The Biggest Innovators in Travel and Hospitality: Summer Edition


Skift Take

The distance between very good and superb is actually quite far and it requires motivated teams, attention to detail, and above all creativity to break out of commodity service delivery. Here are a few brands, ideas, and services that deserve a tip of the hat.

The pace of travel’s resurgence means this recurring column feature feels right to do twice a year, as I have in the past. There has been a lot to take in, and crisis has been a forcing factor for interesting ideas born from constraint. There is also a bit of bad behavior in the market, with price gouging and formerly iconic names still trading on badge value though their service isn’t up to snuff. Still, we opt for a more cheery outlook, giving airtime to the places and spaces that manage to stand out.

After all, the distance between very good, and superb is actually quite far. And it requires motivated teams, attention to detail, and above all creativity to break out of commodity service delivery.

Here are a few brands, ideas, and services that deserve a tip of the hat:

Best Short-Haul Airline Concept

I’ve heard a lot of rumblings about JSX, but just got around to trying it. And I’m a convert. It takes the best part of private travel, the ability to turn up 20 minutes before your flight, and turns it into its brand superpower. They fly retrofitted Embraers which are perfectly nice, but the true appeal of the product is getting to skip the chaos of summer airports completely. Plus, the company is run by someone who knows brand and operations well: Alex Wilcox, who logged time at Virgin and Jetblue. He’s pragmatic, sharp, and the product has been delivering.

A flight attendant on board a JSX flight. Source: JSX

Hotel Brand to Watch

I’ve been patiently watching Alila, born in Asia, and now part of Hyatt. The brand is starting to beautifully come together: it is focused on nature-centric experiences (think Big Sur and Oman). It takes awhile for a brand to find its footing, but my experiences with Alila Marea in San Diego as well as the Alila in Southern Oman showed me a brand that is going to be competing with the big players for luxury spend, set in interesting new areas around the globe. They’ve nicely built off of the hospitality and design of the brand’s Asian roots, and are starting to bring all elements together nicely.

Best Super Luxury Brand

If we’re being honest, there are really only a few chains operating at a hyper luxury space in terms of service, vision, consistency and the “wow” effect. Sharing airspace with Oetker, Aman, Nihi, and Soneva is Airelles, who have been on my radar lately thanks to some interesting openings and strong word-of-mouth from connected travelers. They are expanding their portfolio rapidly in France with two properties in Saint-Tropez, following their launch of their Château de Versailles property last year. The brand’s earlier properties, particularly Courchevel, have a cult-like following and it will be interesting to see if they can scale the touch and service as the brand grows. This is the true challenge at the highest level.

Best First Lounge

It gets a lot of airtime among the long haul set, but Qatar’s Al Safwa lounge has been getting better and better. It is museum-like in its tranquility, and service is polished and professional. The sleeping rooms have gotten me through many long layovers at Doha.

Best Brand Culture

It says a lot about a brand to see who they aspire to hire as GMs. I’ve been really inspired by the design and execution of Proper. Their downtown LA opening is manned by Stephane Lacroix, a luxury veteran who has the new property running crisply. Santa Monica is helmed by the superb Julien Laracine, a veteran of Nihi, who co-runs the hotel with his wife Carla Stoffel. Friends I’ve referred his way come back raving with his attention to detail, warmth and overall vibe. The duo also managed to steward the property through the doldrums of Covid back into its thriving self.

Most Exciting Openings

Two openings caught my eye for their sheer ambition: Raffles London at the OWO and Passalacqua in Lake Como. The former, like the original in Singapore is epic in scale and will be a restaurant and bar destination as well as a hotel, transforming Whitehall in the same way the Ned did the financial district in London. It is manned by a superb hotelier, Philippe le Boeuf. Passalacqua, from the owners of Grand Hotel Tremezzo, has an anytime, anywhere approach to service and one of the best views of the lake, with a JJ Martin-designed pool.

Passalacqua on Lake Como Source: Passalacqua.

Best Room

The Rooster in Antiparos is labor of love, built within a 30-acre site of hills, ruins, rocks and sand dunes in Greece. The founder, Athanasia Comninos, created a small, perfectly formed property that feels private, unspoiled, and too good to be true. The fact it is a personal project is very apparent, though there are architectural nods to Aman with some of the room layouts, it also feels completely unique. And because of the friction required to get to Antiparos, it is unlikely to be overun by hedonistic hordes. The room design is tranquil, and fits beautifully with its environs. The roosters crowing nearby in the morning give you a clue as to the name’s origins.

Best F&B

I was in Amman, Jordan toward the end of the year, and was absolutely impressed by the recent re-fit of F&B at the Four Seasons Amman. The hotel has long been a place of diplomatic intrique and hushed conversations, which they playfully parlayed into Sirr, a secret bar with dark wood paneling and some of the best bartenders in the city. They were able to recreate one of my favorites from Employees Only, the Billionare, perfectly. Also, La Capitale was an absolute standout brasserie helmed by people who really loved their jobs. I found myself lured back because things were run so well.

Best Hotel Experience This Year

I thought Auberge’s re-fit of the Mauna Lani on the big island of Hawaii was inspired. They did an incredible job with the design, F&B, and notably the experiences: where as I detailed in a longer column, they manage to thread Hawaii’s cultural depth through their experiences, doing something more soulful and meaningful than the stock-standard island hedonism. Everything was considered, including retail (there’s a Goop), as well as NYC-style deli items among the locally roasted Kona coffee. It’s hard to make all elements come together, and they did.

Brightest Hoteliers

Sanjiv Hulugalle, Pete Alles and Danny Akaka from Auberge lead with vibes, energy, and optimism. Stephanie Pournaras and Yasmin Natheer Al-Sati of Four Seasons are tight on the details and the craft of hospitality on every level. Rubina Gurung from Al Maha in Doha goes above and beyond. And finally, I’m sending best wishes to the ever elegant Petar Krstic of Aman as he is poised to open the new property in New York.

Best Conversation

For the longest time, I noticed an elegant signature on the welcome when I’d check into the Park Hyatt Tokyo: Philippe Roux-Dessarps. He’s a legendary hotelier who I only knew by this signature, and by reputation. We got to spend some time at his new post, The Four Seasons Astir Palace on the Athenian Riviera and followed was a wide ranging conversation on Japan, detail, hospitality, and brand. It was a pleasure to spend time and see how he’s bringing an international career to bear with one of the brand’s priority properties. And it was nice to put a signature to a person, finally.


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Air travel is getting worse. Here are 6 tips to make it less of a headache.


Thousands of flights were canceled or delayed over the Father’s Day weekend, with the chaos at airports in the U.S. and abroad pointing to a summer of discontent for travelers. Airlines, tricky to operate under the best of conditions, are now also grappling with severe personnel shortages just as passengers return in droves as the pandemic eases. 

“We’re used to navigating around weather delays in the summer, but having this huge travel resurgence combined with weather and staffing issues at airports and airlines has made it a much more complicated landscape,” said Misty Belles, a travel expert and spokesperson for Virtuoso, a global network of travel advisers specializing in luxury experiences.

So what can you do to minimize the frustrations? Travel pros recommend some tricks of the trade to make air travel less of a headache this summer. 

Book through the airline

Booking your ticket directly through an airline can make for more effective customer service and faster rebooking if necessary. By contrast, airlines tend to be less helpful when your travel arrangements are made through online aggregators such as Expedia or Priceline.

“There has never been a more important time to book directly with the airline. When you book through a third party and you have to rebook, the airline says, ‘Go to them,'” Willis Orlando, travel expert at Scott’s Cheap Flights, told CBS MoneyWatch. “They also have less robust customer service operations than an airline does.”

Even if it can seem like takes forever to connect with an airline customer service representative, once you’re in touch they can usually resolve problems.

“With online travel sites, there is an extra layer of communication and policies, and you’re not always owed the same as what you are if you booked through the airline,” Orlando added. 

Catch the first flight of the day

Another rule of thumb is to always book the first departing flight of the day for a better chance of it taking off on-time, even if it’s $50 or $100 more expensive than other fares.

“Take the first morning flight out,” Belles of Virtuoso said. “It’s painful getting up at 4 a.m., but those flights are less likely to get bumped as the day goes on and things get backed up.” 

Plus, bad weather typically disrupt operations later in the day, she added.

For extra assurance, purchase a second, fully-refundable ticket for a flight scheduled two to three hours later. If your first flight is cancelled or significantly delayed, call the airline and request a full refund — then hop on the second flight.

When arranging a backup flight, book through a different carrier and try to use airline miles or points, which go right back into your travel bank if you end up cancelling the flight.   

“Booking tickets with airline miles gives you the benefit of a refundable ticket without paying for one. You can get your miles credited back to your account,” said Melissa Biggs Bradley, founder of Indagare Travel, a luxury travel planning company. 

Fly direct

On a recent trip, Bradley flew from New York to Venice, Italy, and then drove an hour and a half to Slovenia, as opposed to connecting through Paris or Amsterdam and flying to a regional airport located closer to her final destination. And she’s glad she did. 

“Other people went through Paris or Amsterdam and connected and had massive lines, huge issues with bags and worries about flights being cancelled,” she said. “They would have been much better off going to a major airport a little further away and doing that drive.”

Of course, direct flights are more expensive than routes with connections, but they reduce the odds of something going wrong that mars your long-awaited vacation.  

“Avoid connections. If there are two or three legs, you’re doubling or tripling your chances of running into a problem,” said James Ferrara, co-founder and president of InteleTravel, a network of 75,000 independent travel advisers. “The more you can connect the lower the price, so it’s not an option for everyone.”

If you must use connecting flights, don’t even think about a 45 minute layover. Give yourself at least two hours, or longer.

Upgrade to be first in line

Once you’ve booked your flight, download your airline’s mobile app and enable text messages to receive alerts related to your flight. Also join the airline’s frequent-flier program. 

“All of those things will help you get information quicker,” Ferrara said. 

Consider upgrading to a premium seat if one is available. Indeed, the better your standing with the airline, the more priority you’ll be given when it comes to rebooking a canceled or significantly delayed flight. 

“When seats are overbooked or flights are canceled, they award seats on new planes based upon your status on that first plane. First class, business class and passengers with higher mileage levels will be rebooked first. You’ll get a seat before the person at the back of the plane does,” Bradley said. 

If you work with a travel adviser, they will take care of the rebooking process for you and advocate on your behalf. And it won’t cost you anything, as their fees are paid by airlines and hotels. 

Travel on a Wednesday

If you’re traveling for an event like a wedding or sports tournament, if possible plan on arriving a couple of days in advance. Building a two to three day cushion leaves room for canceled flights or other travel mishaps without it causing you to miss the main event. 

“Don’t count on flying and arriving the same day,” Bradley said. “Build in a buffer and you’ll get there.” 

Travel Watch: Tips and tricks for summer trips


Take an extra day off of work and fly on a weekday if you can. Also avoid flying between Friday and Monday, experts say. 

“The most important thing right now is not to fly on weekends. This is what weekends are going to look like at least through the summer,” Ferrara said, referring to the recent chaos at airports. 

Only bring carry-on

If possible, avoid checking luggage, which avoids long bag drop lines at airports. Bradley urges her clients to either carry on or ship. In addition, if your flight is canceled and you have your bag with you, you’ll be more nimble. 

“You can jump on a different flight, whereas if your bag is in the belly of plane, it takes longer to maneuver and get yourself on a different flight,” Bradley said. “I am huge proponent of never checking your bag.”


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Best and Worst Times to Travel – NECN


Memorial Day Weekend is expected to be both busy and expensive this year with inflation driving up travel costs.

It’s not great timing for the unofficial start of summer, which kicks off this coming weekend. Nearly 40 million people are expected to travel ahead of the long weekend, which is up 4% from last year. Add that on top of the skyrocketing prices for gas, airfare car rentals, and you have yourself a pretty big headache.

Average domestic flight prices are up 46% from 2019. Some flights are already sold out for weeks and, unfortunately, things are not much better on the ground.

It’s hard not to notice the skyrocketing cost of fuel with people thinking about driving during the upcoming summer vacation — or even driving to the corner store. A gallon of regular gas in Massachusetts is now $4.47, according to AAA — up 17 cents from last week. A year ago, it was $2.89.

Gas prices are expected to average close to $4.65 by next weekend, which is a 51% increase over last year. So how do you make the best of it and try to avoid all the stress if you’re driving? The worst roads in the region area to travel are the Expressway south and Purchase Street from Route 24, according to AAA.

The times that you want to avoid driving are Thursday and Friday between 1 p.m. and 8 p.m. The best time to drive is early in the morning before 7 a.m. or after 9 p.m. on Thursday and Friday.

For those who are heading home Monday, the best time to drive is after 11 a.m. because the traffic will be worse in the afternoon. For those who are flying, experts suggest booking midweek and early morning flights as well.


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Solo Travel Tips: 6 Best Tips for Women Traveling Alone | Safety


Traveling solo can be empowering and rewarding, offering moments of self-discovery and deep reflection. Understandably some women are intimated to travel alone, with the key concern being safety. With careful planning, however, and the right mindset, you can minimize the risks to ensure a rewarding safe travel experience.

Here is my top advice for women traveling solo, from a woman who does it time and time again:

  1. First and foremost, book a trip with a reputable tour operator. Even if they are a bit higher – you can’t compromise safety.
  2. Do guided tours and, better yet, private tours if you can. Not only does it provide access to unique places and people, but it supports the local economy and encourages communities to value tourism. Guided tours ensure that you are in the right places, and not a naïve tourist who could potentially be taken advantage of.
  3. Consider forgoing the larger properties and choose to stay at smaller boutique/owner run properties. This usually allows for a more attentive experience from the staff and you almost feel like you become part of the family. You may feel safer and more secure in this environment and that the property is looking out for you. In big hotels, it is easy to become lost in the crowd.
  4. Share your full travel itinerary with someone back home in advance. Make sure they understand the potential time differences when trying to get hold of you and know where you are daily.
  5. Consider scheduled road transfers vs. Uber or public transportation unless it’s well established like in larger cities such as LondonParis or New York. Book scheduled road transfers through a reputable operator always.
  6. Schedule “check-ins” with your loved ones back home. It helps alleviate concerns as well as making them part of your experience. It also ensures that they are on track with your whereabouts at all times.

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Military spouse blogger shares top trips and tips for European travel with kids – Military Travel


A foreign land. Three young children. A rollercoaster pandemic.  

After nearly two years in Germany, Air Force spouse Jessica Lynn could list plenty of reasons to stay close to home. Yet, she remains determined to explore new placeswhile encouraging other OCONUS families to safely do the same.  

“It can be so scary moving to a new place,” she said, “but rip off the Band-Aid of your comfort zone and see what you can see.” 

Stationed in Geilenkirchen, Germany, since June 2020, Jessica Lynn is always on the lookout for the next adventure with her husband, a lieutenant colonel in the Air Force, and three kids (ages 5, 7 and 9). Due to the current hassles of air travel, most of their getaways have been road trips to nearby Austria, the Netherlands and quaint German villages 

READ: 30 travel deals for military families

Highlights so far include Wernigerode, Germany, where their family visited Rapunzel’s tower, and Normandy, France, where they spent four days exploring the infamous landing site of American troops during WWII 

Julia (9), Madilyn (7) and Logan (5) sit on the steps of the Rathaus (town hall), in Wernigerode, Germany.

For Jessica Lynn, writing about travel is nothing new. In college, she started her first blog while studying abroad in England 

“It was just a way to keep in touch with friends and family,” she said.  

The blog’s focus shifted once she started dating her then-boyfriend, now-husband, Kenny, who was already in the Air Force. Knowing very little about the military, Jessica Lynn started writing about their long-distance relationship from a fresh perspective. These journal-style entries drew in readers from outside her personal network.  

I started gaining followers, which was such a new concept back then when you would write just to write,” she said.  

A few years later, she left a beloved job at a magazine in New Mexico to get married and move to Georgia

Logan examines the intricate ceiling at Schloss Benrath (the Pink Palace) near Düsseldorf, Germany.

the first of six duty stations with Kenny, including Italy and Germany. 

Today Jessica Lynn shares posts about family friendly destinations, captivating reels from their adventures and PCS tips for military families with thousands of followers across Pinterest and Instagram 

“I really enjoy connecting through my words and helping other military spouses and girlfriends,” she said. “I’ve moved to new bases already knowing people there because they’ve read my posts. It’s rewarding to hear that something I’ve written has helped someone or made an impact.” 

When Jessica Lynn isn’t blogging or traveling, you can find her cooking or researching the next destination on her family’s trip list, which for 2022 includes Paris, the Northern Lights, Canary Islands, Spain, Portugal and a Baltic cruise. She hopes to visit 10 new countries this year and plans to blog highlights and photos of each adventurealong with hard-earned tips for taking kids along. 



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Cruise tip: Cruise advice for passengers from cruise worker on Royal Caribbean island | Cruise | Travel


Sue said: “I am from the UK, so the tropical year-round climate of the Caribbean is just spectacular!

“We truly live in an idyllic location, white sandy beaches surrounded by crystal blue Caribbean waters.

“It’s a lush tropical escape where the climate is incredible, and we get to share this amazing island with our guests every day.”

Even tropical islands aren’t immune to the occasional bout of bad weather and Sue said: “Monitoring the weather becomes a fanatical focus!”


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Baltimore Sun letters to the editor: inspiring media critic, travel tip, Biden’s bungling of Afghanistan exit and Red Line revival | READER COMMENTARY


The economic exploitation sucked massive amounts of money out of the city and into the pockets of white bankers, real estate speculators and landlords, many of whom fled the city. Some of that money must be reinvested in the city, and the debt repaid, to restore the economic vitality of impoverished neighborhoods and the city’s residential and commercial density through projects like the Red Line.


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