Travelabs Insights: January 2020
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 January 2020

In 2020, the World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) ran the second edition of the UNWTO Global Tourism Startup Competition in partnership with Wakalua, the global tourism innovation hub powered by Globalia.

It's the biggest global travel startups competition with the participation of more than 5,000 startups from 150 countries. The leading countries in the number of proposals were Spain, India, United States, Portugal, Nigeria, and Colombia. The seven finalists presented their projects at the Wakalua headquarters in Madrid.

And in this newsletter, we highlight the startups that were selected for the final phase of the competition, accompanied by important news right at the beginning of the year by the following division:

Meet Travelabs: upcoming travel technology events where you can meet Travelabs founder Valentin Dombrovsky.

UNWTO Startup Competition Finalists: an intro of the selected travel startups of the last UNWTO competition.

More on travel startups: the acquisitions and funding announced at the beginning of 2020.

Business: Lonely Planet, TUI Group, Booking and Despegar moving with new growth strategies in the digital landscape.

Meet Travelabs

Here are some of the events where Travelabs founder Valentin Dombrovsky is going to be present:

February 26-27: Travel Technology Europe, London. Valentin is going to be one of the experts at the Advice Clinic - feel free to sign up for the advice on your startup business or if you have questions on business development.
March 10: Uzakrota Balkan Summit, Belgrade. Valentin will be sharing some startup wisdom on stage at the event.
March 17: MITT Digital at MITT, Moscow. Travelabs is coorganizing this session dedicated to travel technology trends and digital tools for travel business - come and listen to experts from Russia and beyond (synchronous translation of the session is provided).
Feel free to email at if you want to meet at one of these events. We'd be happy to discuss travel startups needs as well as opportunities for your business with Stay22 where Valentin has taken the position of Head of Growth, EMEA recently.
UNWTO Startup Competition Finalists

In this section, we are going to highlight 14 startups that were finalists of the 2nd UNWTO Global Tourism Startup Competition, selected by the categories of deep tech, smart mobility, smart destinations, disruptive hospitality, rural development, and sustainability.

Klustera, Mexico

Their website is currently under development. Its platform does data collection combining location data with AI to identify attractions, the nearest airports, and optimize reviews.

Rutopia, Mexico

Selected for the Rural Development category, this startup was "escalated" by Airbnb and has won the "Hult Award" for its ecotourism model.

TravelX, India

Its solution aims to help airports and airlines to increase retail sales while delivering a delightful experience for passengers through its AI-empowered discovery of shopping and food options.

Eccocar, Spain

A carsharing platform that manages, controls, and optimizes a fleet of cars and vans from its SaaS platform.

Adventure Junky, Australia

Its platform proposes tangible solutions for urgent problems arising from tourism through awareness, education, and offset programs.

i-likelocal, Netherlands

Currently, in 19 countries, it curates off-the-beaten travel experiences designed by locals across Asia and Africa, backed by creating a social impact for local communities.

Hackpacking, Peru

Delivers customers clean and comfortable clothes for travelers not willing to stress out about luggage and weight fees when flying.

Zeleros, Spain

Leading the hyperloop development, this Valencia-based startup aims to reduce the infrastructure costs and operate at safer pressures for the passengers by focusing on vehicle optimization. They are currently preparing the construction of its own 2 km test-track.

Road.Travel, Russia

Offers curated itineraries designed by travelers and experts, including hotels, places to visit, and routes, and a budget optimization feature.

Visualfy, Spain

Offers solutions for auditive accessibility for hotels and tourism businesses, including call center services, communication materials, alarms, and other facilities to help travelers with auditive disabilities have a comfortable experience.

Questo, Romania

Present in more than 50 cities across 15 countries, this startup helps travelers discover new places while finding their hidden stories through a fictional story on their own, whenever they want.

La Voyageuse, France

Accommodation platform for women who can be hosts as well as travelers, perfect for those who are planning a solo trip.

Live Electric Tours, Portugal

Offers tours on a 100% electric car, a Renault Twizzy, right now in the cities of Lisbon, Porto, and Évora. The cars are equipped with WiFi, USB charging points and a live camera that allows travelers to livestream their urban trip.

Pikala, Morocco

Offers professional bicycle tours while educating and employing Moroccan youth in the tourism industry, creating an option for extra income facing the high unemployment rates in the country.

More on Travel Startups

Fairportal and VoyagerQ starting a new la program, Bradt Guides moving to digital platforms, ByHours and Stasher expanding as additional revenues for hospitality, Xie Zhu Technology expanding in Asia and Qtrip targeting business travelers.

Farportal and Voyager HQ are a new lab program to empower travel startups and the initial projects are expected to begin around the end of March.

In November 2019, Bradt Guides acquired Footprint, bringing together the two biggest independent travel publishers in the UK. And in January 2020, Bradt Guides has signed a partnership with the NYC-based Tiplr.

Xie Zhu Technology raised $37 million to develop new tech, expand into new markets in Southeast Asia, and prepare for a potential IPO in 2020. They use the Artificial Intelligence of Things to cultivate hotel guest room systems.

Founded by Jeff Klee, Qtrip will focus on appeal to business travelers who do their own bookings and travelers who care more about value than prices.

TripActions is expanding in Europe bolstered by investment and partnership with Lufthansa Innovation Hub.

Barcelona-based ByHours has raised €8 million to consolidate its presence in Europe and Latin America, and start operating in the United States.

The luggage-storage startup Stasher has raised $2.5 million and it's already present in 200 cities.


Lonely Planet moving to tours, TUI Group looking to grow its luxury cruise business, Booking launched its digital guide in app format, Despegar acquired the Mexican OTA Best Day.

Booking launches the app CityBook, a digital guide for destinations that combine content, planning tools such as maps, navigation, and experiences. The first cities in the guide are Amsterdam, London, and Paris; and the next ones will be New York, Barcelona, Berlin, and Rome.

TUI Group announced that it is looking into capital-light growth options for its luxury cruises subsidiary Hapag-Loyd, including a joint venture with an international partner.

Following the acquisitions of Arrival and TRILL Travel in 2019, Lonely Planet has partnered with Intrepid Travel to unveil tours under the name Lonely Planet Experiences.

Argentinian OTA Despegar purchased Best Day Travel Group from Mexico for $136 million. The acquisition will leverage the Despegar's hotel presence in Latin America as Best Day is established in wholesale hotel offerings and destination services.

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