Travel Tech Essentialist #13: Far and Wide

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.

Please see below Issue #13 of the Travel Tech Essentialist newsletter. If you are interested in receiving future issues in your inbox, you can sign up here. Thank you!

The worldwide travel and tourism sector has outpaced the growth of global GDP for eight years in a row. It also generates 10% of all global economic activity. The online component of the travel industry is expected to grow at an annual compound rate of 12% until 2026. These dynamics provide plenty of opportunities to invest in, work in, launch and grow all sorts of travel tech companies throughout the world.

1. National Geographic travel photo contest

Trillions of photographs will be taken this year. But only one will be National Geographic’s Grand Prize winner. “Upernavik is a fishing village on a tiny island in west Greenland. Historically, Greenlandic buildings were painted different colors to indicate different functions, from red storefronts to blue fishermen’s homes — a useful distinction when the landscape is blanketed in snow” — Weimin Chu, Photographer. National Geographic.

Photograph by Weimin Chu, 2019 National Geographic Travel Photo Contest

2. Will Apple start designing airport terminals?

A cryptic announcement from United Airlines hints that Apple is working on a project for them. Apple spends $150 million a year on plane tickets from United. The technology company buys 50 business class seats every day to fly from San Francisco to Shanghai alone. For many Apple employees, the San Francisco airport is an extension of their office and no doubt that many of them have ideas on how Apple could help in designing a smarter and more responsive United Terminal at SFO. Fast Company.

3. Travel Tech is looking for talent all over the world

The travel tech ecosystem is booming, and so are job opportunities in large consolidated companies and emerging startups all over the world. Here are just a few examples

4. Travel predictions 2020

Based on research among more than 22,000 travelers across 29 markets and insights from over 180 million verified guest reviews, announces what will be big in travel in 2020. From ’second city’ travel (exploration of lesser known destinations to reduce over-tourism) to tech-generated decision making, to the top trending destinations.

5. Tech vendors are turning away from independent hosts

Should short-term rental tech vendors focus on professional property managers or on the long tail of independent hosts? These tech startups are shifting their resources to professionals that manage multiple units, and away from independent hosts. The long tail often turns out to be a tougher sale. Skift.

6. Hotels focus on Google

Five learnings from the Direct Booking Summit. When hoteliers were asked for the one thing they wanted to learn at the conference, the most popular answer (17% of replies) was to improve their Google exposure, closely followed by improving their meta/acquisition strategy (14%) and driving more direct bookings (14%). Google has replaced OTAs as the hoteliers’ main focus of attention.

7. New exchange-traded fund for travel tech firms

The Travel Tech ETF, ticker AWAY, will track the performance of travel and mobility technology companies such as Booking Holdings and Uber Technologies. The Travel and Tourism sector contributed a record $8.8 trillion to the global economy last year, and this ETF looks to give investors some dividends on the upbeat outlook of travel tech companies. Bloomberg.

8. Keeping it small and exclusive

The luxury sector of the short-term rental ecosystem is particularly vibrant and startups in this sector are seeking differentiation from the big players. The Plum Guide and Perfect Experiences are two examples of smaller luxury curation services that stand apart with hard-to-replicate models serving luxury lifestyle guests. It can be challenging to scale these models, but they have plenty of room to build strong and healthy businesses. Skift.

9. Deals 💰

  • North America’s largest vacation rental manager, Vacasa, has secured $319 million, the largest Series C round to date in the vacation rental sector. The investment gives it a valuation “north of $1 billion,” making Vacasa the latest travel unicorn.
  • Private equity firm Vitruvian Partners took a majority stake in Sykes Holiday Cottages, one of the largest short-term home rental agencies in Europe in a deal worth about $480 million. In the year through September 2019, Sykes had sales of $87 million and EBITDA of $25 million.
  • Airbnb leads $60M investment in Tiqets, the Netherlands-based ticketing platform for major attractions.
  • London-based startup Duffel raised €27 million for its airline booking platform. Duffel enables travel agencies to plug in directly to airlines’ reservation systems through an API for bookings and ancillaries.
  • Omio acquired fellow multi-modal platform Rome2rio for an estimated $25 million. Rome2rio had previously raised $3.1 million in funding, a small amount compared to Omio with $300 million raised to date.

10. Promising startups (including pitching your startup to Stelios)

  • Stelios Haji-Ioannou, the founder of easyGroup, is teaming up with Plug and Play to host an Innovation Day for the group’s family of brands (including easyJet) with the objective of collaborating or investing in startups focused on lifestyle, consumer tech and booking platforms. If you want to pitch your startup to easyGroup, do so here.
  • Disability is part of the human condition. More than 1/3 of the world population has a disability or supports someone with a disability. Wheel the World is the one-stop-shop for travelers with disabilities to find and book any type of travel product with accurate information and 100% accessible experience. Born in Chile and now based out of Berkeley, CA.
  • Friend Theory is an Australian startup that allows you to find friends anywhere you travel by connecting to your 1st and 2nd degree social network.

👍 If you like this newsletter, I would appreciate if you forward it to a friend or colleague. And hit reply (or via Twitter) to send me feedback, ideas or suggestions. Until next time,


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