward trajectory returned
in October with bookings versus 2019 growing each week during the month,
especially for certain verticals. “Accounting and consulting grew 35
percent over what we saw last month, and technology business grew about 31
percent versus last month,” he said. Overall, “special corporate
bookings are currently down less than 40 percent compared to the same time
frame in 2019.”

Based on conversations with corporate clients, Marriott
expects a recovery in business transient to gradually continue as more workers
return to the office, guest visitation policies are relaxed and a greater
number of employees are permitted to travel again. 

In addition, historically, Marriott’s business transient
business coming from small and midsize companies was about 60 percent of
business transient revenue. During the recovery, SMEs have been accounting for
about 75 percent of the company’s business transient revenue, Capuano said. As
a result, some of that SME business has been in more secondary and tertiary
markets, said Marriott CFO Leeny Oberg. “However, during the third
quarter, we saw the best improvement in our big cities in special corporate
that we’ve seen since the pandemic. So, it is absolutely moving in the right
direction, including those larger cities.”

Group on the Rise

Group business, meanwhile, “accelerated nicely”
during the quarter in the U.S. and Canada. “Group room revenues for the
quarter were down 46 percent versus the third quarter of 2019, a significant
improvement compared to the second quarter’s decline of 76 percent versus the
same time period in 2019,” Capuano said, adding that social groups were
particularly strong.

Further, U.S.-managed group bookings beat 2019 levels for
each of the last five months through October, as event-booking windows have
shortened during the pandemic, he said. “In-the-quarter-for-the-quarter
bookings in October were above [those] from October 2019 by over 30 percent,
which is the highest percentage increase we’ve seen since the beginning of the
pandemic.”

In line with other hotel company quarterly reports, group
average daily rates have continued to rise, and “for full-year 2022, it’s
currently pacing nearly 4 percent above pre-pandemic levels,” Capuano
said. 

Q3 Key Performance Metrics

Marriott’s third-quarter 2021 comparable systemwide revenue
per available room, adjusted for currency fluctuations, increased 118 percent worldwide,
135 percent in the U.S. and Canada, and 76 percent in all other markets year
over year. Compared with 2019, RevPAR declined 26 percent worldwide, 20 percent
in the U.S. and Canada, and 41 percent in all other markets. 

Worldwide occupancy was 58.2 percent for the quarter, up
23.4 percentage points from 2020. Average daily rate was $155.21, a 30.6
percent year-over-year increase. Both occupancy and ADR increased compared with
the first and second quarters of 2021, with ADR down only about 4.4 percent in
the third quarter compared with the third quarter of 2019, according to a
company filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. 

“We’ve been very pleased to see rate almost back at
pre-pandemic levels in just 20 months,” Oberg said. “In comparison,
global ADRs have lagged the recovery in RevPAR in prior downturns, taking
around five years to rebound after the 2009 recession and around four years to
recover post 9/11.” 

The company reported more than $3.9 billion in revenues for
the quarter, compared with $2.3 billion one year ago. It also reported $220
million in net income versus $100 million in the third quarter of 2020. 

Guest-Room Growth

Marriott added approximately 17,500 rooms globally during
the third quarter, including more than 2,200 conversion rooms. “We’ve
already added more conversion rooms in the first nine months of this year than
we did in all of 2019,” Capuano said, adding that the company expects 2021
net rooms growth to be approximately 3.5 percent. 

As of Sept. 30, the company’s worldwide pipeline totaled
2,769 properties with nearly 477,000 rooms. More than 206,000 of those rooms
were under construction as of the end of the quarter.

RELATED:Marriott
Q2 earnings



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Corp. Partnerships Part of Southwest’s 10-Year Emissions-Reduction Plans


Southwest Airlines aims to cut carbon emissions per available seat mile by 20 percent by 2030 through such measures as introducing more fuel-efficient aircraft, increasing use of sustainable aviation fuel and offsetting programs, including a program targeting corporate customers.

The carrier late last month said it was launching a Green Incentive Program for its corporate customers, through which they can earn funds for their own sustainability initiatives to be used for offsets, charitable donations or other sources. Southwest on Monday also announced it is partnering with climate action platform Chooose through which travelers can earn loyalty points by purchasing offsets for Southwest. Travelers can earn 10 Rapid Rewards bonus points per dollar spent toward purchasing offsets, a maximum of 500 points per month, with Southwest matching the contribution as well.

In addition, Southwest announced that Deloitte, Siemens and Zurich North America are initial partners for shared investment in sustainable fuel, in which the premium cost for a limited volume of SAF acquired by Southwest is covered by the companies through cash or unused UATP funds. Deloitte already has agreements with both American Airlines and Delta Air Lines to buy sustainable aviation fuel, and both it and Siemens have been initial participants in an alliance created by United Airlines to contribute toward purchasing the fuel.

Southwest aims to have SAF cover 10 percent of its total jet fuel consumption by 2030.

Fleet plans for carbon emission reduction include adding more Boeing 737 Max 7 and 8 aircraft while speeding up retirement of Boeing 737-700 aircraft. Southwest plans to invest more than $10 billion in aircraft orders over the next decade to improve its fleet’s fuel efficiency.



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Delta’s Domestic Corp. Travel Recovery Nears 50 Percent Mark


Delta Air Lines’ corporate travel volume in recent weeks has grown to its highest point during the Covid-19 pandemic recovery, with domestic business travel volume last week nearing 50 percent of pre-pandemic levels, CEO Ed Bastian said Wednesday in Delta’s third-quarter earnings call.

For the overall third quarter, domestic corporate travel volumes were about 40 percent recovered, which is 10 percentage points higher than their recovery rate in the second quarter, Bastian said. While corporate travel recovery “paused” in August and early September while Covid-19 case counts grew with the spread of the delta variant, spurring many companies to delay return-to-office plans, demand since Labor Day once again has picked up, he said.

Delta’s most recent survey of its corporate customers indicated that 90 percent expect their travel volumes in the fourth quarter to be equal to or higher than third-quarter levels, according to Bastian. About 60 percent of Delta’s corporate customers said they have reopened their offices, and an additional 10 percent said they would do so before the end of 2021.

“We anticipate meaningful acceleration in business travel starting at that point,” Bastian said. “We hear regularly from our corporate customers that they’re ready to get back to travel, see their clients face-to-face, renew business relationships and develop new ones.”

Business travel volumes from unmanaged programs are running five to 10 percentage points ahead of managed programs, with “smaller, hungrier companies out there hitting the road sooner than some of the bigger multinationals,” Delta president Glen Hauenstein said.

International business travel also is showing signs of recovery, he said. In the second and third quarter, corporate travel to Europe was running at about 15 percent of pre-pandemic levels, but that has improved to 30 percent in recent weeks with the news that the U.S. will open to vaccinated foreign visitors next month. Long-haul travel to South America, previously “pretty much nonexistent,” also has started to recover, and the Pacific region could be next in line, according to Hauenstein.

“We are expecting those to improve significantly … as the vaccination rates in important places for us like Korea and Japan are now approaching between 70 percent and 80 percent,” he said. “Hopefully, we get some good news out of that region of the world starting in the next few months.”

Domestic leisure travel, meanwhile, has made a “full return” to 2019 levels, Bastian said. Delta’s passenger revenue for the third quarter was $7.2 billion, 37 percent of 2019 levels, and total third-quarter operating revenue was 27 percent of 2019 levels, boosted by a 39 percent increase in cargo revenue compared with 2019.

Delta executives noted that premium travel revenues have been strong even with the lower rates of business travel and indicated that Delta would look to increase premium seating capacity in the future.

“We’re selling [premium seats] 10 points higher than we did pre-pandemic,” Bastian said. “We always ran relatively full in terms of load factor, but a lot of those are complimentary upgrades, and we’re seeing people are willing to pay us for those seats. That’s why we want to create more over time.”

Delta reported net income of $1.2 billion for the third quarter, which included the benefits from federal aid due to the pandemic. Excluding that and other special items, Delta still reported net income of $194 million for the quarter, its first such profitable quarter since the pandemic began.

Bastian said he expected the carrier would see a “modest loss” in the fourth quarter due to rising fuel prices.

RELATED: Delta Q2 earnings



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Tripbam: Corp. Hotel Volume Recovering After August Dip


Despite a blip in the recovery during August, when market-rate growth flattened and pricing volatility increased, hotel booking volume again is on an upward trajectory and volatility is down once more, according to Tripbam’s third-quarter market report. “The dip we saw was related more to late summer holidays than it was to long-term concerns about the [Covid-19] delta variant,” according to the report.

The hotel reshopping firm on Sept. 12 assessed data from the previous 30 days and compared it with figures from the same 30 days in 2019. Tripbam used the same customer set it had in 2019 for a like-for-like comparison.

The company found it had processed about 31 percent of the volume as in 2019, but the average length of stay has begun to return to what it was two years ago, said Tripbam founder and CEO Steve Reynolds during a late September webinar that reviewed the findings. With mostly essential travel happening during the height of the pandemic, the average length of stay had been four to five days, but has returned to a more normal 2.5 days, he said. The 11-day booking window before travel still was shorter than the 16-day window of 2019. 

Global market rates were down 28 percent for the 30-day period in 2021 compared with 2019, from an average of $234 to $168, while global booked rates were down 22 percent, from an average of $195 to $150, according to the report.

Looking at rates from a discount level, hotel programs in 2019 delivered about 18 percent in value across all clients, Reynolds said during the webinar. Currently, that percentage is at 17 percent, so there is a “bit of a ways to go to get the same percentage value,” he added. 

The report projected that global business travel hotel bookings by year-end would be between 40 percent to 60 percent of 2019 levels. As of the end of 2022, Tripbam expects global business travel hotel bookings to reach 80 percent of 2019 volumes, and the company expects that reduction to remain long-term based on conversations with corporate buyers.

Tripbam also anticipates that market rates will reach 2019 levels by the first quarter of 2022 and likely exceed 2019 levels in the subsequent quarters. “Don’t roll over rates,” Reynolds said. “Get programs in place now so they’re in a good position for 2022. We think [rates] will go up, and we can argue that a static program might be the way to go, and we can argue dynamic might be the way to go. It depends on the market.”

Further, the report cautioned about dual-rate loading. Some companies worked with hotel partners to introduce dynamic rates and to roll over 2020 static rates, which would in theory act as a rate cap in 2021. But Tripbam found during contract audits that dual-rate loading was often having the opposite effect—the static rate was acting as a floor rather than a cap, leading companies to pay more. “The concern is that some hotels don’t have the technology to support it the way it is being sold,” Reynolds said. “You need to [perform] audits to make sure it’s working. For major chains, it is working as promised, but with some smaller brands, there are some problems.”

Tripbam also provided an update on its new air offering, which is in beta with about eight clients, said VP of air solutions Tim Nichols. “It’s up and working,” he said. “We’re looking at reshopping and rebooking, that is the core of what the solution does.” Early findings show that it is producing savings “in the mid-teens [percentages] and increasing.” The company expected to run the beta for about another month.

RELATED: Tripbam: Corp. Hotel Rates Set to Hit 2019 Levels by Year-End



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Why Corp Travel Management, Imugene, MoneyMe, & Syrah are pushing higher


In afternoon trade, the S&P/ASX 200 Index (ASX: XJO) is on course to record a disappointing decline. At the time of writing, the benchmark index is down 1.3% to 6,924.2 points.

Four ASX shares that have not let that hold them back are listed below. Here’s why they are pushing higher:

Corporate Travel Management Ltd (ASX: CTD)

The Corporate Travel Management share price is up 2.5% to $19.51. Investors have been buying the corporate travel specialist’s shares after it revealed that it expects to be profitable in the fourth quarter of FY 2021. This follows a breakeven month in March after the company experienced an uptick in demand for corporate travel services.

The Imugene share price is up almost 4% to 19 cents. The catalyst for this is news that Imugene has met its second clinical endpoint for the HER-Vaxx’s clinical studies. HER-Vaxx is an immunotherapy that is aiming to treat tumours that over-express the HER-2/neu receptor. This includes gastric, breast, ovarian, lung and pancreatic cancers.

The MoneyMe share price is up 3.5% to $1.49. Investors have been buying the the digital credit company’s shares after it announced a new product launch. According to the release, MoneyMe has unveiled Autopay, a secured vehicle finance solution for dealers and major growth innovation. Management believes that the product will transform the $12 billion automotive finance industry.

The Syrah share price is up 4% to $1.10. This follows the release of the graphite producer’s third quarter update this morning. Syrah noted that there is strong demand growth for natural graphite end uses. This is being driven by electric vehicle (EV) adoption. It points out that EV sales are up 140% in during the first quarter compared to a year ago.

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Motley Fool contributor James Mickleboro has no position in any of the stocks mentioned. The Motley Fool Australia owns shares of and has recommended Corporate Travel Management Limited. The Motley Fool has a disclosure policy. This article contains general investment advice only (under AFSL 400691). Authorised by Bruce Jackson.



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News Corp Australia’s Travel + Luxury launches today


News Corp Australia’s Travel + Luxury has launched today with a magazine in The Australian.

News Corp Australia’s Travel + Luxury launches today with the first edition of the quarterly glossy published in The Australian as a 116-page magazine along with a new content vertical on theaustralian.com.au.

Designed for a curious and affluent audience in search of unique experiences, inspiration, travel news, products and adventure, The Australian’s Travel + Luxury features an unparalleled line-up of contributors including leading travel writers, Susan Kurosawa, Katrina Israel, Penny Hunter, Jana Frawley and George Epaminondas.

Editorial Director of Premium Food and Travel, Kerrie McCallum said Travel + Luxury is dedicated to, and predicated on, keeping our travel dreams alive.

“As luxury travel enters a transformative decade, the focus is shifting to personalisation, authenticity and exclusivity. The notion of madly ticking off your bucket-list has given way to curious absorption, unique experiences and sustainable explorations both here and abroad.

“Travel + Luxury will take readers on an incredible journey each season through the glossy magazine, along with our exciting new digital destination every day, inspiring travellers looking to explore Australia now and those who are dreaming about their next holiday.

“We’re so pleased to launch Travel + Luxury in collaboration with Tourism Australia as our domestic tourism partner, supporting the emergence and rebound of local travel. In a special supplement in the middle of the magazine we spotlight homegrown gems, explore adventurous getaways from the Top End to Tasmania, and reveal designer Collette Dinnigan’s new bespoke experiences on the NSW south coast for a handful of guests.”

Tourism Australia Managing Director Phillipa Harrison said: “Tourism Australia is delighted to be the launch partner of Travel + Luxury. There are always silver linings and for Australian travellers during 2020 and 2021, it is this: we have the opportunity to fall back in love with our own backyard, to look at Australia with new eyes and see how she has grown with sophisticated and unique experiences while so many of us have been racing off to far flung shores over the decades. We have the chance to see why she is so loved by international travellers.”

The inaugural issue of Travel + Luxury showcases destinations both realistic and idealistic – from sumptuous lodges in New Zealand to a breathtaking villa in Italy; a blockbuster Impressionism exhibition in Melbourne to life-changing tours of Antarctica; as well as the captivating blend of old and new in Kyoto. The issue also looks at travel through the lens of design, food and wine, tech, beauty, style and culture.

Along with launch partner Tourism Australia, Travel + Luxury is supported by a mix of luxury and travel brands including Omega, Rolex, Veuve Clicquot, Tiffany & Co, Hugo Boss, Bulgari, Kailis, Qantas, Crown Resorts, Scenic, Captain’s Choice, Viking, Regent Seven Seas Cruises, Oceania Cruises, Silversea, Cosh Living, Tourism Tropical North Queensland and Aurora Expeditions.

Travel + Luxury launches with a multi-channel marketing campaign that will run across print, radio, DOOH, digital and social channels.

As part of the launch, Travel & Indulgence in The Weekend Australian has rebranded to Travel + Luxury Weekend. Travel sections in delicious., Vogue Australia and Vogue Living will now carry the Travel + Luxury branding to create the ultimate network for prestige travel.





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News Corp announces new travel brand Travel + Luxury


News Corp Australia has announced the launch of Travel + Luxury – a new travel brand led by The Australian and available as a quarterly gloss magazine and content vertical on theaustralian.com.au.

The glossy large format magazine will be inserted in The Australian with the first edition being published on Friday, March 26. 

The Australian editor-in-chief Christopher Dore said: “The Australian is delighted to launch Travel + Luxury, our latest high-quality magazine that will inspire readers who love travelling and dream of their next trip. Under Kerrie McCallum’s editorial guidance and category expertise, our renowned contributors and travel content will create the most premium travel product in the country.”

As part of the launch, Travel & Indulgence in The Weekend Australian will rebrand to Travel + Luxury Weekend. Travel sections in delicious., Vogue Australia and Vogue Living will also carry the Travel + Luxury branding to create the ultimate network for prestige travel.

Designed for a curious and affluent audience in search of unique experiences, travel news, inspiration, products and adventure, Travel + Luxury will feature a line-up of leading travel writers, photographers and luxury experts, along with international content from sister titles, The Times, WSJ Magazine and Conde Nast Traveller.

Editorial director of premium food and travel, Kerrie McCallum said Travel + Luxury will provide a platform to tell the most premium travel stories locally and globally.

“News Corp Australia has for many years, been the leading travel destination for Australians and we have an amazing audience of travel intenders,” said Ms McCallum.

“I’m thrilled to be expanding our travel portfolio with the launch of Travel + LuxuryThe Australian and the News Prestige Network brands enable us to engage with a premium travel audience, helping them uncover unique experiences, make memories and celebrate life’s special moments.

“While the travel industry has faced unprecedented challenges in the past year, our desire to explore has only intensified. Travel for Australians is intrinsic to our culture and we’re gripped by wanderlust. At a time when prospective travel corridors are still emerging, high-tech hygiene practices are evolving, and a vaccine rollout is underway, we’re already thinking big. Travel + Luxury is dedicated to, and predicated on, keeping our travel dreams alive.”

Tourism Australia is the launch partner of Travel + Luxury.

Tourism Australia Managing Director Phillipa Harrison said: “Tourism Australia is delighted to be the launch partner of Travel + Luxury. While many destinations around the world offer luxury holidays, Australia’s offering is rare and compelling, and is very much reflective of our world-class natural beauty, our exceptional food and wine offering, and our people.

“Our natural environment and propensity for outdoor living has seen the development of a unique collection of ‘barefoot’ and adventure luxury experiences that appeal to those who travel to seek knowledge as well as a genuine connection with people and place.” 

The inaugural issue of Travel + Luxury will showcase destinations such as New Zealand and Antarctica, and an impressionism exhibition in Melbourne to designer and hotelier Collette Dinnigan’s new bespoke experiences for a handful of guests.

The launch of Travel + Luxury is being supported by a multi-channel marketing campaign that will run across print, radio, DOOH, digital and social channels, along with a sampler magazine that will be inserted in delicious., Vogue Australia and Vogue Living in early March.





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Hyatt Hints Meetings Might Recover Before Corp. Transient Travel


Not unlike other hotel companies that have reported fourth-quarter earnings so far this month, Hyatt Hotels Corp. is seeing a more meaningful pickup in group bookings for the second half of 2021 compared with the first half of the year, said president and CEO Mark Hoplamazian on a Thursday earnings call. But he also hinted that groups might not necessarily come in third in terms of the order of recovery, provided vaccinations and rapid Covid-19 testing stay on target over the course of the year.

“We have previously been saying that the sequence [for the recovery] would be leisure transient, followed by business transient, followed by group,” he said. “And I think the potential upside surprise in that progression is that we might see group come back in a more purposeful way, in a more significant way.”

What led to that speculation are Hyatt’s fourth-quarter 2020 and year-to-date 2021 group booking trends. Group revenue totaled just $44 million for the last three quarters of 2020, but it improved sequentially over the year, and half of that amount was realized in the fourth quarter. From the beginning of October through January, the company booked about $170 million in new group business for all future months, excluding any rebooking activity. 

“That represents a 20 percent acceleration over Q3 in pure new group bookings,” Hoplamazian said. “We are, for the first time since Covid-19 began, seeing association and corporate activity pick up for 2022 and beyond. And we have early signs that we will actually host corporate meetings as early as the second quarter of 2021.”

In addition, 28 percent of canceled group revenue from March through December of 2020, representing $300 million, rebooked. Cancellations in January were down 25 percent compared with December. Lead generation in January through the first week of February rose to levels not seen since early 2020, Hoplamazian said, with lead volumes improving 50 percent month over month. About 60 percent of that increased activity is for 2021 arrivals, with the majority hitting the second half of the year. 

“This activity is concentrated in our resorts and also, importantly, in our primary convention hotels,” Hoplamazian added. “[Booking] pace for the second half of 2021 is down just over 30 percent, and pace into 2022, where we have a bit over 40 percent of our total revenue booked at this time, is down roughly 10 percent.”

He also noted that Hyatt is working “from scratch” with several of the company’s largest corporate customers on designing a new approach to hybrid meetings, because “cobbling together pre-existing AV capabilities and having a digital leg to a meeting isn’t really satisfying [their] core needs. It’s really creating an engaging and meaningful experience for those who are joining digitally. That is the new chapter for us moving forward,” he said.

Q4 and Full-Year 2020 Results

Despite being bullish on future group business, leisure stays primarily drove Hyatt’s occupancy for the fourth quarter, and the company’s key performance indicators were muted for both that period and full-year 2020. 

For the fourth quarter, comparable systemwide revenue per available room decreased 68.9 percent year over year. The occupancy rate was down 39.9 percentage points to 31.6 percent. Average daily rate fell 29.6 percent. For full-year 2020, RevPAR dropped 65.4 percent year over year. Occupancy was off 41.9 percent to 31.6 percent. ADR was down 19.6 percent.

Hyatt posted a net loss of $203 million for the fourth quarter and a loss of $703 million for the full year. 

The company opened 23 new hotels with 6,877 rooms during the fourth quarter. In 2020, Hyatt opened a total of 72 hotels with 14,972 rooms, including 11 properties that were conversions, for net rooms growth of 5.2 percent year over year. The company’s pipeline totals 500 hotels with 101,000 rooms, which remained unchanged from 2019. Approximately 32 percent of pipeline rooms are planned for the Americas region.

As of Dec. 31, 94 percent of systemwide hotels and 93 percent of rooms were open, compared with 92 percent of hotels and 88 percent of rooms at the end of the third quarter.

RELATED: Q3 2020 Hyatt results



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