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Travel News and Trends Headlines Update on April 26, 2021

You saw this term everywhere in the past year: SPACs. The bright people from TNMT did a deep dive into the hype and now they launched a report sharing their findings around the topic – here is what they published.

Got an idea about sustainable tourism? Want to discover the potential of space technologies? The 3rd CASSINI Hackathon is for you! Taking part in the CASSINI Hackathon has so many great benefits – from winning cash prizes to mentoring to incubation programmes and more. Don’t miss out on this awesome opportunity! Sign up now 🙂

The luggage storage platform Bounce has raised $12 million and is now targeting their business expansion into Europe. With 7,000 locations worldwide so far, their mission is to “build the world’s largest retail chain without owning any physical stores.”

OTA Insight has just acquired RevGEN, which provides analysis of hotel performance from multiple data sources to boost productivity and revenue opportunities. This is their second acquisition in two months and it seems like they are building quite a powerful combination of data and solutions for the hospitality industry.

Oh, I love to see how different players are exploring the intersections of travel and fintech. WeTravel, known for its booking platform for the multi-day travel industry, has added an instant payment feature to their platform. Here is what Johannes Koeppel (CEO) had to say about this new offer: “In the travel industry, suppliers are heavily reliant on cash withdraws to pay tour leaders, local businesses and community activities and, in so deep as, group tipping. For all businesses – but especially local suppliers, vendors and employees who need tourism dollars, instantly – our most recent fintech solution will continue to help businesses increase revenue and stakeholder satisfaction, while managing their business’s risk funds and cash flow”.

Founded in 2019, Japanese hospitality proptech startup Wayfarer has raised $1 million. Seems like this is pushing them towards their goal to modernize hotel management in Japan and become the “Amazon Web Services of hotels.”

The first carbon-positive hotel in the US will be opening by the end of next year, but this is worth checking out: With 265 rooms, Populus is being developed to be carbon positive with its sustainable design and construction features as well as a substantial ecological effort offsite, including an initial commitment to planting trees that represent over 5,000 acres of forest.

Out of Office launched last year with the goal of giving travelers inspiration and planning tips based on where their friends have traveled in the past. This week the female-led startup announced that they raised $3.5 million to keep growing their business.

How People Think

This article by Morgan Housel describes 17 of the most common and influential aspects of how people universally think regardless of each of our uniqueness. Gaining a better cognitive understanding will lead to making better decisions when creating companies and products.

Subtle UX improvements can make a half-a-trillion dollar difference

Why do some consumer social products finally make it big after a series of misses? Part of the magic often hides within UX details — particularly, those that help people make fewer decisions and take fewer risks. The Boneyard Principle shows how breakthrough UX approaches have transformed categories with multiple previous failures: social videos (before TikTok came Vine), social photos (before Instagram and Snap came Flickr), and dating apps ( before Tinder came Match.com). If you’re building a consumer social product, success depends on making the right UX choices. At each step of onboarding and consumption, ask yourself: am I asking the user to make a choice? Is that cognitive load necessary? And most importantly, am I building guardrails to protect users from a fear of rejection?

Ten marketplace travel private companies in a16z ranking

Andreessen Horowitz just released its 2022 Marketplace 100, a ranking of the largest consumer-facing marketplace startups and private companies (does not include public companies like Airbnb). The rankings are based on a score that includes GMV (per Bloomberg Second Measure), app performance (per Apptopia data) and website traffic (per SimilarWeb data). This year, 10 travel companies made the list, including 3 in the top 10. Only the Food & Beverage category had more representatives than the Travel category in the ranking.

Ten marketplace travel private companies in a16z ranking

Starting a glamping business with prefab houses

A prefab glamping cabin can cost $10.000 to buy and you can rent it for hundreds of $ a night. Peter Fabor thinks that the disparity between the price of prefab houses and how much you can charge for them as vacation rental properties, presents a great hospitality business opportunity. His post lays out the prefab glamping opportunity in some detail. Read more: How to start a glamping business with prefab houses

Revenue per employee 2021

Ranking of 2021 revenues per employee for 15 publicly traded travel companies ranges from $59k (OnTheBeach) to $977k (Airbnb).

Source of revenue data: company annual and quarterly reports. Source of employee data for companies that do not report the data comes from estimates of Dec 2021 employees comes from external sources like craft.co and Statista

The Latin America opportunity

NfX invests in pre-seed and seed stage startups with particularly promising network effects. They have invested in travel and transportation startups such as Lyft, Lastminute.com, Outdoorsy (#16 in the a16z 100 marketplace ranking), Lyric, Zeus, Peek, TravelStride, TravelJoy, KimKim, JetInsight, and The Hotels Network. In Why LatAm Is On The Rise, NfX outlines why they are so optimistic on LatAm, what is changing, the opportunities that lie ahead, and what traits they look for in LatAm startups. NfX strongly believes that the moment is now for creating massive businesses in LatAm. They have already invested in 7 promising LatAm focused companies, with more surely to come.

What is a Minimum Lovable Product?

Eric Ries developed the idea of MVP, and described it as “the minimum viable product is that version of a new product which allows a team to collect the maximum amount of validated learning about customers with the least effort.” This post argues that the product game has changed dramatically over the last few years and that customers are now much harder to please. For this reason, companies need to rethink their MVP because being Viable is no longer enough. You need to be Lovable and think about creating an MLP: similar to an MVP, but with more thought and care taken in design and UI. It aims to solve the problem, but also delight. Read more: What Is a Minimum Lovable Product?

Unbundling Airbnb: go to Airbnb, pick a niche and execute it 10x better.”

As Mark Andreessen stated, there are only two ways to make money in business: one is to bundle; the other is to unbundle. Peter Fabor wrote an interesting post on the unbundling Airbnb opportunity. Simply picking a niche on Airbnb and creating a marketplace does not work because nobody is going to book a trip on some brand-less platform instead of Airbnb unless that platform is doing something 10x better. Successful unbundling requires building unique inventory and perfecting the user experience. Some examples:

Take a look at his post to go more in detail into the unbundling opportunities.

Hotel subscription program – Discontinued

In September 2020, I published in this newsletter the launch of CitizenM’s corporate subscription program for remote workers. For €550 / month, companies got a daily workspace in any citizenM hotel + 3 nights / month + 3 hours of meeting room use. I visited the program’s page today and saw that the program was no longer available. A shout-out to CitizenM for testing new concepts. The world’s most innovative companies are also the ones with the highest number of failed experiments. It comes with the territory.

CitizenM to become the first hospitality company to build in the metaverse

And speaking about testing new concepts, CitizenM announced plans to build a hotel in the metaverse. CitizenM will begin by acquiring a “LAND site” in the gaming world The Sandbox and will then build a virtual hotel where avatars can “work, sleep and play”. The financing will come through the sale of 2000 NFTs attached to rewards such as discounts or free drinks redeemable at all of its real-world hotels. All NFTs will be sold at the same price but buyers will randomly be assigned to one of three levels. The higher the level, the better the rewards, and their rarity has the potential to increase the value of the NFT. Once the virtual hotel is built, CitizenM plans to collaborate with emerging artists to create digital NFT artworks for display on its walls, which guests will be able to purchase. The profits from this initiative will go towards the potential creation of a physical, real-life hotel in a location to be voted by the NFT holders. Cool idea. Best of luck to CitizenM. Read more dezeen.

SaaS focused board deck template

David Sacks has been investing and building some of the most iconic companies of the last 20 years (part of the PayPal mafia, Yammer founder, founder at premier SaaS VC Craft Ventures, etc…). He shared a great and detailed board meeting deck template for SaaS companies. If you’re a SaaS company (or a SaaS investor), please take a look.

BlitzFail: How not to go off the rails

Fast, an online checkout startup that raised $102 million (led by Stripe) and was once valued at $600 million, announced that it will shut down. Its burn rate was as high as $10 million per month despite generating only $600,000 in revenue in 2021. This is a good time to read a great post by David Sacks (again), which identifies the top reasons why fast-growing startups go off the rails (or “BlitzFail”). The issues have 3 things in common: 1) They are existential and are capable of derailing a startup. 2) They are surprising and can go undetected for awhile, then manifest suddenly. 3) they are common enough to occur across many startups. He outlines the most common pitfalls and warning signs in the hopes that founders avoid them. Read more.

First-ever blockchain-backed flight tickets

Blockchain-based travel startup TravelX is partnering with Spanish airline Air Europa to release the world’s first NFT flight ticket series. Owners who purchase NFTickets will get special access to an Air Europa flight to Miami Beach at the end of November, as well as perks and events ahead of Art Basel. When traded, NFTicket transactions are recorded on the blockchain, and when ready to use, the owner can show the NFT and a matching flight ticket will be issued. Read more Phocuswire.

Uber Travel

Uber announced that later this year their UK customers will be able to book flights, buses and car rentals. Let’s remember that Uber’s CEO spent 12 years as CEO of Expedia Group. Read more The Hustle.

OTA 2021 Revenue / years in operation

A bit of a weird metric, but I divided the 2021 revenues (second column in the table above) by the number of years operating (second column) for 11 publicly traded OTAs and metasearches and this is how they rank:

A bit of a weird metric, but I divided the 2021 revenues (second column in the table above) by the number of years operating (second column) for 11 publicly traded OTAs and metasearches and this is how they rank.

Fundraising

  • Itilite, a Bengaluru, India-based startup developing Travel & Expense software, announced a $29 million Series C co-led by Tiger Global and Dharana Capital.
  • Lyric (which closed most of its locations in mid 2020) pivots and announces a $16 million round for its B2B spin out Wheelhouse.
  • Italy-based business travel BizAway closed a Series A round of €10 million, following the €4.5 million raised in 2020.
  • Kindred, a members-only home swapping network, announced it raised $7.75 million in seed funding. Andreessen Horowitz led the round. This is its second round of funding after raising $4.5M in Jan 2022.
  • The Netherlands-based camping booking platform Campspace raised $3.3 million and acquired Pop-Up Camps to expand its offering throughout Germany and the rest of Europe.
  • Digital guidebook Touch Stay closed seed funding of £500,000.
  • The UK-based startup gives rental hosts a solution to create digital welcome books.
  • Group travel booking platform Groups360 raised $35 million in a round led by Zigg Capital. Launched in 2014, it received a $50 million investment from Accor, Hilton, IHG and Marriott International in 2019.
  • A few months after it announced a $7M seed round, Barcelona-based Amenitiz closed a $30 million Series A led by Eight Roads. The SaaS startup calls itself the “Shopify for hotels” and wants to become the operating system for independent hoteliers in Europe. It currently serves over 4000 properties.
  • Sweden-based Minut closed a $14 million Series B funding round. The Minut sensor monitors noise, occupancy, motion and temperature in vacation rental properties.

M&A and other

  • On April 13, TravelX celebrated the world’s 1st NFT ticket auction at the Eiffel Tower. The auction ended with a top bid of 1.002.000 USDC, making it the most valuable airline ticket in history. Read more FIRST-EVER FLIGHT ‘NFTICKET’ SELLS FOR $1 MILLION USDC IN LIVE AUCTION
  • One month after acquiring Transparent, OTA Insight acquired Kriya RevGen, a Dallas-based hotel revenue intelligence platform.
  • Tours and attractions distribution specialist Holibob acquired activities content and marketing startup TourismSolved.
  • Barcelona-based microstay platform BYHOURS announced a partnership with Rappi to offer by the hour hotel stays on the Rappi app. Rappi is a Colombian on-demand delivery company present in 9 countries and 200 cities in Latin America. In November 2020 the company launched its vertical Rappi Travel. Read more (in Spanish): Rappi y BYHOURS se unen para distribuir horas de hotel a través de la super-app
  • Alternative accommodation metasearch HomeToGo acquired E-Domizil for about €40 million. Germany-based e-Domizil was founded in 2000 and had €20 million in 2021 revenue. HomeToGo’s 2021 revenue was €123 million.
  • Rob Torres re-joins Expedia as SVP of Media Solutions, after spending the last 15+ years at Google overseeing sales, strategy, product development and relationship management for Google’s largest travel advertising partners. He previously spent 7 years as VP of strategic accounts, working closely with key hotel partners.

Recent data shows that 8 out of the 10 busiest airports in the world in 2021 were located in the US. On the top of the list is Atlanta Hartsfield–Jackson International, with 75,704,760 passengers passing through the airport last year.

A group of people travelling together to celebrate a soon-to-be-married friend can be an interesting audience to target when growing a business. I’m sure the group of investors behind the $8 million raised by Bach would agree. The app was launched in 2020 and is designed for helping users plan bachelorette trips with their friends from start to finish. For now, Bach offers experiences that can be booked in 10 different locations, all of them in the US.

Another business focusing on group travel trips is Groups360, which landed $35 million earlier this month. The platform, which provides real-time availability and instant booking capabilities for hotel room blocks and meeting space, will use the money to expand in Europe, the Middle East and Africa, plus the Asia Pacific region.

By the end of this year, Sonder plans to completely eliminate single-use plastic amenities in their guest units worldwide. Nice!

Radisson is freshening up some of their concepts with design strategies that are well-suited to meet the needs of travellers as the world emerges from the pandemic. They just announced a new brand which is targeting gamers and influencers. In what they are calling “Creative Content Studio” you can expect big screens, gaming chairs, hyper-fast internet connection and some cafe-like lobby spaces.

While many talk about this Summer being the one in which the industry experiences a very high demand and makes a comeback, there is also lots being said about how chaotic things can get for travellers when they try to reach their relaxing holiday destination. CNN wrote an eye-opening piece about what some are expecting for this Summer.

Two news wrapped-up in one: The Dutch startup Campspace raised €3 million and acquired their German competitor, Pop-up Camps. Since the pandemic, nature-based and sustainable-focused travel choices have been one of the standout trends in the travel industry, and this also reflects in the growth of startups focusing on the sector. Bravo!

The “affordable luxury for the people” startup citizenM has launched an innovative loyalty program for the hospitality industry. To put it simple: instead of earning points to reach a certain status level, their program perks are unlocked with a monthly fee. And they keep growing: citizenM will be opening six new locations in 2022 and five more in 2023.

Nature plays a big part in the outdoor activities that people can experience while travelling across Europe. From world-famous mountains to the most beautiful beaches and vast forests, the landscape is breathtaking and attracts a variety of travellers. But how can tourism experiences be designed to protect biodiverse ecosystems with space technologies? On the weekend of May 12-14, at CASSINI Hackathons you can join innovators from different locations to see how solutions for challenges like this one can be developed. Join now!

The Finnish startup Valpas has just raised €2 million for growing their innovative tech solution (combining hardware, software and label) to fight bed bugs. I love to see startup founders tackling issues like this, where most of us just go like “oh, someone should do something about this”. Well, it seems like Valpas is on a mission to make guests have a pest-free stay.

What if we could use space technologies to offer travellers a unique and sustainable way to experience local destinations? In other words: make the whole travel experience more personal while actively supporting local businesses and communities; travelling local rather than heading to the usual overcrowded tourist spot. This is exactly one of the challenges that will be explored at the upcoming CASSINI Hackathon. Want to shape solutions to issues like this one? Sign up right now.

Travalyst wants to make it easier for customers to book a flight with lower emissions, with their just-announced framework that lets different industry players collect and display flight emissions data in a simple way. “By delivering clear and consistent tools for collecting and reporting airline data, we are helping travellers and the industry to make more informed – and lower-emitting – air travel choices,” said Sally Davey, CEO of Travalyst. In my opinion, anyone making an effort to make data more accessible and things less complex in this industry (specially when it comes to carbon emissions!), has my respect.

The travel industry is starting to take education more seriously – for both travel facilitators and travellers. Avanti Destinations has just teamed up with Spain’s Tourist Office to create a travel booklet on ‘la buena vida’, giving all the best tips for savouring the Spanish good life. At the same time, Hopper is bouncing into the travel education market with Bunny Bootcamp – giving travel agents the experience and knowledge they need to grow into their careers. We are always curious about new education initiatives for the travel industry – is there something you think we shouldn’t miss in this topic?

There’s one thing that always gives me stress when travelling: having a stopover. From panicking about whether I’ll have enough time to get through the airport, to worrying about my bags, security and one or another (very essential) duty-free purchases, it can be a headache. I’m sure I’m not the only one who was glad to see that Marseille Provence Airport has just teamed up with Kiwi.com to create a self-connect service that’s promising to make the experience much smoother and stress-free. I’m sold!

It’s been a lot of “firsts” in the past weeks when it comes to the travel industry getting cosy with the Metaverse. This week, Emirates Airlines announced they will be launching NFTs and CitizenM announced they will be building a hotel in the metaverse. I love to see that both news points in the direction that there is a significant push towards the digital space, so I would like to share an article which brings the reflection if the metaverse is really necessary. What do you think, Alex?

Frankfurt Airport‘s marketing agency Media Frankfurt has just teamed up with VIOOH to develop more streamlined digital ad experiences. As we know, airports are an ideal place for travellers to dream and to get swept up with excitement – making them prime locations for advertising and marketing.

A dedicated (and simple!) all-in-one system to manage operations and processes for the hospitality businesses, including independent hotels and B&Bs – it may sound like a dream, but this is exactly what Amenitiz is bringing to the industry. The Barcelona-based startup is tackling a huge market opportunity and has now announced an investment boost of €27 million to continue their expansion across Europe.

Lots has been said about travelling sustainably, right? Now you can dive even deeper as this is one of the challenges being explored in the CASSINI Hackathons. They are looking for tomorrow’s innovators to either develop fresh ideas or design new products and services that will reduce tourism travel’s carbon footprint. Sound like you? Then sign up now!

There are some US events that have a strong influence in shaping global culture – think of the Super Bowl or the Oscars for example. There’s also Coachella – a huge music and arts festival which is known as the place to be seen. It’s where cultural and social trend-setters hang out every year and an amazing place to spot emerging patterns across industries. This year, a new airline is flying to Coachella, exclusively for influencers. The festival is taking place next week, and I think anyone who has the task to market travel services for the new generation of travellers should take a look at what they are doing.

Some say that life has been happening too fast, that the world is spinning fast, and it is hard to keep up with the fast-paced lifestyle which many of us experience today. And then there is the challenge of making things go (even) faster: this is the case with China joining the hypersonic flight race. Think of getting from Shangai to New York in 2 hours – but please keep your seat belt fastened!

Just last month we mentioned that Uber added a new feature called Uber Explore, which allows users to book experiences like dinner reservations and live events. Now Uber has a new goal: becoming your go-to place for not only getting a ride, but also for booking a hotel room, buying plane, bus and train tickets, and even renting a car. The updates and new features are planned to roll out this year. It seems like everybody wants to be a superapp these days, and Uber is on its way.

Replacing the need for printed information with digital guidebooks that provide guests with local information, Touch Stay has just announced a €600k funding. The UK-based startup will now look to increase its customer base of accommodation providers and destination management companies as well as to invest in product development and recruitment.

Norwegian just announced the launch of the first collection of NFTs of the cruise industry. Here is what they said about the launch: “We strive to adopt the most cutting-edge technology at Norwegian Cruise Line and strongly believe that providing our guests the opportunity to own digital assets that connect them with an unforgettable cruise experience is an essential step forward.” – Scott Piccolo, Chief Digital Experience Officer at Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings.

The short-term rental startup Casai has acquired Loopkey, a Brazilian smart-lock hardware and software company that facilitates the maintenance of electronic smart locks across multiple properties. In three years of operations, this is the third time that the Mexican company acquires a Brazilian startup.

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