Week in Review: Earthquakes, Acquisitions and Updates From France

Taiwan on Wednesday was struck by a 7.4-magnitude earthquake, the strongest to hit the country in 25 years. According to updates by NBC News, the death toll currently stands at 12, 634 trapped and 13 missing. Another 1,123 people are injured. Beyond that, however, the country appears to be operating normally—with its international airport and most public transportation having resumed operations the day of the quake.

Separately, a magnitude 4.8 earthquake hit the Tristate area Friday morning. Other than reports of some shaking in buildings, no major damage seems to have occurred. The epicenter was about 45 miles away from New York City. The Federal Aviation Administration issued departure ground stops for New York's John F. Kennedy International Airport and New Jersey's Newark Liberty International Airport; that for JFK has since been lifted while Newark’s remains in place through at least 12:30 pm ET.

All Eyes on France

As the host of the 2024 Olympic and Paralympic Games, France will have upwards of 3 billion eyes on it this summer. Ahead of that excitement, our sister publication Luxury Travel Advisor attended Rendez-vous en France, French tourism’s largest B2B trade show, in Toulouse in late March. Organized by Atout France, the France Tourism Development Agency, the trade show convened 635 French exhibitors and 813 international tour operators from 62 countries, including 68 American travel professionals, representing both boutique enterprises and larger companies.

As the host city, Toulouse highlighted its top sites and attractions, while other French exhibitors shared details about their companies and regions of the country. What we learned: France will host a jam-packed calendar of blockbuster events, including the Summer 2024 Olympics and Paralympics in Paris, the 150th anniversary of Impressionism, the 80th anniversary of D-Day in Normandy, and the reopening of Notre Dame Cathedral in December. Beyond that, hit Netflix shows like “Emily in Paris” and “Lupin” are inspiring Americans to visit the country, so Atout France has teamed up with Netflix on a series of digital travel guides with tips to follow in the footsteps of some of these fictional characters.

Château de la Croix des Gardes_Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes
Château de la Croix des Gardes offers 16 bedrooms on the Côte d’Azur . (Château de la Croix des Gardes)

In addition, Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes has welcomed the Château de la Croix des Gardes into its portfolio for 2024. The 16-bedroom estate is the latest property to join the collection, bringing the total number of homes in the Côte d’Azur to six. Mandarin Oriental Exclusive Homes is a branded collection of private vacation homes, chalets and mansions; operated in collaboration with luxury home rental platform StayOne, each home is hand-picked for its quality and location, while also providing personalized service and signature experiences.

In terms of transportation, JetBlue launched a new daily service from Boston to Paris. The new flight between Boston Logan International Airport and Paris Charles de Gaulle Airport follows the launch of service from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport last summer. The airline also plans to add a second daily flight from New York’s JFK to Paris starting June 20.

In separate but also European news, Romania and Bulgaria have officially joined the Schengen Area. This move will allow travelers to move between the countries and others within the Schengen Area without undergoing passport or customs checks.

New Cruise Ships and Acquisitions

American Cruise Lines, the largest operator on U.S. rivers, this week announced it was the successful bidder for four of the now-shuttered American Queen Voyages’ ships. Following AQV’s cessation of operations and the subsequent Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing of AQV's parent company, Hornblower Holdings, the ships were put up for an auction sale. The bid now awaits the bankruptcy court’s final approval during an upcoming hearing. The four acquired ships include American Queen, American Dutchess, American Countess and American Empress. The first three vessels listed above sailed for AQV on the Mississippi and other heartland rivers, while American Empress plied the Columbia and Snake Rivers of the Pacific Northwest.

Spellbound by Magic Castle on Sun Princess
The setting for "Spellbound by Magic Castle" onboard the new Sun Princess. (Spellbound by Magic Castle on Sun Princess)

In other cruise news, Travel Agent recently sailed aboard the 4,300-passenger Sun Princess. Five things that immediately stood out to us on the new Princess Cruises ship were the vibrant new Piazza, serving as a dining and entertainment space; the captivating “Spellbound by Magic Castle” magic and mixology dinner experience; the myriad of new and improved spots to dine across the 21-deck ship; the comfortable, modern staterooms (of which there are 2,157); and the new family zone for kids, as well as the impressive selection of boutiques for adults.

Company Acquisitions and Travel Advisor Tools

The big news this week was the launch of Internova SNAP to Travel Leaders Network’s thousands of advisors. The customized Sabre Red Launchpad, a consumer-grade graphic interface for booking air, hotel and car rentals, is expected to be a game-changer for new-to-industry advisors and leisure-selling independent contractors. With only a few clicks, advisors can search airlines by number of connections, cabin class or airline; hotel by location, amenities and more; and car rentals by company and car type. When given a preview last week, we felt we could easily make a booking without any prior experience of using Sabre.

Direct Travel, Inc. this week was acquired by Steve Singh, venture capitalist and founder Concur. In his acquisition, Singh is joined by growth investors including Durable Capital Partners, Madrona Ventures, Top Tier Capital Partners and Blackstone Credit & Insurance. Singh will serve as Executive Chairman of Direct Travel and Christal Bemont will assume the role of CEO. As part of the acquisition, long-serving Direct Travel CEO Ed Adams, who founded the company in 2011 and helped establish it as a market leader, plans to retire.

NoMad London
Hilton has plans to significantly expand the NoMad Hotels brand across the globe. Seen here is the London flagship. (NoMad London)

In another acquisition, Hilton has purchased a majority controlling interest in Sydell Group in order to expand the NoMad Hotels brand from its existing London flagship location to high-end markets around the world. The addition of NoMad to Hilton’s brand portfolio marks the company's entry into the luxury lifestyle hotel market. Hilton projects that as many as 100 such properties will be developed globally over time, with approximately 10 already in advanced stages of discussion with Sydell. 

A Moment of Your Time

Travel Agent has launched another edition of its quarterly "Travel Trends & Advisor Insight Survey." We will use these quarterly surveys to learn more about the current state of the travel industry, as well as your business. Please take a few minutes to fill out the survey; following its conclusion, we will publish the findings here, so you will gain insight into the larger travel ecosystem and your colleagues' businesses.

To see the latest survey results, view its eponymous whitepaper, available for download.

Vote Here!

The NCAA’s “March Madness” has made its way to travel. Luxury Travel Advisor, a sister publication to Travel Agent, is hosting its bracket-style Most Instagrammable Hotel in the World tournament. Readers are encouraged to vote for their favorites to help them advance through the bracket until a winner is crowned. Voting on the finalists is running through Monday, April 8 at 10 a.m. ET. Don’t miss out!

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