Travelabs Insights: May 2019
The most important news and insights from travel tech scene worldwide
According to Itai Green, from Israel Travel Tech Startups, travel tech is growing around the world as more corporations and tourism ministries are realizing that without embedding innovation, they will lose market share. As technology grows really fast, the travel industry needs to work with an "eyes on tomorrow" mindset instead of the arrogance of success. While corporations need entrepreneurs to stay relevant to their businesses, startuppers need corporations because they have the know-how.

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As a lesson learned from other industries and previous tech bubbles like the dot-com companies in the beginning of the 2000s, also discussed on Peter Thiel's book From Zero to One, technology is a tool, not a rival for travel industry players. Digital platforms and apps won't be substitutes for travel agencies, tour companies, guidebooks, etc. They will be complements. Better technologies will allow airlines, travel agents, publishers, tourism boards, hoteliers, and other stakeholders to do their jobs better and become more relevant in their businesses.

So in this newsletter, we share the highlights of May considering the opportunities and last news on travel tech, divided by the following topics:

  • Travel Market: opportunities booming in Asia and in the Middle East, the problems on payment landscape, and the challenges of airlines becoming more relevant for travelers.

  • Hospitality & Short-term Rental: the ecossystem of short-term rental business pushed by Airbnb and the increasing competition among hotels, rental platforms, and OTAs.

  • Tours & Activities: GetYourGuide receiving more funding, Google advancing with its travel platform, Amadeus expanding to China, and testing a pilot.

  • Startups: highlights about startup scene in Asia, Latin America, and the Romanian app Questo.

Travel Market

Asia and the Middle East are booming in terms of opportunities for the travel industry, payment landscape remains a headache for travelers, and airlines face the challenge on how to become more relevant rather than just selling tickets.

What is the best way to get foreign currency? This has been a necessary headache within the traveler's journey as the process of exchanging foreign currency doesn't come with fair fees and transparency.

Asia and the Middle East are critical for the future of companies looking for new growth. Chinese apps WeChat and Alipay are expanding their eco-systems, and the Middle East region struggles with a fragmented payment landscape.

France, Germany and the UK are the three largest markets for the travel industry in Europe, according to this infographic by Phocuswright Europe.

Airlines have been adding other travel products to their portfolios such as hotels, transportation, and activities. However, becoming a true travel marketplace and a true digital travel agent is a different thing, while flights become secondary when customers think about their trips or vacation. According to Itzok Franko, airlines can be more relevant and increase the frequency of demand adding more products but it would take a serious shift in mindset, marketing and online retailing to become a real OTA.

Amsterdam Schiphol launched Europe's first flagship WeChat Pay Smart Airport, aiming to increase the travel and retail experience of the growing number of Chinese passengers at the airport.

Amazon has begun offering domestic flights in India in partnership with Indian OTA Cleartrip, giving signs of testing ways to get back into the travel industry.

Are travel guidebooks dead? Overcoming the competition with digital platforms, travel guidebooks continue to thrive among consumers looking for reliable, trustworthy and curated information while digital platforms have their credibility in doubt due to the wave of fake news.

Hospitality & Short-term Rental

Short-term rental startups are booming after Airbnb's consolidation in the travel industry, hotels looking for solutions to capture the traveler's attention competing with OTAs, private accommodations, and rental platforms.

Airbnb has transformed the travel sector spawning a whole ecosystem of startups, and NoiseAware is one of the hundreds of startups riding the coattails of the home sharing platform and its competitors.

The short-term rental startups BnbBuddy, The London Residents Club, Hintown ad RentExperience have combined to form a new startup called Altido. This combination sums up about 1,700 properties in 21 European destinations.

ThirdHome has grown to more than 11,000 luxury properties in 92 countries. Its business model is based on a community of peers who also own high-end second homes, reciprocity among the peers, and flexibility to book a pool of nights.

Vietnam-based Luxstay has completed a new round of funding with investors from Korea. The startup focuses on premium travel accommodations and domestic tourism.

Hilton and Lyft are linking loyalty programs to allow Lyft passengers the ability to earn Hilton Honors points with every ride, and later, it'll be possible to use Honor Points to pay for shared car rides.

Despite a battle for bookings among hotels, private accommodations, and OTAs, travelers come out on top as the real winners. But the fight for capture travelers' attention leaves the hospitality industry in a situation of bigger competitions and pending legislation, as described by Phocuswright Europe.

Tours & Activities

Tours and activities with more news confirming its momentum. GetYourGuide getting raising more funds, Amadeus expanding to China, Google advancing with its travel platform, and launching a pilot in 10 cities.

GetYourGuide's new $484 million infusion signs interest in the travel experiences segment and the company may seek acquisitions with other players to plug gaps in its inventory and geographic coverage.

Amadeus has integrated Chinese startup Heycar's service into its distribution platform to provide its travel agency clients with more options for mobility in China. Heycar's has passed by the Amadeus Next program.

Google launched Google Travel desktop website that puts flights, hotels, vacation packages, as well as a variety of trip-planning tools and recommendations on one page. The platform continues with its metasearch model, referring users to advertisers for bookings. is launching options to book activities in 150 cities that enables customers to book tours and attractions on a standalone basis. The pilot program will be available in Amsterdam, Paris, London, Berlin, Rome, Barcelona, Vienna, Prague, Edinburgh, and Dubai.


The latest news on travel startups, and this month we bring news about the startup scene in Latin America, Asia, and one Romanian startup. announced the sustainable tourism startups receiving grants from a €2 million as part of its 2019 Booking Booster accelerator program.

Like Locals is a travel startup offering travelers tips by locals, targeting the new generation of travelers preferring authenticity when exploring new places.

The startup Wild Bum claims their travel guides save people 20+ hours of research, as a network of "guide architects" who craft itineraries and overviews.

Travel planning startup YouLi has raised $200,000 in funding to invest in the next stage of product development, and to ramp up marketing.

Chilean travel startup Wheel the World is one of the Latin American startups serving people with disabilities, a challenge also present in the tourism industry, and often underestimated.

The travel startup scene in Latin America has been gathering momentum for several years and investors are starting to take notice. The most notable activity has been the transportation sector, as on the examples of 99, Grin, and Yellow. Arrivedo, Wheel the World, Zomoz are some of the other startups to pay attention to.

Romanian app Questo won the People's Choice Award at Phocuswright Europe. Currently present in 40 European cities, the app is a city exploration game that allows users to discover new places and stories by "quest" missions.

MakeMyTrip moves to recover from Jet Airways India's collapse by seeking growth in China, expanding into corporate travel and increasing interaction with customers by selling rail tickets, and offering credit cards.

Singapore-based travel wallet YouTrip has raised $25,5 million in a pre-series A round, planning to launch new features, expand in Southeast Asia, and improve its payment infrastructure.

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