The next big thing from Tour Operator Tech

Skift grip

Today’s edition of Skift’s daily podcast examines tour operator technological advances, JetBlue’s vacation warning and the drivers of Arctic tourism growth.

Rashaad Jordan

Hello from Skift. Today is Wednesday, October 26. Here’s what you need to know about the travel industry today.

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Episode Notes

Tour operators have long struggled with technology, often using outdated software which has inhibited their ability to make bookings quickly. But these companies are finally beginning to benefit enormously from large-scale technological advances.a much-needed boost for companies particularly affected by the pandemic, reports editorial assistant Rashaad Jorden.

One of the developments cited by Jorden is the advent of software platforms that help tour operators better market their itineraries. A technology manager said these programs allow companies to create digital brochures, moving away from their longstanding focus on physical documents. Meanwhile, travel technology company Nezasa has developed a software platform that combines the various elements of multi-day tours – including hotels and transport options – into one customizable trip.

But Jorden writes that the growing demand for post-pandemic travel presents technology-related challenges for tour operators, including hiring the staff needed to manage the systems they use. Scott Rutz, vice president of sales and marketing for software platform Travefy, said he believes tour operators have experienced a brain drain since the pandemic began.

Next, JetBlue Airways is recovering from challenges, including labor shortages that forced it to cut its schedules significantly this summer. But New York-based carrier acknowledges air traffic control staffing issues could disrupt flights this winterreports Edward Russell, editor of Airline Weekly, a brand of Skift.

JetBlue President Joanna Geraghty flagged the possibility of large-scale flight disruptions during her third-quarter earnings call on Tuesday. Geraghty described the air traffic control environment as fragile, with staff shortages having already caused thousands of flight cancellations and delays earlier this year. She added that these staffing issues have caused JetBlue to keep a large number of pilots on call in case of delays.

JetBlue posted a profit of $57 million in the third quarter, its first since the start of the pandemic. The company’s revenue increased by 23% compared to the same period in 2019.

We end today in the Arctic. The remote region is seeing a surge in visitor arrivals, but Global Tourism Reporter Dawit Habtemariam writes that staff shortages and infrastructure issues prevent it from reaching its full potential.

The Arctic, which includes the northernmost parts of Finland, Norway and Sweden, is seeing tourism numbers rapidly approaching pre-pandemic levels, Habtemariam notes. Some tour operators operating trips to the region have already booked more bookings for the upcoming winter season than they did during the same period in 2019. Local tourism officials believe the Arctic has benefited of its remoteness, with travelers increasingly keen to visit rural destinations, a megatrend that Skift has explored.

However, Habtemariam writes that the region’s tourism recovery has been hampered by staff shortages. An Arctic-based tourism executive said the lack of workers is the region’s biggest challenge. Meanwhile, Jason Susinski, product manager for tour operator Kensington Tours, said the Arctic lacked enough tour guides to help travelers take part in popular activities such as dog sledding. Susinski added that the limited physical infrastructure made it difficult to access the most remote places in the region.