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Travel Tech Essentialist #7: Platforms

Travel platforms come in many sizes and colors, as some of the stories in this issue will show. Book

Travel Tech Essentialist

August 14 · Issue #7 · View online
A short newsletter every two weeks with my pick of the top 10 Travel Tech stories and innovations shaping the world's largest and fastest growing industry.

Travel platforms come in many sizes and colors, as some of the stories in this issue will show. Booking is putting together the “Connected Trip”. Expedia looks to be “The World’s Travel Platform”. Airbnb is setting out to create an “end-to-end travel platform”. Google Travel is getting closer to a one-stop shopping. There are pan-regional platforms such as Despegar in Latin America. You also have upstarts like Setoo, Distribusion, or Yilu creating platforms around certain products and services and fully redesigning an easier, more convenient travel experience.

1. Travel Tech’s Platformania
Today’s hip marketing term among online travel businesses seems to be platform. Platforms are going to play an increasing role in travel, but the bubble of ‘everything is a platform’ will likely burst. A recently published book, The Business of Platforms, reveals why most platform fails. The most common mistakes: (1) mispricing on one side of the market, (2) failure to develop trust with users and partners, (3) prematurely dismissing the competition, and (4) entering too late.
2. Wide-ranging interview with Expedia CEO Mark Okerstrom
With $100 billion in gross bookings, 200+ travel booking sites across 70 countries, 24.000 employees in 30 countries and 45% of revenue coming from outside the US, Expedia Group calls itself The World’s Travel Platform. Interesting interview with Expedia CEO covering a wide range of topics: innovation, Google, staying hungry, big tech, competition, Booking, etc…
3. Booking increases TV spend but impact falls short
Booking’s spending on brand marketing, which includes TV, surged 41% in Q2 to $175 million, but the short-term return has been below expectations, according to CEO Glenn Fogel. Booking continues to invest heavily on performance marketing (primarily Google): $1.19 billion in Q2 ($50 million more than in Q2 2018). He also states that they are making good progress in their vision of creating a “connected trip”.
4. Google’s Grand Masterplan
Google Trip might be dead, but according to online travel executive Mario Gavira, Google has stepped on the gas pedal to reach its ultimate goal of dominating the entire travel industry by creating an end-to-end travel ecosystem where the customer never has to leave Google.
5. Setoo and Omio
Insurance-as-a-service startup Setoo will work with European multimodal (train, buses, flights) booking platform Omio (formerly GoEuro) to deliver personalised insurance products. Setoo’s platform enables automated compensation in response to pre-agreed triggers (flight or train delays, stormy weather), making the claims process unnecessary and removing the associated hassle for customers. That’s customer-centric innovation.
6. Culture Trip launches its Online Travel Agency
Culture Trip is a travel media startup that creates stories that reveal what is unique and special about a place, its people and its culture. 4 months after raising $80 million, it is now launching an OTA as its big commercial bet. The initial release features 10 hotels per city across 12 cities, expanding to 40 cities and 10,000 properties in the coming month. Flights will be added at a later stage. Andy Washington was recruited from Expedia to set up the OTA.
7. Consumer financing, a key driver for Despegar
57% of Latin America’s leading OTA are paid via installment payments. Despegar has used consumer financing has used consumer financing to stand apart from its competitors and to stimulate demand among lower- and middle-income travellers despite struggling economies in several countries.
8. Subscription services in air travel and luxury travel
  • Dallas-based Wanderift brings a subscription model to air travel. Subscribers pay a monthly fee of $369 or $459 for 3 or 4 one-way flights / month to most major US cities (22 for now) flying all major US airlines.
  • Inspirato just launched Inspirato Pass, the world’s first luxury travel subscription service, providing access to over 60,000 worldwide luxury vacation homes, hotels, resorts and experiences for $2,500 per month, with no nightly rates, taxes or fees.
9. Two Spanish startups fundraising rounds
  • Barcelona-based Exoticca raised €11 million for international expansion. The startup offers “luxury within reach” tours and activities to over 50 exotic destinations and had €23 million in bookings in 2018.
  • Fever, a Madrid-based startup that uses consumer data to recommend events and help companies plan events, raised $35 million led by Rakuten Capita, bringing the total raised to $70 million.
10. Two promising startups Made in Berlin
  • Distribusion has developed the first global B2B booking platform for travel brands to connect with hundreds of bus, airport transfer, train and ferry providers. Travel retailers use the API to access content while carriers benefit from a full end-to-end booking solution.
  • Yilu is building an end-to-end travel platform powered by a smart logic layer that serves automated, contextual and personalised recommendations to the traveller throughout the journey. Yilu was founded within the Lufthansa Innovation Hub.
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