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Luxury travel agencies are still growing — but watch out for the millennials



Travel agents may seem passe in the age of countless apps and websites, but in the luxury travel sector, traditions aren’t being tossed away just yet.

In fact, 40 percent of luxury travel trips are booked through travel agencies compared to just 27 percent of all international outbound trips, according to a report by ITB Berlin, a world travel trade show, and IPK International, a tourism consulting group.

The study also found that more than half of international luxury travelers used agencies as an information source.

To cite an example, Scott Dunn, a U.K.-based luxury travel agency, said it’s growing at 20 percent a year, driven by strong demand for specialist travel advice and planning. “I always tell guests who are considering booking themselves, ‘Why risk it?'” said, Simon Russell, Scott Dunn’s CEO. “This is your holiday and you are spending a lot on it, don’t take any chances and make sure you make the most of your time away.”

According to Russell, the firm’s clients prefer spending on travel experiences to other assets. “This is fueling the travel market with a new generation of luxury travelers.”

According to a 2016 report by Amadeus Travel Intelligence, outbound luxury trips are projected to grow at 6.2 percent over the next 10 years compared to overall travel that is projected to grow at 4.8 percent.

Scott Dunn’s Russel said Instagram is playing a massive role in creating an appetite for personalized travel experiences and exotic destinations. “People’s personal brands are being defined by where they’ve been and where they’re seen, not just by friends but much wider social followings,” he said.

Still, the growth of travel agencies is likely to be challenged in the coming years as millennials, the first generation of digital natives, accumulates wealth and eventually constitutes a larger percentage of the luxury travel market.

“Millennials are far less inclined to pick up the phone,” Russell said. “They want to organize and engage digitally and they seek much more instant gratification.”

He said the firm’s online experience will constantly need to evolve. “Intelligent chat and voice activated search are very much on our radar,” he said.

Currently, Scott Dunn said about 70 percent of its revenue comes from the U.K. market, but its CEO said he hopes it will evolve to a three-way split between the U.K., the U.S. and Asian markets.

Last year, Scott Dunn launched operations in Singapore to tap into the Southeast Asian market, and earlier this year, Scott Dunn acquired the city state’s largest private tour operator, Country Home, for an undisclosed amount.

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Stock futures muted after Dow starts week lower



Traders on the floor of the New York Stock Exchange

Source: NYSE

Stock futures are little changed in early morning trading Tuesday after the Dow and S&P 500 both started the week lower.

Futures on the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 25 points, while the S&P 500 futures and Nasdaq 100 futures both traded in mildly positive territory.

The Dow fell 126 points, or 0.36%, in the regular session Monday for its worst daily performance since May 19. The S&P 500 dipped 0.08%, and a losing materials sector — down 1.2% — weighed on the market.

The Nasdaq Composite edged 0.5% higher on Monday, boosted by shares of Biogen. The biopharmaceutical stock surged 38% after the FDA approved its groundbreaking Alzheimer’s drug.

Meme stocks continued their rally Monday. Shares of AMC Entertainment jumped 14.8%, and BlackBerry and GameStop shares also popped double-digits. The U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission said Monday it’s watching ongoing volatility in the market and vowed to protect retail investors.

Investors are awaiting new inflation signals later this week following Friday’s jobs report. While the U.S. added fewer jobs than expected in May, the unemployment rate dropped to 5.8% from 6.1% and markets reacted positively to the readout.

“The reflation trade is taking a bit of a backseat even as Friday’s ‘Goldilocks’ payrolls report served to quell some concerns that the economy might be doing a bit too well,” Goldman Sachs’ Chris Hussey said in a note Monday. “Today’s market action shows that these concerns might be here to stay.”

May’s consumer price index is set to be released Thursday. Economists are expecting the CPI to rise 4.7% from a year earlier, according to Dow Jones. In April, the CPI increased 4.2% on an annual basis, the fastest rise since 2008.

All eyes are on the next Federal Open Market Committee meeting scheduled for June 15-16 as investors look for what Fed officials will say about inflation and monetary policy. Recent comments by officials suggest the Fed is beginning to prepare markets for tapering its asset purchases.

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Bitcoin (BTC) price slides as US seizes most of Colonial ransom



A banner with the logo of bitcoin is seen during the crypto-currency conference Bitcoin 2021 Convention at the Mana Convention Center in Miami, Florida, on June 4, 2021.

Marco Bello | AFP | Getty Images

Bitcoin’s price slipped again Tuesday. The reason for the move was unclear, however it may be related to concerns over security of the cryptocurrency after U.S. officials managed to recover most of the ransom paid to hackers that targeted Colonial Pipeline.

Court documents said investigators were able to access the password for one of the hackers’ bitcoin wallets. The money was recovered by a recently launched task force in Washington created as part of the government’s response to a rise in cyberattacks.

The world’s largest cryptocurrency slid over 7% at 5 a.m. ET to a price of $32,952, according to Coin Metrics data. Smaller digital coins also slumped, with ether falling 7% to $2,524 and XRP losing around 6%.

In April, 2021 was looking to be a banner year for digital assets, with bitcoin having topped $60,000 for the first time ever. But a recent plunge in crypto prices has shaken confidence in the market. Bitcoin sank to nearly $30,000 last month, and is currently down almost 50% from its all-time high.

The digital currency is now up only 14% since the start of the year, though it’s still more than tripled in price from a year ago.

U.S. recovers most of Colonial ransom

On Monday, U.S. law enforcement officials said they had seized $2.3 million in bitcoin paid to DarkSide, the cybercriminal gang behind a crippling cyberattack on Colonial Pipeline.

According to a court document, the Federal Bureau of Investigation was able to access the “private key,” or password, for one of the hackers’ bitcoin wallets. Bitcoin has often been the currency of choice for hackers demanding ransom payments to decrypt data locked by malware known as “ransomware.”

Crypto media outlet Decrypt reported there were unfounded rumors that the attackers’ bitcoin wallet had been “hacked,” an unlikely scenario.

DarkSide, which reportedly received $90 million in bitcoin ransom payments before shutting down, operated a so-called “ransomware as a service” business model, where hackers develop and market ransomware tools and sell them to affiliates who then carry out attacks.

According to blockchain analytics firm Elliptic, the seized funds represented the bulk of the DarkSide affiliate’s share of the ransom paid out by Colonial.

John Hultquist, vice president of analysis at Mandiant Threat Intelligence, called the move a “welcome development.”

“It has become clear that we need to use several tools to stem the tide of this serious problem, and even law enforcement agencies need to broaden their approach beyond building cases against criminals who may be beyond the grasp of the law,” said Hultquist.

“In addition to the immediate benefits of this approach, a stronger focus on disruption may disincentivize this behavior, which is growing in a vicious cycle,” he added.

Crypto crackdown

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Alibaba expands cloud products with livestream shopping in its battle against Amazon



Alibaba trails Amazon and Microsoft in the global cloud computing market and hopes new products such as livestreaming e-commerce can help it stand out.

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