Travelabs Insights: January 2019
The most important news and insights from travel tech scene worldwide
Demanded by customers and adopted by suppliers, new combinations of packaging capabilities permit travelers to book their trip in a personalized manner, combining different services such as flights with a hotel, for example, instead of static offers.

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The most important trend in the in the travel industry over the next years is customer journey mapping - understanding the customer, taking them through a journey and making sure the provide content is relevant.

Understanding the user journeys across channels and devices is critical to the success of brands nowadays, nothing different in the travel industry. While searching for the best products, deals, and reviews, travelers switch among websites, apps, and mobile sites before making a final decision.

A recent Google search shows that 87% of people say they can be loyal to a brand without having its app on their phone. In fact, 53% of smartphone users say they don't have their favorite brand's app installed on their phone. Alongside the technologies, new trends are being optimized by the latest innovations in the travel industry, such as bleisure, remote work, and self-service.

Anyway, as presented on previous newsletters, technology is allowing travelers to enjoy experiences each day more adapted to their particular tastes and needs. And the success of travel companies relies on extracting relevant information about their consumers' habits and behaviors.

So, on this newsletter, we share news emphasizing the customer experience facing the current trends and challenges related to travel tech on the following topics:

  • Airlines, Cruise & OTAs: latest tech solutions for airlines, hotels, OTAs and Princess Cruises' Medallion.
  • Data Security: dilemmas on privacy issues and new challenges given by international terrorism.
  • Hospitality Sector: Marriott-Expedia pact and news on different approaches to home rental.
  • Machine Learning & AI: trends towards personalization and cognitive technology.
  • Startups: the latest highlights on funding in travel tech.
  • China, India & Emerging Markets: Chinese mobile payment, lessons from the Indian market and startups in Africa.
  • Events: upcoming important events for travel tech.

Airlines, Cruise & OTAs

How will the new technologies affect the hotels and airlines distribution? Who will have the power of these markets distribution over the next years?

Princess Cruises has launched the Medallion, a connected physical token that stores the cruise passenger's personal data and acts as their cabin key. This technology has recently been adopted by Carnival Cruise for their PlayOcean platform.

Google starts piloting voice products for airlines and hotels, working in collaboration with United for flights and with Hyatt on a translation device.

Airline mobile applications have experienced a 55% growth in average monthly active users between 2016 and 2018.

Who will have the power on airlines distribution on the next 10 years? Tech giants? The airlines? How will airlines and existing distribution players position themselves in this world dominated by the digital gatekeepers?

TripAdvisor is introducing Sponsored Placements to its Experiences division - specifically, to qualified Bokun suppliers - following similar rollouts of the program to its Hotels and Restaurants sectors.

Travelport Digital's Mobile Travel Trends gives a view of what travelers want and what the industry can do to meet their needs regarding to mobile experiences.

Data security

The current issues on data privacy and international terrorism are putting more fire to the topic of data security. What solutions can satisfy both customer and travel companies?

Safety and security have always been a key consideration in event planning, but new threats from terrorism and pandemics are increasing the need for diligence.

Privacy International found that TripAvisor, Skyscanner, Kayak and Yelp had all transferred data to Facebook once users opened their respective apps, but only Skyscanner and Kayak tied the data sent to users' Google ad IDs.

Marriott believes that approximately 5.25 million unencrypted passport numbers were part of the breach, one of the largest customer data security breaches in recent history.

Hospitality Sector

Will Airbnb make more acquisitions in 2019? TripAdvisor partnered with Guesty and HomeExchange is enabling homeowners to pay a membership fee.

If it produces reduced 10 percent commissions for Marriott, a new Marriott-Expedia pact could potentially put pressure on Expedia to make concessions to other brands such as Hilton, Hyatt, and InterContinental, although Marriott is the largest hotel brand.

TripAdvisor's Rentals business is part of a holistic approach to travel planning and booking experience, according to the senior director Debbie Pope. The company announced a new partnership with the property management platform Guesty.

Will Airbnb acquire HotelTonight? Adding HotelTonight to its portfolio, Airbnb could drive hotels to round out its alternative accommodations offerings and expand its core business towards people booking vacations.

Airbnb has acquired the booking site Gaest, that helps business book off-site spaces for meetings and events. The deal outlines a growing interest in the automation of meeting venue discovery and bookings.

HomeExchange has launched a new website and platform following integration with GuestToGuest's technology over the past year. The platform enables homeowners to pay a $150 annual membership fee.

Canada-based Cozystay, a vacation rental platform serving Chinese travelers, has added its first properties in China with the acquisition with Oak Properties.

Machine Learning & AI

What solutions for personalized services, cognitive technology, and AI will come in 2019?

By analyzing large datasets, the AI-infused travel systems can generate super personalized suggestions for the travelers, and optimize sales, prices, and opportunities for marketing.

The Lufthansa Group and the Lufthansa Innovation Hub have entered into a research alliance with Hopper focused on artificial intelligence, following investments in the startups Fleet Logistics and

The Deloitte 2019 U.S. Travel and Hospitality Outlook points the mix of operations carried out by and between people combined with the unpredictability of traveler preferences and travel patterns as opportunities for cognitive technology in terms of insight, automation, and engagement.


Phocuswright's list of travel incubators and investors, followed by the latest highlights on funding in travel tech.

Phocuswright has tracked the launch of more than 80 travel-focused accelerators, incubators, early-stage investors and entrepreneur support programs in the last five to seven years.

RV rental marketplace Outdoorsy raises $50 million in Series C funding. Its peer-to-peer marketplace gives travelers access to this form of alternative travel and lodging.

Polarsteps raised €3 million funding in a Series A round led by INKEF Capital and will continue developing its automated travel blogging app and expanding the team.

Uplift banks $123 million round to expand travel payment service on multiple fronts. The company aims to develop new partnerships with travel brands and introduce new travel services.

Israeli startup Refundit won first place at the UNWTO startup competition in partnership with Globalia. Their platform enables travelers to submit VAT refund requests before reaching the airport.

China, India and Emerging Markets

The travel tech is also getting excited in emerging markets. We bring news from Asia, as usual, and this month a new about startups innovating in the African continent.

Chinese tourists are willing to spend money where mobile payments like Alipay and WeChat are accepted, no overseas retailer reliant on Chinese travelers should underestimate the value of such mobile payment options.

How online travel shakes out in India, with its internet-savvy and growing middle class, will teach the global sector lessons on competition, pricing, and marketing - and on how to tailor products locally. Rail will be a critical factor that will likely determine who leads in India's online travel race.

Indian price comparison and booking platform Ixigo is launching a new business to develop technology innovation for airlines based on their expertise in mobile-first experience, consumer experiences, growth marketing, AI, personalization, and voice assistants.

A handful of startups are offering customers more control over the details of their trips in the African continent, such as Timbuktu,, Travelstart, and Jumia.

Singapore-based Travelstop, which aims to disrupt the corporate travel management space in Asia, is localizing its platform in seven languages in Indonesia, Thailand, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Japan, South Korea, and Vietnam.


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

Travel Technology Europe happens on 20-21 February, in London. The event focus on tech solutions and the latest innovations for the travel industry, gathering IT, marketers and commercial management. Also on 20-21 February, Business Travel Show takes place in London, dedicated to travel buyers and managers.

Arival Berlin takes place on 4-5 March, dedicated to companies working on in-destination travel experiences, tours, activities, and attractions.

ITB Berlin 2019 will happen on 6-10 March, including the latest trends on travel tech and global travel industry. In parallel to the event, there will be the ITB Berlin Convention.

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. The session is organized by the team behind Travel Tech Conference Russia.

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