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Travel Tech Essentialist #6: Back to Basics


Travel Tech Essentialist

August 4 · Issue #6 · View online

Every two weeks, ten insights that explore travel’s new frontiers.

As some of the stories in this issue reflect, it’s the small and simple innovations that often make the most impact. An excess of complexity and leading-edge technology can multiply pain points for consumers. A simple product or service that just works on a consistent basis or that satisfies consumers’ basic needs beats over-sophisticated and over-featured services that might or might not work.

1. Is Air New Zealand the most tech-savvy airline in the world?
While most airlines were focused on premium and first-class cabins, Air New Zealand introduced Skycouch, a row of three economy seats which can fold forward to create a completely flat space, big enough for two people. More recently, it trialed Google’s wireless Bluetooth Pixel Buds headphones. The airline is also focused on other simple innovations that make a big impact in the overall flight experience.
2. The middle seat gets an upgrade to end the elbow wars
The FAA has just approved a new seat design by Molon Labe Seating which could make the middle seat the most desirable in economy class. The simple innovation consists of staggering the seats and making the middle one a little bit wider. A major airline will retrofit 50 of its aircraft with these seats by 2020.  
3. Muji Hotels and the elegance of simplicity
The Japanese retailer’s 3 hotels reflect the brand’s philosophy of minimalist aesthetic, good design and practical simplicity. The hotel operates as a showroom for the brand, enabling guests to engage with Muji merchandise during their stay. No dynamic pricing here. Rates remain consistent regardless of season, weekends or holidays. Reservations only through the Muji website. Strangely, Muji’s online booking flow is the opposite of zen.
4. Google Maps rolls out real-time bikeshare info
Bikeshare information is now available in 24 cities globally with more on the way. Travelers want to go from point A to point B. And Google Maps keeps adding all relevant transportation modes to get us to point B. By focusing on easing consumer pain points, Google Maps is morphing into a travel superapp, whether our final destination is 1 km or 10.000 km away.
5. Online Travel Agencies top-of-funnel analysis
Customer acquisition is a key driver for OTAs, with a direct impact on growth and profitability. This analysis shows how Expedia, Booking, Airbnb, Despegar, Ctrip, eDreams, Lastminute, and Misterfly compare in terms of paid and free incoming traffic.
6. CVC to buy Almundo and form a Latin American travel giant
CVC Viagens, the leading travel company in Brazil has agreed to buy Almundo, a leading OTA with operations in Argentina, Brazil, Mexico and Colombia. If the transaction goes through (it’s still pending due diligence and regulatory approval), the resulting group might be the largest Latin American travel company.
7. Metasearches dominate, and Google stays on top
According to data from Mirai (a digital marketing agency for hotels) 64% of its clients’ online budget in 2019 is spent on metasearches and 36% in Google Adwords. A flip from 2014, when it was 22% and 68% respectively. In 2014, 79% of hotels’ investment in meta went to Trivago. In 2019, 79% goes to Google Hotel Ads. All in all, 75% of the hotels’ investment in metas + search lands on Google.
8. Gen Z are starting to travel
Gen Z’s oldest members are now in their late teens and early twenties and they are starting to travel on their own, and Instagram and YouTube determine where they go. Interesting piece in Conde Nast Traveler on the crucial role that social media plays in their travel.
9. Deals
  • German startup FlixMobility, has raised an estimated $561 Million in a Series F funding round co-led by TCV and Permira to expand the FlixBus network in the US and to launch in South America and Asia. It will also expand the FlixTrain brand in Europe, beyond its existing service in Germany, and launch a new ride-sharing platform, FlixCar, in 2020. 
  • Turnkey Vacation Rentals raises $48 million, bringing the Austin-based company’s total funding to more than $100 million. Launched in 2013, TurnKey aims to hit 1 million guests and surpass 5,000 homes offered.
  • Portland-based Vacasa will acquire Wyndham Vacation Rentals for $162 million, doubling its inventory to 23,000 homes. Vacasa, founded in 2009, has raised $207 million in funding and expects to reach $1 billion in bookings and $500 million in net revenue in the next year.
  • Singapore-based RedDoorz has raised $45 million to grow its technology-based budget hospitality brand in Southeast Asia. The company is on track to achieve one million occupied room nights per month by the end of 2019, and is growing five times year-on-year.
  • Hipcamp raised $25 million led by Andreessen Horowitz. Founded in San Francisco in 2015, the company is building the largest network of private land in the US for camping, glamping, RVs and outdoor recreation, with thousands of unique places and outdoor experiences.
10. Promising startups
  • NoiseAware is a Dallas-based startup providing smart noise monitoring solutions to bring homeowners and property managers peace of mind when renting out their homes. Like a smoke detector for noise.
  • French startup HostNFly supports vacation rental owners with channel management tools as well handling housekeeping, content for distribution listings, maintenance and other guest services. Recently closed a $10M round.
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