Travelabs Insights: June 2019
The most important news and insights from travel tech scene worldwide
First of all, please, check out some updates on what Travelabs was up to recently and what new resources we have developed for travel tech community. And, please, share your feedback - we'll be happy to hear your ideas!

Singapore Airlines AppChallenge: The world's most awarded airline is looking for startups globally to further redefine travel in the 21st century. Stand a chance to win S$150k POC opportunities, cash prizes and a paid trip to Singapore to pitch your project and connect with SIA's mentors. This year's edition focuses on Passenger Experience, Aircraft Maintenance, Travel Ecosystem and Sustainability. Don't miss the flight! Sign up here!

British Airways hosted a unique competition for startups on a flight between San Francisco and London Heathrow, joining forces with Founders Forum to give startups the chance to pitch their ideas to judges onboard the flight through their high-speed Wi-Fi. Via the accelerator program Hangar 51, British Airways encourages startups to develop their products on a global scale.

As other segments in the travel industry, airlines compete with completely different verticals and industries for the customer experience, as described by Rom Hendler reflecting on the question "What business are we in?". If travel companies keep seeing each other solely as competitors, rather than potential partners, they may contribute to destructive possibilities for their own businesses.

Another question that comes with this British Airways' initiative, related to this video from the Phocuswright Europe 2019 is: is accelerating startups an alternative for companies to balance their strategical goals and the efforts taken by investments? Since corporates aren't exclusively focused on maximizing investments as VCs, investments tend to be set aside as secondary activity.

Explained on this article about the success of Airbnb and Uber, part of the reason why companies in the travel industry haven't encroached on each other's territory is on the high costs to go beyond their markets. Airlines need to buy airplanes, hoteliers need to build hotels, and so on. Airbnb, meanwhile, doesn't have any of these assets and can go into new aspects of the customer value chain on lower costs.

Following the discussion on investment, travel companies also must observe where people are spending money and time. Are they spending on food? On luxury? What else? Learning from the Asian super apps, travel companies can make money and margins on opportunities out of travel capitalizing their user base, and with lower user acquisition.

  • Airlines & Cruise: the importance of the holistic approach for airlines and cruises passengers.

  • Tours & Activities: this segment is being boosted by advances in booking technology and by users searching for experiences when traveling.

  • Hospitality & Homesharing: Airbnb also moving to tours, and Marriot using their rental platform to attract direct bookings.

  • Startups: highlights on funding, the lessons from Utrip, Plug and Play in Vienna, opportunities in Thailand. investing in unmanned flights, and more Israeli startups showing up.

  • Emerging Markets: travel market booming in India, startups from India, Kenya, Myanmar, and Cambodia.

  • Events & Surveys: Next events and CultureMee's survey looking for business travelers.

Airlines & Cruise

This month, three articles signing the need to approach airlines and cruise on a holistic perspective by following the traveler's journey.

The challenge in the cruise industry is that the engagement with the guest has not been holistic, while in the traveler's mindset, the experience includes everything from home to the destination, and heading back home.

Uber is launching its own helicopter service to transport commuters from John F. Kennedy Airport to downtown Manhattan.

Discovery and Inspiration, Inventory and Distribution, Search and Aggregation, Payments, Ports and Mobility, Corporate and Luxury Travel, Loyalty, and Operations were the roundtables organized to discuss the challenges of aviation industry on the last Voyager HQTravel Disruption Summit.

Tours & Activities

Advances in booking technology are pushing more solutions for tours and activities, and Google reports higher searches for experiences than for hotels and flights.

Should museums and destinations adopt Virtual Reality and Augmented Realitytechnologies?

The push to get travelers to book tours and activities through mobile apps and websites has never been more vigorous. Small and large companies are racing to aggregate existing group tours, activities and attractions followed by advances in booking technologies.

Research shows that in the 12 weeks leading up to a trip, there are 3X more experiences searches than hotel searches and 8X more experiences searches than air searches. Travelers who book ahead spend more on lodging and on transportation and almost half of experiences bookings happen in-destination.

Hospitality & Homesharing

Airbnb is also expanding to tours and Marriot using its rental platform as an extension of their direct booking strategy.

Marriott's new Home & Villas website focuses on keeping its customer base engaged and loyal to the company's ecosystem and can be seen as an extension of their direct-booking strategy.

Airbnb is entering the multi-day tours segment with the launch of Airbnb Adventures, and extension of Airbnb Experiences hosted by local experts.

Airbnb Luxe is built on the company's acquisition of Montreal-based Luxury Retreats in February 2017, curating 5,000 properties and giving guests access to a trip designer. And the company will begin adding luxury inventory in major metropolitan cities.


Highlights on funding, the lessons from Utrip's case, Plug and Play in Vienna Airport City, opportunities for travel tech in Thailand, investing on unmanned flights, and more Israeli startups showing up to solve problems in the travel industry.

We know travel startups run through rough roads. Utrip's recent case takes us to reflect about how travel startups can prioritize revenue growth, to not fetishize venture capital, and on the challenge of trip-planning startups overcoming poor track records.

Kiwi;com has made an investment in Zuri, a project that aims to introduce unmanned civilian flights to connect small towns to global transportation hubs.

Plug and Play is setting up a startup hub at the Airport City Vienna as the headquarters for Central and Eastern Europe to stimulate innovative business ideas on the programmes like "Travel & Hospitality" and "Smart Cities".

Travel marketplace for experiential multi-day and multi-destination packed trips Stride has raised $2.5 million seed round from JetBlue Ventures and NFX.

Setoo, Gamitee, Save a Train, Servicefriend, and CampInn are five Israeli startups that could make travel planning a lot easier.

Travel planning platform Jubel has raised $300,000 and their goals for 2019 include tripling sales, so as earning average tickets of $3,500.

The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) plans to use travel tech to expand tourism in the Nordic market, where more than 80% of travelers are independent tourists and there are many repeat visitors.

Korean hotel platform Yanolja has raised $180 million in Series D funding led by Booking Holdings and Singaporean sovereign wealth fund GIC.

London-based startup Duffel has raised $21.5 million for its travel distribution platform, currently in stealth mode, aiming to connect online agents, large online travel management companies and tour operators, with their end customers.

Singapore-based BeMyGuest raises a Series B funding round to expand its strategy of providing tools for suppliers of tours and activities.

VeloGuide wants to do for bike travel what Airbnb did for home sharing, working with guides around the world and including pro cyclists as well as experts.

10 European travel startups that aim to help travelers find their ideal destination and the best trips.

Singapore tourism board has launched the Singapore Tourism Acceleratortargeting travel tech startups from around the world for a 6-month program.

Emerging Markets

The travel market in Asia is booming in front of many unmet needs of rising middle-class and the infrastructure challenges. This month we present some startups from India, Kenya, Myanmar, and Cambodia.

The last five years have seen a constant 10-12% growth in outbound travelers from India, a large market with severely unmet needs, and the country is expected to become the 4th biggest market for the travel industry in the next 10 years after China, USA, and Germany.

Indian social travel commerce Airblack has received $1.5 million investmentfrom global equity firm SAIF Partners, which manages over $4 billion in assets across India and China.

Indian OTA EasyMyTrip has expanded its reach to the UK market, setting up a new workplace in London.

Kenyan startups Cloud9xp and HeartBeat Adventures have merged to provide a better customer experience combining the former's heavy investment in technology and partnerships with the ladder's experience in on-ground operations across different tourism spheres and customer service.

BookMeBus has made strides to solve the problem of bus transportation in Cambodia, and is now expanding into neighboring markets such as Thailand and Vietnam.

The biggest difficulty of running an OTA in Myanmar is facilitiating financial transactions. Only 2% of the population has a credit card, so the majority of transactions still require cash, similar to what Ctrip in China and Flipkart in India were experiencing in their early days.

Events & Surveys

A list of events and the ongoing survey by CultureMee looking for business travelers to interview.

CultureMee is looking to interview travelers who are either business travelers or business students. If you would like to participate, contact at the email address and more details you can check on this video.

Singapore Airlines AppChallenge on its 5th edition! The airline looks for startups globally focusing this year on 6 problem statements related to Aircraft Maintenance, Airport Operations, SilverKris Lounge, Product Innovation, Kris Shop, and Resource Management. Participants can win up to S$150k development funds, S$ 21k cash prizes, paid trip to pitch your project, and mentoring by Singaporean Airlines.

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