Interview with Brian Chesky
Work and life are undergoing a “Great Convergence.” The once-solid boundaries between our jobs and our leisure are getting leakier.
Knowledge industries—including media, marketing, and law—have for decades collapsed the distinction between work skills and social skills. The same schmoozy behavior that can win friends and influence people can also win business and influence promotions. Computers, where Excel documents intermingle with shopping tabs, blend work tools and personal tools. And remote work—the ability to do a job not only from home but from anywhere—mashes up our work time and leisure time, erasing the spatial differences between many of our weekdays and weekends.
You can see this convergence most clearly in our houses. As recently as the 1800s, the home was everything—where Americans worked, and slept, and cooked, and ate, and raised children, and worshipped. For most people, there was no commute; there was no office, or factory. And the agrarian economy ruled out vacations for most families. Then, in the past 150 years, the industrialized world drew sharp lines between life, work, and leisure. It was a period of divergence rather than convergence. Home, work, and hotel meant three different places.
But we’re going back to the past. “Travel, life, and work are blurring together again,” Airbnb’s chief executive, Brian Chesky, told me. He said the home-rental company is seeing firsthand a new kind of travel habit becoming mainstream, in which work time is leaking into vacation weekends and vacation weekends are leaking into the workweek. It is the rise of the work-vacation: the workcation. For a long weekend, or a week, or even several months, you can make a temporary home in the mountains or on the beach, without taking any time off.
Naturally, Homes are the future of travel is exactly what you would expect the chief executive of Airbnb to say. But he has the numbers to back up that view. Last week, we spoke about remote work, the future of travel, and Airbnb’s business. This interview has been lightly edited for length and clarity.
Derek Thompson: You wrote that with the sustained increase in remote work for millions of white-collar workers, “we’re on the verge of a revolution in travel.” What’s your thesis?
Brian Chesky: If Zoom is here to stay, then remote work is here to stay. For tens of millions of people, they’re not as tethered to one location. As a result, there is newfound flexibility for millions of people when it comes to work and travel. Not everyone, to be clear. But millions of people can embrace a more flexible work policy that allows them to move around in new ways.
Thompson: Since the pandemic started, what have been the most dramatic shifts in the way people are using your platform?
Chesky: The most compelling statistic for me is the number of people who are using Airbnb for long-term stays. Twenty percent of our nights booked now are for 28 days or longer. Half of our stays are for a week or longer. These are big increases from before the pandemic, and I think it’s related to the fact that people don’t have to go back to the office.
Another data point we’re seeing is an increase in people traveling with pets, as people are staying longer. Use of the Wi-Fi filter on Airbnb has increased by 55 percent since before the pandemic, so people obviously care more about their Wi-Fi connection, and they want to verify the speed of the internet if they’re doing Zooms.
Another data point is that Mondays and Tuesday are the fastest-growing days of the week for travel. More people are treating ordinary weekends like long holiday weekends. This is also part of the flexibility afforded by remote work.
Finally, we’re seeing more people traveling nearby. We’ve seen a large increase in stays within 200 miles or less, which is basically a tank of gas. People are taking more extended staycations.
A home used to be a place for people to just live. But if it’s a place to live, or work, or be on vacation, then people can work from many homes if they want. Our relationship to our homes is changing.
Thompson: The sort of house that I would request for a work-slash-vacation is pretty different from, like, a small beach bungalow. I would want something a little bigger, something that felt a little more like a home and less like a tourist destination. Are you seeing changes in the sort of houses people are requesting?
Chesky: Price per night is going up because people are desiring larger spaces. Group sizes are increasing. One thing that’s happening is that as people seek longer stays to both work and relax, they want more space, more bedrooms, and a more equipped home. For those purposes, a studio apartment in Manhattan doesn’t look as good as a larger house in a smaller city or suburb. People care relatively more about space, not just place.
If you go to Airbnb now, we have a big button that says “I’m flexible” that’s been used 500 million times. This feature helps us point demand where we have supply. People used to choose the destination first. But now, for many, the home is the destination. People seem a bit more agnostic about where and when they’re traveling as long as they can find a big place with space to stay with family and friends.
Thompson: So bigger houses, longer stays, more deliberate Wi-Fi filtering, and more people turning normal weekends into unofficial holiday weekends. I can see how all of this points in a “workcation” direction. But I don’t want to overstate how many of these changes are specifically because of remote work. So much else is in flux. How sure are we that these aren’t just short-term trends caused by all the weirdness of the pandemic?
Chesky: I think remote work is a primary cause, but of course other things are happening. For example, we’ve seen a huge rise in people traveling to small towns and rural communities and national parks. I have many theories for this. When national borders are closed and museums are closed, you don’t go to Paris or other major cities. So people travel locally instead. Another theory is that as the need for business travel has been replaced or diminished, a lot of people who aren’t traveling for business still want to get out of the house. And so they discover or rediscover the town 200 miles away. They travel to stay around homes and friends, rather than checking off global landmarks.
Thompson: The other thing to be careful about when talking about white-collar-work trends is that only a minority of workers can work remotely, and a minority of those workers are still working remotely. So this trend might involve millions of people, but we’re talking about a minority of a minority.
Chesky: Obviously there are many, many jobs that aren’t affected by the rise of remote work. But for people within offices, those who work for tech companies or younger companies will embrace a more flexible policy. Within that group, you see that some companies, like Wall Street banks, are being less flexible, while others, like PricewaterhouseCoopers, Amazon, and Procter & Gamble, have announced permanent semiflexible policies. People without children are less tethered to their home than people with children. It’s easier to go somewhere for two weeks or a month if you don’t have kids. And it’s easier to turn a normal weekend into a three-day blended work-and-travel weekend if you don’t have to worry about their school.
Thompson: Which cities are benefiting from this trend on Airbnb?
Chesky: It’s fair to say that the team of winners is being democratized. There is a redistribution of travel destinations from big cities to smaller cities. The top destinations on Airbnb—the famous, high-density urban destinations like Vegas and Paris—used to be 11 percent of our nights booked in late 2019. Two years later, it’s 6 percent. People will still go to Paris and Vegas, but the genie is out of the bottle. There is a redistribution of travel away from a handful of hot spots toward everywhere.
Thompson: I have a pet theory that computers, knowledge work, and remote work are all producing a “Great Convergence” of work and life. Is this in line with what you’re observing in your business?
Chesky: We’re seeing work retreats and off-sites at Airbnbs, with teams gathering at Airbnbs, whereas before they might have sought out a typical off-site-event space with hotels.
Things tend to converge. The iPhone converged my calculator and the internet and the phone. And the home is becoming similarly multiuse. Travel, work, and living used to be compartmentalized. We traveled in one space; we worked in a different space; we lived in another space. It’s all coming together.
Thompson: I’m generally fascinated by the implications of remote work on cities, the economy, productivity, and technology. The second-order effects here could be extraordinary. Do you have any surprising second-order predictions about the future of work?
Chesky: I have a few predictions.
I think that travel will become a little less seasonal, a little more spread out throughout the year. Today, people travel around summer and the holidays. But one consequence of flexibility is that some people can book an Airbnb or hotel for a long off-season trip, when travel is cheaper. There’s a counterpoint to this, which is that business travel is diminishing. And business travel is somewhat off-season, since it happens throughout the year and is concentrated in the fall, when kids go back to school.
I also think about the larger effects. I’m 40 years old. The 26-year-old me started Airbnb in San Francisco because I had to do it in San Francisco. In 2007, venture capitalists needed you to come to their offices on Sand Hill Road [in Silicon Valley]. Now VCs do their meetings on Zoom. We plan to stay in San Francisco, but if I were starting Airbnb today, it’s possible I might have started it in many other cities.
Casinos made Macau one of the wealthiest places in the world — but they also brought heightened inequality and crime. Now, China is cracking down.
Business Insider Raini Hamdi, November 17 2021
The entire infrastructure of Macau's success has been built on casinos. But under Beijing's regulatory crackdowns, gaming operators will have to abide by new rules — or risk losing their licenses.
At 32 square kilometers, Macau is just 5% of Singapore's size. It's about half the size of Manhattan. Yet it has more than 35,000 hotel rooms, 30 Michelin-star restaurants, and 25 UNESCO World Heritage Sites. And it clocks gaming revenues that are six times that of the Las Vegas Strip.
It's also one of the wealthiest places in the world.
Alidad Tash is an expert in gaming operation and strategy who worked for 10 years in Vegas and Macau with the Sands organization. He said Macau's gaming revenue was $36 billion in pre-pandemic 2019, while the Vegas Strip raked in just $6 billion.
"Gaming is 70-80% of Macau's GDP. It's shockingly high," said Tash, who now runs his own consultancy firm, 2NT8 Macau.
But the wealth rests in the hands of a few — and that, in turn, is at odds with the government's "common prosperity" messaging. In September, officials announced a regulatory overhaul. Gaming licenses in Macau expire in June 2022.
The timing of the announcement is in line with Beijing's regulatory crackdowns, and it means gaming operators will have to abide by new rules or risk losing their licenses. There were also hints of Chinese officials supervising the world's largest gambling hub. All this caused shares of casino companies, particularly American operators Sands China and Wynn Macau, to plunge.
Getting Macau to amp up the non-gaming elements of the island will be a challenge, according to casino development strategists and hospitality consultants Insider spoke to. For one, Macau is tiny. But mainly, it's a victim of its own success for focusing on gaming as its sole cash cow.
More money, but not for everyone
Victoria Fuh is the vice president of Macau Meetings, Incentives and Special Events Association. Fuh told Insider that when she arrived in Macau 16 years ago, most meeting planners didn't know where Macau was. Today, it's on the list of venue options for international conferences that rotate globally.
"Year after year, Macau adds new hotels and attractions, so it's always fresh for our clients," said Fuh.
Since 1962, Stanley Ho — the late "King of Macau" — and his family held a monopoly over Macau's gambling industry as the only licensee for casinos. When Macau broke the monopoly in 2002, five more casino operators entered: Sands China, Wynn Macau, Galaxy Entertainment, Melco Entertainment, and MGM China. Collectively, they now operate 41 casinos.
With the casinos came a lot of money. Macau is the only place in China where gambling is legal, and casinos have had a strong 20-year run.
"Macau's GDP per capita shot up from a low of $12,352 in 1992 to $71,974 in 2020," said Ben Lee, managing partner of IGamiX Management & Consulting. "However, most of that wealth is concentrated in the hands of a few."
The government started a one-off annual cash handout to residents in 2008. In 2020, the amount allocated to residents was 15,000 patacas ($1,870).
Lee, who has lived in Macau for 16 years, told Insider the annual lump sum is "nominal."
"China sees how this creates social problems in Hong Kong and probably wants to avoid the same outcome in Macau," Lee added.
Were it not for subsidies and welfare benefits like these, Macau's Gini coefficient — which is used to measure inequality — would have been 0.4% in 2017-2018, hitting the high inequality mark, according to the 2020 Statistics and Census Bureau survey as reported by Macau Business.
And while the government reports a low poverty rate — 2.3% in 2017 — the percentage is based solely on income and ignores the growing cost of living that accompanied the casino boom.
Wealth inequality isn't the only issue in Macau. For one, there's crime: According to a paper from the Macao Institute for Tourism Studies, since the liberalization of casino licensing in 2002, crime has "increased drastically."
There are other social problems, such as a whole generation of young people dropping out of studies to work in the gaming industry because of its financial rewards, according to Robbert van der Mass, director of APAC Hospitality Services Macau. This in turn affects small retail shops and restaurants, many of which have disappeared as they couldn't compete with salaries offered at casino resorts.
Macau is well positioned for tourism: At its feet is the massive mainland market and neighboring Hong Kong, which together accounted for 90% of Macau's 39 million arrivals in pre-pandemic 2019, Macau Statistics & Census Service, locally known as DSEC, shows.
In 2019, there were 60 times more tourists than locals in Macau, per DSEC figures. But the average length of stay in Macau is just 1.2 days, compared with 2.7 days in Singapore and 3.3 days in Hong Kong. That's partly due to a high number of day-trippers, which accounted for 53% of arrivals in 2019, DSEC data shows.
Macau's gaming liberalization in 2002 was meant to make the city a world center for tourism, while Hong Kong became an international financial center, said Lee. That didn't exactly happen.
"Instead, Macau became China's center for gambling," Lee said. "And despite the anti-corruption campaign [in 2012] and a series of anti-gambling edicts subsequently, casinos' non-gaming revenue never really got off to any significant volume, staying at about 5% of their gross revenue on average."
This compares with 50% in Vegas and 30% in Singapore, experts interviewed said.
However, non-gaming creates more jobs than gaming does — and it benefits small- and medium-sized suppliers more, said some of the experts.
"When casinos make money, no supplier gets rich," said Tash. "If I spend money in a hotel room, there is a lot more labor involved. Non-gaming supplies wealth for the overall community far more than gaming."
Keeping Macau relevant
With its gaming licenses expiring in eight months, Macau now has a chance to reframe its gaming history.
"This isn't a renewal, it's a new open tender and anyone can bid for a new concession," said Lee. He said the government will likely offer prescriptive terms and demand clear non-gaming plans that extend beyond restaurants and retail.
"They want to see real non-gaming, such as the development of meetings and conventions, entertainment, art, and other attractions that go towards building a healthy tourism industry," Lee said of the government's approach to Macau 2.0.
A shift to more non-gaming could be beneficial for Macau tourism, said some of the tourism experts Insider spoke to. Some even see it as a chance for the city to redefine itself in line with newer travel trends.
Van der Mass of APAC Hospitality Services opened the MGM Grand Macau in 2007. He said that over the years, he has noticed a "huge shift" in Chinese travelers' behavior towards culture and experiences in food, retail, and entertainment.
"Integrated resorts are under pressure to adapt their offerings here in Asia, because these customers are increasingly exposed to leading trends in the world. To build more retail and meeting facilities without evolving these segments is no longer acceptable," said van der Mass.
Macau is facing increased competition for Asian customers as the gaming industry develops elsewhere in countries such as Japan, South Korea, and the Philippines, he said.
The demographics of gaming travelers are also changing. "Younger travelers are inclined towards gaming online, and the pandemic only drives more of this behavior. I think we'll see a transition in Asia towards more non-gaming," said Ian Wilson, who worked six years at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore and now runs Wilson Innovation Lab.
Attempts at moving beyond gaming
Casino operators in Macau appear to be heeding the push for more non-gaming.
Sands runs two casino resorts in Macau: The Venetian and The Parisian. The Venetian is the largest casino floor in Asia. Sands also tries to attract leisure visitors with attractions like Venice's canals and a replica of the Eiffel Tower. It's now remodeling the former Sands Cotai Central into a new resort called The Londoner, which will include replicas of London landmarks like the Houses of Parliament, Big Ben, and London-themed suites by David Beckham at one of the four hotel towers.
The project, opening in phases this year, has 351,000 square feet of gaming space and 369,000 square feet of meeting space. That's in addition to a 1,700-seat theater and enough retail space to fit 130 stores and 40 restaurants.
While the move does reflect a diversification out of gaming, it does not address another missing element in the island's development: Macau's Euro-Asia history and heritage.
"Gaming has overshadowed the development of other potential attractions and eclipsed some of the original character of Macau, such as its Euro-Asian heritage, in both tangible and intangible forms," said Leonardo Dioko, a professor at Macao Institute for Tourism Studies and a director of a tourism research center in Macau.
A thinly veiled power play
Some skeptics believe the regulatory overhaul is a thinly veiled power play for China to gain more control over the yuan's outflow and to strong-arm Macau — and the casinos — into adopting a digital currency, which is traceable.
"It's no coincidence that the target date for the implementation of the PRC digital yuan is 2024. China just wants to make sure that Macau is ready for the conversion when China wants it to be," said Ben Hirasawa, founder of BH21, a firm that advises hospitality and real-estate clients on project development in Asia.
While the review's timing may be opportune for China, it's a setback for Macau tourism, which has been battered by the pandemic. In the first nine months of 2021, Macau had six million arrivals, a fraction of its 39 million visitors in 2019, according to DSEC.
"Although there have been times throughout the year where we can see a glimmer of hope and travel recovering, it swiftly changes when there is an outbreak somewhere close by or locally," said Janet McNab, who heads Sheraton Grand and St Regis in Macau.
Ultimately, what's at stake is the entire infrastructure upon which Macau's success, unequal though it is, has been built. What's also in question is whether the niche it carved out for itself 20 years ago as Asia's gambling haven will still exist.
"Macau kind of exists for gaming," Wilson said. "But with gaming options continuing to increase around the world, Chinese nationals might even rather gamble in Vietnam, Cambodia, Singapore, or the Philippines, where they won't have quite the same level of scrutiny as they would in Macau."
On Tuesday 16 November 2021, European Union tourism ministers held an informal meeting via an audio-video link. The debate focused on the transition pathway for a green and digital transformation of the European tourism ecosystem by 2030.
The meeting was chaired by the Minister of Economic Development and Technology, Zdravko Počivalšek, who opened the meeting by saying that the European Union had managed to take the first emergency measures in 2020 and 2021 to help the tourism industry in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic. "This helped the tourism ecosystem overcome the first shock. However, it is essential that these short-term measures are followed by longer-term ones". He stressed: "The tourism ecosystem needs to be transformed in a way that makes it more resilient, sustainable and ready for the new market challenges and for changing patterns of behavior of tourism consumers."
At the meeting, the ministers discussed key actions to prepare a concrete set of measures for the recovery of the tourism ecosystem. These measures will facilitate the "transition pathway for recovery", with a focus on promoting the green and digital transition of the tourism ecosystem.
They agreed that tourism recovery must be at the heart of the green and digital transition and that we need to build a sustainable and resilient tourism ecosystem. In this context, they stressed the need to strengthen the resilience of European businesses and industry, also in the light of future crises. They further drew attention to the need to restore safe tourism travel and to rebuild consumer confidence in it. They recalled the importance of an open and well-functioning single market that will ensure open transport routes and highlighted the importance of financing the recovery of the tourism sector.
The ministers also stressed the importance of education and training, as well as the relevant re-skilling and up-skilling in the tourism ecosystem. This is important to ensure that people have the right skills to meet the challenges of digitalization and the green transition.
An important part of the recovery and twin transition is the provision of suitable databases and common data spaces for data sharing. Innovation for the tourism ecosystem needs to be strengthened and business processes need to be accelerated. In their discussions, the ministers called for the differences in development between EU member states and regions to be taken into account, as remote and island regions are a specific type of region that also requires sustainable and digital solutions. The ministers also called for the involvement of all stakeholders in the recovery process at all levels. They stressed the importance of sharing best practices and the need to ensure sufficient time to prepare recovery measures.
The ministers concluded the discussion by agreeing that the transition pathway provides a good basis for the preparation of the European Tourism Agenda 2030–2050. In conclusion, the minister chairing the meeting said that this discussion would make an important contribution to the continuation of efforts to complete the transition pathway for the recovery of the tourism ecosystem. "Given the Presidency's vision of a safe, green, smart, responsible, inclusive European tourism of the future, I am proud that Slovenia has already committed to green and sustainable tourism before the COVID-19 crisis. It is essential that the EU also embarks on the twin transition if we are to maintain Europe's global competitiveness and be the number one tourist destination in the world. This must be our common goal!" he said, concluding today's meeting.
It’s that time of year again, where we look into our crystal ball - with the help of anonymized aggregated travel data and conversations with Amadeus experts - to see what the travel industry can expect next year.
By Dan Batchelor, VP Global Corporate Communications & Social Responsibility at Amadeus
Personally, I hope the future holds at least one sunny holiday for me and my family on the beautiful beaches of Sarasota, Florida—our favorite vacation spot—and I know I’m not alone. The last two years have been a roller-coaster for most people around the world. With vaccines and digital health passports now making the rounds, we can finally begin looking forward to new adventures, both near and far.
Fortunately, Amadeus data tells us that things are looking up. From Costa Rica to Cape Town, travel bookings are on the rise, and the data reveals some interesting patterns.
Along with a team of industry experts, we’ve sifted through these patterns and identified six trends that we think will shake up the travel space in 2022 and beyond.
1. Savoring the now
The old adage “trip of a lifetime” has never been more appropriate
Forced to sit at home for months on end, we’ve all had some time to reflect on what matters most.
Now that we can travel again, many of us realize that there’s no time like the present to make that trip of a lifetime. Whether the dream is to finally sail around the world or take that long-haul trip to visit relatives on another continent, in 2022 many people will finally book those meaningful, once-in-a-lifetime trips.
Amadeus is seeing substantial increases in searches for travel to epic destinations or experiences. Searches for Tanzania—where travelers can see the Big Five in the wild—are up by 36%. Bookings to the Peruvian cities of Lima and Cusco, near Machu Pichu, are up by nearly 50%, and flights to Petra in Jordan—of Indiana Jones fame—are up by 22%. All of these signs suggest this trend will continue to grow, with the Indian Ocean islands and even Antarctica showing increased demand for travel.
We’re not alone in seeing this trend. Research by Unforgettable Travel
done during the height of the pandemic, found that the most popular destinations were once in a lifetime experiences, like hiking to the Mount Everest base camp in Nepal.
Caught up in the urge to live in the moment, travelers are making their travel dreams come true: whether they’re staying close to home and biking across the country or visiting iconic places in far-flung destinations.
Smiles, memories, adventures created with friends = priceless
For years now, researchers have been saying that strong social relationships are the key to happiness. If we didn’t know that before 2020, we know it now. The past couple of years would have been infinitely harder without Zoom, Microsoft Teams, FaceTime and WhatsApp, but they are no substitutes for being able to see friends in real life. So, no surprise that 2022 is gearing up to be the year of grand in-person reunions.
#Friendcations and group holidays to see those we love are on the rise, both close to home and abroad. The UK saw an explosion in large group holidays being booked after restrictions were relaxed: Big Cottages, reported a 600% rise in bookings for groups of over 20 people.
Amadeus data backs up this trend. Searches for travel to Cancun, Mexico, and Cartagena, Colombia – both popular destination for groups of friends – have more than doubled year-on-year, and Hawaii has seen a similar spike in interest. Meanwhile, searches for Las Vegas trips are up 61%, and in Europe, Barcelona and Ibiza have seen healthy double-digit increases.
We expect to see the growth of group trips continue among friends throughout 2022.
If the pandemic has shown us anything it’s the importance of friendship and that real-life hugs are the secret to happiness. With new technologies making group travel even easier—like Amadeus Traveler ID which provides automatic identification and COVID-19 document verification at any travel checkpoint—group travel is going to feel safer and easier. Now is the time to re-kindle relationships with a hard-earned friendcation.
3. Active Ecotourism
Actions speak louder than words; our focus shifts to activity-based ecotourism
Wanderlusters around the world are trying to square their environmental and social concerns with their passion for travel, and they’re putting their money where their mouth is. A recent Amadeus-commissioned survey found that two-thirds of consumers consider sustainable travel a priority, and 37% of respondents think opportunities for travelers to be involved in the preservation of tourist destinations will help the industry to become more sustainable in the long-term.
Tourism operators have noticed. A growing number of operators are promising to go beyond carbon offsetting and offer a measurable and positive impact on the environment. B. Journeys was set up to help travel businesses measure their environmental and social impact and support them in gaining BCorp certification.
In South Africa, Mantis Group offers ecotourism impact programs including the opportunity to support rhino conservation efforts in Tanzania. Meanwhile, Habitat for Humanity has developed travel & build and global village programs, and the Global Citizens Network is collaborating with the White Earth Indian Reservation in Minnesota.
All of these efforts can help travelers add purposeful elements to their holidays, such as working to rebuild communities as part of their trip, or prioritizing community-based tourism to ensure that their spending goes directly towards the local people and places they visit.
We’re also seeing this in our data. Searches for travel from the US to the eco-paradise of Costa Rica are up by 234% year-on-year, and in Europe visitors to carbon-neutral Iceland are up by a healthy 11%.
With a rise in ecotourism, in-destination activities with local grassroots organizations, volunteer opportunities and carbon offsets are all set to grow in popularity this year and beyond.
4. Business Travel is ready for takeoff
The way we work has changed, and so will business travel
COVID-19 forced millions of people to work from home, but productivity remained consistent, and employers have noticed. Nearly 40% of the US workforce can now work from anywhere, and in other countries, that number is even higher. Some companies, like Spotify for example, has announced that its staff will permanently work from home. Amadeus is implementing a hybrid working model globally to balance employee flexibility with business needs.
But working from home provides even more incentive for employees to meet in person, with colleagues, and clients. Videoconferencing works well, but nothing replaces a face-to-face meeting. Our data strongly supports that business travel in on people’s minds, with 72% of business travelers eager to travel in the next year, and half of travelers saying they will be flying for business by the end of 2021.
Just as the workplace has been fundamentally re-thought, the same applies to how we travel for work. Best-in-class employers are taking a fresh look at their travel policies and looking for ways to make travel less stressful and more efficient with expense-free mobile travel payments. Bloomberg has even taken a fresh look at what constitutes business travel, offering its 20,000 global employees a $75 daily commuting allowance.
Our data is clear: four in five business travelers are prepared to board an airplane for work right now, provided safety measures are in place. With a rise in vacancies and a worker shortage in many industries, businesses are looking for new ways to attract and retain talent. That means bringing employees together again, while making payments and expenses easier to process.
5. Wanderlust Streaming
From Rome to Roman Holiday; consumers will find their travel “muse” in unexpected places
Having spent months daydreaming from home and unable to travel abroad, let alone leave our homes, it’s no surprise that people are aching for new adventures. Over the last couple years, we turned to TV, streaming services and YouTube in droves—Britons spent a third of their waking hours watching TV or online videos in 2020—and all that media has influenced where we want to go next.
This relationship is so important that UNWTO and Netflix have recently partnered to publish a report that analyzes the role of movies and series as drivers of tourism. For example, in 2020, the town of Porthgwarra, Cornwall, saw 50% more tourists thanks to the success of the TV show Poldark.
This trend isn’t entirely new—people have been planning their trip to Rome since Roman Holiday came out in 1953—but now, thanks to smart speakers, AI, and targeted online advertising like Amadeus Media Solutions, tourism boards can make our Hollywood-inspired travel fantasies come true faster.
For example, Alexa may recognize a film or TV title that was recently viewed and suggest travel ideas and inspiration based on the film’s shooting location. A partner of Amadeus, Quo Vadis Travel, is already using Amazon Alexa to develop voice-activated technology for customers to search and book travel with just a few commands, making planning travel that much easier. Meanwhile, Ebookers have found unique ways to use sensory perception and biometric technology to help travelers plan their ideal holidays through the online tool SenseSational, which uses facial recognition to gauge users’ reaction to a stimuli, and ultimately provide holiday recommendations.
Nearly half of holidaymakers spend longer researching a holiday than the duration of the trip itself –but what if technology could help travelers book their dream holiday faster? With smart speakers, AI, sensory perception, and biometric technology, travel companies have an opportunity to anticipate consumer’s travel aspirations based on the media they’ve been watching, to make their travel dreams even easier to achieve.
6. Futuristic and Fast
No more long commutes; more time to explore the world
Imagine if you could book a trip on a vehicle that was immune to weather, collision-free, with low emissions, 24-hour operations, and speeds that transformed multi-hour journeys into minutes. This is what British inventor George Medhurst was dreaming up in the 18th century as a super-fast alternative to trains: the hyperloop, a series of low-pressure tubes powered by a vacuum to transport tiny cabins full of people or goods.
Three hundred years later, Medhurt’s vision is becoming a reality. In October 2020 Virgin Hyperloop did its first passenger test in the Nevada desert, sending two people down a 500-meter track in 15 seconds, reaching 172 km an hour. The test speed was limited by the length of the track, but the company is planning for speeds of up to 1000 km/hour. Virgin Hyperloop isn’t the only company working on this revolutionary mode of transportation. Valencia-based Zeleros Hyperloop is partnering with Siemens to create its own. If you think this is still in the realm of science fiction, think again. Virgin Hyperloop’s co-founder and Chief Executive Josh Giegel says commercial operations could be ready as soon as 2027.
Meanwhile, United Airlines is working on its own transport revolution. It recently announced plans to buy 15 new supersonic airliners and “return supersonic speeds to aviation” before the decade is out.
But if you prefer slower modes of travel, Florida-based Space Perspective recently announced the launch of a space balloon, Neptune One, which will start flying passengers into the heavens in 2024 at a leisurely pace of 12 miles per hour.
You think planes, trains and automobiles are the only way to get around? Not for long. By the end of this decade, travelers may have a whole host of new modes of transportation to consider. Incredibly fast and hyper efficient, these innovations are likely to make the world a much smaller place.
LONDON, UK - As world leaders gather in Glasgow for COP26 to discuss concrete actions to solve the climate crises, the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC) has launched an ambitious and groundbreaking Net Zero Roadmap, to guide the global Travel & Tourism sector in its battle against the climate crisis.
WTTC, which represents the global Travel & Tourism private sector, developed the roadmap in collaboration with the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC), and Accenture.
The roadmap provides concrete guidelines and recommendations to help guide Travel & Tourism businesses on their journey towards net zero.
By providing milestones for meaningful climate action and emissions reduction for different industries within the sector, the roadmap sets out the challenges ahead and how the Travel & Tourism sector can decarbonize and reach net zero by 2050.
This report shows how the sector is greatly impacted by climate change as it affects destinations around the world, but as with many other sectors, it is also responsible for an estimated 8-10% of global greenhouse gas emissions (GHG).
The sector therefore has a key role to play in fighting climate change, which will require heightened ambitions and differentiated decarbonization approaches, as outlined in the roadmap.
Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, said: “I am delighted to announce our pioneering Net Zero Roadmap for Travel & Tourism. It helps travel industries reach individual targets to reduce our carbon footprint.
“Many destinations are affected by the impacts of climate change with rising sea levels, deforestation and the loss of animal and plant species. Communities that rely on tourism are first in line to see the impact and wanting to do something about it.
“The Travel & Tourism sector is taking this opportunity to be a catalyst for change. We have a responsibility towards our people and planet.
“It is absolutely critical that the private and public sector we work collectively to achieve the Paris Agreement and prevent the global rise in temperatures.
“Our sector can be part of the change that is urgently required to mitigate impacts and adapt to the threats posed by climate change.”
Emily Weiss, Managing Director and Head of Accenture’s Travel Industry Group globally, said: “As the travel industry resets after a tough few years, there is an incredible opportunity to rebuild responsibly and accelerate the shift towards a net-zero future for the sector.
“The Net Zero Roadmap offers a pragmatic but ambitious course of action that will help the industry create real and visible targets to reduce its carbon impact, providing the transparency that consumers demand. Crucially, it identifies the big levers where travel can turn a corner on emissions and provides the building blocks to create meaningful change.”
The roadmap presents a new target framework with decarbonization corridors, which groups Travel & Tourism businesses into three clusters, depending on their emission profiles and the difficulty of abating their GHG emissions.
Certain industries may achieve net zero before 2050 if more ambitious targets are set and different decarbonization approaches are followed.
The detailed roadmap includes key decarbonization levers and corresponding actions for five key industries of the Travel & Tourism sector: accommodation, tour operators, aviation, cruise, and tourism intermediaries such as online travel agents (OTAs) and metasearch engines.
Acknowledging that different industries face different challenges to decarbonize, the roadmap calls on businesses to increase their ambitions where possible and provides detailed recommendations for five areas:
1. Set baselines and emission targets now to achieve individual and sector goals
2. Monitor and report progress regularly
3. Collaborate within and across industries and government
4. Provide finance and investment required for the transition
5. Raise awareness and build knowledge and capabilities on climate change.
This roadmap calls upon world leaders to give Travel & Tourism the same level of support offered to other sectors and gives recommendations to governments on how they can support the sector, which before the pandemic represented 10.4% of the global GDP (US$9.2 trillion), in addressing climate challenges and its goals to achieve a net zero future.
The collaborative process included key organizations such as the World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF), International Air Transport Association (IATA), Air Transport Action Group (ATAG), Cruise Lines International Association (CLIA), Travalyst, and SHA (Sustainable Hospitality Alliance), among others.
The U.S. travel and tourism sector could experience year-over-year growth of 35.6 percent in 2021, significantly outpacing the year’s overall global tourism recovery, with the outlooks looking even rosier for 2022. This was revealed in the latest research from the World Travel & Tourism Council (WTTC).
Based on the research, produced in partnership with Oxford Economics, in 2021, the U.S. travel and tourism sector can expect a year-over-year growth of just over one-third, representing an increase of $393 billion, for a total contribution of nearly $1.5 trillion to the U.S. GDP. In comparison, the global economy is set to receive a 30.7 percent year-over-year increase from the travel & tourism sector in 2021.
At the current recovery rate, in 2022, the U.S. could experience a further year-over-year growth of 28.4 percent, representing an increase of $425 billion and bringing the sector’s total contribution to the U.S. economy beyond pre-pandemic levels at over $1.9 trillion. According to the research, the nation’s economy has benefited from a rise in domestic travel, with spending set to increase 40.4 percent ($261 billion) in 2021, with a further year-over-year rise of 22.9 percent expected in 2022.
Although international spending by travelers in the U.S. is set to grow by a mere 1.9 percent this year due to prolonged travel restrictions throughout the year, recent changes to international travel restrictions will provide a significant year-over-year boost of almost 228 percent in 2022, representing an increase of $98 billion and total contribution of $141 billion.
The research also showed that after the U.S. travel sector’s loss of more than 5.5 million jobs last year, employment is set to rise by 26.2 percent in 2021, representing an increase of 2.9 million jobs and total contribution of nearly 14 million jobs. In comparison, 2019 contribution represented more than 16.5 million jobs. In 2022, employment is set to increase a further 19.7 percent, representing a year-over-year increase of 2.75 million jobs and bringing total jobs across the U.S. travel & tourism sector above pre-pandemic levels at 16.72 million jobs.
“Our research shows that while the global travel & tourism sector is slowly beginning to recover, the U.S. is recovering faster than many other regions,” said Julia Simpson, WTTC President & CEO, in a press note. “Last year, the pandemic decimated more than five million travel & tourism jobs across the U.S.; however, due to a predicted rise in international and domestic spend this year and next, both jobs and GDP are on the rise.”
Simpson added, “The U.S. opening its borders and easing restrictions to major source markets such as the U.K. and the E.U. will provide a massive boost to economies on both sides of the Atlantic. However, the long-term recovery of the sector in the U.S and around the world depends on the U.S. border remaining open to international visitors and making travel easier.”
According to the research, the sector’s contribution to the U.S. GDP and the rise in jobs could be more positive this year and next, especially if governments worldwide put some measures in place to facilitate global travel. These measures include:
Travel and tourism’s contribution to GDP could rise by 40.9 percent (more than $450 billion) by the end of this year, followed by a year-over-year increase of a further 30.9 percent ($480 billion) in 2022. This would equate to a $165 billion increase in contribution to the U.S. economy compared to pre-pandemic levels. International spending would also benefit from government action, and experience a growth of 5.4 percent this year, and a significant boost of 253 percent in 2022. The sector’s growth could also have a positive impact on employment, with a 31.1 percent increase in jobs in 2021.
And with the right measures to support travel and tourism, the number of those employed in the sector next year could surpass pre-pandemic levels in 2022, with a year-over-year increase of 22 percent, reaching more than 17.7 million jobs.
We speak with Ewald Biemans, owner of the Bucuti & Tara Beach Resort, who addressed the Cop26 conference about sustainability
Q. How did you come to work as a hotelier in Aruba?
A. I was born in Austria and at a young age my parents moved to Venezuela and then Guyana. During my stay there, I visited Aruba on vacation several times, and on one of those trips I was offered a job in the hospitality industry. This was 55 years ago – there was one hotel at the time and they were building another. But I still love the island as much as I did at the beginning.
Q. You were asked to address the Cop26 conference to discuss your efforts in sustainability – what inspired your passion for conservation?
A. When I arrived in Aruba, it was the most pristine, most natural and unspoilt island. As the island felt the impact of tourism, we started to worry about people leaving trash on the beaches, and the oil crises in the 1980s and 1990s also made us aware of the consumption of fossil fuels. We had a roadmap to increasing our sustainability by reducing consumption of energy, reducing waste, getting rid of miniature shampoo bottles and allowing guests to reuse their towels – this was all 30 years ago.
Q. How have you increased those sustainable measures since then?
A. We’ve reduced our garbage disposal and our food waste by 60%. About eight years ago, we reduced portion sizes by 30% because we were wasting too much food – it was going back to the kitchen – so we made the portions smaller and lowered the prices, and everyone was happy.
We recycle everything from cartons to aluminum to glass, and the only item that we can’t recycle on the island – plastic – we all but eliminated 20 years ago. Our utility consumption has decreased over the years by using energy-efficient equipment, and we have the largest solar installation on the island.
We even encourage our employees to buy equipment that is energy-efficient – we have a financial support scheme as part of our company – so they can reduce their energy bills too. Once we were LEED-certified [a global green building standard], it became relatively easy to certify as being carbon-neutral or net-zero.
“The only item that we can’t recycle on the island – plastic – we all but eliminated 20 years ago”
Q. How have guests responded to those initiatives?
A. The customer doesn’t realize what we do unless they watch our video and notice the little things – why we have solar panels, why our portions are a little smaller, why we don’t use plastic. Luxury and sustainability are not mutually exclusive. From a customer’s viewpoint, there is no difference, but they can feel good knowing they are protecting the environment.
Q. How seriously is sustainability taken around Aruba?
A. We have an extensive community outreach programme. We do monthly beach clean-ups; we have a plan called ‘love me, sterilize me’ for stray cats and dogs; we have a turtle conservation programme where we bring in the community to join us in our efforts to help the environment.
We are living on an island and we are very vulnerable to global warming and climate change. My hotel is only 2.5ft above the water, so if the ocean rises, our wonderful beach will be underwater. Tourism is Aruba’s main source of income, so we need to protect it as much as we can. If we all do our bit to prevent climate change, we can make a difference.
Q. What have you been doing at Cop26?
A. I was a signatory for the Glasgow Declaration for Climate Action in Tourism on November 4, then we received a Global Climate Action Award from the UN – the first hotel to be given this award – and I am doing a presentation on November 12.
The reason we have been recognized is because our programme is highly replicable and scalable, so we became an example for the hotel and resort industry to emulate. Our aspiration at Bucuti & Tara is to become carbon-negative – we’re working in that direction.
Ewald’s top tip
Agents can do a lot to educate the public just by giving options – if you can recommend a resort that is certified by Travelife or its equivalent, that gives the agent a bit of security that the environment is taken care of.
Tanner Saunders: The Points Guy
Guess what? Times are changing, and all-inclusive resorts are cool again.
Or, at least, some of the world’s major hotel brands including Marriott, Hyatt and Wyndham are trying to make them that way.
Over the last couple of years, some hotel brands that have never even dabbled in the model suddenly doubled down on their efforts to grow their all-inclusive portfolios, and in some cases, launch brand new ones.
In October, Wyndham introduced the “upper midscale” Wyndham Alltra, its first brand dedicated entirely to all-inclusive resorts. In partnership with Playa Hotels and Resorts, one of the key players in the all-inclusive industry, Wyndham will convert two existing resorts in Cancun and Playa Del Carmen into the first Alltra properties.
Meanwhile in Cancun, the Wyndham Alltra Cancun, All-Inclusive Resort will offer standard rooms and suites, including beachfront walkout suites; 10 restaurants, bars and lounges; multiple swimming pools; fitness classes, a hangout space for teens, a complimentary hydrotherapy area and tequila tastings.
At the adult-only Wyndham Alltra Playa del Carmen, 10 restaurants and bars offer unlimited food and craft cocktail options, plus hot tubs, a spa, health and wellness facilities and more.
And that’s only the first two announced by Wyndham, which said in a statement that more resorts will follow.
Last month, Marriott also said it plans to have 33 all-inclusive resorts by 2025 when it announced the addition of 20 new all-inclusive properties as part of its All-Inclusive by Marriott Bonvoy program. And these properties aren’t just your run-of-the-mill resorts typically associated with the all-inclusive lifestyle; they’re part of the upscale Autograph Hotels Collection, and part of Marriott’s broader plan to, it seems, reinvent the idea of the all-inclusive entirely.
Other brands, too, are picking up steam and giving travelers more opportunities to pay basically one price for their vacation; Hilton just announced two new all-inclusive resorts in Mexico and Hyatt now has Secrets Resorts and Spas, thanks to its acquisition of Apple Leisure Group, plus its popular Hyatt Zilara and Ziva properties.
So, why are these brands looking past the tropes about all-inclusive resorts — bad food, lackluster rooms, cheesy themes and subpar service, all for one flat rate — and trying to establish themselves as new leaders in this sector at more or less the same time?
Turns out the people want it
Well, to start, data shows that people have become much more interested in the idea of an all-inclusive vacation over the last few years.
According to a report published by Marriott, consumers’ tastes have changed. As research firm STR found, “In the first half of 2019, there were 1,500 all-inclusive resorts that generated $7.9 billion in sales, a 20% increase from five years earlier.”
Travelers, Marriott says, are looking for ease and simplicity when planning their vacations. Likely pegged to the nickel-and-dime effect at many hotels and resorts around the world (we’re looking at you, parking and resort fees). Simply put, the idea of knowing exactly what you’re getting upfront is likely a major driving factor for consumers.
“In the past five to seven years, simplicity has been combined with elevation,” says Brian King, president of Marriott International’s Caribbean and Latin American region. “Customers are still looking for simplicity in the booking and pricing process — they don’t want to worry about signing a bill every day.”
In July 2021, an online survey of 1,515 Americans conducted by Maru/Blue and shared by Marriott found that 54% of people claimed “they are likely to consider an all-inclusive resort for their next vacation.”
Adding to the trend, 70% of people surveyed between the ages of 18 and 34 said they would consider an all-inclusive resort. For legacy brands like Marriott and Hyatt, reaching younger consumers where they’re at (or, in this case, where they want to go), could build a stronger loyalty base and allow those consumers to grow with the portfolios to higher-end brands as their own affluence grows.
Loyalty matters more than ever
And loyalty as a whole is at play here.
Traditionally, all-inclusive resorts have been independently owned and operated or part of smaller groups centered around Mexico, Central America and the Caribbean. But Marriott, the world’s largest hotel operator, knows that people want to stay with the brands they already love — and where they can earn and redeem points.
In fact, according to the survey, a whopping 84% of people said they’d rather travel with a brand they’re familiar with. With that, brands with fierce and loyal members can provide a level of service potentially unmatched by one-off resorts and smaller chains.
“We can anticipate their needs in a very sophisticated manner. Not only can we greet them by name and remind them of their last stay with us, but we can set up something special that we know they’ll enjoy based on past behavior,” said King. “These small recognitions have big impacts. And we know we’re never wasting the customer’s time with something that’s not appealing to them.”
The pandemic changed everything
And like nearly everything else in the world, the COVID-19 pandemic has also changed the way people think about travel. As the majority of people have spent a significant chunk of time at home over the last year and a half, getting back out again — especially traveling to another country — can be a potentially daunting challenge.
The simple idea of an all-inclusive resort lends itself to the state of the current world we’re living in: they’re spacious and more or less made for social distancing; essentially everything you need, from food to activities to shopping, are right on-site; and the resorts have the ability to limit access to the properties, mandate testing or vaccinations and provide a sort of “bubble” for vacationers.
“Three-quarters of respondents to the consumer survey agreed that all-inclusive is a safer way to ease back into traveling post-lockdown,” Marriott found. For King, that all adds up: “At all-inclusive resorts, families that have been cooped up for so long in their homes can still be together — without being that close together,” he says. “They have plenty of space and can practice social distancing. And because we can manage crowds, it just doesn’t feel as confined.”
It’s also a way, TPG previously reported, for cruise-obsessed travelers to, in some ways, recreate the experience of a ship without the fear of being trapped — a very real concern for many travelers still.
There are plenty more reasons why the big dogs in the hotel industry are expanding their all-inclusive portfolios, but at the root of it, people simply want it and the time is right. And with their powerful resources — capital, consumer data and huge pools of loyal customers — why not give it to them in a way they never thought possible?
The future of the all-inclusive resort is knocking on the door, and soon we’ll have even more to choose from. Marriott, for example, teased in 2019 plans to leverage more of its brands to offer a more upscale all-inclusive experience, including W All-Inclusive and The Ritz-Carlton All-Inclusive. Though no new details on those portfolios have been announced, it’s a step in the right direction.
But will these resorts meet the growing demands of families, foodies and luxury travelers? Only time will tell.
Jim Hepple is an Assistant Professor at the University of Aruba and is Managing Director of Tourism Analytics.