January 28, 2021

Journey to another era: 'travel tech' to change the way we move | Trends

Journey to another era: 'travel tech' to change the way we move | Trends

The second half of the 20th century meant the democratization of tourism in the western world. In the XXI, new challenges arise: to get it to reach the whole world in a sustainable way, that is, to scale, in the slang of the startup, and that breaks with the previous, the manida disruption. While the classics of the sector are added to the wave of transformation, trusting in allying with startups, these pose more striking and experimental models.

The agile start-ups imagine a world of services from the mobile; the giants want to be faster and more profitable, more competitive. What they do coincide in is the use of certain technologies as catalysts for change.

Actions such as a robot bringing a toothbrush to the room or getting on a cruise with facial recognition are getting closer and closer. The sector has all the ingredients to be the next big industry that undergoes a transformation without going backwards. The intersection between tourism and technology ranges from gastronomy to mobility, through entertainment, lodging and culture.

The impact of this movement can be understood by resorting to figures. The World Travel and Tourism Council considers that, on a global scale, the travel sector contributed more than 8.3 trillion dollars to the world economy in 2017 (7.4 trillion euros). Venture capital has its eyes on what they call travel tech, with an investment of 2,000 million dollars per year in the last three years (1,800 million euros).

In this context, Miami is at the head of this ranking, with 338 million dollars of investment. The city where you always live on vacation stands as the capital of this new imprint. Cradle of modern tourism, cruise port and playground of some of the best hotels in the world, Miami imagines what the future of an industry that moves a large part of the city and the state of Florida, which receives more than 45 million travelers.

Here some of the startups ready to disrupt the reality, either by ending the current giants, with a bid to hotels such as the one that represents Airbnb or with alliances and acquisitions, such as Daycation or Boatsetter.

Pillars of the travel revolution

1. Artificial intelligence to learn from the user and to give a better treatment of the shared data, especially in social networks.

2. IoT, understood as an adequate interpretation of the many sensors with which they are already counted, as well as a new generation of connected machines able to dialogue with the consumer.

3. The voice, with its virtual assistants competing for the throne, from Siri to Alexa and Google; the process of natural language will speed up reservations and improve friction with the exchange of languages.

4. Automationn, that is, the destruction of repetitive tasks to use human talent more effectively.

5. The blockchain (I could not miss), as a distribution solutions provider

Mobility and virtual assistants

The personalization, the growth of last minute reservations or the mobile as master during the hiring of services, both basic and additional during the journey, are trends that have come to stay. According to the figures of LAB Miami, organizer of Travel Tech, the great fair of the sector, in 2020 85% of the interactions will be with a virtual assistant and 57% of the clients see with good eyes that the personalized offers are based on their previous behavior and their preferences.

It could be called a forced landing. Or controlled demolition. This is how large established corporations begin to flirt with breakthrough technology, either through funds, vertical accelerators, agreements or directly acquiring technologies to integrate them into their services. All the formulas are valid in order to get the day and prevent the big company from withering, to die at the hands of small agile and aggressive armies. In this guerrilla war the big ones take positions.

That is why we do not miss the case of Renfe, which has already carried out a program with Wayra's method, Telefónica's incubator. O Metro, the Techstars accelerator in Berlin dedicated entirely to hosting. Nor that Kike Sarasola bought Alterkeys to be part of BeMate, his tool to compete with Airbnb.

What are investors looking for?

Risk capital is the hemoglobin of the world startup. They are the ones who finance, worth the redundancy, the trip. Some of the specialists in this vertical explain their investment strategy and experience.

Suzana Chiu, Partner of Amadeus Ventures. "We are looking for good people who know technology, but open minded, who come with a reasonable valuation. You have to believe that you can be a unicorn. We look for it, but the entrepreneurs are the first to believe it. "

Amir Amidi, responsible for Plug and Play travel. Prefers opportunities between seed phase and round B. It is critical with the results achieved to date: "Missing success stories. It does not scale as fast as in the fintech, where a lot of money moves and many other sectors can easily be integrated. At travel tech lack of support in the early stages.

Matt Zito, managing partner of the Travel Startups incubator. It offers an average of $ 25,000 a startups which, in general, are B2B. So far, 21 companies have been incubated. "We see our platform as a future opportunity. We invest in phases pre-revenue"

Mark Farrell, Thayer Ventures. "We give priority to how it is shared, because that's where growth begins. We feel that there is a lack of support in the first steps. We want them to see us as a way to reach new partners. "

The accidental tourist

The strategy of these settled businesses that look in the rearview mirror at new companies focuses on exploring one of its stars (the business traveler), reinforcing experiences, especially in destination, and taking greater care with revenue management .

The professional traveler has already become accustomed to collecting work points for enjoyment during their vacations. The banks have created cards that adapt to their way of spending, but you can still give a twist to continue taking advantage of this profile with a bulky account that is not paid out of pocket. Utpal Kaul, responsible for incubation and new products in Carlson Wagonlit Travel, tries to solve the problem of the election by delimiting the proposals. "A chatbot can do the right thing in 60% of cases. We know, many jobs are going to disappear. "

Immersion in experiences

Beyond the loyalty of the points programs, the experiences serve to create solid relationships. Vince Mota, head of digital product at Royal Caribbean, explores these possibilities with a social layer that was not touched before: "Traveling is an emotional experience. People want to do something special. "

Carlos García started HYP3R in San Francisco, one of the brightest startups that offers personalized services in real time.

Amadeus, at 32, is one of the most solid companies in the sector in Spain. Beyond air tickets, it manages more than 1,000 million travel transactions per year, adding hotel reservations, tour operators, insurers, car rentals, train tickets, cruises and ferries. Control and automate inventory with software systems to offer prices, searches and purchases in real time to agencies and provide online services to the consumer.

A wide range but not enough before the wave of innovation that reaches the sector. In 2019 Álex Luzárraga, previously responsible for corporate strategy, has taken the step to direct his future efforts as a visible head of audience and destinations. He talks about the new players with a lot to say: "In less than 10 years, Uber, Airbnb, Priceline and Alibaba with Alitrip, in addition to Google, Amazon and Facebook, have shaken the sector. The challenge is how we adapt. The rules of the game are now marked by the data. That's what Netflix does, for example, a very refined use of consumer information.

In cruise ships, for example, a lot of work is done to find out what type of consumer looks for each specific experience. This also serves to derive the flow of visits in an amusement park according to demand or waiting time. "

The ship SeaBubbles

Open innovation

Luzárraga bets on seeing his company as a great data manager: "We have to talk about it without complexes". And in recent years they have taken steps in this line. Its open innovation plan has three pillars: a corporate fund, which has been investing for four years, a partnership program between different startups and its network of related companies in addition to Amadeus itself. And the APIs, which allow third parties to connect to their data management. "At startups they are interested, to ally with an important brand, have access to our clients or receive technological support ".

Internal innovation focuses on B2B agreements, with big data applications, as well as IoT. "With tracking of passengers, heat maps to know where they pass, recurrence, behavior analysis ", shells.

Luzárraga tries to find a balance between the disruption and responsibility of a listed company with a legacy: "It is not easy to take risks in a company over 20 years. You have another kind of agenda. But at the same time, it excites me. We are in a happy industry that faces the challenge of being sustainable. "

Six 'startups'


SeaBubbles They were the sensation during Boat Week in Miami, one of the most glamorous moments of the year, just behind Art Basel. SeaBubble, born in Paris, is a flying boat, or rather, that plans (in the photo). Electric, clean and without noise. For now they have six models for six passengers and the driver. His plan is to get more funds to use this solution for tourism purposes and to alleviate traffic in many cities.

The ship is propelled thanks to its sharp lower plates, so that it consumes less and avoids any movement of waves.

Its founder is Anders Bringdal, four times champion of the world of windsurfing. It is not public, but they already have an application to ask that one of these capsules come to look for us, as if it were Uber. Bringdal fantasizes about the idea of ​​using it in Seville and in the Bay of San Francisco.


Alterhome The alternative to Airbnb made in Spain, Chema González returns to the charge. After selling Alterkeys in 2015, only four years after creating it after moving from London to Madrid, it starts again. Then it operated in 42 countries and went through Lanzadera, Juan Roig's incubator. Now he undertakes to create a system of management of temporary rentals with professional dye. Or as he says: "An apartment with the services of a hotel". It has 53 employees, 160 properties managed in Madrid and a turnover of six million euros in two years. Its goal is to get a round of financing of four million dollars (3.6 euros). In 2019 they will premiere in Seville and Malaga. They hope to have a presence in Latin America before the end of the year.

HYP3R. It allows to know better the opinions of the clients and to have courtesies at the moment. The most classic example, bring champagne to a room if you know you are on your honeymoon.
Carlos García, of Puerto Rican origin, who started his business in San Francisco, considers that localization is the next frontier of marketing, especially for experiences that are shared in real time. Among its clients is the Marriott hotel chain. His last round was 17 million dollars (just over 15 million euros).

DayCation. A day is a day. Something out of the ordinary, that is the proposal of DayCation, which allows access to the services of the best hotels in cities without having to be a guest. The startup born in Miami already expands beyond Florida. Their plan is to attract luxury hotels willing to obtain extra income thanks to the consumption of additional services: cocktails, massages, beauty sessions … They give an additional use to an existing resource.
Matt Boney left everything to begin this adventure: "Many times the mission of the hotel is confused with spending a night there. I think that in the future it will be the other way around. The hotels are going to be social connectors of the cities. We are going to help them reach their full potential. "

BoatSetter Go out by boat without having to buy it. Boatsetter allows rent directly to individuals or companies. The startup based in Fort Lauderdale has already made its first strategic acquisition in Ibiza, one of the locations with the most demand. Jaclyn Baumgarten opened the company selling her apartment and putting it as start-up capital. If she did not believe in what she was doing, how would the investors do it? He thought. Its last round of investment was 13 million dollars (11.5 million euros). Make this form of recreation accessible and offer benefits for the owner, who recovers money thanks to having more days running the boat. Airbnb itself has included them within the experiences of its platform, through an agreement that allows the vessel to be rented directly.

GetaBed Suite. Born in Guadalajara, the city techie of Mexico, aims to be an alternative to traditional hotel reservations and counteract the effect of Airbnb. Through the platform, direct booking is encouraged by the consumer, without intermediaries. It provides an option to obtain more income for small independent hotels in Latin America, where they represent more than 70% of the inventory.


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