Travelabs Insights: August 2019
The most important news and insights from travel tech scene worldwide
This is Travelabs Insights — a monthly summary of the most important news from the travel tech industry around the globe, picked up for you by the Travelabs team. You can see what happened in travel tech world previously in our Insights Archive, check out upcoming travel tech events and currently open programs in startup accelerators on our website.

Travel Tech Insights from August 2019

A shift from TV storytelling to digital media and considerable competition for travelers are among the primary reasons for the growth in travel ad spending. In the U.S., travel is the 6th largest industry in digital ad spending. Facebook and Instagram are becoming the more popular channels for travel advertisers. And the competition for travel bookings is just becoming more intense as Google, Facebook, Airbnb, Amazon are also showing up in the travel industry.

Amazon has reached out to a handful of tour operators about a new project they are working on tours and activities. And Google announced new travel features to show guides on popular destinations, where to stay, and gather the itinerary under Google Maps. On its blog, the search engine presents its price comparison and booking features. So how will the tours & activities landscape look like?

In tours & activities, GetYourGuide and Klook have raised huge rounds of funding in 2019, more than $1 billion since 2017, that were highlighted in the media on the last months but among all the startups venturing into this segment is easy sometimes to forget the big picture of more than $1.8 billion into startups of this sector as shown by this list made by Arival. Following this list, we see a predominance of startups from Asia and Europe, and the most popular business models are P2P, local experiences, and multi-day OTAs.

Considering this increasing competition, is GetYourGuide fear-mongering? Or are TripAdvisor and running the tours & activities segment at a loss to monopolize data from operators? What will happen when the competition gets more intense?

In addition to tours & activities, we also bring the most important news in August on the following topics:

  • Airlines & Transportation: airlines face growing challenges with payment and data security, and the case of Avis on adapting to mobile services.

  • OTAs: TripAdvisor and are working on alternative strategies to the traffic from Google, notes by Phocuswright on corporate travel and Despegar's solutions on payment.

  • Hospitality: this August the home-sharing booked more room nights than Expedia.

  • Startups: Airbnb acquired Urbandoor and highlights in the European travel startup scene.

Airlines & Transportation

Collaboration with startups is a key for airlines as they face growing challenges with payment and data security, and the case of Avis on adapting to mobile services.

The digital solutions for safety, payment, and passenger mobility were the sectors that most concerned airport executives at the Paris Air Show.

As the travel industry grows and adapts to the digital ecosystem, cybercrime is a real threat to the industry, and collaboration is a key to elevate its resilience to online fraud.

Delta Air Lines suing a vendor of customer service technology for a breach of passenger data, alleging the company had a weak password for its systems.

Chinese super-app WeChat now makes possible for flyers to pay offline on flights, and the bill will be stored on the app until the flight lands.

The car rental company Avis has focused on strategic partnerships to react to the expansion of ridesharing companies and other mobile-enabled services, and investing heavily in technology.


TripAdvisor and are working on alternative strategies to the traffic from Google as the search engine features its own travel services, Phocuswright notes on corporate travel in the U.S. and Despegar payment solutions in Argentina.

Phocuswright says corporate travel represents a third of the total travel market in the United States, and startups are driving innovation in this broad segment while large companies are investing in R&D, partnerships, and acquisitions.

While TripAdvisor saw overall revenues decline for its Hotels, Media & Platform falling short, the Experience & Dining revenues jumped by over a quarter to $125 million.

TripAdvisor is contemplating the introduction of a loyalty program and is taking steps to increase engagement from its members while traffic from Google is decreasing. The company also anticipates increased focus from regulators on the search engine's monopoly.

Booking Holdings has been making a push to tilt its marketing spend toward brand marketing in a bid to attract more direct traffic as opposed to performance channels such as Google.'s CEO Glenn Fogel says payment systems in travel must be seamless as one of the items for a complete end-to-end experience.

The Argentinian OTA Despegar has been using consumer financing as a crowbar to build its travel agency sales in Latin America, where many shoppers are reluctant to make big purchases online. 57% of their transactions in 2018 paid via installment payments.


Airbnb booked this August more room nights than Expedia and there is no reason to believe in the story of struggling owners anymore. Hostel Management launched a platform for booking hostels and Standard International launched a new app for guests.

Hostel Management has launched a platform to find and direct-book hostels,, as an alternative for the OTAs commissions.

The oversupply of hotel rooms across the Middle East is prompting conversations over whether third-party management agreements will be the future like those used in the U.S. and Europe. Many hotels in the region are still managed directly by operators or by an owner franchising a brand.

Fewer than half of the Airbnb hosts in the UK are renting out a solitary listing on the platform. Summing up the acquisitions of HotelTonight and Urbandoor, as well as the listings of hotels, guesthouses, and B&Bs, the struggling owners are story characters.

In the first quarter of 2019, Airbnb booked 91 million room nights versus 80.8 million for Expedia and the home-sharing platform has a large brand advantage over its competitors so as direct traffic to its website.

While Home & Villas by Marriott International is viewed as an important cog in the chain's loyalty and direct booking strategy, the hotelier still has to break out its home-sharing business as a single item on its financial statements.

Southeast Asia's budget hotel brand RedDoorz announced $70 million in new funding to launch in new markets in Southeast Asia and compete with Oyo.

One Night Inc.'s subsidiary Standard International is launching a recommendations-based app for customers.


Airbnb did one more acquisition and this August was intense in the European travel startup scene highlighting fundings, the best cities for travel startups followed by the expansion of Plug and Play.

Voyager HQ lists Berlin, Paris, Amsterdam, London, and Madrid as the best European cities for a travel startup by looking at the amount raised and on the prominent startups.

Plug and Play Travel & Hospitality is expanding to Europe bringing startups to the headquarters of participating corporations through a series of innovation days. The founding partners include Star Alliance, Brussels Airport Company, Swissport, and Vienna International Airport.

Airbnb acquired Urbandoor, a platform that offers short term corporate rentals.

An interview with the founder of Eddy Travels, an AI-enabled personal travel concierge using chat applications such as WhatsApp, Viber, Facebook Messenger, Slack, and Telegram.

Voopter and Viajala are two travel startups in Latin America growing through their websites to compare and choose the best travel deals. Group is turning its attention to potential deals outside the European market, looking at entering the Asia-Pacific market in the flight business.

Berlin-based planning and booking service Tourlane raised $47 million in C round for international expansion, product development, and hiring.

New York-based Tastemakers has raised $1 million to grow the number of experiences offered in the African continent and build machine learning capabilities.

Berlin-based COSI has raised €5 million while building proprietary technology and data platform connecting hospitality services, real state, and guest experiences on lifestyle apartments.

Recreational Vehicle rental platform PaulCamper has raised €7 million to expand operations and its business reach in Europe.

10 London-based travel startups to watch.

Barcelona-based Aervio has raised €750k to support its national and international expansion for its AI travel management platform.

With lots of love, yours truly,
Valentin Dombrovsky, Chief Alchemist at Travelabs, Andre Fernandes and Travel Tech Newsletter Team

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Valentin Dombrovsky
Chief Alchemist