Skift Global Forum Preview: Why Ovation Is Embarking on a New Elite Luxury Brand

Ovation

Shown here is Jack Ezon in the Italian fishing village and holiday resort of Portofino, Italy. In an interview, Ezon, who has grown Ovation Vacation’s leisure business from $3 million to more than $400 million, talks about his new brand, Embark. Ezon will appear on-stage in September 2018 at Skift Global Forum New York. Ovation

Skift Take: Jack Ezon of Ovation’s leisure business is starting Embark, a luxury agency with an unusual business structure. In this Q&A, Ezon shares how agents can thrive in the digital era, the biggest problem facing the travel industry, and why he hires so many millennials.

— Sean O’Neill

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Viator’s Travel Agent Program Gets Mixed Reviews

Viator

Travelers participate in a Vatican museum tour before it normally opens to the general public. TripAdvisor is enabling travel agents to book tours such as this through a new travel agent website. Viator

Skift Take: The market for off-the-beaten-path tours and experiences has been heating up this year with the emergence of Airbnb’s Experiences. TripAdvisor, which emphasizes on-the-beaten path offerings, is putting a huge effort into trying to stay on top. Its new travel agent program is part of that effort.

— Paul Biasco

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Skift Global Forum Preview: Why the Internet Didn’t Kill Off Travel Agents

Charlie Sawyer Photography  / Virtuoso

Matthew Upchurch, Virtuoso CEO. Upchurch will be on stage at Skift Global Forum 2018. Charlie Sawyer Photography / Virtuoso

Skift Take: The travel agent still exists for a reason. Despite having the option, plenty of people don’t want to do it on their own, and are happy to get someone else to make plans — even if it costs more.

— Patrick Whyte

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Hilton, Hyatt, and Blackstone Eyeing Belmond Hotels

Belmond

Belmond La Residence Phou Vao. Hilton, Hyatt, and Blackstone are among reported companies looking to buy the luxury hotel company. Belmond

Skift Take: These potential suitors all have their own reasons for wanting to buy Belmond, but a bigger question looms as to why the company is deciding to put itself up for sale now after years of rebuffing the idea and years of underperformance.

— Deanna Ting

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Oyo’s $1 Billion Fundraising Raises Strategy Questions for Hotel Chains

Samyukta Lakshmi  / Bloomberg

Shown here is Ritesh Agarwal, Oyo founder and CEO, in Bengaluru, India, in September 2018. Oyo, which claims to be South Asia’s largest hotel chain, said it has raised $1 billion in funding. Samyukta Lakshmi / Bloomberg

Skift Take: Hotel groups may be tempted to dismiss Oyo as a company focused on budget travelers. But Oyo is growing faster than you can say “Softbank,” the name of its most important funder. Procrastinating foreign brands risk playing a game of catch-up.

— Sean O’Neill

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American Airlines Feels Vindicated in Its Second Try at Direct Distribution

Angus Mordant  / Bloomberg

A ground crew member directs an American Airlines Group plane preparing to taxi on the tarmac. Angus Mordant / Bloomberg

Skift Take: American Airlines has moved away from its earlier belligerence to navigate a cooperative path with distribution middlemen. The airline appears to be making a lot more gains this time around.

— Sean O’Neill

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