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Travel Tech Essentialist #9: Experiences

The demand for experiential travel is not slowing down. 70% of travellers think that having authentic

Travel Tech Essentialist

September 9 · Issue #9 · 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.

The demand for experiential travel is not slowing down. 70% of travellers think that having authentic experiences is more important than simply ticking off all the sights. Travelers want to live, eat, move and act like locals. They want to get immersed in the local culture, spend time with local people, and gain a deeper understanding of local dynamics. This applies to leisure and business travelers alike. Startups and incumbent travel companies have heard the message and they are adjusting and investing to serve this consumer need.

1. Travelling Millenials
Millennials are on the cusp of their prime spending years. According to CB Insights, Travel is one of the industries that stands to benefit the most, particularly those players that provide authentic and personalized experiences without a high price tag.
2. Corporate housing is adapting to less cookie-cutter times
As millennials make up a larger portion of business travelers, the corporate housing industry is focusing on creating unique experiences. Zeus Living (“A home of your own for business travel”) has raised $24 million to try to make long term rentals feel like being at home. Airbnb is also investing in this sector; It has its own Airbnb For Work product, it acquired Urbandoor (“Feel at home wherever work takes you”) in August and led $143 million investment in Lyric ("Creative Suites designed for the modern traveler”).
3. Barceló launches Barceló Experiences
Large hotel companies understand the need to adapt to emerging travel trends and target travelers searching for unique experiences. Barceló Experiences is a newly launched platform for guests to design a personalized trip and transform a stay into a more unique experience. Currently available in 9 cities. Other hotels have also launched experience centric programs, such as Hyatt FIND, a platform with 150 experiences in 35 destinations around the world.
4. Private Equity firm Accel-KKR is bullish on hotel tech
Accel-KKR’s recent hotel tech deals -Cendyn, Rainmaker, Travel Tripper, Pegasus, GuestFolio- could be part of a longer term strategy to sell its rollup of hotel technology to a platform giant such as Amadeus or Sabre. In his article, Sean O'Neil also suggests possible future acquisitions (Avvio, Koddi, OTA Insight, HotelPlanner).
5. Google adds Vacasa to vacation rental search
In March, Google added vacation rental properties to its Hotel Search function, with partners such as Expedia, HomeAway, Vrbo and TripAdvisor (Airbnb and Booking remain absent). Google is now adding the first vacation rental management brand through a partnership with Portland-based Vacasa. In July Vacasa announced its acquisition (this coming fall) of Wyndham Vacation Rentals for $162 million, which will nearly double Vacasa’s inventory to 23.000 properties.  
6. OYO acquires Danamica to drive dynamic pricing in rentals
In yet another move to show its commitment to the vacation rentals business, OYO acquired data science business Danamica for an estimated $10 million. The Denmark-based company specializes in dynamic pricing of rental properties. As mentioned in Travel Tech Essentialist #8, Oyo wants to build the largest vacation rental business in Europe, and is planning to invest $335 million and recruit 1000 employees in Europe in the effort. In May, Oyo bought holiday rental company @Leisure for $415 million and rebranded it to Oyo Vacation Homes.
7. SEO best practices
Organic traffic is one of the main sources of traffic for travel brands. Here are 7 basic SEO best practices that work for some of travel’s largest brands. Basic principles such as homepage text, internal links and keyword-targeted landing pages.
8. Virtual Reality in-flight entertainment
Experiences can also be delivered at 35.000 feet. I wrote in Travel Tech Essentialist #3 about French startup Skylights as a promising startup to watch. British Airways announced that it will start offering Skylights VR headsets in a trial through the end of 2019 for first class passengers from London to New York.
9. Funding, acquisitions and partnerships
  • Dutch hotel technology startup Mews raised $33 million, bringing the total to date to $41.6 million. The company was launched in 2012 and has a client base of 1000 properties.
  • Berlin-based RV-sharing platform PaulCamper raised €7 million. Founded in 2013, the company has more than 5,500 motorhomes, trailers and camper vans across Germany, Austria, and the Netherlands.
  • eCommerce platform PROS acquired Travelaer to offer an end-to-end retailing solution for airlines, enabling them to transform the traveler’s digital experience across all retail channels: web, mobile, and New Distribution Capability (NDC) platform.
  • MisterFly is partnering with to strengthen its flights virtual interlining offering. Misterfly will be rolling out the self-connecting product to its B2B clients as well, which comprise 50% of MisterFly’s sales (L'Echo Touristique - in French)
10. Promising startups
These two startups make traveling as a local easier, delivering experiences though carbon-based and silicon based intelligence:
  • Born in Valencia, Spain in 2017, GuruWalk is the largest global platform for free walking tours with 1000 active guides, offering walking tours across 500 cities in 88 countries. GuruWalk has raised $400.000 so far, In August it generated €35.000 in revenues and had 70.000 “Walkers” taking tours.
  • Sherpa was founded in Chicago in 2019 to bring augmented reality avatar guides to walking tours. They have 25 AR walking tours available and plan to have 100 tours by the end of 2020.  
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