Travelabs Insights: November 2019
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 November 2019

For the November newsletter, we couldn't talk about any other topic if not the Phocuswright Conference 2019, this year themed on "Are we there yet?". Month after month, we bring news and discussions about the changes faced in the travel industry by digital-led elements impacting how we plan our trips, so as to how the travel companies react to new technologies.

The internet and mobile have been big game-changers in the travel industry in the last two decades, and travelers are moving from commodity services such as hotels and flights to experiences as the golden spot of their trip.

What is going to be the next exit in the travel industry? Maybe it's too early to say while there is a lot of room to improve the customer experience and the travel industry dynamics work in long-term horizons. It takes time to build partnerships, expand market shares, merchandize inventories, curate experiences, and develop new business models. And there are still massive opportunities in developing markets, where the travel sector is still in the beginning.

2020 is coming soon, and what can we expect for the next decade in the travel industry? While the travel tech industry's prosperity is not surprising, it's one of the most vulnerable sectors and is easily affected by the slightest shifts in the economy. The travel industry has long held an exciting draw for startups. While innovators are motivated to improve the human side of travel based on their own good and bad experiences, investors are enticed by an industry that has been growing steadily for the last 10 years.

Selecting the most important travel tech news from November, we divide them into the sections as follows:

  • OTAs & Business: OTAs adopting different business strategies and more travel business news.

  • Tours & Activities: the concerns on data privacy and on which reservations system to use.

  • Startups & Investments: the most important news on funding, acquisition and Virtuoso 2020 Incubator Program.

  • Emerging Markets: TripAdvisor in China and Launchpad Accelerator in Nigeria.

  • Events: MITT Moscow and more travel events for 2020.

OTAs & Business

OTAs are moving to different business strategies, the global sports insurance industry is growing and more travel business news.

Trivago is moving to allow, Airbnb, Ctrip, Expedia, and other advertisers to fine-tune their bids for how they display their ads in its search listings by how far in advance a consumer is booking a trip and how long the consumer's stay will be.

Skyscanner is introducing a marketplace approach to connect users with air tickets, becoming the merchant of record for air bookings as part of its shift away from the metasearch-only model.

In a previous newsletter, we had written about Google's monopoly and this month the CEOs of TripAdvisor and Expedia Group talked about how the search engine platform directing search traffic towards its own travel businesses has impacted adversely their companies in the third quarter.

Expedia Group will focus on being more customer-centric in order to offset organic traffic losses with direct traffic growth while social media ROI is difficult to measure.

The global Sports Travel Insurance is expected to grow by the end of 2025, according to a study of Report Consultant, attending travelers going for competitions and training camps.

Sojern hires travel industry veteran Noreen Henry as Chief Revenue Officer to oversee all global sales and account management teams.

Google is experimenting with putting Local Guides in its Maps feature, personalized by the "For You" section, by tapping the "For You" button at the bottom right of the screen.

Amadeus Ventures will launch in Asia and Pacific in 2020 to invest in early-stage startups at the crossroads of technology and travel in this region.

2019 edition of Voyager HQ's The Investors Who (Still) Don't Hate Travel points out the total number of funding rounds is declining year-over-year, with 570 in 2016 to around 375 both in 2017 and 2018. Money to early-stage businesses declined from $218 million in 2016 to $116 million in 2018.

Client management and communications, itinerary architecture and design, booking tools and management, education and technology adoption are what travel advisors need most from their tech partners.

Kayak is expanding into corporate travel with the launch of Kayak for Business, which will function as a meta-engine for flights and hotels, and car rentals to be added in the future.

Tours & Activities

The concerns on data privacy coming up with the acquisitions on tours & activities, and the tough decision of operators decide on which reservation to use.

There was tension in the air at the last Arival conference in Orlando with the presence of FareHarbor CEO Max Valverde next to Chris Atkin of Rezdy, Ruszwana Bashir of Peek and Jason Morehouse from Checkfront. The last acquisitions on tours and activities bring concerns about data privacy and what may happen over time.

One of the toughest decisions facing operators in the tours and activities sector is which reservation and distribution system to use while the biggest software providers are aggressively competing on price.

Startups & Investments

November was intense in funding and acquisitions, and Virtuose 2020 Incubator Program is looking for companies offering solutions for travel advisors.

Virtuoso's 2020 Incubator Program is looking for companies focusing on advisor productivity tools, travel industry-specific client communication, marketing products, and invoicing tools. Startups can apply up to January 15, 2020.

Sequoia Capital, Ctrip, Goldman Sachs are some of the mega investors participating in the biggest funding rounds in the online travel industry, according to a report of Phocuswright Research.

Price prediction and booking app Hopper has acquired the Bogotá-based airline distribution company GDX Travel. The deal will help Hopper to localize its content and payment options suited to Latin America.

Rome2rio has been acquired by the Berlin-based booking platform Omio, and it will result in more options to book flights, trains, buses, trains and ferries for Rome2rio's users.

Israeli startup Travaxy raised $480,000 via crowdfunding and its website caters to accessible accommodations in Tel Aviv, New York, London, Amsterdam, Berlin, and Barcelona, and more cities will be added.

VAT-refund startup Refundit raises $9.8 million led by the Spanish arm of Amadeus, which made its fourth investment in 2019.

Paris-based has raised €12.7 million, and its app aims to help millennials travel more for less.

Singapore-based Yogofi has been acquired by Houston-based DHI Telecom. The startup operates virtual SIM platforms for more than 16,000 mobile devices with customers, including travel agencies.

Berlin-based Comtravo raised an additional €21 million in venture capital. Its software translates text-based requests into data and uses AI technologies to offer the best travel options based on saved preferences and booking patterns.

Emerging Markets

TripAdvisor is taking a new approach to China and Launchpad Accelerator graduated its 4th class in Nigeria.

TripAdvisor is taking a new approach to its business in China by entering into a partnership with Group, which receives the license to operate the brand, the contents and all assets of TripAdvisor.

Class 4 of Launchpad Accelerator Africa graduated in Lagos, Nigeria, and the alumni had a chance to pitch for funding from some of Africa and the UK's top venture capitalists.


Upcoming events for 2020 and MITT Digital will happen in March, co-organized by Travelabs.

MITT Digital, a conference about internet technologies for the tourism sector, will happen on March 17, 2020, in Moscow. Co-organized by Travelabs, it's the largest tourism exhibition in Russia and CIS. We invite travel startups to present their projects on the conference stage in front of a professional audience. You can apply for pitching on

Voyager HQ is teaming up with Amadeus to kick off the most recent chapter of its travel innovation events series, .events, in Miami, which will become its 5th chapter in the U.S. and 6th chapter globally.

CMT - Die Urlaub Messe, Stuttgart, January 11th, 2020. Its agenda includes novelties show for camping and caravanning, holiday ideas, and tourism entertainment program.

Travel & Adventure Show, January 18th, 2020. Its agenda includes educational seminars, leading destinations, vacation options, and more.

Fitur 2020 in Madrid, January 22nd. For tourism professionals for inbound and outbound Ibero American markets.

NYT Travel Show will happen on January 24th, 2020. It will cover the latest products, services, destination information, and trends from travel industry experts.

More events travel and tourism tradeshows for 2020 you find on this list organized by Scott Brills, founder of Pamoja Safaris and Eat Japan Tours.

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