Skift Take

Good morning from Skift. It’s Tuesday, July 5 in New York City. Here’s what you need to know about the business of travel today.

Today’s edition of Skift’s daily podcast looks at Margaritaville’s particular approach to expansion, easyJet’s executive shuffle, and the impact of the Ukraine war on eastern European tourism.

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Episode Notes

Travel executives expressed concern earlier this year that the war in Ukraine would hurt tourism to neighboring countries. But as travelers are less worried about the conflict now than at its outset, Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam writes Eastern Europe is making progress in its tourism recovery.

Sam White, an executive at tour operator Explore Worldwide, was one industry leader uncertain about the war’s impact on Ukraine’s neighbors. White had good reason for concern — a March survey revealed 62 percent of Americans were worried about the conflict spreading to other parts of Europe.

However, as travelers seem less fearful about the war extending beyond Ukraine’s borders, tourism executives in Poland and Romania are optimistic about a strong recovery. Polish officials in particular have said individual visitation numbers have been strong recently. In addition, Yves Marceau, the vice president of product at G Adventures, said higher airfares are impacting travel to Eastern Europe more than the war in Ukraine.

We turn next to one of music’s biggest brands, Jimmy Buffett. His hit song Margaritaville became a springboard to a multi-billion dollar empire, including profitable hotels. Senior Hospitality Editor Sean O’Neill and Andrea Doyle, the Senior Editor for Skift Meetings, explain how Margaritaville Holdings CEO John Cohlan helped turn the brand into a major player in the hotel industry.

Cohlan, who first met the singer in 1996 after being transferred to Florida for work, said he realized Buffett could become an even bigger brand while seeing him perform at the New Orleans Jazz Festival. Cohlan has since played a crucial role in Buffett’s business enterprises, including arranging for a deal for a Margaritaville restaurant at Universal Studios’ Orlando theme park that opened in 1999.

But Margaritaville Holdings has also been pioneers in the hotel industry. The company adopted the asset-light model, in which it franchises its brand to hotel owners rather than running hotels on its own, ahead of industry giants Marriott and Hilton. Cohlan has also expressed pride in helping to popularize the lifestyle hotel concept.

Finally, repercussions continue to be belt by recent airline and airport mayhem as easyJet’s Peter Bellew resigned as chief operating officer at the Switzerland-based low-cost carrier, following weeks of turmoil at the airline

He has now left “to pursue other business opportunities,” the airline said in a statement on Monday, effective July 1, as other European airlines prepare for a difficult summer ahead — including SAS which will now face widespread strikes after pilots voted on Monday to take industrial action.

Airport caps will also contribute to an already challenging period.
For now, David Morgan, easyJet’s director of flight operations, will lead the operations function in an interim role, reporting to CEO Johan Lundgren, writes Asia Editor Peden Doma Bhutia.

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