Chris Tomseth

In this episode of the Judgment Call Podcast Chris Tomseth shares his view of the travel industry:

  • How it feels to grow up in a dozen different countries
  • The challenges facing the travel industry during COVID
  • Chris’ list of favorite countries
  • Why some airlines can’t fly where they want to fly
  • Why some airlines like Qatar Airways will never make money
  • What happened to Thailand’s tourism economy
  • What role does freedom play in economic development across the world
  • Why capsule hotels are awesome (and hostels in general?!)
  • A new service that makes it easier to get through an airport with children
  • How airline lounges win most of their business
  • How to book hotels and do good at the same time?


Chris is a multi-cultural, internationally-experienced travel executive, with over 20 years of industry experience. Chris has worked with a range of companies, from blue-chip multinationals such as Delta Air Lines, Choice Hotels International, Gate Gourmet, and Emirates, to travel technology startups and U.S. and UAE Government agencies. Chris’ functional experience includes operational, sales and marketing, product development, finance, and strategy roles.

His prior roles have included Head of Global Sales for Choice Hotels International, Interim Chief Commercial Officer with Gate Gourmet, Head of Global Strategy and Business Development for Dnata Travel Services (part of the Emirates Group) as well as Director of Strategic Development for TRX.  Chris has lived and worked during his professional career in the United States, Thailand, and the United Arab Emirates.

Chris has an MBA from the Kellogg School of Management at Northwestern University and has served on several Boards of both private and public organizations.  He is currently advising and involved in several early-stage travel and hospitality companies and is resident in the Washington DC metro area.

You can reach Chris on LinkedIn.

You can download the podcast here.

You can find the episode’s transcript here.



Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Judgment Call, podcasts where I talk to risk takers, adventurers, travelers, entrepreneurs, and simply mind partners. My name is Thorsten Jakoby and I’m your host. Today I’m talking to Chris Tomsef. Chris is a travel industry veteran with more than 20 years of experience and has a ton of war stories to share. I’m really excited to have him here today. We’re going to talk about Chris’s list of favorite countries. We are also talking about the travel industry during COVID and beyond. We’ll find out why airlines, some airlines can’t fly where they want to fly and some airlines like Qatar Airways probably never will make any money. We also find out what happened to Thailand’s tourism economy and what role freedom plays in economic development across the world. This episode of the Judgment Call podcast is sponsored by Mighty Travels Premium. This is also my business. In case you’re wondering, Mighty Travels Premium finds the travel deals you really want. Been doing for thousands of our subscribers is really just one thing is saving money on airfare. The same thing works for hotels. We also do this for five star, four star hotels and of course economy business class, first class premium economy tickets. The best thing is many countries have opened up again and Americans and Europeans can go to almost 80 countries again as of November 15, 2020. So give it a shot. Try it out for free. This is mighty slash MTP for everyone who’s a little challenge with all these letters, just go to This is just five characters and start your 30 day free trial. I’m really excited today to have Chris Thomseth on the Judgment Call podcast. And Chris spent almost two decades with major travel and travel tech companies like Emirates and Choice Hotels. And Chris is now an angel investor and is more hands on as an entrepreneur. Hey, Chris, how are you? I’m good, Torsten. Thanks for having me. It’s great to have you here. Indeed. There’s a lot of things you want to talk about today. So we talked a little bit before the show. You mentioned that you grew up in almost a dozen countries. And that’s really rare. How did that feel? How did that happen? So my father was a US diplomat. He met my mother on his first assignment in Thailand. And so I was actually born in Thailand and grew up all over Thailand, Laos, India, Sri Lanka, Iran, and the US, Oregon, Maryland, Virginia, Illinois, New York, and Georgia. And I’m currently living in the Washington DC area after having moved here from Dubai. So I have definitely been around. And to answer the question directly, it’s awesome now kind of having being able to look back on that experience. But actually, at the time, it was kind of tough. So I mean, during the 1970s, 1980s, that’s before, you know, the internet before mass communication technology. So moving every few years to a new country, to a new school, it was very hard as a kid to keep in touch with people, you’re not going to like write letters and things. But it really taught me something valuable, which was how to be really flexible and adaptable to new situations. So it wasn’t until I was about 20 years old, that I was able to look back on that and say, Oh, wait a minute, that was really awesome. So, you know, now with the benefit of hindsight, it’s, it’s a really valuable experience. It served me very well in my career. But at the time, it was tough. I won’t lie. I can imagine I can imagine a friend of mine had a similar upbringing. And for the longest time, he had trouble to really identify what is his home. So what’s the country or the organization he’s associated with? He had like six or seven passports. And though, well, this is great, you know, once once you become an adult as a kid, you, you really doubt yourself. But what’s the what’s the country you feel most at peace with? It is definitely the US. So I feel like the US is home. But that said, I’m comfortable in a lot of places. So having, having lived in a lot of places and also having visited a lot of places, and kind of the opinion that no place is perfect, every place has pros and cons. Yeah, definitely, I consider the US to be home base. Yeah, I assume you speak some Thai. That’s one of the languages completely escapes me. So I learned languages quickly. But if I don’t use them, I forget them. So at various points in my life, I have spoken some Thai, some Lao, Japanese, Farsi, Arabic, and French. Wow. But that doesn’t mean I speak those today. I was like, let’s switch to Arabic. That’s fine with me. No, Arabic is pretty, pretty terrible. Obviously, that’s that’s a big challenge to keep, keep the languages active. I have to say, but some people remember them, right? I mean, they can just keep them forever. But that’s not me. I learned them quickly. But if I don’t use them, they’re gone, or at least they’re put into the archive memory of my brain. You don’t know how this works, to be honest. I was pretty fluent in Russian for quite some time. And then I didn’t use it for 10 years. And, you know, it took me like a couple days in Russia. And I felt like all the words are coming back, not necessarily active. But I could understand pretty much the same vocabulary that I remember. So it’s still there. But if you would have asked me before I went, I was like, I don’t remember a thing. I will not understand anything. It’s odd how the brain does that. You, you have a very interesting story also how you got into travel and travel tech. Tell me about that. Yeah, so it’s kind of funny. So I think like a lot of teenagers, at least in the US, you’re not really, you’re kind of given this freedom to kind of pursue whatever you want to pursue. It’s not implanted into you like it is in Asia from an early age of, you know, you will be a doctor or something like that. So I was going to be a lawyer, because that was the cool thing to do, according to TV in the 1990s. But after I graduated from college, I went to Thailand on a vacation. And I accidentally got a job in the travel industry. And the way that happens is I was complaining about bad service from a travel agency. And since I was 22 years old, I didn’t have an agenda. I didn’t have a desired outcome. I was just complaining. And the general manager who I was complaining to asked me how long I was going to be there. And I said two months. And he said, okay, you’re hired. And I said to do what? So your first job was in the Khao San Road, the infamous one? Is that true? It’s actually, it’s a corporate travel agency is what it was. Mostly American corporate clients in Bangkok. And so, you know, he said, you’re hired. And I was like, to do what? And said to fix it. And I guess I did, because my two month vacation in Bangkok turned into four and a half years of living and working there. And it was great. And it launched my travel industry career. Law school went out the window. And instead, I came back to get an MBA in the US, and then spent the next 20 years in travel. And that’s what I’m still doing. What did your parents react when you told them you’re not going to be a lawyer? They must have not been very excited. I think my mom probably would have preferred that I became a lawyer. She’s Asian. My dad just wanted me to be happy. So, but you know, to be honest, I mean, even a few years into that, working in the travel agency in Bangkok, I still didn’t think of it as a career. I mean, it wasn’t, you know, probably until year three, year four, that I was like, wait a minute, you know, I can do this as a career. You know, for the first two years, I was actually still thinking that I was going to be a lawyer. And this like travel stop was just that it was just like a stop. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, I feel the travel industry has attracted a lot of people that do have an entrepreneurial gene in their system and has drawn them in. You see a lot of, I mean, I myself studied law once upon a time. And I feel travel always had this, this opportunity or this rich set of opportunity, that if you come up with either a specific tool or a specific new workflow, or it could be destination marketing, there was a lot of potential growth that you could harvest there. So a lot of people say travel, there’s no money in travel. They’ve been saying that way before COVID. The obvious issue often is that people expect a lot of things for free. You know, you go to a travel agent and he helps you find flights and he helps with all your queries. And nobody wants to pay for that. Right. It’s, we go to a financial advisor, you go to a lawyer, let’s take the lawyer example. And a lawyer might give you a couple minutes for free on a phone. And then he says, you know, I got a charge for this. Are you still interested? And 99% of the time people are paying for the box an hour. He would never consider this for a travel agent. And so does online too. You know, I run a website where we charge for a subscription and it’s been going well, but it’s definitely an exception. I’m happy that it goes as well as it does. The most travel tools people generally expect everything to be free. And I find that out why this industry is so entrepreneurial, or maybe because it’s so entrepreneurial, people have gotten rid of all the margins that used to be that is is an industry that seemingly thrives and really, really low margins. I think I mean, I have an opinion on that. And, you know, it’s just an opinion. But yes, you’re absolutely right. Well, before COVID, the travel industry is notoriously famous for low margins. But you know, if you look at the businesses that were typically associated with travel, so airlines, which is a very capital intensive business, so it takes a lot, you know, it’s very tough to kind of earn a good margin there, or travel agencies, which, at least in the US, traditionally attracted people who were less educated, and maybe more part time workers stay at home, housewives, people like that. So for a lot of people, it was a hobby. So the type of person that was attracted to the travel industry, was, you know, not kind of the cutthroat Wall Street investment banker type. So I think there wasn’t a focus on margins. And where you’ve seen higher margins in the travel industry, it’s been with generally the technology side of things, or in the hotel industry, actually, from the real estate appreciation side of things. So those things that are creating the value, the leveraging of technology, or the appreciation of real estate, that is, you know, those areas that I wouldn’t consider traditional travel tourism, hospitality per se, right? That’s like technology, or that’s real estate. So yeah, but even for technology, I feel, I feel that applies. I know the founders of Hipmunk are kind of mentioned that. And you know, I’m a serial entrepreneur, I’ve done a couple of travel ventures. Travel seems always to be the hardest to raise money, and also to launch and then make it profitable. There is definitely more user interest. So that’s maybe a little easier. But in general, it’s, it’s, it’s hard to get these two curves together, between what you spend and what you would make online. And I mean, there’s definitely exceptions like airlines, you know, airlines have been incredibly profitable, especially in the US just before COVID. Alaska was the highest, highest profit margin of any airline in the world. Incredibly profitable is relative, right? I mean, even the best year of online profitability is really not that impressive in terms of margins. I mean, you talk about getting up, you know, 10, 12, 13% margin. There were 30% Alaska, the last couple of years. So that’s, I thought I was pretty impressive. I mean, obviously, there in a special spot and the economy was roaring. So I mean, that’s, you know, the money they made, they’re probably going to get back in the next couple of years. So it is hard as an airline in general, there was a couple famous quotes, right? I mean, there was Sir Richard Branson, I believe he famously once said that the best way to become a millionaire was to start as a billionaire, and then start an airline. Yeah, right. And then also Warren Buffett, I think had said, you know, if the right brother’s plane had crashed, that would have been the best thing as far as kind of financial returns for the traveling. Yeah, he wasn’t a big fan of airlines. And then he bought into the market at the peak, and then he panic sold everything. So he’s definitely not a good airline investor, whatever is driving this people who have made a ton of money in travel. And I mean, obviously, there are many. But when I say very few, what I mean is as a percentage relative to other industry. One issue is I counted that a couple of times is that airlines don’t really have to be profitable, because they call it the downstream market. And then you’re probably the expert in this, but given your time for Emirates, but been talking to a couple of local carriers and regional carriers, and they say, you know, if we make money or not, is really not relevant. Because whenever someone goes to the country is a Tunisia or goes to Malta, that person spends an average three, four, $500 a day, that’s for hotels, that’s for entertainment, that is for meals, and that money is being recaptured by the government in forms of taxes. And they know these numbers are right, because you know, every hotel registers their guests and they pay a certain tax. So the the flight who might be only 50 bucks, 100 bucks, whatever it is, is is really has no relation to the total downstream revenue that a government sees. That works if in the context of a state subsidized airline for certain countries, but in the US, you know, where the airlines are standalone entities, and they’re expected to be profitable in their own right. That’s a different story. Why we have so many airlines that have gone out of business over the decades in the US. Right, but it’s staggering the the amounts, right? So say an airline ticket, even international airline ticket is three, four, $500 on average, maybe a little higher. But the downstream capture for a government might be, depending on the destination and how upscale it is, say the Maldives, is easily a thousand bucks profit. What I would say is Qatar is a very good example of what you were describing. So Qatar Airways was launched, I believe, in like 1998 or thereabouts, and has never made money, never. And with the advent of COVID, I don’t want to say they never will, but they’re not projected to make any money in the foreseeable future. But the way that those economics work is exactly like you described, although it’s even more so than that. So the government of Qatar funds Qatar Airways. But the airline itself, okay, they buy or lease aircraft from Airbus for Boeing. They finance that with Qatari banks. The employees, for the most part, live in Qatar, which means they’re renting or buying real estate from government backed real estate companies. They’re spending their salaries on goods and services in Qatar. The airline is buying fuel from the state owned Qatari petroleum company. You know, all of these things put together, right? It’s just the economic impact is huge. And that’s even before you count the tourists and the businesses and the business traffic that arrives on Qatar Airways as a result of them operating in airlines. So in the net, it is absolutely a positive. So it doesn’t matter, you know, if they lose, you know, a couple billion dollars a year. Yeah, I see it the same way. There isn’t any drive for Qatari Airways to make any money. And it is a negative tax on oil, they always say, you know, airlines mostly buy oil. And this is where most of the Qatari money comes from is from natural gas sales or oil sales. So it is it is a good way to to invest and have some control over it. It’s better to buy just another mutual fund or just another part of GE, right? This way they have a competitive worldwide organization, and they have a ton of control over it. I think it’s a very smart strategy, even if it looks a little weird that an Emirates maybe is moving out of this, but at the heart of the same bracket, they are burning a couple of billion dollars over here, most purely in that right? Whereas Emirates is run to make a profit and anti hard in the past anyway, has kind of been run with the goal of a profit in mind. But Qatar Airways put very clearly not run with the goal of an airline profit. How did you feel while you were at Emirates, given that they have very different set of objectives? I know at the time already, there were a lot of European and US companies objecting to Emirates flying the same routes that they do, because Emirates is or had very little incentive to make money at the time like 10 years ago. Where we saw it when I was there, there was a lot of pressure from the German government. So Emirates was flying memory serves like twice a day to Frankfurt, Dusseldorf, Hamburg and Munich. And they wanted more frequencies, they wanted Berlin and Cologne and some other places in the German government was like no, the tons I had one, maybe two flights a day from Germany to the UAE. But you know, that was the way the bilateral agreement was structured. There was a similar kind of spat with the Canadians. And the Canadians didn’t want to give Emirates more rights. But for the most part, you know, people were okay with it. And when I say people, I mean countries governments, they’re like, okay, well, you know, it’s stimulating economic activity. And a lot of effort was actually spent by Emirates to on kind of public relations and government lobbying efforts to say, look, okay, yes, you know, for Lufthansa, they’re not making as much money because Emirates fly so much to Germany. But if you look at the net effect to the German economy, that’s a positive. I mean, you can’t like pick out Emirates and protect Lufthansa. I mean, that’s great for Lufthansa, but it’s not good for Germany. Yeah, Lufthansa is good for Germany. I would very much doubt that. I mean, having lived there and seeing the efforts and the monopolies that Lufthansa enjoyed inside Europe, it’s gotten better now. But that cannot be good for economic growth and infrastructure development. It’s maybe good for the German Autobots, because nobody can afford to fly, so you have to drive. But it’s not good for all everyone dying on the Autobots. But a lot of effort was spent on kind of, you know, convincing the powers that the, whether that’s the public or the politicians who were in charge of influencing policy on kind of the benefits of that. You’re not going to get everybody 100% of course. What was more interesting to me is after I, and maybe kind of amusing, after I moved back to the States, and I was out of the airline business, I was in the hotel business, but I still followed the airline business quite closely. And the US carriers, in particular Delta United and United and American took this big PR campaign to convince the American government and the American consumer of the evils of foreign subsidy of Emirates, Qatar and Etihad. But, you know, it’s just so hypocritical. And essentially, these these airlines in the US are essentially saying, well, subsidies are bad, if it’s for my competitor, but if subsidies are for me, then it’s okay. And then now once COVID hit, and then those big US airlines needed government subsidies, you do not hear them say a peep about subsidies are bad. Yeah, yeah, I mean, I agree with you. I, I always felt that maybe this is a too radical position. I never understood how this logic works with governments restrict the slots for an airport. Why is one country able to, I mean, I do understand they have the the political authority over it. But given just a little bit of market economic logic, we should all be seeing flights from everywhere to everywhere, like most African countries, surprisingly, now they have fifth freedom rights, you can do whatever you want, the most of Africa. So Ethiopian can offer a hub in, I don’t know, West Africa, isn’t it? And to go, they just added a hub. And they just fly into Newark until initially, but they give up on this pretty quickly. I think the whole world should be like this, at least long term. I mean, we should all strive for this, shouldn’t we? Yes, I agree. I don’t see that. You know, I think the biggest barrier is the money, right? So airlines have a lot of money at stake. So they give some of that money to politicians who will support protectionism. And that’s what happens. Yeah. But shouldn’t it long term become more free? It should. I mean, but this is not restricted to airlines. I mean, you see this in the hotel industry, too, with like, in New York, the hotel industry lobbying to prevent Airbnb and similar things that are substituted to hotels, right? So at the end of the day, it’s companies, big, powerful companies, protecting their financial interests, which might be against the interests of the bigger country. But that’s not the point. It’s like the Lufthansa, Germany. Yeah, well, I mean, they basically had to give up on the monopoly over time. So Ryan air and an easy job. There was always another competitor that moved in. And I think now they basically, it’s over. I mean, it’s they recreated at the Euro links. Obviously, COVID is the whole challenge. And I want to talk about that in a minute, how the future of the travel industry is going to look like. But in Germany, at least it worked like the principle of a free market actually came to bear fruit. It took 30 years, 40 years. Yeah, well, actually, it worked. I think in the US, we’ve seen that too. Even if some of these new airlines are pretty crappy to fly, like Spirit. But I was on frontier a couple of years ago. And I thought it was awesome. It was way better than United. Obviously, you can’t bring it back. But it was a brand new aircraft. And people were super fun. They knew exactly what they were doing. So it was just constant back and forth. And everyone hates everyone. I thought it’s awesome. And they seem to do way better now, allegiance as well, recovering from COVID. Yeah, I think the leisure airlines have generally recovered more quickly. Because I mean, one of the trends that I see some of the trends rather kind of coming forward with COVID is leisure travel will recover more quickly than business travel, domestic travel before international, and younger people before older people. So that bodes well for the spirits, allegiance, frontiers, Southwest, not so well for the United Delta of America. So what is your outlook on the travel industry past COVID? Some people say, you know, everything’s going to be different than we all going to go around in PPE equipment, and others feel I would be what include myself now into this category, others feel that, you know, give it two or three years, and it’s going to be pretty much the same, maybe slightly better and more efficient than what it used to be. Yeah, I mean, I think, you know, my answer would be somewhat down, you know, in the middle of like, some things will go back to what we see as normal, but some things will change, right? So if you look at what happened after September 11, 2001, there became this focus on security. And this is now 19 years later. And that focus in large part is still with us, right? I mean, willingly subject themselves around the world to much more stringent security regulations than we had in the year 2000. So I do think going forward that there will be some things as a result of COVID, whether that’s mass wearing or temperature checks or something, there will be some things that stick with us in travel. And that that will be with us for a long time. But I think that like you said, will there be a bounce back to normal? I see that as well, right? I mean, I don’t think that what we experienced right now today in November of 2020, so many people sitting at home afraid to travel, that’s not going to last forever. One of my least favorite words is the word never. So you hear these announcements like business travel will never return or conferences and events will never be what they once were. So you know, that never is a long time. For the American Airlines stock price will never go below 30 bucks. What was it with Dr. Parker said? Yes, that was a bad one. Yeah, I don’t like the word never I do think that it will be a while. And if we’re being honest about the airline industry, it’s instructive to look at what’s happened in past recessions and see how long that takes to recover. So if you look at the recession of like 2000 2001, for the most part, it wasn’t until 2007 that the depending on what you’re measuring, whether that’s revenue or revenue for passenger kilometers, passengers, something like that. But a lot of those financial metrics did not return to the 2000 levels until 2007. So six years after the recession, similarly, after the 2008, 2009 recession, those levels didn’t return until 2015. So again, you’re looking at six, seven years later. And so now, if you extrapolate that and look at COVID, COVID happened in 2020. What we’re really talking about is at least 2026 before full recovery. And because COVID has been a lot more severe than what’s happened in the past, I would say, you know, you have to give a range, you can’t say it’s exactly 2026. But I think really, if you look at like American Airlines and United, and if you look at some of the metrics that they hit the high watermark in 2019, so you know, it’s important to be specific when people say recovery. So when will let’s just take United Airlines, when will United Airlines recover? Well, you know, 2020 is a washout. But in 2021, will they be able to add flights back and make money? I think there’s a very good possibility of that, right? And certainly by 2022, they should definitely be able to make money. But if what you’re talking about is hitting those 2019 numbers again, that very realistically is probably 2026 to 2030, somewhere in there. Well, that’s a pretty dark projection. But it’s very realistic. Yeah, I mean, I probably agree with you. I guess the measurement, I mean, if you’re talking about total revenue, that probably lacks behind profitability might come back earlier or later. The big issue obviously is international flights, the panic that I guess was initially created by people themselves, and then it moved into the government’s corridors, and now there’s this confusing array, even your kind of E and one more confusing array of entry restrictions. And some of them seem to make sense. Some of them, I feel make no sense at all. Right. I was talking with a friend yesterday who’s in Dubai at the moment. Yeah, kind of on business. And he said, the COVID experience by airline is ridiculous, because like on fly Dubai, they turn off the in flight entertainment because of COVID. And then he and I were talking about like on Turkish. So on Turkish, they used to be very famous for a pretty fancy meal service. But now that’s been scaled back to cold meals and boxes because of COVID. I know I was flabbergasted. I was flabbergasted. I just flew them two weeks ago. And they served me an economy meal in business. I’m like, okay, maybe because business is full. I mean, maybe they’re going to apologize and just bring the meal later. And I mean, it wasn’t even a warm meal. So you’re right. You’re right. There’s got to be some middle around. And guess the trouble is that nobody really knows what to do about it. Everyone is trying to virtual signal and put cleaning on their web page and is telling everyone that this is going to be safe and the opposite is safe for the next car. But you know, but left on the I’m told is more or less in business and first class, offering the same level of premium food service as they did. Yeah, I just we just flew them a couple of weeks before we went back from from Europe. We just went to degrees and we went out on Lufthansa business class, which was completely empty. And the food service is better than ever. And since there were I mean, this is class wasn’t completely empty, but economy was 30 people, 350. And this the food service is probably better than ever. It was delicious. And we got full attention from the flight attendants and they actually care they wanted to care because they hadn’t seen a lot of passengers in six months is sad. So you know, it just depends. But it’s funny to me, the different ways that airlines handle this, because sometimes it’s the exact opposite, right? So you see Lufthansa doing the food service in Turkish cutting it back. You see Turkish not giving amenity kits, but then Singapore Airlines, which didn’t have amenity kits in business. Until recently, their practice has been if you need a toothbrush or slippers, socks, ice shades, something like that, they pass them out to those who need them, or you can get them in the laboratory. But now because of COVID, Singapore Airlines is introducing a business class amenity fit I’m told. So yeah, it is Turkish taking it away, Singapore introducing it and for the exact same reason allegedly. Yeah, well, it’s it’s it’s not well, I sometimes feel like the psychological damage we’ve done by telling everyone how dangerous it is to fly dangerous it is to fly and the evidence is just not there. The infections that happened back the evidence is the opposite. Exactly. I mean, it’s it’s still it’s not easy to actually pin it down where you got an infection. But from what you’ve seen, the studies that came out, it was one two weeks ago, was extremely small number of confirmed infections during the flight must have been below 100 out of all passengers, I don’t know, billion passengers that flew since March. One of the most eye popping statistics that I saw from I think the United Airlines CEO, I think it was United, was that the COVID infection rate among their flight attendants is lower than the COVID infection rate of their ground inflows. Yeah. So in other words, actually being in the air is safer than being on the ground. But if you stop and think about it, it makes sense. Because on all these airlines like United, they are mandating masks, they have the HEPA filters going, and they’re paranoid about cleaning versus people on the ground just living their everyday life are not necessarily doing those things. Yeah, I mean, there was always the worst case scenario that people posted on Twitter in our back in April. And there were studies before it did about SARS and other infectious diseases. If one person sneezes with or without mask, obviously having a mask is better. It would affect up to 45 people before it even reaches the filters. So if you say you could get COVID, and I think we’re trying, we’re finding out now that you need certain viral load, if you just have literally one cell, we’re just finding out more about how this infection actually works. And if the viral load is not high enough, say it’s literally just a few cells that come out of someone’s mouth, then you won’t get infected, like a few thousand, a few million. I’m obviously not an expert, but there seems to be a minimum that is only really happening at close contact, unfortunately, not in an in an airplane, which of course, nobody knew in March or April. But I feel like the psychological damage is done. There’s almost like a 9 11 where you feel like every single person who speaks Arabic is terrorist. And you like, literally just wait for that moment. Very similar, right? And there are certainly in the time after 9 11, but you know, even maybe not right now, but in the past few years, there’s still people is like, Oh, my gosh, you know, there’s a an Arabic speaking person on my plane. We’re gonna die. You know, might be the pilot speaks Arabic on your plane, you’re gonna die. It’s the pilot. I was I was really worried though, I was I was sitting next to a gentleman on a flight to DC, and we were just coming into land. And, you know, you have to be seat in your seat and buckled up. And he jumped up, ran through the aisle and started praying. But but but really, conversively, it seemed like he was required the whole flight. And then suddenly he had the urge, he didn’t go up slowly and start praying, he just ran around the cabin. I’m like, Whoa, this is not a good sign. But nothing happened. He just sat down a little later. The Yeah, I mean, you know, but people are gonna panic, because in parts, the media and the public perception kind of encourages that. So, you know, this kind of see something say something, and now you’re gonna have that with COVID, you have people, you know, they see somebody nearby without a mask, and they freak out. It’s like, Okay, just because the person doesn’t have a mask on doesn’t mean they have COVID. And it doesn’t mean even if they did, they’re gonna infect you. So try to keep it in perspective a little bit. Yes, people should wear a mask. But you’ve got to keep stuff in perspective. Yeah, I’m totally with you. It’s it’s I think it’s hard for most people to figure out what’s the truth. And that’s been true for the last couple of years, because we have less real connections, and we don’t really know who to trust anymore. So it’s it’s more cumbersome for people to figure out the truth because they have to do all the research themselves and find sources that are more trustful. And I think we all have lost trust in our institutions. The problem to with the internet is people now have their own sources of truth. So yeah, your truth can be different than mine. Yeah, the sources that you may go look for and trust might be different than my sources. And we could literally have the complete opposite conclusion, which is what you have in the US, with people who, you know, on one hand, they’re like, have to wear a mask. And then there’s people on the other side that say no, you know, you should never wear a mask. Yeah, that’s I mean, the statistics don’t help. You know, every country counts that COVID deaths differently. We have to it’s, it’s someone who only tested positive for COVID the last four weeks can be accounted as COVID death. And the number of infections in many countries, it’s only been counted if you actually have symptoms that you need care in a hospital, then you’re a COVID case. But otherwise, you’re not a COVID case. So we in the US count everyone who tested positive, including, you know, probably 1% or higher, false positives rates. So it’s, it’s, it’s a nightmare. And I think we will be people have been struggling, especially in March and April. And since then, there’s been so many numbers that fortunately turn out to be much better than we all thought. But this uptake has been slow. And I saw Hawaiian Airlines United Airlines jump yesterday, the stock prices because this code vaccines sounded good. But then the next state is that might be another year before we can actually distribute it. You know, the vaccine can get approved tomorrow. And it’s going to be a while to produce enough doses and get then distributed to the point where there is a substantial portion of the population that has immunity. That’s, you know, even if that happens tomorrow, that’s a year plus. And don’t forget to that all these people who deny science and refuse to wear masks, I can pretty much guarantee those are going to be the exact same people who refuse to get a vaccine. Probably. Yeah, most likely, most likely. I mean, there’s been amazing success stories in Asia of countries that haven’t done anything like Japan and Taiwan, and Sweden, obviously, that has been a success story. And when I went to Europe, the there were only three destinations that were really had traffic. One was Turkey, because it has COVID restrictions, and it’s outside of the Schengen zone, obviously. It is Sweden that has the same entry restrictions. But the the travel inside the European Union has been going on. So there were a lot of flights that they were relatively full. And there was Greece, which now is under lockdown, but wasn’t last month. And had tons of passengers, basically, everyone in the European Union seemed to go to Greece, because they didn’t have these big outbreaks that Spain and Italy had. So ton of breads went to Greece. So that was apparent in Munich, because they have with those otherwise empty, there. So it is a convenience factor and some psychological factor. I feel like the Europeans do slightly better on the psychological side, not so much on the convenient side. And we in the US have really messed up that that psychological topic. So I hope it’s going to rebound because everyone has made everyone really scared. Yeah, and you know, for the travel industry to recover, we need people to be I mean, it doesn’t have to be 100%, but you need people to be directionally in agreement about this set of situations making safe. If you have 50% of the people who say, Well, you’ve got to wear a mask and socially distance. And the other 50% of the people say you should never wear a mask and you should mix and mingle together. That is just not going to work. As far as I’m talking very practically, as far as getting the travel industry to recover. Yeah, but you know, that problem is everywhere. So I went when you go to Greece, I mean, I spent a month in Greece last month. The outside airports, basically, nobody wears a mask. Exceptions, of course, hospitals and supermarkets for whatever reason, restaurants were opened, you could eat very wherever you wanted. There was no social life restrictions that were actually taken seriously. And that that is quite an undertaking to make everyone wear a mask. And you would get the same protection if you were just a better mask yourself. So it is a tough undertaking to really pram down the government on that specific issue where I’m fully with you. I mean, wearing a mask is a good idea. And strangely, in a lot of these places, like Sweden, Taiwan, Japan, they wear masks, and they always did like in Asia. Taiwan, people have worn masks for a long time. I agree, I agree, because they’ve had similar viruses before, but it’s definitely not 100%. It’s maybe like 50, 60. I think any, but I think any percent helps, right? I mean, yeah, maybe, maybe when you have a significant percent. I just, you know, what I feel is a big driver for myself for travel. And that’s obviously different, depending on each individual. It’s just the sense of adventure, the sense of curiosity, the sense of, I want to see what else is in this world. Like Elon wants to go to Mars. You know, first, I would recommend him to go to bring a journey country in Africa. That would be equally interesting. It’s definitely not looking like Mars. That’s not what I wanted to say. And there is there’s a lot of adventure just, just by being there, just getting out of your comfort zone. And for this, not everyone needs to wear a mask. I mean, I’m, I’m, so most of these countries are definitely have a high crime rate to have me have a high crime rate against foreigners and tourists. But it’s a great experience. And it’s worthwhile even accepting a higher rate of crime, death, diseases. And for this, not everyone needs to comply. That’s what I wanted to say. So it’s, it’s okay if only a good number of people make this country a safe place to explore. And there’s still 1%, 2%, whatever the numbers are, maybe much lower, who are following you around, we’re tailing you straight from the airport, like I had this in Nigeria, people were tailing me right from the airport. And they never stopped, right? And a hired police officer as a private security. And it was all low key. But it’s that’s part of doing business in Nigeria, I guess. Exactly. Now there’s definitely some places with high crime. But yeah, no, there’s a lot to explore on this earth, you don’t have to go to Mars, you’re absolutely right. You’re ahead of me as far as number of countries. But what’s your favorite? A lot of people, you were saying people always asked this. Yeah, I never know what to say. I don’t either. But what I’ve done is I’ve cheated. And I’ve come up with a list by continent. So I say, Okay, in North America, I’ll choose the United States. In South America, I will choose Chile. In South Africa, in Africa, I like South Africa. Admittedly, I haven’t explored as much of Africa as I have other continents. Antarctica, I have not been Australia. Australia is easy, because there’s just Australia. So I don’t count New Zealand as part of Australia. Otherwise, I might choose New Zealand. It’s not gonna go down very hard. Yeah, Europe is very hard. If I have to choose just one, I might go with Italy. I like it a lot. And in Asia, Asia is also very hard, since it’s so big, but I might choose the place of my birth, Thailand. Yeah. Yeah, I mean, it’s, it’s, I feel, I mean, I’ve been to like 125, 127, but I feel like this, even if you say you go to Russia, and then you go to Moscow, and then you’re like, I haven’t seen anything. So you at least have to go to Siberia. Siberia is, you know, like Alaska is ginormous. So you have to go to a couple different places just to get a feel for it. And so it’s China. I went like three times to China and very different parts of the country. If you just go to Shanghai, even a place like the United States, and forget the whole United States, just take the state of California. Yeah, if you went to San Francisco, and then the Mojave Desert, and then up to Lake Tahoe, and then down to the beaches, you know, off Monterey, that’s four different places all in the same state with a completely different feel. Yeah. Oh, California is special in that, though. I feel like in Nevada, it’s a little similar. Once you’ve seen Reno, you kind of can guess Vegas. Yes, that’s so California. If you took the United States, as my point, I mean, you know, people used to say, how come so few people in the United States have a passport, and it’s higher now, but only because of recent laws for travel to Canada and the Caribbean. But the, the reason is that I’ve often said is, well, because the United States on its own is a big country. There’s a lot to see. True. Yeah. And it varies a lot. I mean, the diversity is, is not just in nature, but especially in nature is pretty striking here. Only few other countries are that lucky. So, like my, my birth country, Germany, that you kind of, you get two different oceans, kind of, if you call the Baltic Sea an ocean, which kind of doesn’t, and the North Sea, they’re pretty similar, but otherwise you get a couple of mountains, but it’s very similar country. It’s kind of like going from Northern Pennsylvania to Southern Pennsylvania. Yeah. It’s, it’s probably quite a lot in Germany. So, yeah, very familiar. It’s, it’s a small place. It’s a small place. I want to ask you something about Thailand, because you’re an expert on this. You know, Thailand, I was the last 10, 20 years. I felt 20 years ago, it was my favorite place in the world. If you, someone would have asked me what’s your favorite would have been Thailand, by the way. And I went back as often as I could, like twice a year, sometimes Thailand, and these small islands, they were rustic, and they were adventurous, and they were young people, and it was cheap, and the food was excellent, like the weather was perfect. I never thought it could get any better. Went back 10 years ago, and it was a shadow of its former self, and not just Kopey P, or like all the other little islands I went to before, they all looked like Kaosan Road, and they were struck by mass tourism. Obviously, there’s a huge Chinese influence that just excavated that. And over the years, I feel this is a natural development wherever you go. What I felt in Thailand was exceptionally fast, that it went downhill, and became the place that, you know, was to be described as seedy, and touristy, and unappealing, from marvelous just 20 years ago. And, you know, we know this story, this keeps on going usually, and goes to different parts of the country, but I felt like Thailand was a lot of places in Thailand that are the same trajectory simultaneously. And now, but I always felt there’s way too many people there. You could just say, I mean, there shouldn’t be 40 million tourists, certain kinds of tourists. Well, this year there’s not. Yeah, this year there’s none. And then I was like, why doesn’t Thailand reopen? And then I saw the surveys of Thais, and they said we don’t want tourists at all anymore. But it’s like maybe in five years or whatever, but we’re going to be like Laos. We just don’t want anyone here, and we’re going to throttle the number of tourists. Do you think this is going to stay that way? And Thailand is just going to stay that way? There’s too many people in Thailand that depend on the tourists for their income. So, you know, I think it’s something like 15.5, 15% of GDP are there about. So, that’s pretty significant. It’s not like the Maldives or something like that, but that’s pretty significant. So, they need the tourists back. And so, you’re going to see the tourists come back. But it’s funny that you mentioned Laos because I remember in the 90s when my parents were living there and, you know, there was a lot of Thai pressure on the Lao government to kind of open up. Back in those days, they did not really allow tourism. And the Thais were pressuring the Lao to open up and said, you look, you can have all this tourism and you can be just like us. And I remember some of the Lao officials are like, is that what we want? Yeah, the opposite of what we want. Yeah. I mean, I’m struck by Thailand. It’s like, it’s that beautiful. And obviously, every place changes. Like, Philippines are a similar example. But Thailand seemed to change exceptionally fast in a bad way. Well, because the more tourists and growth you have, the faster it’s going to change, right? So, it also depends on the baseline. So, I think Laos has changed a lot in 20 years. But because they started with, you know, like four tourists and so, you know, you get up to 4,000, that’s a big change. In Thailand, I mean, I can remember in maybe the 80s, Pattaya, outside of Bangkok, I was like, oh, that’s kind of an interesting beach place. But my parents said that like in the 60s, the Thailand Pattaya was very glamorous. But by the 80s, it was like, you know, a dump. And then they got it cleaned up. And then Phuket, my parents went to their, went on their honeymoon to Phuket in 1969. And they said there was one hotel. Hotel Phuket was the only hotel in Phuket. And, you know, and then over the years, of course, it, it grew and grew and then Phuket become overdone. But then some of these other islands, the ones that might be, you know, in any given year, so in the year 2000, some undiscovered island that you might have gone to 20 years later, it’s now overrun with tourists. I mean, that’s just kind of what happens. I mean, but if you talk about fast change, I mean, what I saw in Dubai, I’ve never seen anything like that anywhere. Because that was some fast change. I remember in like 2008, a friend came to visit in Dubai and he was like, the last time I was here, it was in the year 2000. And he says, that I don’t recognize it. And I said, that’s probably a little bit like saying you’ve been to Los Angeles before in 1940. Yeah, you know, Dubai is insane. I totally agree with you. The trouble with Dubai is to, it’s kind of, you know, you say Elon Musk would decide he wants to develop city outside of Vegas. And he just, and Bezos joins, you know, it’s just the rocket city, whatever that is. It’s like, it’s like on Mars. And they just pull their money together and they built and there’s like five starbucks per building and there’s three olive, what’s the olive treaty, Italian chain. So it’s extremely artificial by just a ton of money. That’s how Dubai feels to me. You might correct me on this, but I take a ton of money that I earn somewhere else. There’s nothing to do with how this individual venture will make money. Certainly some places will make money. Most of them, it seems like don’t, but they’re just going to throw this in the desert while I admire this entrepreneurial idea. It’s not a city, right? It’s an entrepreneurial business plan being executed by Sri Lankan laborers. Yeah, I think they’re right. You know, Dubai is not for everyone, certainly. No, I mean, I don’t want to diss it. I’m just saying it’s in Thailand, it’s an entrepreneurial growth. So tourists come in, you provide local services, food restaurants, and it grows and you build a bigger resort and you know, more people come and then you build an even bigger resort. And I think this is awesome. This is this is the kind of that the smallest scale entrepreneurship who usually yield better results would I, and I think this is the way it works probably, it’s because the entrepreneurship works in such a backs of individual family entrepreneurship. The trouble is to just go to the next level, like what Thailand needs is more to buy style development, you know, when people pull together their money and just say, oh, we’re going to redevelop this whole island, make it really nice. And we’re all going to put in an extra amount of money and get hired to to manage this property for us. This doesn’t seem to happen in Thailand as easily as it does happen somewhere else. So they never really go up to the next scale of you can have mass tourism, but it could still be awesome. Singapore, you know, it’s it’s awesome and it’s a ton of people. The you know, the difference with Singapore, Dubai and Thailand is kind of the dictatorial government that just tells you this is how it’s going to be. Okay, but do we need a dictator to manage our our economy? No, I’m not I’m not suggesting we need a dictator, but I’m saying that there are benefits of having centralized control versus dispersed control. I don’t know, I’m being facetious. I’m you know, it’s when I will say I mean, there were definitely some positives in Dubai to being under dictatorial rule. Like what? Well, I mean, just in terms of the the planned infrastructure that happened, right? So like in the US, and I’m certainly not advocating for a dictatorship. I’m just saying this thing is being recorded. Yeah, I’m aware. That’s why I have to say I’m not advocating for a dictatorship. I’m saying there are advantages where you can have one guy that says this is what we’re going to do. Yeah. I mean, just like with a company, right? Does it take like these technocratic dictatorships? I mean, isn’t there something that you can do? I follow a bunch of people on Twitter who talk about this crypto economy. So the idea is that you pull ideas and crypto together and then richly create cities out of it. It’s not any different than it works now to pull money in a company, but it’s it’s taking it’s freer and you can pull money from individuals as well as from from from companies. So it’s it doesn’t it leaves out all the restrictions that often create the trouble in the marketplace. So we we we associated with the failure of the market economy, but in what it actually was, is that there were the wrong kind of incentives and regulations that messed up what what should have happened, which should have been a better outcome for everyone involved, because it would make more money, right? So it fits into the market economy of better roads. It’s it’s not it doesn’t stand against it. It’s it’s tough topic. It’s a tough topic. I don’t I don’t have a good good idea from from all the places I’ve been to what really strikes me about Africa. This is really related to that is you you would feel like the infrastructure development is crap. You have a dictator out there, but still the infrastructure is a problem like semi dictator in many places recently different kind of dictator than you have in Singapore and Dubai. Right, right. But I mean, but there’s a lot of individual freedom for people, even if you have a dictatorial government that doesn’t really care about you and doesn’t provide you with basic services of like public safety. It just doesn’t do it. You’re basically on your own. The good news is do there’s a there’s a lot of personal freedom that you can use and shape your life the way you want that might be inefficient and roads would be actually make everyone much better off. But it gives you this boost of freedom and at some point you you know you leave these countries and you’re like so is development always better than freedom? I would say the answer is no. Yeah, I mean I’m I’m I’m conflicted when I come back. You know you you go there and you’re like oh wait there’s a ton of poor people and it’s they they really don’t help out the poorest parts of the society. But in the end is it people’s choice or like failure of choice that these differences exist? Like I said at the at the beginning of the call I’ve been to a lot of places and so I I do have a perspective that for the most part things aren’t necessarily bad or good in one place. They’re just different. Yeah, you’re postmodernist. I said of course I have my interests right so like yeah you know given given the choice between having running water and no running water well I choose running water. Yes, that’s very philosophical. I think you did this Jacques Derrida and the postmodernism which is a big was a big topic and the social sciences in the last 10 years and they basically make that claim that every every outcome is acceptable because it exists. It’s it depending there is no there is no metric to really say this is a better or worse outcome. Right. Which is fast. I mean we can make their own personal choice right so like I I said water or no running water right that’s an easy choice but what about this one? What about freedom or electricity? So having good one and I thought about this recently because I was having a political discussion with someone and I realized and I brought that example up because living in Dubai we didn’t have freedom but I had electricity. That’s the choice that I made. You know what I I got to see some parts of Eastern Germany and but but honestly that’s that’s how people that’s how people argued. I know you’re arguing this way I would say oh we can’t open up the borders with with the Western Germany because you know then everyone would be gone tomorrow which was true and B they would just take all our stuff so we wouldn’t have we wouldn’t have electricity and we wouldn’t have basic needs met which is probably true for some parts of the population. I mean the basic needs wouldn’t be met but in socialism they are you know they’re definitely being met but just those not others and it’s a tough trade off. It’s a really tough trade off. It is. I mean that’s that’s life right. You have to make trade offs. I mean there’s there’s no perfect place and anybody who says it’s perfect they haven’t experienced enough right. I was talking a month or two ago with someone who lived in Tucson Arizona and she mentioned to me that she’s you know born and raised in Tucson and she’s never lived anywhere but Tucson but she’s very confident that Tucson is the best place on earth. Okay. I’ve never been. I would I wouldn’t know what to say. Yeah. But my point is okay if that’s all you’ve ever seen how do you know right. Yeah. Yeah. That’s that’s a quandary yeah. So exploration keeps us from from repeating mistakes in our life. You know there’s a great quote that I like by the patron saint of travelers. It’s the world is a great book. Those who do not travel read only a page. Yeah that’s a good one. That’s a good one. I’m talking about the book. Let’s look look into this page. You were mentioning you have some entrepreneurly adventures that you’re cooking and I wanted to know what how you’re going to change the world with those. Sure. I don’t know that we’re going to change the world but certainly there will be an impact. So I’ll talk about them I guess one at a time. So one is Backpacker Panda and this is building a network of youth hostels. It’s about a five year old company. We’ve been hit pretty hard by the pandemic. So back on March 1st we had eight properties open and we’re looking to expand across Europe Southeast Asia and the United States but now because of COVID we’re have only one property open which is in India in Rishikesh in the Himalayan foothills. It’s a pretty time Rishikesh. It is. It’s fantastic. So but you know it’s it’s so we’re kind of like the business is a little bit on life support and we’re clawing our way back but I think the original vision still holds and I mentioned earlier that I see some trends in travel coming back as far as leisure, as far as young people, as far as domestic and I think that means that in the backpacking hostel space that will be one of the early segments to recover in travel. So I feel good about that business but the original vision was kind of to be like a lot of good ideas. It came out of someone’s personal experience so in this case Kumar, the CEO and founder, he is Indian but he studied in Germany and in Canada and during the time that he was studying in Europe and North America he backpacked around and discovered that hostels were really different from one location to another and he said there’s got to be a better way to do this. There’s got to be you know a way to know in terms of standards so that was really the vision. So the way I used to describe it is that we wanted to be the Marriott of youth hostels not Marriott in a luxurious way but Marriott in terms of common standards of safety, amenity, a loyalty program. You know if you went to a country tomorrow that you’ve never been to and you saw a Marriott there without even setting foot inside it you’d have a pretty good idea of what to expect and so that’s what we were trying to do with the youth hostel. Is anyone running a chain for hostels with them? Yes there are some other chains so actually I would say one of our biggest competitors is was I mean right now they’re surviving better than we are it’s called Generator and they acquired a US chain last fall just about a year ago so they have I’m guessing I don’t know a dozen to 20 properties maybe okay and they just managed them they don’t own them right they don’t develop them like they don’t I think they might actually own some of them I’m not 100% sure but they’re big okay so that’s like us they’re even bigger than ours each so a lot of hostels are like 12 20 rooms traditionally the generator ones are like they’ll have like 300 beds 400 beds and that’s kind of where we were heading so what do you what do you think of the of the hotels in Japan the two hotels yes so I still do awesome yeah I haven’t stayed in one but I’ve only stayed in the more you know western style hotels in Japan so I I tried them out and I was kind of my last resort because everything was like 200 bucks on Kyoto and they were 45 so not super cheap but I’m like okay it’s just a night and I’m gonna fly out a bit more in the morning but I was amazed how and it’s kind of a hostel style like you have shared bathrooms which is a little bit annoying and you sleep right next to each other so it’s it’s kind of the same space I think it takes up as a dorm as a dorm room and I’m like oh this is going to be terrible everyone’s going to snore and it’s going to be allowed the whole day and it looks like a coffin I’m think I mean I’m pretty claustrophobic so I had really low expectations but none of those obviously was warranted this is Japan bathrooms were perfectly clean and once you you get into your your tube into your your your a little coffin it’s almost completely soundproof I didn’t feel claustrophobic at all I some of the best sleep I’ve ever had for 10 12 hours and it was extremely cozy I was like man this is how it feels when you sleep in a cave so I was blown away by it I was like whoa I mean it takes a lot of pressure to get someone into trying this who wants to do most people will come out really happy yeah no I haven’t done it but you have to do that yeah it’s it’s it’s totally struck me very unexpectedly as a wonderful way to to share you know obviously that’s the idea of a dorm that we don’t have a lot of space and you’re in the middle of I don’t know really expensive city Stockholm and you can still afford to be in a location that you find of interest it’s kind of a Japanese hostel type of thing yeah it is it’s basically a dorm room but you know they do it in a Japanese way you know one of the things that I learned from my time working with backpacker panda is that it’s not just about the conserving of real estate space and the cheap accommodation it’s really kind of an experience and a lifestyle and the of course most of our travelers are young but you don’t have to be young but as somebody described it to me one of the somebody said you know he said if he goes somewhere and stays in a hotel and this is a single guy he said if he sees a pretty woman at the bar and walks up to her to strike up a conversation she might or might not be open to having a conversation in a hotel and he said however if I’m at a hostel 99% she’s going to be interested in having a conversation with him it doesn’t mean that she’s romantically interested but she will at least be friendly and open to having a conversation because it’s a different mindset right the type of person who stays at a hostel they’re looking to meet people make spingles socialize it is a real community approach to hostels I missed that I haven’t stayed in hostels much simply because you don’t have a lot of private space you don’t have I mean sometimes you have a work area but sometimes you don’t there’s a lot of quiet time but yeah the community approach and I if I don’t have I don’t find it good at all I definitely still stay at hostels it’s very easy to get the local knowledge that you need at a hostel you know I have to read spend three times as much time to for the city guides that I do to get the same information or four square Wikipedia or ask other people at hostels it’s it’s the most effective way sometimes I just go to hostels and just ask people because that’s the quickest way to get the load on on the same by far absolutely yeah so that’s the hostel business so I’m still bullish on it but I mean realistically we’re talking about q3 of 2021 at the earliest before we see meaningful recovery in that segment I mean right now you know getting a bunch of people to travel long distances internationally to stay in tight quarters close together that’s not exactly in vote yeah fortunately um are you going to properties and just pitching them the management of of that hotel given you by your standard guidebook with your handbook yeah yeah I mean so what we’re actually kind of looking at now for the future is as some of these hotels file for bankruptcy and go under you know probably in the coming 12 to 18 months those will represent attractive acquisition targets because the valuations will be much lower than they were a year ago for example yeah yeah so we’ll see but the the second business is called sky squad and what that is is essentially an airport assistant service and so again it’s an idea that was launched because of someone’s practical needs so Julie Melnick who is the founder and CEO when she had kids that were young and she traveled with them through airports and on airplanes she found that that was a pain in the neck and uh and I don’t remember that well myself yeah and so essentially what we do is uh right now we’re just in Washington DC but looking to expand nationwide we’ll meet the person curbside as the car pulls up help them with their bags their strollers car seats kids whatever get them checked in these are airport employees that work for us so they can go through security with the travelers stay with them all the way until they board the aircraft and then bother at the gates or in the lounge or whatever uh help them in any way whether that is watching the kids while someone goes to the restroom or running out to get food to bring back so it’s just an airport assistant and it’s very reasonably priced typically $99 for two hours and this has was launched in January of 2020 did well in January and February then the pandemic hit but even in the summer during the depths of the kind of COVID travel depression there was still demand and we realized you know there’s really a need for a service like this in the U.S. Oh I absolutely agree with you. These are very common services in Asia but in America we’re expected to do everything ourselves as independent people which is fine until you’re the one sitting there with four suitcases two kids a stroller a car seat and two carry ons how are you supposed to manage that if you just have two hands so I think this is a very valuable service and I think we’re very well positioned to kind of ride the travel way of recovery up. Yeah no I think it’s that’s a wonderful thing to have any airport one thing that I would say that I found that took me a while to understand that is how lounges work and it’s relatively rare for people to to walk up to a lounge and pay 50 bucks for some snacks right that’s kind of seems to be the usual right like you get a couple a couple hours three hours usually is that the maximum stay that’s allowed by most lounges and if it’s not included in your ticket you can get a lot of stuff for $50 at an airport restaurant it’s still expensive but you get a proper meal proper entree and maybe a couple drinks and I always felt that lounges how are you going to compete with this and obviously because people just just maybe it’s the value but maybe it’s just not on a traveler’s mind because they immediately I think it’s part of the lounge value proposition in the past has been kind of the exclusivity right which is like oh you know anybody can go to the restaurant but I get to go to the lounge I don’t know that’s still true but you know what I wanted to get it not now but that’s definitely part of it in the past yeah so lounge body had a similar system where they basically said there’s all these lounges nobody knows how to buy the tickets what are the restrictions and what the 50 bucks is just so expensive why don’t we just group them together maybe if we can guarantee a certain volume and bring the price down to 20 bucks 30 bucks whatever we feel works in that location but it didn’t really take off and I thought it was a fantastic idea what instead took off what instead took off is priority pass which sells no priority pass and competitors right I mean whether essentially aggregating these and selling them primarily through credit card partners yeah for a flat feed we nobody knows what the exact amount is but maybe 50 bucks a year per card holder yeah but it’s it’s obviously the economics were at least they did pre covid yeah and then the restaurants kept opening up so then the the whole airport was transformed into a big priority pass lounge at least in san francisco all the restaurants wanted to join in and it’s like 30 bucks it’s for free for per person that’s incredible there’s some good deals right you could go to in some airports really nice restaurants and get a priority pass meal credit of like you know 30 dollars yeah I mean and it’s for a lot of priority pass it was unlimited guests so if you show up in like four or five people there was one guy in Barcelona he came up came with like this group of 10 this whole russian family of 10 people and you could go to as many restaurants as you wanted so that that was insane and obviously only yeah I think they cut down on the average yeah they have to get the average was right but but I was thinking you if you could find something for for children assistance business that you can bundle it into an existing business where people only use it on average you know when everyone who has a kid uses it maybe three times a year most people wouldn’t use it because we don’t have children right now to all that would drive down the the cost that the visible costs at least and yeah no that’s a good idea I mean we’re not there yet because we need to build some scale first as far as footprint around the US or around the world but once we have that scale then we talk to like a credit card partner and do something similar to that priority pass yeah I can see that being extremely helpful I traveled with my with my four year olds a couple of times to myself that that was not easy we traveled to Japan and it’s it’s just being in the lounge you’re like it’s a God given just having a couple a couple of other people like helping you to manage your kids that’s that’s a fantastic way yeah the anybody who has kids and traveled with them by airplane when they were young they always get this but anybody who doesn’t have kids or has never traveled by airplane with kids they don’t understand what the value of proposition of this business yeah they just feel kids shouldn’t be in business class that seems to be a consensus I think the ambulance where you can’t bring kids in first class no that was Malaysian that they know kids in first class okay business was okay although um yeah I mean my kids traveled in business and even in first class quite a bit back in the day and my wife told me a story once this was several years ago but I guess she was boarding a flight I think it was like united and it was a domestic flight but they had you know international plane business class and they were getting situated and some guy was like apparently it’s like throwing a fit he’s like oh my god kids in business class how ridiculous ridiculous and he was apparently making a big stink about it and then he just wanted to go to the first class finally she said to him she said something like he’s like you know a you know we’ve paid for these tickets so we have just as much right to be here as you but B she said it seems to me that you are making a much bigger deal out of this and being much more distracting to your our fellow passengers than my kids are and then that shut them up right away that’s a good that’s a good answer um I wouldn’t have come up with that but I noticed the the flight that we we took to Munich there were about 30 people in business class so it was only about half four maybe 35 but I easily the half of those so more than one quarter of the passengers in the in the business class cabin were all children under the age of 10 many of them were like toddlers like two three four five oh wow and there were none of them in economy like literally in economy you could have 10 seats to yourself not just I mean a whole row not just like four seats together so there was a lot but that’s definitely something changing in that travel category to see way more children than ever before I mean you know in the Middle East you know there’s a lot of wealthy people and so it’s very common to see kids in business and even first class but there’s a nanny the sky nanny yeah exactly you know and I’ve seen also where wealthy families they’ll travel you know for example in business class and they’ll have their nanny you know in economy or they’ll be in first and the nanny will be in business the gulf air has a sky nanny I don’t know if you’ve seen that they’re introduced that that I thought was was pretty cool and then I think recently had some sky nanny as well but that’s one of the things that’s a a victim of COVID they’ve cut it out well there’s a whole history that I only learned when I went to Bahrain between gulf air as the original Middle Eastern airline and then a lot of people and I think Abu Dhabi was a big shareholder in this then they abandoned it in the late 80s and said no we just want to copy Emirates now we’re going a different way and we’re going to do this better than Emirates I just feel that it was never as a market fire the heart for this strangely enough yeah well I think Etihad I mean I don’t know if this is literally true but I get the feeling that it’s directionally true that Etihad launched out of jealousy to Dubai and Emirates yeah I could see that yeah and you know so Emirates was the first and then Qatar and I say after gulf air because gulf air was the original so you know Dubai split off and then created Emirates and then Qatar split off and created Qatar Airways then Abu Dhabi split off and created Etihad and the last was Oman with Oman air yeah why is Kuwait airways so bad why are they not so they were never part of that gulf federation and I yeah I don’t know I mean they have new planes but just because you have new planes doesn’t mean anything yeah I mean I’ve not been to Kuwait I have to say but isn’t there some ooh I’ve got one on you finally yeah yeah but what isn’t there some there’s a lot of commonalities that you go from Bahrain to Saudi Arabia it’s almost like you it’s the same thing the same country but I don’t know Kuwait is a lot more liberal than Saudi Arabia yes but I thought Kuwait is I don’t know kind of like Dubai Kuwait is not as liberal as Bahrain I’m not as conservative as Saudi Arabia okay okay but uh yeah I mean I I’ve never flown Kuwait airways I’ve flown Saudi quite a bit and that is very hardly used to be very average but I guess they’ve been through yeah it can be very shaky it’s it’s almost like nobody really cares nobody is awake well like including the pilot this whole flight is like everything is an autopilot and everything’s being ignored in in your way it’s very odd to fly so yeah so should I tell you about the third business yeah absolutely I didn’t know you have that many businesses you’re involved and you’re doing this as an angel or you’re like hands on as well I call it being involved so I uh I like to be involved in a few different business ideally three to five because and when I say involved that means either as a investor a board member a consultant a part time employee but just essentially having my hand in the pot because a I have ADD not medically but I like to I get distracted easily so I like to have a few different things to concentrate on but two is it’s actually a diversification now yes it’s diversification within travel tourism and hospitality but it’s I mean but those are my passions so that’s what I want to focus on and so therefore it’s good to be diversified within the sector but that’s your full time be a full time board now are you running yeah yeah pretty much I’m spending I mean the percentages vary around a bit but yeah I’m spending solidly probably 80 percent of my time on these three companies yeah and uh so the third one is called charity pro travel and what it is essentially is a online booking engine like Expedia like price line and the difference is that it’s focused on helping charities and nonprofit organizations raise money and the way that it does that is we market it charities and nonprofits and then those charities and nonprofits encourage their employees and their employees families and friends their donors their partners etc to book travel whether that’s business or leisure travel on this site charity pro travel the pricing is exactly the same as you get on price line or Expedia but a small portion of that commission revenue then flows back to that charity so essentially it’s travel that people would have booked anyway uh and not paying any more for but you’re just doing a little bit of good for a charity that you support so amazon has something similar called Amazon Smile um where people charities and a lot of schools actually use Amazon Smile and then a part of your purchase flows back to the organization so this is Amazon Smile except specifically for travel okay that’s a wonderful idea and i remember a lot of people have been playing with this this guaranteed margin that this hotel prize monopoly like rocket miles is kicking back miles i think it’s it’s it’s great to have a yes a charity reason behind that i i you know it’s not going to change the world which was kind of the beginning question you asked but you might it will help right you might you might um you know he and silicon valley people want your idea to change everything and uh quickly you know it’s got everything it’s going to be like tick tock um i’m more of a progress not perfection person it’s great if you can if you can revolutionize the world and change everything but uh incremental progress is probably more typical that’s true that’s absolutely true if you wanted to get your your judgment call on what’s going to happen with this whole travel tech consumer travel tech if google takes over because that seems to what’s happening with google flights and um with the hotel booking engine which isn’t as big yet but the google flights engine has gotten pretty nice um yes it gives you that’s what i use for looking at flights yeah it gives you 365 day view which was impossible to get before and uh it doesn’t do such a good job with notifications but it is pretty wonderful that you can browse um i think five or six different destinations and uh seaver um from what month you get the best deal from my perspective that seems to be the end of kayak and the madhouse many of the matters and uh also Expedia and price line well yes and no because a lot of those google flight results come from those right but they source it from the from the owners and google can just the same i mean they have all these google interfaces that’s not always what happens like you might search on google flights and then you find that the best price is actually on Expedia that’s true um okay that’s true so you don’t get the search traffic that’s definitely not the end of this it saves them money then just do the booking yeah um okay i always felt like yes since they’ve become their own meta search um you know and i i i like google a lot and i think that it’s great as a consumer to use their services uh but it’s not everything right i mean there’s definitely times when i personally have found a better deal elsewhere but i might have started with google and then that gave me an idea but then i find an actual like uh not a hidden fair but a fair that is only promoted through certain channels uh elsewhere so it’s not everything yeah i mean that’s that’s for sure the google is isn’t as price competitive it’s it’s very convenient very fast and it’s kind of our daily daily bread and butter what we do at mighty travels to here we do identify and send out links to google flights but most of the better prices once you found dates for the the best price you see and google flights prices are often up to 20 30 percent are with individual travel agencies many of them in europe and many of them in germany for whatever reason that they seem to have obviously they also have the interface and 200 different languages there’s a lot of travel agencies one of them was german a greek guy who lived in germany that that company went bust but there’s tons of like little travel agencies who beat those prices and i wonder how they do it they never really tell but they’ve been doing this consistently for more than a decade so there is a margin bake that we just don’t know what’s the agreement on the back end now we don’t um but google has been you know and maybe maybe with google just like they do with search right part of the value is actually from the data so by seeing where people steer after searching on google flights that information is worth something to someone sure yeah i mean google doesn’t have the charge for it right that’s the personalization right is they can they can sell that off just to edwards where edwards makes a lot of money from that this yeah so if i’m searching for business class fairs to bangkok for march and then i don’t book anything but now google knows i’m interested in that or at least appear to be interested in that so then now they can remarket that information to expedia or to turkish airlines or to cafe pacific who can then market to me with good deals to bangkok yeah that’s a retargeting was really big for a while i don’t know if it still is but i remember whenever i think it still is whenever you go to etihad or amaranth that that was like you couldn’t get rid of those ads for two weeks i think we covered everything i’ve had chris that that was a very awesome podcast i learned a lot okay chris last question where can people reach you yeah yeah i’m a huge linkedin fan and user so i think that’s the best way to connect with me so if you search for me on linkedin chris chris thomseth t o m s e t h find me there and i’ll connect with you thanks chris bye



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