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Travel News and Trends Headlines Update on July 22, 2022

A software company has just raised $25m to help airline companies to upsell. The solution offered by Gordian Software enables travel sites, including Hopper, and Priceline, to sell ancillaries such as baggage and premium seat selection for their airline partners. Travellers can pack their bags and get ready for the upselling upswing. The startup experienced revenue growth of 350% in the past 6 months and is also looking to triple its headcount by the end of 2022 – clearly there’s lots of appetite for upselling! Read more: This Startup Just Raised $25 Million To Help Airlines Upsell You On Your Next Flight

A lot of financial institutions have joined forces with travel tech companies to provide a quick way to incorporate new travel solutions into their offerings. It’s a collaborative energy we like to see. The latest news is a new partnership between GetYourGuide and American Express. They’re bringing a new exclusive booking site for card members, giving access to an inventory of tours and activities as well as experiences and discounts. Read more: Banks, Financial Institutions Getting More Travel Services

So, the ongoing job shortage in travel and tourism is turning even more dramatic, and to be honest, it’s blowing our minds. The impact of this can’t really be understated and getting these vacancies is turning into a major challenge for the industry. If you are currently hiring, do let me know and we’ll be happy to provide you with our rate card to promote your open positions on this newsletter – maybe your next hire is among our FutureTravel audience? Read more: Europe Urgently Needs to Fill 1.2 Million Travel and Tourism Job Vacancies

The business power of design: Airbnb’s redesign

In Newsletter #82, when referring to Airbnb’s summer release, I also included a tweet that I thought was funny: “If you’re ever worried that an announcement is too small, just remember that Airbnb added house categories and called it the biggest change in a decade”. I still think it’s funny, but I regret including it, as it goes against two of my principles:

  • Think about why it could work instead of why it won’t
  • Practical optimist instead of pessimist and skeptic by default

Airbnb has some of the best designers and data scientists in the world, and they understand how elegant and simple design changes can impact user behaviour. Design can be one of the most important levers of growth. If Bryan Chesky thinks that these changes are “the biggest in Airbnb’s history”, he is probably thinking about the potential they have to change entrenched consumer behaviours. That’s what’s big, not the changes themselves.

Daniel de Mello wrote a great post in which he argues how Airbnb’s seemingly small design changes have the potential to deeply impact Airbnb’s business and likely the travel industry as a whole. For example, the traditional travel Job To Be Done is: Give me a place in [City] from [Date] to [Date]. Airbnb’s design changes propose a new JTBD: help me find the best experience no matter where. This change that bets on a new JTBD could indeed have transformational business implications, such as growing long tail revenue and putting pressure on hosts to provide a better experience. Read More: The business power of design: understanding Airbnb’s redesign

The business power of design: Airbnb’s redesign

Simple by design: BlaBlaCar

In 2017, Joe Zadeh, VP of Product at Airbnb, was visiting BlaBlaCar’s office and was asked what makes a good Product Manager. His answer: “A PM is a 10x simplifier”. From that moment on, BlaBlaCar VP of Product & Design Benjamin Retourné became obsessed with simplification and with convincing others to join his obsession. He shared the learnings and the achievements of BlaBlaCar’s product simplification journey in this great post 1 year after Joe Nadeh planted the simplification bug. Read more: What we learned from simplifying our product in 2017

Successful design is not necessarily beautiful: Amazon

Jason Brush was the Global head of UX design for WPP’s flagship digital agency POSSIBLE in 2018. That year, he wrote an article describing the design theory behind Amazon’s successful design, which is neither simple nor beautiful (two things we expect of good design). Instead, it focuses on simplicity of experience, process, and functionality. Jason pointed out that Amazon’s design succeeded because it makes use of 4 key principles that all great shopping experiences embody. Worth a read because these principles apply to the travel shopping experience just as much. Read more: The Design Theory Behind Amazon’s $5.6 Billion Success

What do Europe’s leading founders have in common?

Mosaic VC analyzed 197 founding CEOs of European unicorns, to uncover patterns in their backgrounds and previous experience to search for trends in successful founder backgrounds.

The most common traits founding CEOs of European unicorns are most likely to have:

  • Prior experience as a founder (~65% were repeat founders)
  • No previous industry experience in the sector of their unicorn business (~55%)
  • A Master’s or PhD degree (~55%)
  • More than 10 years of work experience before founding the company (~35%)

And this is who and what European unicorn founders/CEOs tend not to be:

  • Very unlikely to have worked for another unicorn (only ~10% had)
  • Very unlikely to have worked for a FAANG or Microsoft (~5%)
  • Unlikely to have skipped college, including dropping out (~10%)
  • Unlikely to have studied at a small set of highly represented universities. The top 5 alma maters accounted for only ~15% of founders in the sample
  • Unlikely to have a technical background (~35% of founding CEOs are technically oriented)

Read more: What do Europe’s leading founders have in common?

Airbnb’s culture of experimentation

Airbnb’s success is due as much to its design-driven focus as to the strength of its data science team. Lenny Rachitsky, former product lead at Airbnb, wrote about the 5 biggest things Airbnb got right in fostering a culture of experimentation:

  • Hiring data-minded people early — and often
  • Aligning around a measurable north-star metric
  • Embedding data scientists into your teams
  • Humanizing the data
  • Building tooling that makes it easy to run experiments that you trust

Read more: Fostering a culture of experimentation

Hotel of the future: less brand, more people

Hotels are in a period of significant evolution and opportunity. From OTAs to commoditization, changes in the travel and hospitality industry are challenging hotels to move beyond brand identity and deepen their relationships with travelers. Outstanding hospitality will be enabled by technology but will still require a thoughtful human touch. Deloitte has identified five integrator types that present new opportunities to evolve hotel brands and services to meet changing customer expectations for their hotel experiences.​ Read more: The Hotel of The Future

A new generation of budget airlines aims to disrupt flying

The pandemic provided a rare opportunity for new carriers to establish themselves in smaller markets that had been abandoned by the major airlines in recent years. Startups like Breeze, Avelo and PLAY represent a new generation of low-frills carriers that aim to disrupt the status quo by using technology as a differentiator — in addition to low fares and convenient routes. Read more: New generation of budget airlines aims to disrupt flying

Funding and M&A

Flight subscriptions are taking off.

We all want to jet off and get back to exploring all this world has to offer, and it’s getting more financially-friendly to do so. Barcelona-based Caravelo, a startup that’s pioneering flight subscription and revenue optimization models for airlines, has just picked up a €3 million funding boost. The company is flying high, expecting a 4x growth by the end of 2022. Flight subscriptions are good for airlines and travellers – it makes booking that trip all the more appealing and also gives providers a steady stream of income – win-win and a big plus for fintech innovation in the travel sector. Read more: FLIGHT SUBSCRIPTION PLATFORM CARAVELO LOOKS TOWARD GROWTH WITH €3M HAUL

Hospitality businesses now have a level playing field in the google review game.

Amid growing labour shortages in the hospitality sector and increased customer demands, achieving customer excellence is getting tricky for lots of businesses. At the same time, leaving reviews on our experiences is a growing pastime and for most of us, checking out Google reviews is a must-do before deciding on a restaurant, bar, hotel and so on. Helping businesses in the hospitality industry optimise how people experience their visit and activate staff on-the-spot to provide better attention to guests, Dutch startup Viqal has now raised €500k in pre-seed funding. The startup has developed a tech powered by acoustic smart sensors and AI that analyses customer experience in real-time, giving instantaneous and actionable info to employees. Read more: Hospitality-tech Startup Viqal Raises €500k in Financing

Digital marketplaces are bringing real-life experiences – and they’re skyrocketing.

As British startup Holibob announces a $12 million Series A round, it’s clear that digitalisation of travel is fueling a renaissance of in-person, real-life experiences. The travel industry perhaps perfectly emulates how tech can enhance real-life, rather than take away from it. The startup’s tours and attractions digital marketplace enables companies in the industry to connect the right products with the right travellers at the right time. It’s been successfully driving growth for partners like Amadeus, KAYAK and Secret Escapes. This funding comes after the firm acquired TourismSolved in April and reported a 6-fold growth in the past 6 months. Read more: HOLIBOB SECURES $12 MILLION SERIES A TO DRIVE GROWTH IN TOURS AND ACTIVITIES MARKETPLACE

Dubai-based Swvl is taking on the shared mobility sector with its latest acquisition.

Across the world, there’s a diverse array of mobility platforms and services – all underpinning an aim to offer smart, affordable and accessible transport to the masses. Marking itself as a global leader in the space, Dubai’s transit tech specialist Swvl has announced plans to acquire Mexican shared mobility platform Urbvan Mobility. This will be the 6th acquisition for the company in the past year – after picking up smart bus platform Zeelo and Volt Lines in April as well as European mobility platform Door2Door. Read more: SWVL ACQUIRES SHARED MOBILITY PLATFORM URBVAN

To infinity and beyond? Or to ground?

While we hope it’s merely a case of scaremongering, there is growing unease in the space and aviation startup scene right now. Venture capital firms are starting to tell their portfolio companies to save cash ahead of a predicted economic downturn. For startups in space and aviation innovation this is worrying news. These companies rely on a healthy cash flow to stay in flight and tightening pockets could be a frightening sign indeed. Seems like this could be a ‘year of reckoning’ for the sector. Read more: Space, Aviation Startups Risk Crumbling As VCs Pull Back

Book and plan travel is getting a whole lot simpler.

For anyone going on vacation this summer, arriving at the final destination doesn’t need to bring any headaches. With new advancement in tech and fresh thinking there are a whole host of startups making travel planning smooth and simple. Take a look here at 10 European startups leading the way, meaning travellers can sit back, relax and actually enjoy the trip. Read more: 10 European startups that make booking a trip a breeze

The hospitality sector wants you… or just about anyone!

As the travel industry bounces back, revenues soar and hotels completely book out, it’s not entirely plain sailing for the hospitality sector. With immense worker shortages, hotels, bars and restaurants are beginning to hire people regardless of experience, resume or background – just to fill the gap. Spain and Portugal are particularly suffering. According to CNA, Spain’s catering industry is 200k workers short and Portuguese hotels need at least 15k more people to meet growing demand. Picture this: Accor has been interviewing young people and migrants with no resume or prior job experience and then hiring them within just 24 hours. Yes, that’s how dramatic the talent shortage is at the moment. Read more: No experience, no resume, you’re hired! Hotels fight for staff

May I take your order please?

Making restaurants digital, London-based startup Vita Mojo has just raised $30 million. The company has developed a software that empowers digital, self-service ordering and makes kitchens operate more efficiently. It’s been reported that more than 80% of both GenZ and millennials prefer to use self-serve kiosks, making this tech fitting for the future. Vita Mojo also lets restaurants display nutrition and allergen info, so clients can make more informed decisions. For restaurants, it’s dishing up the newest style of smart kitchen management and providing a powerful full-suite platform for smoother operations. The restaurant experience is changing and it’ll be interesting to see how people respond. Read more: European Restaurant Software Provider Vita Mojo Raises $30M in New Financing

A new era for tickets.

Did you know that QR code technology was introduced in 1994? And yet it’s still the fancy trend in the ticketing industry. Seems like it’s time for something new. Something that brings more benefits to consumers, is more secure, and improves revenue for businesses. Enter NFT smart tickets. Tipped to become the future for travel and experiences, NFTs is coming to ticketing, being used as an exclusive ‘membership-style’ card. This fresh approach to ticketing enables travel and experience providers to issue smart digital tickets that allow access and deliver extra value and benefits, all while registered on the more secure blockchain. Read more: HOW NFTS CAN BE USED AS “SMART TICKETS” FOR TRAVEL EXPERIENCES

Arrive at the hotel and the adventure begins.

Marriott Hotels has furthered its partnership with TED, to bring TED-Ed into the hotel experience. The result is the creation of a completely new hotel experience, promising to spark curiosity, wonder and entertainment. Called ‘The Curiosity Room by TED’, the themed hotel rooms give guests a chance to embark on an adventure as soon as they get to the hotel. There they will find their room has been crafted into a puzzle box waiting to be solved. It’s a fully immersive experience that brings the hotel room to life. The inaugural launch is planned in San Francisco this summer before taking to Bangkok and London. Read more: Marriott and TED debut first immersive guest rooms

What’s next for the attractions industry?

This summer there’s one bug everyone seems to be catching – the travel bug. The attractions industry is soaring this summer, but, with new expectations, new realities and new innovations – there are a lot of changes in store. Together with IAAPA, we took a look at the key trends shaping the attractions industry for the future, and you can check out the insights here.

Book in real-time real quickly.

Integrations and collaborations are one way that travel innovators are optimising their offerings to consumers. This week, Tiqets, which provides instant last-minute tickets to top museums and attractions worldwide, expanded its network through an integration with Group. Now, travellers using’s brands – including Ctrip and Skyscanner – can book entry directly to top experiences at more than 4000 museums and attractions globally. Customers now benefit from real-time availability with the chance to add personalisation such as flexi-booking, language selection and so on. It shows the power of integration and collaboration, and how the travel industry can work together to make our much-loved travel experiences even better. Read more: TIQETS EXPANDS DISTRIBUTION WITH TRIP.COM GROUP INTEGRATION

How technology will augment the human touch.

Deloitte has released its Hotels of the Future report, identifying the key trends that will influence hotels going forward. One thing has been left clear, hotels are about, and will always be about, a thoughtful and connected human experience. Looking to the future, this is going to come even more personalised and tailored to each individual guest. Integrating experiences, people, culture, spaces and processes, are the five key areas hotels will be innovating in over the next few years, reimagining how memorable experiences are formed. Read more: Hotel of the future

The six secrets of profitable airlines

A McKinsey report focuses on what airlines can learn from a small group of carriers that have managed to consistently generate strong results. This group includes airlines from multiple regions and with a range of sizes and business models. The report highlights six characteristics that these airlines have in common. One of these “secrets” is that high-performing airlines give customers more choice through ancillaries. Ancillaries are still an undertapped channel of value for many airlines. McKinsey’s analysis reveals a positive relationship between ancillary sales performance and ROIC (return on invested capital). Read more: The six secrets of profitable airlines

Apple and PayPal land in the Buy Now Pay Later battlefield

The pandemic accentuated consumers’ interest in flexible payment options such as Buy Now Pay Later. The State of Loyalty: 2022 Credit Card Rewards report from travel loyalty solutions firm iSeatz points that having a BNPL option at checkout increases conversion rates by 20% to 30% and lifts average ticket sales 30% to 50% (seems a bit too optimistic to me). According to Amadeus, 68% of global travelers say BNPL would encourage them to spend more than usual on summer travel, while 49% say they would be more likely to buy ancillary services if buy-now-pay-later was offered. This article by Phocuswire gives a brief overview of the BNPL competitive landscape that includes fintech brands such as Affirm, Uplift and Fly Now Pay Later, and new heavyweights entrants Apple and PayPal.

A work of art that was once an airport terminal and now a hotel

TWA Flight Center at JFK Airport is the only airline terminal—past or present—to be universally acknowledged as a masterwork. With the bankruptcy of Trans World Airlines two decades ago, the Flight Center fell vacant and narrowly escaped demolition. It reopened to the public in 2019 as the TWA Hotel. This is an interesting read on how Saarinen, the Finnish-American architect (best known for the Gateway Arch in St. Louis), approached the TWA Flight Center project. Read more: When Design Takes Flight

Mental errors and how to combat them

Cognitive biases and logical fallacies are systematic errors in thinking and reasoning that negatively impact decision-making quality, logic, and outcomes. Fighting back these errors requires knowing what they are and how they affects us. This post covers Loss Aversion, the Spotlight Effect, Heaven’s Reward Fallacy, Confirmation Bias, and Baader-Meinhof Phenomenon. Read more: Dangerous Mental Errors (You Don’t Know You’re Making)

Hard times may point to more M&A activity among unicorns

IPOs have dried up, the boom in SPACs has fizzled out and venture capitalists are holding back their investments. That raises the question of how will founders of startups valued at $1 billion or more going to fund their businesses and cash out. In the past decade, less than 20% of tech unicorns exited via M&A. That number is likely to go up. Read more: Unicorns’ hard times point to M&A stampede