Travelabs Insights: November 2018
The most important news and insights from travel tech scene worldwide
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On the November newsletter, we bring an overview of the trends shaping the future of the travel industry discussed on recent events WTM London, Phocuswright Conference and the studies published by Euromonitor International, Megatrends Shaping the Future of Travel.

Following Euromonitor's report, travel startups and companies face the challenge to break down the existing silos in the industry and engage with travelers outside the traditional engagement phases. We are consumer all-year round, but travelers for a limited period of the year.

Brand loyalty in the travel industry is fragile, so companies face the challenge of being able to interact with customers in more than one phase of the customer journey, and increase touchpoints.

Meanwhile, travelers interact more often with big players like Facebook, Google, Amazon, Alibaba, and Yandex than hotels and airlines. So how can travel companies reshape the customer journey to have more touchpoints as these big players?

The moment of purchase is not the end of the customer journey, it's actually the beginning. The travel industry has the opportunity to rethink its use of purchase confirmation pages, transforming it into a powerful merchandising asset that entices consumers with customized offers, instead of merely communication an information. Just one example to consider.

Alongside the adoption of new technologies, the travel industry goes towards the demand for seamless experiences, cutting out frictions as much as possible. Such trend opens up the way for solutions on biometrics, payment facilities, mobility solutions and more.

This newsletter is presented divided into the following topics:

  • WTM: travel companies and tourism boards must take advantage of social media platforms.
  • Phocuswright Conference: companies must listen to customers and serve their real needs.
  • Asia: the important role of Asia on tech for the travel industry.
  • OTAs: TripAdvisor is investing resources on experiences and restaurants, and Despegar is expanding beyond the Argentinian market.
  • Airlines: airlines need strategic partners to customize solutions and manage the huge amount of data.
  • Hospitality Industry: Google moving to hotels booking, Ctrip debuting to hotel management and Vacasa incorporating property management into their portfolio.
  • Blockchain & Bitcoins: Airthereum provides private booking with cryptocurrency.
  • Startups: Virtuoso Incubator Program is open for applications, and more news about funding and acquisitions in the travel industry.


The WTM highlights relevant for travel startups. Companies must take advantage of social media platforms to share through stories in-destination experiences and help travelers discover new destinations.

Tourism boards should be investing in video contents, together with social media and mobile platforms, according to the founder of Beautiful Destinations Jeremy Jauncey.

Focusing offers and services around purpose, wellness and culture have shifted product development in the travel industry to attend the demands of the new generations of travelers in the last years.

Major consumer trends in the travel industry point to the rising demand for experience, for personalized products and services, and more unusual activities- as discussed on WTM Insights Podcast.

Phocuswright Conference

Listen to customers and truly serving their needs is the highlight of the Phocuswright Conference across the interviews presented below.

Video: Fareboom's CEO Marko Cadez presented the Microsensing technology, which is based on an automated personalized feed of itineraries to find the best possible value for customers analyzing data points on users and on the itinerary.

Video: Expedia CEO Mark Orkestrom talks about the plans to grow internationally the same way the company does domestically in the U.S. On a 26-minute interview, he mentions the focus on delivering better customer experiences, the attention to the outbound Chinese market, as well as interest in the acquisition of a big player in China and of a corporate travel agency. For tours & activities, Expedia follows a solution to embrace this fragmented segment and bring more activities to its platform automating the huge amount of data.

Video: Airbnb's President of Homes, Greg Greeley, points out the importance to listen to the community of stakeholders to upgrades services and experienceswhile the travel industry moves towards a high degree of fragmentation. In order to skip challenging regulatory issues, the executive mentions Airbnb's potential to bring tourists out of the central areas.


Asian markets deserve special attention to global trends in the travel tech. Nowhere more than in Asia tech has been a major enabler of travel growth. Asia is the root of user-friendly online booking platforms and convenient online payment systems. And currently, global online intermediaries such as Expedia and Booking Holdings are aggressively expanding their business into Asia by partnerships with regional players.

The collaboration between Grab and Indonesia's Tourism Board shows how ride-hailing platforms may be the new WeChat in Asia. Grab has started to feature on its platform travel contents from the ministry's website.


TripAdvisor is moving toward experiences and restaurants, and TV advertising in 2019. If you haven't heard about Despegar, this company is dominant in Argentina and is now expanding to the Caribbean market.

TripAdvisor pulled back on its paid advertising on Google and it is committed to expand its TV advertising in 2019 to go beyond hotels including its experience products.

TripAdvisor is prioritizing growth in experiences and restaurants over expanding its alternative accommodations business. The company's experiences business - which englobes tours and activities, restaurants - presented a $153 million revenue in the third quarter.

TripAdvisor launches redesign to hook the non-bookers, hoping to monetize from people surfing their platform for travel inspiration.

Despegar is taking steps to diversify its markets and decrease dependence on Argentinian market. The company currently has a presence in 20 countries and is preparing to add another one to the Caribbean.


How can airlines manage a huge amount of data to improve their customer experience? And how can airlines manage better drinks and food items, for example?

Today, it's estimated that 70 individual systems are required for airlines to operate daily. That not only means a lot of data, but a lot of opportunity for out of sync and inaccurate data. Airlines must create an integrated system where knowledge and data can be easily shared across the business. And as travel tech advances, airlines will need strategic partners to provide customized solutions and create personalized experiences for their customers.

For startups working in the airline industry, Voyager HQ organized a list of 5 books you need to read to understand the airline business and its chaotic business environment.

How many drinks and fresh food items on board on each flight? Most carriers have a rudimentary idea of what customers want, going on historical patterns. For many airlines, the game is still more art than science, particularly with food for sale.

The startup Skyhour is selling fly-by-the-hour gift cards, borrowing its business model from the private jet industry. Each flight tour costing $60 and can be used on more than 350 airlines worldwide.

Sabre is buying Farelogix, an airline distribution technology specialist, for about $360 million in the largest deal in a few years in the airline distribution business.

Lufthansa Innovation Hub has debuted Yily, a subsidiary that aims to help travel brands sell their products and cross-sell other providers' products to travelers before and during their trips.

Hospitality Industry

Google is testing hotel booking tools, Booking Holdings is pivoting to prepaid bookings, Ctrip is debuting on hotel management, and property management services are being included by Vacasa.

Booking hotels worldwide on Google became more prominent on its U.S. site in a redesign of Google hotels on the desktop. Google plans to roll out the redesign worldwide in phases, which was introduced on mobile earlier this year.

WebBeds trumpeted to the number two position in wholesale bedbank playerwith the acquisition of Dubai-based Destinations of the World.

Ctrip had debuted a hotel management brand: Rezen Hotels Group. The new brand will provide data analytics to help hotel managers while working with franchise partners and operators to develop and operate the properties.

Booking Holdings make major pivot toward prepaid hotel bookings, alongside a new global payments platform that gives consumers and hoteliers more choices. unveiled new tools to enable professional rental managers to vet instant-booking guests and to set policies across all of their listings.

The vacation rental property management service Vacasa has begun to provide its services to real estate developers and property managers for their temporarily vacant units in multi-family residential communities.

Hotelbeds is buying the transport distributor HolidayTaxis Group, expanding its ancillary portfolio and transport offering.

Blockchain and Bitcoins

Cryptocurrency is popping up in the travel industry. Do you know more companies using cryptocurrency?

Airthereum is a blockchain-based air travel company working to provide multiple services. Through their app "Fly", users can book private jet flights and pay with any cryptocurrency.


An interesting list of investors and funds by Voyager HQ, applications open for Virtuoso Incubator 2019 Program, and news on funding and acquisitions.

A list of individuals and funds that invest in the travel industry organized by Voyager HQ, which all travel founders have a need at some point.

Virtuoso Incubator invites travel tech companies to join their 2019 Incubator Program. Their primary goal is to ensure their associated travel agencies have access to the best technology in the industry.

BlaBlaCar has acquired the French intercity bus operator Ouibus, showing the company aims to expand its offers beyond carpooling.

TripActions has raised $154 million in Series C funding at a more than $1 billion valuation.

Sojern has raised $120 million in a Series D round of investment

Lola has the chance to make its promise to disrupt travel with AI-powered travel agents. Will the partnership with AmEx revive the startup?

As Airbnb and the vacation rentals segment mature, startup funding trends are beginning to shift. Alternative accommodation venture capital funding is now moving beyond Airbnb.

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