The most popular news stories on PhocusWire in 2023

At the start of 2023, few could have predicted what PhocusWire’s most popular story of the year would be. ChatGPT was barely a month old, and it would take some time for the full ramifications of generative artificial intelligence to be understood.

But not much time.

ChatGPT and GenAI took the travel world by storm — and did much the same for these rankings. The topic accounted for four of our most popular stories this year.

But in a year that began with dread over how rising inflation and interest rates might affect consumer spending, we found plenty of other interesting things to write about including, happily, mostly good news about earnings from the sector’s biggest players. It seems even as economic uncertainty lingered through the year, consumers found a way to prioritize travel.

So we think you’ll enjoy reviewing the top 10 stories that captured the most attention with readers over the past 12 months. And check out our 2022, 2021, 2020, 2019 and 2018 lists for a quick refresh on what people were reading about travel tech in those years.

From 2023, in reverse order …

10. Top global consumer trends and what they mean for travel

Getting a leg up on the competition was clearly important at the start of 2023 as readers flocked to this story from January about consumer behaviors the market research company Euromonitor identified as worth watching.

Among the trends: more automation, a greater tendency toward short-term buying decisions and more focus on Gen Z consumers.

9. Presenting the top investors in travel tech 2023

PhocusWire’s sister brand, Phocuswright, tracks funding to startups from around the world every day. Phocuswright’s State of Travel Startups database currently includes more than 4,600 companies that have generated more than 8,500 funding rounds from almost 7,400 investors since the early 2000s.

To bring more transparency to investors’ activity and strategies, PhocusWire launched this new feature in June with plans to publish a new list annually. The list was based on analysis by Phocuswright manager of research and innovation Mike Coletta, who looked at funding from January 2022 through the end of Q1 in 2023 to identify the top travel tech investors.

“For this list, we tried to highlight the ones that are most active or are contributing the most funding to the ecosystem,” he said. “Since the specific amount of contributions by each investor in each funding round is generally not publicly available, we zeroed in on those who have made at least four equity investments since the start of 2022 through the end of Q1 2023 or at least three investments where the funding rounds they contributed to were in the tens of millions.”

8. Tripadvisor CEO outlines three-prong strategy

In a February call with financial analysts to discuss Tripadvisor’s fourth quarter and full-year 2022 financial results, CEO Matt Goldberg provided details about a vision for the company, which he described as creating a “modern media marketplace for travel.”

The three-pronged strategy included helping travelers make decisions and plan trips by building on the company’s foundation of existing reviews and forums; generating deeper engagement with travelers by recognizing and rewarding its most loyal users; and driving value for the company’s partners.

“Today our model is optimized in attracting high volumes of traffic bouncing on and off our platform to verify their travel choices as part of the travel planning process,” said Goldberg, who joined Tripadvisor in July 2022. “We will continue to fine tune that, but we also have a significant opportunity to do a better job of addressing the needs of the majority of our audience.”

7. Airbnb pauses new experiences after predicting growth

A year after talking up its investment in the initiative, Airbnb announced in April it paused Experiences, which aimed to give travelers a local experience. In a statement, the company said the move was motivated by a need to focus on “perfecting” its core service.

That focus may have helped the company to report its most profitable third quarter in history. While Experiences remains on the company’s website, the initiative wasn’t among the priorities CEO Brian Chesky spoke about on a Q3 call with investors.

6. CEO Spotlight Tony Fernandes of Capital A

Tony Fernandes has been the chief executive at Capital A Berhad – formerly AirAsia Group Berhad – since 2018, guiding its development from an airline to an online travel platform and most recently a super app that offers financial services, ride hailing, food delivery and more.

In the interview with senior reporter Linda Fox, Fernandes spoke about the company’s greatest challenges, how it adapted during the pandemic and its aftermath and his thoughts on generative AI.

“I always say if you don’t evolve you die in this industry,” he said. “So I’m constantly thinking about new innovations, products, partnerships, services and more to ensure we remain resilient in the face of challenges, deliver exceptional experiences and stay ahead of the curve.”

5. Expedia Group lays off staff in U.S. and abroad

Expedia Group did not provide details in July when it laid off staff in multiple departments, including travel operations, support, IT, recruiting, marketing and B2B services. But given the company’s size and stature, the news resonated with readers.

“We continue simplifying and reprioritizing resources to achieve our business goals,” the company said in a statement. “This resulted in eliminating some roles and realigning our investments to ensure we can deliver great technology and experiences for our travelers.”

Both revenue and adjusted EBITDA in the third quarter were records for the company. In a call with financial analysts to discuss the results, CEO Peter Kern said the company was well positioned to drive even “faster and more profitable growth” in 2024.

This wasn’t the only occasion a story about Expedia Group landed among the year’s most popular. In July the company’s announcement that it was pulling hotel and vacation rental supply from Hopper — and the accusations and counter-accusations that accompanied it — also piqued the interest of readers.

4. New efforts spotlight sustainability in rentals

This story from January looked at the dearth of sustainability certifications for short-term rentals at a time when the hotel industry was awash in them. Barcelona-based startup Sustonica sought to change that by offering what it called the first certification open to all STRs, regardless of where they were listed. already offered its own badge for sustainable hotels, resorts, apartments, B&Bs, holiday homes, resorts and other properties. STR data company Transparent Intelligence studied’s listings and found that sustainable listings had achieved a 2% higher occupancy than their “unbadged competition.” The average daily rate, though, was $7 lower for sustainable listings.

Still, some management companies welcomed the idea. “Currently there’s a lack of … a cohesive standard as to what makes a property or property management company sustainable,” said Steve Milo, CEO and founder of Vtrips. “What sustainability means to one person could be completely different in another property.”

3. Top travel industry predictions for 2023

When this story came out in the first week of January, one of the bold predictions about technological developments in travel wasn’t ChatGPT but … robots making room service deliveries.

Predictions that economic headwinds would limit travel or force consumers to choose lower category hotels while taking shorter trips closer to home also proved unfounded. Other predictions fared better, including more competition for short-term rentals; greater demand for real-time travel data; and increased adoption of fintech products and digital payment methods.

2. Presenting the Hot 25 Travel Startups for 2024

This was the sixth year PhocusWire presented a Hot 25 Travel Startups list to be unveiled in November at The Phocuswright Conference. The year-round selection process started this time with more than 150 startups. Among the considerations: strength of innovation, potential to grow and diversity in sector, location and founders.

This year’s winners join a prestigious group; the 125 companies selected over the first five years cumulatively have raised $2.2 billion in funding.

1. What will ChatGPT mean for the travel industry?

Fittingly, our most popular story of the year addressed in January what generative AI might mean for the travel industry. Experts from Expedia Group,, Hopper, 1000 Mile Journey, Horizon Guides, Autoura, Sojern and Phocuswright shared their insights. They predicted much of what has come to pass this year — including the impact on trip planning, data crunching and content production.

Three other stories related to ChatGPT ranked among our most popular this year. In February, we held our first LinkedIn Audio event with experts from Microsoft and Expedia Group joining Kayak co-founder Paul English and PhocusWire editor in chief Mitra Sorrells to discuss the topic. In March, we wrote about the first travel brands to create plugins for ChatGPT. And in April, we wrote a roundup of “a chatty dozen” of ways travel companies were using ChatGPT.

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