Travelabs Insights: February 2019
The most important news and insights from travel tech scene worldwide
Lonely Planet has bought the destination content company ArrivalGuides, whose channel will allow the guidebook to explore more aggressively a B2B strategy and new partnership models. Following the trend of customers journey mapping, covered in the January newsletter, and travelers searching across multiple platforms before making any final decision, the legacy guidebook is moving to become an "omnichannel travel platform", as said by the new CEO Luis Cabrera.

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Planning to explore new models of partnership and thinking about Lonely Planet as a travel platform, not only as a guidebook, Cabrera also considers launching new ventures like festivals, tours, and even a membership program.

Another big company that confirms the trend of travel platform is TripAdvisor, which has been expanding its business to tours, activities, and restaurants, as shown on previous newsletters. Excluding the alternative accommodation, TripAdvisor's non-hotel segment has grown up to 40% of its mix. Important to remember that the company had acquired the tours and activities startup Bokun inn 2018.

Will Instagram consolidate itself as a booking platform for travel companies? Will Airbnb move to transportation segment? Only the time will say, for now, we gather on current possibilities and discussions organized by the topics below.

  • OTAs & Business: OTAs diversifying their business and Instagram moving to book functionality.
  • Airlines & Transportation: Asian tech scene is booming and the challenge of airlines managing huge in-house data systems.
  • Hospitality: acquisitions in the hospitality industry and hotel tech moving beyond rooms.
  • Startups: Challenges for travel startups on recruitment and important news from February 2019.
  • China & India: Highlights of Indian and Chinese travel startup scene, and particular highlight on how bureaucracies impact startups in India.
  • Events: upcoming important events for travel tech

OTAs & Business

OTAs are also diversifying their offers and business strategies as travelers search across multiple platforms. Another highlight of the travel industry is Instagram moving to book functionality.

The online travel agency business has largely been built around selling hotel stays and is diversifying towards tours and activities, restaurants, food delivery, and ridesharing.

Expedia struggles to move beyond the U.S. market. During 2018, the company earned internationally 44,73% of its $11.2 billion revenue and blames Trivago for referring fewer customers in the last year.

In contrast to 2015, when Expedia Group executed seven mergers at a price tag of some $5.74 billion, the company has a less-is-more approach to mergers in 2018.

TUI plans to cut distribution costs and concentrate more on online and direct bookings, and estimates a potential $170 billion opportunity for tours and activities division.

While the general best practice of price-comparison search companies has been to try to refer to customers as quickly as possible to advertisers. However, Trivago is moving on attracting more repeat customers than referring as many customers to advertisers as possible.

E-commerce and transactions, as well as travel bookings, will get a lot of attention with Instagram moving to book functionality.

Chasing audiences on social media can be tricky due to the challenges of proving ROI, on match display and social results in the lack of cross-platform tracking, and changes on the popularity of social media channels. And Facebook and Instagram remain as the top channels for travel marketers.

Airlines & Transportation

While we don't know if Airbnb will move to transportation, airlines face the huge challenge of operating a big in-house data system. Asia tech booming attracts Lufthansa and Singapore Airlines for innovation hubs, and Asian travelers are eager to rail routes.

How will Airbnb delve into transportation? Although unclear, Airbnb gives clear signs of moving on transportation hiring the aviation industry veteran Fred Reidto be the head of transportation.

Moving to cloud computing, airlines can reduce the huge expense of operating a big in-house data system and staffing with I.T. experts. Meanwhile, keeping track of all that data is beyond the means of any airlines' I.T. department.

Ryanair has unveiled a number of new customer care initiatives for 2019, including digital improvements such as a new fare finder, sports ticket booking on its website, travel guides, and a faster mobile app.

A race among online travel platforms in Asia to be the dominant one-stop shop for consumers to book rail is starting, thanks to a desire of travelers to explore other countries on tracks. Asian consumers who are used to sophisticated rail networks at home have become used to mapping out train journeys.

The Colombian airlines Viva Air has launched the innovation lab Viva Air Labs, seeing to be Latin America's most innovative airline company.

Lufthansa Group opened the first foreign offshoot innovation in Singapore, and Singapore Airlines opened KrisLab. Both airlines aim to explore the tech boom in Asia for improving customer experience.


Airbnb's acquisition of Gaest and Shiji's of IcePortal show trends of hospitality moving beyond rooms and reservations.

Will Airbnb fall on the egomania trap? In the last six years, OTAs have shown egos about their own technologies and that connectivity boosts bookings dramatically.

Airbnb has acquired the booking site Gaest, which helps business people book off-site spaces for meetings and events.

The hospitality tech giant Shiji has acquired IcePortal, a small firm that helps hoteliers manage the digital imagery of their properties and display them correctly on distribution partners like travel agencies.

Recharge, a mobile app that lets users book hotel rooms by the minute, is launching a home-share unit alongside a strategic investment from Fifth Wall.

The U.S private equity firm Accel-KKR is betting on growth in hotel technologyby underwriting the merger of two hospitality technology providers Travel Tripper and Pegasus, companies that provide central reservation systems.


What are the challenges for your startup on finding talents? As usual, we gather important news about the investments, fundings, and acquisitions in February 2019.

Finding the needed technical talent for a travel startup can be a real challenge. Here 15 pieces of hiring advices from travel startups CTOs interviewed by VoyagerHQ.

Secret Escapes has agreed to buy for an undisclosed amount, expanding its operation in Ireland.

Voyager HQ and JetBlue Technology Ventures are expanding to Boston, providing local travel startups a place to gather monthly with like-minded professionals.

Future Travel Experience (FTE) has unveiled the FTE Innovation & Startup Hub as part of its ongoing efforts to play a central role in driving innovation within the air transport industry.

Refundit is a travel startup designed to transform the VAT refund scheme for tourists in Europe, creating a fully digital process that allows travelers to submit their requests through a mobile app.

GoEuro is a getting a new name, Omio, which will gradually take place across the year and the company has earmarked South America, Asia, and the U.S. as future markets.

LAB Miami Ventures has announced Destygo and Pruvo as the winners of the Expedia Group Startup Pitch Competition at the Future of Travel Tech Summit by JetBlue Technology Ventures.

Boston travel startup had a 423% growth in annual travel bookings in 2018. And the company plans to double its headcount from 60 people to 120.

Softbank is closing in on an investment in GetYourGuide, the online travel guide and booking website.

German startup MOTIONTAG wins the competition Mobility with a solution that aims to improve 'pay-as-you-go' ticketing and mobility intelligence.

Barcelona-based FlyKube raises €400k to expand internationally and develop new technologies. This startup offers "surprise" travel packages for budget travelers.

China & India

Highlights about Chinese and Indian travel startup scene, challenges and opportunities in China, and particular attention to the challenges of Indian startups with bureaucracies and tax regimes, endemic in most of the developing countries.

Chinese tech startups are finding fertile ground in Japan by offering smartphone-based services to compatriots about real estate and tourist attractions.

The robust travel industry in China is spurring a substantial startup activity. William Bao Bean, the general partner at SOSV, talks about the challenges of Chinese travel startups and opportunities in areas such as experiences and benefits for existing travel suppliers.

With the government making moves to the taxation of startups in India, one of the biggest concerns for startup founders is - Is this the environment I want to build my startup in? Guidelines have never been clear and despite assurances, founders are still being penalized.

Indian startup Pickyourtrail raises $3 million in funding to expand its tech team, scale its platform and create brand awareness. Pickyourtrail helps travelers plan and customize their international travels, and book multi-country vacations online.


In 2019, events will be booming in the travel industry between February and May, and we list the upcoming important events for travel tech.

MITT (Moscow International Travel & Tourism Exhibition) will happen on 12-14 March. On March 12, the event will host the MITT Digital Conference, dedicated to major travel tech trends.

Analytics & AI In Travel North America, by EyeforTravel, happens in San Francisco on March 14-15. The event gathers data, pricing, digital marketing, and automation executives.

Skift Forum Europe will happen in London on April 30. The event is focused on the top marketers, strategists, and technologists in the travel industry.

On 15-16 May, Phocuswright Europe takes place in Amsterdam. The event will set the stage on the online travel market, travel tech and innovation in the European market.

EyeforTravel's Digital Strategy Summit happens in London on May 21-22. A conference and exhibition gathering leaders from hotels, airlines, OTAs and tour operators, and case studies using digital technologies.

Voyager HQ Disruption Summit, happens in New York, on May 22. The event is dedicated for leaders and technologists in the travel industry.

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