Interest in 2021 Travel Is on the Rise

Finally. Travellers are preparing to pack their bags and take to the air, road and sea again, according to anecdotal reports from travel advisors, who said bookings are gaining momentum for 2021 and beyond.

“Interest for 2021 travel began to rise in the past few weeks for myself and for my colleagues,” said Becky Lukovic of Bella Travel Planning, a Travel Experts affiliate. “The requests are still pretty all over the place: Hawaii, Caribbean, Colorado, Italy and Greece. A number [of clients] have started actually booking their plans with refundable arrangements or cancel for any reason insurance.”

For Richard Turen of Churchill & Turen, clients’ interest has been increasing over the past three months. “Bookings for 2021 are within 15 percent of ‘normal,’” he said. “The number of guests planning more than one international trip in the 24 months beginning Jan. 1 is very close to the number that just have one trip deposited.”

Claire Schoeder of Elevations Travel, a Signature Travel Network affiliate, said she is witnessing an uptick in 2021 business, especially for the summer and fall in Europe. “Clients are optimistic that cases will decline and countries will once again be open,” she said. “Discussion of rapid tests at airports is helping, and some clients are optimistic about a vaccine.”

Both Schoeder and Turen noted that their cruise bookings have also been picking up steam.

“Surprisingly, the trust in cruise protocols seems to be way ahead of expressed uncertainties about the components that make up group touring involving travel by motorcoach. The consumer media may have gotten this one wrong,” Turen said.

What comes as less of a surprise is that agents are seeing strong sales to destinations in Mexico and the Caribbean. “Most of the vacations that I have booked for 2021 have been tropical beach vacations,” said Jemica Archer of TruBlue Travels. “People want to rest and relax after such an intense year. Mexico, Antigua and the Dominican Republic have been popular for us.”

While TruBlue Travels received some bookings for the first quarter of 2021, most reservations have been for the second quarter of the year. “I think people are still nervous about traveling during the pandemic – but I will say about 50 percent of my inquiries for travel have converted into reservations.”

For her part, Sarah Kline of Time for Travel is seeing a boost in Caribbean and Mexico inquiries for the first quarter of next year. “My spring 2021-2022 weddings are booking in full force,” she said. “I am getting inquiries from new couples, as well as robust bookings from guests attending spring 2021 weddings. I think it’s because other family members are going so it feels safe.”

Although James Berglie of Be All Inclusive said he continues to receive a few cancellations from guests within groups that were already booked before the pandemic struck, there is nonetheless some good news. “At the same time, we are now seeing an equal number of guests requesting to upgrade their stays to higher-end room categories, and/or requesting to lengthen their stays,” he said. “Additionally we’ve seen a big increase in last-minute reservations, [for those] traveling within the next one-to-two months,” he said.

Berglie, too, noted that clients are expressing interest in Mexico and Caribbean destinations.

“Mexico and the Dominican Republic remain at the top of our guests’ lists as they are honestly narrowing down destinations by the number of hoops they have to jump through with regard to COVID restrictions,” he said. “Our guests are ready to vacation, and don’t want to have to worry about travel authorizations and test requirements.”


Airbnb’s Commitment to Safer Travel: New Health and Safety Mandate

As people continue to find new ways to travel and host safely, in line with guidance and rules issued by local governments and health authorities, cleanliness remains a priority. Today, we announced hosts and guests must agree to follow Airbnb’s COVID-19 Safety Practices, which include wearing a mask, practicing social distancing, and, for hosts and their teams, abiding by our five-step enhanced cleaning process. This commitment will help provide extra assurances to try and safeguard all our stakeholders – hosts, guests, their communities and governments.

Earlier this year we introduced Airbnb’s Enhanced Cleaning Protocol, a set of guidelines for cleaning and sanitization developed with guidance from leading experts in hospitality and medical hygiene and former U.S. Surgeon General Dr. Vivek Murthy, which earned the Safe Travel stamp from the World Tourism and Travel Council (WTTC).

Since the launch of the program in June, hosts have enrolled nearly 1.5 million listings and guests have given these listings an average 4.8* star rating for cleanliness. Early in the pandemic, Airbnb also issued health and safety guidelines about wearing a mask and practicing social distancing in accordance with guidance from the World Health Organization and Centers for Disease Control.

In an effort to reiterate our commitment to responsible travel and the well-being of our communities, we are now requiring all hosts and guests to commit to the following COVID-19 safety practices:

  • All guests and hosts must wear masks and practice social distancing when interacting with each other.
  • All homes hosts must commit to implement Airbnb’s five-step enhanced cleaning process by November 20.**

Hosts have until November 20, 2020, to commit, otherwise, their accounts may be subject to warnings, suspensions and, in some cases, removal from the Airbnb platform.

Resources to support hosts

To help hosts and their hosting and cleaning teams uphold these standards, we continue to update our Resource Center with information, resources and tools to help them offer a safer travel experience. We also developed the Airbnb Cleaning Hub that provides hosts with access to tools and resources to help them uphold the health and safety commitments, like articles, checklists and recommended supplies.

Consumers are voting with their feet

Now more than ever, guests are looking for the features that have made Airbnb unique – private homes beyond densely populated tourist and hotel districts with more space and more control over their environment. Roughly three out of four guests recently surveyed by Airbnb*** said they would be more comfortable staying with their families in a listing than in a hotel with other people.

The new requirements will not only help bolster the quality of listings on our platform, they will also help hosts meet changing consumer demands. According to internal Airbnb data, listings enrolled in the Enhanced Cleaning Protocol are some of the most popular listings and have three times more bookings on average than listings that were not enrolled in the protocol.**** Guests continue to turn to listings enrolled in the program to have a more socially distanced travel experience.

While hosts are doing their part to support healthier stays, we also continue to encourage our community to follow the latest local health guidelines. To learn more visit our Airbnb Resource Center.


Food Waste Management Innovations In The Foodservice Industry

By Carlos Martin-Rios, Associate Professor at Ecole hôtelière de Lausanne (EHL)

An insight into what food waste really means and the processes that create it. Reducing food loss is a global, multidimensional challenge, so what can the foodservice industry specifically do to be more mindful of its role in the food value chain?

The current state of food wastage

On September 29, the world celebrated the 1st International Day of the Food Loss and Waste. This was a good opportunity to emphasize the importance of reducing food waste (FW) as a key sustainability challenge for the hospitality and foodservice industry. FW epitomizes an unsustainable system of food production and consumption. A recent report by the Boston Consulting Group (BCG) calculates that the amount of food wasted each year will rise by a third by 2030, “when 2.1 billion tons will either be lost or thrown away, equivalent to 66 tons per second”.

Food wastage appears to be higher in developed countries, while on the other hand, there are an estimated 842 million people in poor countries experiencing chronic hunger. According to Oxfam, the current pandemic has deepened the hunger crisis and “by the end of the year, 12,000 people per day could die from hunger linked to COVID-19, potentially more than will die from the disease itself”. Ten countries top the list of hunger spots (Figure) accounting for 65% people living in crisis level hunger.

Food Waste Management Innovations In The Foodservice Industry
Figure 1: Countries and regions where the food crisis is most severe (Oxfam, 2020) — Photo: EHL

According to the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO), FW is defined as food which is fit for consumption but discarded by choice or because has been left to spoil or expire, with ‘food’ referring to “whether processed, semi-processed or raw edible products going to human consumption.”

Food Waste Management Innovations In The Foodservice Industry
Food loss/waste — Photo: EHL

The fact that FW is perceived as amounting, yet avoidable, the challenge has driven the United Nations to adopt target 12.3 as part of the 17 Sustainable Development Goals to:

By 2030, halve per capita global food waste at the retail and consumer levels and reduce food losses along production and supply chains, including post-harvest losses.

Food Waste Management Innovations In The Foodservice Industry
The sustainable Development Goals Report 2020 —

The how and where of food wastage

Food loss and waste occur at each stage of the global food value chain, from agricultural production to final consumption. Food production is linked to land conversion and biodiversity loss, energy consumption and greenhouse gas emissions, water and pesticide use. At the post-harvest and processing stages, there is also waste in each step of the transport, storage, processing and distribution stages. At the end of the food value chain, final consumption (including commercial and household) accounts for as much as 40% of total food losses. Evidence shows that in developed countries, food is mainly wasted at the final consumer stage of the supply chain.

FW management has thus become a key priority, referring to all the activities related to avoiding, reducing or recycling waste throughout the production and consumption chain. This raises the question as to whether food wastage could also be reduced along the food supply chains.

The FW challenge in tourism and foodservice

Tourism, as a global foodservice industry, is implicated in food consumption and waste generation. Consumer foodservices include restaurants, fast food chains, cafés, cafeterias, canteens and dining halls, as well as event catering. This sector employs more people than any single other retail business, including 14 million in the USA and 8 million in Europe (Euromonitor International) and serves billions of meals every year. The Figure shows the average annual food away-from-home expenditure of U.S. households from 2010 to 2019. In 2019, average food away-from-home expenditure of U.S. households amounted to about 3,526 U.S. dollars, compared to 2,505 dollars in 2010. Therefore, the activity has a critical role in the global FW challenge.

Food Waste Management Innovations In The Foodservice Industry
Figure 2: Average annual food away-from-home expenditures of United States households from 2010 to 2019 (in U.S. dollars) (Source: Statista, 2020) — Photo: EHL
  • Producers: Collaborating with local farmers, e.g. sourcing locally can boost FW source reduction and turn FW into animal feed.
  • Suppliers: Partnering with suppliers that are ready to participate in sustainable initiatives (e.g. oil suppliers that collect used oil).
  • Retailers: Bargaining an off-spec protocol that consider FW reduction, e.g. acquiring imperfect or off-grade produce before is thrown away.
  • Employees: Providing with training for purchasing inventory management, production planning and menu planning & service.
  • Consumers: Increasing awareness and engagement of customers (dining out) and households (dining in).
  • Collaborative platforms: Partnering with food donation recovery partners, e.g. Too good to go.
  • Technology providers: Data feeding restaurants with FW information, e.g. Kitro technology (article).

Study findings

Despite the significance of this issue to the global foodservice industry, the link between innovation practices and FW management has received limited attention. An exception is Martin-Rios et al. (article) recent research on the interrelationships of foodservice provisions and innovations in FW management through the lenses of innovation theory.

The study presents a range of waste management initiatives using the distinction between incremental innovations (those revolving around work processes and technologies) and radical innovations (innovations exploring opportunities to significantly change waste management approaches). The study also points out different approaches to FW based on FW characterization, management practices and management’s beliefs, knowledge and awareness to identify practices that suggest some type of innovation.

Food Waste Management Innovations In The Foodservice Industry
Table: Summary of FW innovations for the hospitality and commercial foodservice — Photo: EHL

The main objectives

The concepts discussed in this research could help practitioners to become more aware of the factors that drive the adoption of FW innovations. Any initiative towards FW minimization and management must necessarily address the following two objectives:

  1. Customization: Identity which innovative food management practices contribute to the avoidance (reducing and rethinking), re-use or recycling of food waste in each particular foodservice establishment.
  2. Awareness: Evaluate foodservice managers’ perspectives regarding the opportunities, challenges, costs and benefits of various FW innovations.

A traditional waste management program that ignores the social aspects of management and professional skills can be a barrier to the effective implementation of FW innovations. Results also show that interest in innovation as a systematic process to minimize waste and facilitate waste management is limited.

Foodservice providers implement innovations based on a cost-saving analysis. Interviews highlighted a general lack of concern and knowledge about FW management. Food industry professionals face an array of daily organizational and financial challenges linked to waste sorting, storage and disposal, and they mostly count on the standard recycling/waste procedures their local councils make available to cope with them. Professionals tend to approach waste reduction from a practical, experience-based approach, but there is no systematic implementation of waste reduction strategies based on forms of institutional knowledge. What they really need is proper training and achievable goals to be set by governments.

A key finding is that many companies are not actively innovating in the waste domain. They are however increasingly aware of the economic and social importance of waste management. The foodservice industry is not leading the way when it comes to innovation. There are only a few low- or zero-waste restaurants, and just a few chefs who are creating meals out of food scraps.


One important finding academic research highlights are the importance of developing partnerships between foodservice providers and other businesses, non-for-profits, and institutional players. Closer collaboration underlines the importance of bringing together different (and sometimes competing) stakeholders and combining between them innovation types and innovation generation and adoption with greater efficiency. This calls for more research, tools and concepts to design the innovative practices supporting the next generation of FW management systems if the situation is to ever improve.

Foodservice, as a labor-intensive activity where innovation has tended to be slow, can benefit from other firms and institutions sharing knowledge, insights and experiences, helping the industry get on track to hit the goal of halving food waste by 2030.


Time to Open Up the Buffets

The buffet has been an integral part of many restaurant and other hotel food operations. For now, the buffet is just taking up space – an ugly reminder of better times. Buffets have a unique appeal to many customers if for no other reason than the visual of the food display – so many options for one set price.

Can we find innovative ways to re-introduce the buffet and create a unique customer experience?

Can we create the perception of high touch in a low touch environment?

“The buffet is a proven restaurant concept that has always had a strong customer base because of its value perception and visual appeal. By adapting the traditional buffet model to a safer and more controlled operation without giving up the essence of the idea will allow the concept to continue to thrive.” ~ Alan Someck, Keystone Hospitality Solutions.

The New Buffet Concept

The thought is to create a buffet customer experience that eliminates the customer touchpoints and engages the customer.

Try some of these conceptual work arounds for a restaurant or food and beverage operation are:

  • Create buffet stations such as soup/appetizers, salad, main course, side dishes, action station (carving, pasta, eggs to order, sandwiches, etc…), desserts and so forth.
  • Add in a Chef at the action station who also manages the buffet team and the experience.
  • Provide hospitality trained servers to portion the food.
  • Buffet staff should receive both culinary and hospitality training – informed service with a smile. We want the servers to engage with the customer.
  • The buffet staff should be tip eligible and receive a share of pooled tips – give them the incentive to produce the buffet experience that will generate return business and word of mouth advertising.

The questions to ask yourself as a food and beverage operator are:

  1. Can we reopen the buffet safely in this low touch environment?
  2. Can we operate the buffet without adding significant cost?
  3. Can we generate more revenue with the buffet open?

Safety Concerns Regarding Buffets

“There is no better time to have a plan for your business than the present day, and this does not mean one plan. Considering alternatives is imperative to survival and while buffet service has been a discouraging consideration, I see this differently. Paramount to our current operating considerations and the success of your business is the safety of your guests and employees.”

“A buffet setup, if designed and planned appropriately, may offer guests the safety they seek over a la carte service interaction.”

“This includes, but is not limited to: Managing capacity restrictions, wearing masks unless seated, social distancing controls (table by table) while guests are accessing the food line, six-foot protocols of buffet foods set up, the masked and gloved staff serving the customers, and protective shields for the foods and people.”

“There is also a need to minimize the potential for crossover contamination between the kitchen and the delivery of foods to the buffet with assembly-line tactics and other similar procedures that provide the look and feel that safety is a priority. Guests may partake in a properly designed buffet with minimal close contact with front of house staff, unlike a la carte. Ideally, you will also have a touchless payment system in place.” ~ Jim Lopolito, President Lopolito Hospitality Consultants.

Analyze Buffet Costs

Cost neutral or better vs. pure a la carte service may be achieved in several ways:

  • Servers behind the buffet will control portion size to some extent resulting in food cost reductions.
  • The Chef and servers will also help control, limit over production and resulting waste – just in time replenishment.
  • With the buffet open you will be able to reduce floor staff by increasing station size. A server working a buffet is responsible for taking the drink order, clearing the table, and handling the check – no food service and no kitchen trips. A buffet server is capable of handling more tables/covers than an a la carte server – an offset to the additional buffet server labor.
  • Less a la carte service will reduce stress on kitchen, create efficiencies and cost reductions.

Revenue increases from higher average checks for the buffet, faster turn times and more total customers per meal service – more revenue per seat (RPS). Increases in the top line will naturally result in improved revenue flow to the profit line.

There will be a one-time expense to retrofit the buffet and there are occupancy and capacity thresholds that need to be considered. However, if done correctly creating a buffet experience in today’s world may differentiate your restaurant and pay off in financial dividends.

Clearly this is a rough base line concept that will need to be tailored to the needs of your restaurant and food service operation and certainly there is room for some additional creative enhancements. Run the numbers based on your restaurant operation and see what they tell you. If positive, it will be worth the time and effort to give the buffet experience a new life.

If the time is not right now due to capacity thresholds, do your planning/homework now and be ready to re-launch the buffet when the time is right. All indications are that concerns about social distancing and touchpoints will linger for the foreseeable future. Therefore, if the buffet is an integral part of your restaurant and foodservice operation you will want to revise your approach.


Europe’s Recovery From the Last Recession

Major economies in Europe, including the U.K. and those in the Eurozone, recently confirmed what we already suspected. Economies across the continent have entered an economic recession because of the impact of COVID-19—an impact that has been devastating for the hospitality industry.

The short-term effects of the COVID-19 recession are evident as hotel demand across Europe was down 55.3% for the August year-to-date period. However, even with negative projections in place, the depth of the long-term impact remains in question.

To help develop answers, we look back at a lesser crisis, which may point to how hotel markets will recover in the coming years. The 2007-08 global financial crisis (GFC), caused by the bursting of the U.S. housing bubble, impacted financial institutions globally and led to the subprime mortgage crisis, European debt crisis and the Great Recession. During the Great Recession, the global economy witnessed its steepest declines since the Great Depression.

For this analysis, we indexed revenue per available room (RevPAR) to 2007 for various key markets across Europe. This can be used to understand how markets were impacted in the short-term during the crisis, in the aftermath of the crisis and even further in the long-term to understand when markets recovered.

So how did hotel markets around Europe react?

London weathered the storm

London showed strong fundamentals and proved to be resilient. In fact, RevPAR increased in 2008 before dipping slightly in 2009 but did not look back from there with strong year-over-year growth through 2019.

Hotel demand in the U.K. capital is currently at an all-time low as the market suffers due to a reliance on international travel, which is nearly non-existent due to restrictions and lockdown measures. However, once international travel does return, we can perhaps expect a quicker long-term recovery in London as the city has proven it can weather a storm.

German markets dipped but recovered quickly

While other countries in Europe were being pulled further into crisis, Germany benefitted from its economic strength even during the crisis as well as being a mostly domestic market, which allowed hotel performance to recover quicker than others in Europe.

Economically, Germany remains a powerhouse in Europe, and its large domestic market has helped in boosting demand relative to other countries in Europe during this COVID period, so some optimism in a recovery can be taken regarding German markets.

Markets in weaker economies were more impacted

By 2009, hotels in Madrid and Dublin were among the most impacted. In the latter part of 2009, Spain and Ireland went through a debt crisis lasting several years leading to subdued economic growth in both countries as well as an increase in unemployment in Spain.

RevPAR in Madrid stagnated in the subsequent years following the GFC, and five years on from the crisis in 2012, RevPAR was almost 30% lower than pre-crisis levels. As the capital of Spain, Madrid sees substantial demand coming in the domestic corporate and leisure segment. A strong run of six consecutive years of RevPAR growth began in 2014 as Madrid benefitted from an increase in international arrivals and from hosting high-profile events, including the Champions League Final and COP 25 in 2019.

Madrid has stronger fundamentals and is more diversified than it was back in 2008, however, it will need to rely on a return of these lucrative segments to recover to pre-COVID levels.

RevPAR in Dublin five years on from the crisis in 2012 was just over 20% lower than it was pre-GFC as Ireland battled with suppressed economic growth domestically. Suppressed economic growth around the world impacted Dublin also as it is a market reliant on visitors from overseas.

RevPAR increased for eight years consecutively from 2011 through to 2018 as Dublin benefitted from substantial increases in international arrivals around the world, from the U.S. in particular, as well as close to no supply growth.

Future supply growth is expected to rise substantially as Dublin boasts a large pipeline of projects to enter the market. How Dublin responds to a current lack of demand as well as absorbing this new supply will be telling of its recovery. Dublin remains an attractive market for international visitors, and with plenty of new hotel offerings, it may recover from this current crisis quicker than it did during the GFC.


COVID-19 is a different crisis than what hotels faced during the GFC, as restrictions on travel and lockdown measures are severely impacting hotel demand. The GFC impacted performance, at a lesser rate, but key markets across Europe all eventually recovered. Some recovered faster than others due to a stronger economy or being domestic markets.

For markets to begin recovery, the threat of COVID-19 needs to be significantly mitigated. Once that happens, and destinations can begin to welcome to travellers to their hotels, we will see recoveries at different paces

Las Vegas: One Destination’s Approach to Travel Recovery

The Las Vegas strip was the leading commercial casino market in the U.S. in 2019, generating nearly $7 billion in revenue. However, its appeal for domestic and international tourism goes beyond gambling. As a top destination for shopping, fine dining, entertainment, and nightlife, Las Vegas has drawn interest around how it’s rebounding from the impacts of COVID-19.

The Las Vegas travel industry is navigating the complexities and uncertainties of the constantly evolving COVID-19 landscape, managing the unpredictable flow of openings and shutdowns of the city’s most prominent establishments and identifying new pockets of demand to help keep them afloat wherever possible.

Spurring industry recovery takes collaboration, partnership, and a unified approach with all stakeholders across the ecosystem – from lodging providers to online travel agencies, to destination marketing organizations (DMOs) and attraction providers, among others. This has been especially true for Las Vegas, which has leaned into partnerships, technology, and data to help support recovery strategies.

Hotels have been among those that hit the hardest during the pandemic. According to research, for the week of March 8-14, 2020, U.S. hotel occupancy was down 24.4% to 53% year-over-year, with Las Vegas occupancy down by 39.8%. On March 17, Nevada’s governor ordered a month-long closure of casinos and other non-essential businesses such as bars, movie theaters and gyms and restaurants, severely impacting the city. World-famous hotels, casinos and entertainment venues closed their doors. Since then, the city has been on a rollercoaster of volatile demand.

Research from Las Vegas-area tourism officials shows that in June, while the number of visitors was down, some hotels and casinos were seeing small pockets of domestic travellers eager to travel following months of lockdown. Expedia Group data showed that searches at the end of July to mid-August (July 20 – August 16) were up by an average of 30% week-on-week, for trips between August and October 2020. Almost all searches for trips to the destination came from domestic travelers, reflecting the U.S. border restrictions for international travelers. Top domestic inbound markets included travelers from L.A., followed by Las Vegas, Philadelphia, Atlanta, Chicago, Houston and Anaheim, but all with a share of under 5%, indicating demand was widespread across vario us parts of the nation.

The type of traveler is also evolving. According to the Review Journal and Gambling News, many of the local and Strip casinos have seen a younger, high-spending demographic of travelers who tend to stay longer and, more importantly, spend more while they’re there. It’s thought this younger guest is probably a mix of local and drive-in customers who are viewing Las Vegas resorts as an affordable trip during the pandemic. Executives are advising local businesses to capitalize on this new guest now by offering promotions and incentives that target this specific group, with a longer-term plan of trying to build loyalty amongst them to ensure repeat customers after the pandemic ends. Casinos and hotels can lean into their partners’ digital capabilities and insights to help them understand their guests and where they’re coming from in order to tailor promotions to capture demand efficiently during the pandemic. For example, Expedia Group developed a new free online data insights tool for its lodging partners, and a new feature that allows partners to highlight the health and hygiene measures they are taking at their properties, such as hand sanitizer included in all rooms, enhanced cleaning, and social distancing measures, on their sites.

Daniel Wathen, Director of Market Management at Expedia Group for Las Vegas, says: “It’s been an incredibly turbulent few months for Las Vegas. Peaks and troughs of traveler demand has been non-linear and unpredictable. Hotel, resorts and casino owners and managers have done well to adapt to the volatility of the market and to serve domestic travelers where possible. Las Vegas is one of the world’s top destinations and at Expedia Group, we know the ride has been tough. We’re working hard to ensure our lodging partners are supported such as by providing local demand trends and insights, and we are in constant communication with other local players in the tourism industry to attract demand and facilitate travel however we can during these difficult months.”

So how else are hotels and resorts weathering the storm? Many are tapping into technology, allowing them to stay informed and flexible in a constantly changing environment, and are also getting creative in their recovery strategies and campaigns.

One example of this is seen with MGM Resorts International, who has sought creative ways to reposition itself over the course of the pandemic, such as via its Viva Las Office promotion, which encourages remote workers to trade in their home office for a hotel room office.

MGM Resorts also serves as an example of industry partnership, and how leaning into digital strategies can increase efficiency and deepen understanding of the market. Working with Expedia Group as part of the company’s partner recovery program, they were given various levels of assistance, including access to real-time, proprietary d ata to track demand trends, helping inform the resorts’ ongoing recovery strategies. Through this data, MGM Resorts can better understand when demand will return to the market and identify where demand will come from. The two brands have a long history of collaboration, including incorporating technology solutions to help drive business results.

“Our partnership with Expedia Group has been instrumental in helping us identify travel trends and adjust booking strategies during these challenging times,” said Lee Ann Benavidez, MGM Resorts International’s Vice President of Distribution Partnerships & Transient Sales Strategy.

Las Vegas lodging providers are constantly reevaluating their marketing strategies to align with the changing landscape. The STRAT Hotel uses TravelAds, a sponsored listing product from Expedia Group Media Solutions, in their recovery strategy, focusing on increasing brand awareness of their “Golden Commitment” to guest health and safety as well as driving additional occupancy. With the focus on high placement and conversion, the click-through rate has continued to be strong, while conversion increased.
“Since we have used TravelAds in the past, we knew it worked so we wanted to ensure it had a strong role in our recovery strategy. We also knew that customized ad copy would be important during this time to call out key things to our guests during this interesting time,” Corporate Director of Revenue Management Robert Bunker said. “We also saw our clicks stay consistent with what we were seeing pre-COVID-19 Q1 2020.”
The Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority (LVCVA) is no stranger to the constantly changing landscape, identifying through data when and how to best encourage and welcome back visitors. Partnering with Expedia Group Media Solutions, the LVCVA launched a recovery campaign at the end of May letting travelers from nearby drive markets and top fly markets, such as P hoenix, Los Angeles, San Diego, Houston, Dallas, Atlanta, San Francisco, Denver and Seattle, know that the city is open to visitors, using imagery and copy that highlights social distancing and safe activities.

The LVCVA has evolved its campaign strategy based not only on campaign learnings, but also from available data across the Expedia Group portfolio of brands, providing insights into current traveler behavior. The ability to quickly turn the campaign on and off is critical, given the changing guidelines in Las Vegas as well as COVID-19 travel restrictions and quarantine mandates from other regions.

“This unprecedented year has dealt Las Vegas steep and unexpected challenges,” said Fletch Brunelle, vice president of marketing for the Las Vegas Convention and Visitors Authority. “As a research-based organization, we spend a lot of time learning who our visitors are, where they are coming from and what they want out of their trip to Las Vegas. For the destination to be able to reopen successfully, it’s imperative that we apply these learnings to our media strategy and effectively reach those who are starting to plan their travel.”

The campaign has delivered a strong return on ad spend (ROAS) and steady improvements week-over-week, whereas many other markets saw a big dip in demand in July due to a second wave of cases. Las Vegas was one of the top booked domestic destinations across the Expedia Group platform in July, with market share seeing double digit growth in recovery against its competitive set.

Las Vegas hotels and attractions are also working on a co-op destination recovery campaign with Expedia Group Media Solutions for later this year.

It’s clear that in addition to local partnerships, a common theme throughout the road to recovery is technology and data. Data plays a key role in informing strategies, helping travel companies understand when and where they need to adapt , shift their approach, or pause external efforts. Las Vegas travel partners are leveraging proprietary Expedia Group data to understand where the demand is coming from so they can better track trends, traveler behavior and intent, so they can best connect with travelers and capture demand, when the time is right, to rebound from this global crisis.

It will continue to be a rocky road ahead for the starlit city, but a combination of understanding new traveler trends through intelligent data, working creatively and collaboratively with multiple local industry players towards a common goal, and using digital strategies to attract the right guests, means there’s a glimmer of casino-floor light at the end of the tunnel for Las Vegas.


Aloft Tokyo Ginza takes brand into Japan for the first time

Marriott International has announced the opening of Aloft Tokyo Ginza, the first hotel from the brand to open in Japan.

With its highly conceptualised design – a nod to Ginza’s “Miyuki-zoku” youth subculture movement of the 1960s – the property showcases an eclectic mix of neon colours, graffiti, and urban art inspired by Tokyo’s iconic street culture.

Located in Ginza, Tokyo’s most famous shopping, dining, and entertainment district, the new Aloft Tokyo Ginza is just a short walk away from Ginza Six shopping mall, the Mitsukoshi Ginza department store, Tsukiji Market, and the historic Kabuki-za theatre.

The hotel’s proximity to the Ginza and Higashi-Ginza stations also provides guests with quick and easy access to other areas of Tokyo and beyond.

“We are thrilled to see the arrival of the Aloft brand in Japan with the opening of Aloft Tokyo Ginza,” said Rajeev Menon, president, Asia Pacific, Marriott International.

“With 17 different brands now present in Japan, the debut of Aloft Hotels further underscores Marriott International’s commitment to growing its footprint across the country.

“With it lively in-hotel social scene, and innovative music and art programming, Aloft Tokyo Ginza is set to enhance the ‘always-on’ traveller’s stay and play experience in Tokyo.”

Walking into the hotel, guests can see larger-than-life sculptural pieces and conceptual art by Japanese and Japan-inspired international artists that add a delightful dimension of visual appeal to the spaces throughout the hotel.

The lift lobby elevator is also an art installation in itself featuring colourful graffiti.

The hotel is home to 205 stylish and inviting guest rooms designed with the brand’s signature artful and innovative loft-like layout in mind.

“Ginza is the must-see destination for every visitor to Tokyo, and what better way to experience Ginza than through the brand new Aloft Tokyo Ginza, which captures the energy and colour of Tokyo’s most famous district,” said Hiro Kosugi, general manager, Aloft Tokyo Ginza.

“We look forward to welcoming guests to our hotel, a new urban hub where great music, captivating art, and social connections take centre stage.”


Expo 2020 kicks off thematic programming with virtual Space Week

A virtual event bringing together some of the brightest stars in space travel and exploration will probe the benefits, solutions and challenges of exploring beyond our planet as part of preparations for Expo 2020 in Dubai.

The event will include an appearance from Sarah Al Amiri, United Arab Emirates minister of state for advanced technology and science lead for the Emirates Mars Mission.

Open to the public and hosted by Expo 2020 today and tomorrow, during World Space Week, the virtual event will also feature James Green, chief scientist at the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA).

It underlines a commitment to bring together the most ambitious minds, across ten thematic weeks, to address some of the greatest challenges facing the planet.

Reem Al Hashimy, director general of Expo 2020 Dubai Bureau, said: “Our theme weeks will draw on Expo 2020’s central role in bringing together the world’s brightest, most inquisitive and innovative minds from more than 190 participating nations, to participate in the sharing of knowledge, new ideas and innovations that will stand the test of time.

“Space, as a resource shared by all humanity, is one of these crucial topics.

“With the technological advancement of space travel and exploration making the dream of space tourism closer to a reality than ever before, managing it peacefully and equitably requires the concerted international cooperation of all space-faring nations.” 

The event will highlight the latest innovations in space research and travel, while also providing a platform to discuss focus areas including space exploration, governance and law, space data and remote sensing, and the space landscape.


Virgin Atlantic rolls-out Covid-19 testing to crew

Virgin Atlantic has become the first UK airline to introduce Covid-19 pre-flight testing at its Heathrow base for its cabin crew and pilots.

Launched on flights to Shanghai and Hong Kong, the airline plans to extend the trial to Barbados and select services later in October, before a wider roll out to test every operating crew at least once per month. 

In partnership with GeneMe UK, the official distributor of the Frank test, the airline trial is offering crew and pilots a rapid Point of Care Covid-19 RT Lamp test.

Through integration with the digital ID platform Yoti, the test process is fast, secure, paperless and does not require a lab.

After a swab is taken on-site, results are processed and delivered on the Yoti app within 30 minutes. 

Corneel Koster, chief customer and operating officer, Virgin Atlantic, commented: “The introduction of onsite pre-flight Covid-19 testing for our crew and pilots ensures we remain at the forefront of the aviation industry’s safe return to the skies.

“As testing technology and Covid-19 requirements around the world develop, we want to utilise technology that is relevant, accurate and available to keep our teams and customers healthy and safe.

“While the Covid-19 testing landscape evolves, we continue to be in discussions with multiple providers offering different technologies to guarantee the best solution possible, while absolutely ensuring that we do not compete with the NHS for vital resources.”

He added: “This trial is a first step in our phased plan to introduce regular testing for all of our teams in the air and on the ground, in order to instil confidence in flying.

“However, we continue to call for the swift introduction of a wider coordinated passenger testing regime.

“We need urgent action from UK and US governments to introduce pre departure testing, to remove the need for quarantine and to minimise travel restrictions, while protecting public health and half a million UK jobs associated with the sector.”

South Africa Tourism welcomes reopening of borders

South Africa has partially reopened its borders to international borders.

The move follows a decision from president Cyril Ramaphosa that the country would be moving to alert level one from today, thus opening up international borders for selected countries.

South Africa has developed a risk categorisation model for different countries.

High risk countries are those with higher numbers of Covid-19 infections and reported deaths compared to South Africa. 

Medium risk countries have a relatively equal number of infections and death toll to South Africa whilst low risk countries have a lesser number of Covid-19 infections and death toll in comparison to South Africa.

All travellers coming into the country will need to supply a negative PCR (polymerase chain reaction) Covid-19 test not older than 72 hours from the date of departure from their country.

Travellers will also be screened for any Covid-19 symptoms and be required to provide proof of accommodation address, should they need to self-quarantine.

“While many of our key source markets feature in the high-risk category, meaning that they are not able to travel to South Africa for leisure purposes yet, the environment is fluid and changes constantly.

“We remain optimistic and encouraged by the gradually phased opening of our sector and we will monitor the changes regularly, as the country lists are reviewed every two weeks,” said South Africa Tourism chief executive, Sisa Ntshona.