How Rafat Ali’s Startup Skift is Weathering the Pandemic
How Rafat Ali’s Startup Skift is Weathering the Pandemic

As the media industry contracts, with advertising budgets and in-person events drying up, Skift is betting on its innovative founder.

Rafat Ali (Courtesy of Ali)

Rafat Ali (Courtesy of Ali)

When the coronavirus struck in 2020, tourism came to a screeching halt. Flights around the world were grounded, hotels temporarily shuttered, and thousands of hard-working travel and hospitality employees found themselves either furloughed or laid off. People were suddenly far less invested in booking their next business trip or vacationing in some far-flung locale, and more concerned about staying home and social distancing. 

The once-bustling global tourism industry, as the world once understood it, had irrevocably changed, hemorrhaging as much as $1.2 trillion in 2020 — and its effects were widespread. Travel industry news and information outlets were hit particularly hard, as companies scaled back their travel ad budgets. 

Skift, a travel publication geared towards industry professionals, was among the collateral damage. Founded and funded initially by seasoned media operator Rafat Ali in 2012, the business-to-business (B2B) media site — a prolific purveyor of industry news and reports that also hosts podcasts and events — had become an unlikely success story, buoyed by major advertisers like Accenture, Oracle, and Accor, and the site’s insistence in 2013 on charging a wide swath of clients like Marriott, Hilton, Expedia, Delta, and United subscription fees for its research reports at a time when others were giving digital content away for free. 

Skift was on track to hit $18 million in revenues in 2020, and had tailwinds to continue expanding its staff and ancillary businesses. But with the pandemic scuttling the travel indus

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