Travelabs Insights: July 2018
The most important news and insights from travel tech scene worldwide
Day by day, the travel industry is handling a massive volume of data, which doesn't stop to grow.

Imagine your journey from the moment you consider travel to a particular destination, passing by booking flights, accommodation, activities and everything else you need.

How do you usually do it? Where do you search for the information you need? Where do you book the services you hire? How do you decide about a destination?

And what if you travel using a wheelchair? Where can you take an accessible transportation? At what time? Where do you find the assistance you need? What about an accessible accommodation? Can you move easily in the area nearby the accommodation?

Just a couple of questions that reflect the real challenge travel companies face on mapping the travelers' journey, as well as their points of friction during their trips.

As travel tech advances, companies across several sectors face challenges on how to take advantage of digital channels and address travelers' pain points.

While online channels give travelers a wide range of choices, travel companies need to understand travelers' motivations and on which buying process they are in order to address their needs.

Below, we selected the most important news on travel tech organized in the following topics:

  • Business: digital strategies for address points of frictions and travelers' motivations.
  • Airlines: how airlines can leverage data and take advantage of tech solutions?
  • Hospitality: impact of tech and short-rental platforms on hotel operations and what tech companies must understand about hotels' marketing versus revenue management.
  • AI: opportunities for AI improve travel companies' customer support.
  • Startups: funding and acquisitions during July 2018.
  • China: Airbnb and Booking Holdings grounding in China and mobile payment expanding to airports.
  • Events and opportunities: news about upcoming events - Travel Tech Conference Russia and UNWTO startup competition.


How travel companies can use digital strategies to address the points of friction and understand the travelers' motivations?

On July 5th, the App Store has completed 10 years of existence. 2 million apps laters, there is a lot of room for airlines and travel brands position their apps for their overall digital strategy.

lastmibute's Travel People allows clients to advertise across 5 brands and 9 external sites run by partners to reach customer across European travel websites.

The Importance of Understanding Travelers' Motivation takes as its starting point the fact that online channels can give consumers a broad range of choices to consider, so sales channel design that inspires purchase is critical.

What travel companies need to know about Latin America's travelers, who are price conscious and usually undecided when they begin the travel search process.

According to CMO, the biggest point of friction in the travel industry is that you don't know what you don't know.

Sabre is moving to encourage more collaboration on building data and analytics solutions, since its offers also rely on data generated in the passenger service systems and other airlines' software.

Travelers are increasingly forgoing longer vacations in favor of more frequent weekend gateways to ease their travel bug.


How can airlines leverage data and take advantage from tech solutions?

Lufthansa's platform helps passengers check in for flights on more than 200 carriers, even customers flying with other airlines. Why? Because the company can monitor trends by the generated data, despite the limits of information.

Routehappy and KDS have signed a multi-year subscription deal to boost the KDS Neo integrating it to Routehappy airline data.

KLM Royal Dutch Airlines has developed a prototype robot companion Care-E, a smart self-driving baggage trolley that can guide passengers through the airport.

Airlines want to leverage the rich customer data they hold, taking advantage from new AI technologies combined with new distribution standards.

JetBlue Technology Ventures and Air New Zealand will work together to build a tech innovation ecosystem seeking out emerging technologies in the travel industry.

The Entertainer has developed a trip-planning and in-destination discounts app for members of the Emirates loyalty scheme, Skywards.

Ryanair believes airline apps are perfect for last-minute upselling and that technology can be contribute for the safety of the airports.

Singapore Airlines has launched a digital blockhain wallet that allows members of KrisFlyer program convert their air miles into digital currency.


The opportunities and challenges of tech on hotel operations, the impact of short-term rental platforms in the hospitality sector. And the tension between marketing versus revenue management.

Finding hotels and other lodgings that are accessible to people with physical disabilities can be a challenge, as the information is often not signposted on major booking search sites and mobile apps. About 1 out of 10 people face sight, hearing or mobility issues.

Did you know that for every hotel revenue manager there are two hotel marketers? More than a fun fact, startups targeting hotels must understand the tension between marketers and revenue managers.

Booking's CEO Glenn Fogel believes the company has advantages over Airbnb: it lists hotels and home side by side in one place. He also mentions Airbnb has lots of frictions of email exchanges back and forth until deal a rent.

Booking Holdings buys Australia-based HotelsCombined, which will become part of Kayak unit and of its expansion plan in Asia Pacific.

Study finds that 56% of organic searches in the travel and hospitality industry are open to competition, tracking terms used to find products, services and information in 2018.

Jeroen Merchiers, Airbnb's managing director for Europe, Middle East and Africa, believes homesharing is becoming mass-market.

If Airbnb go public, it may likely have a market capitalization larger than any hotel company - and be on par with some of the biggest online travel agencies.

Often unregulated and in the form of informal exchanges, short-term rental is the biggest disruptors in the travel industry, with a long story in many countries.

Hotels have evolved to a technology-dependent industry. However, tech dependency doesn't necessarily mean the users are tech savvy, even when it comes to digital natives.

Hotels are achieving higher average daily rates from consumers who book packages rather than just rooms, according to Expedia.

Sabre integrates listings into its industry-first content services for lodging platform.

Alibaba and Marriot have announced facial recognition check-in pilot with Fliggy, Alibaba's travel service platform.

Marriot is leading the charge on placing Amazon Alexa devices in its hotel rooms across the U.S.. For now, voice represents a challenge to the travel sector with no easy solution.

InterContinental Hotels Group announced that it has cooperated with Baidu Inc to launch AI smart rooms at its hotel in Sanlitun, located in Beijing's Chaoyang district.


AI is expected to support travel companies on improve their customer support and enhance brand experiences with consumers.

Chinese travel tech companies make progress with AI handling massive data volumes, crafting advanced algorithms and improvements in computing storage.

AI is stepping up to help passengers befriend airlines' customer reps, strongly considered as part of customer service strategies on next 5 years.

Way2VAT has earned a patent for a new AI powered technology that aims to simplify VAT claims and travel expense management.

Consumers want chatbots to feel human, not look human. Study finds that consumers are ready to embrace AI support and that AI interactions, if properly designed, can enhance the personal connection they feel to brands.

Online travel booking and expense management company Serko and Orbit World Travel have signed a deal to offer new AI travel system to corporate travelers.


News on funding and acquisitions during July. In addition to tours and activities, this newsletter brings news about startups working on luggage storage and medical tourism.

The luggage storage startup Stasher has won the Hotel Jumpstart, the accelerator program from Expedia Affiliate Network.

Based on the AirBnB model, Stasher works with a network of shops and hotelswho have secure extra space for travelers to leave their bags.

Southeast Asian restaurant booking platform Eatigo has secured more funding from TripAdvisor. Its model is based on helping restaurants secure more bookings during off-peak hours.

Destination experiences app Headout has secured $10 million in new investment to fund expansion for more cities, more languages and branded experiences.

7 Israeli startups looking to revolutionize the travel industry and what they are developing.

Malaysia-based travel platform Tourplus announced RM 500,000 in pre-seed funding. The platform connects travellers with tour guides around the Southeast Asia region.

Medical tourism startups seek patients to travel for major surgeries. The medical tourism industry was valued at $68 billion by PwC in 2016.

And startups from Berlin to Bangkok are trying to serve medical tourists as Airbnb or does for the general public.

Indian travel startups that are taking innovative route to reach out millennials.

Airlines, hotels and Silicon Valley heavyweights bit to connect data and gain a fuller picture of a traveler's journey, spending and online research habits. By now, companies rely on guesswork.

6 takeaways we can learn about The Oral History of travel's greatest acquisition

The app-focused rail and airline upgrade tech specialist Seatfrog has confirmed a £4.5 million Series A funding round, to build its team, data science, product and engineering.

Vacation rental software Lodgify has secured $5 million in fundraising, which will be used for speed up expansion plans.

TripActions has started expanding globally. The company raised $51 million Series B round in March 2018, which will use to staff service centers in Europe, Middle East and Asia-Pacific.

Rateboard wants to help leisure hotels provide the right price to the right guest.

Members only luxury deals site Secret Escapes has raised £52 million to execute strategic projects such as in-house hotel and flight packaging across established markets.

Multi-modal search and booking engine GoEuro has added 3 new destinations and 6 new languages as it heads towards its mid-2019 target covering all of Europe.


Airbnb and Booking Holdings are grounding in China, while Alipay and WeChat are expanding mobile payment to airports.

Airbnb China will have a new head of operations, Tao Peng, co-founder of the short-term rental platform City Home. It's expect that Airbnb and City Home will work closely with one another.

WeChat will continue to focus almost exclusively on Chinese outbound tourists for the next 3 years.

Following the Chinese outbound tourism boom, WeChat and Alipay are moving towards airports to sign deals on mobile payments.

Maintain an official account, relevant content and invest in various search properties are the 3 ways to optimize brands' SEO on WeChat.

Booking Holdings invests $500 million in DiDi and announced a partnership based on cross-selling each other's inventory. The investment is another opportunity for Booking solidify its presence in China.

By the Booking Holdings' investments, Didi will be able to sell its ride-hailing services through Booking's platforms and to promote its app for non-Chinese consumers.

Events and opportunities

Travel tech events coming up in Moscow and the first UNWTO startups competition is open for applications.

Travel Tech Conference Russia will happen on October 4, in Moscow. On its 3rd edition, the event includes presentation of latest developments in travel technology in the pitch competition. There will also be discussions on tech trends, travel startups, tech opportunities for hotels and airlines. Startups from EMEA region can apply for travel startups pitch competition to have an opportunity to win a ticket to Phocuswright Europe 2019. Applications are open till August 20.

The first UNWTO Tourism Startup Competition is open for applications until September 3rd. Projects should focus on Future of Travel, Experience of Tourism, Environmental Impact and Community Development.

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