When you don’t have resources, you become resourceful. — KR Sridhar, Founder & CEO of Bloom Energy
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0. The most clicked link in the previous newsletter
I thought it might be interesting to share what the most clicked link was in the previous newsletter to see where the general interest lies. The most clicked link in Travel Tech Essentialist #111 was easyJet 2070: The Future of Travel, a report forecasting innovations in airport journeys, air travel, accommodation, and holiday experiences in 50 years.
1. No money, no technology, no plans? No problem.
In a 15-minute meeting with Alibaba's CEO (David Wei), Shaan Puri asked him for the secret to success in business. Wei's response was that success cannot be replicated as each company's success is a result of a unique combination of variables and factors. Instead, Wei suggested that it’s better to focus on the keys to failure, as they are always the same. Three things in excess will ruin a company: money, plans, and technology. He said that Alibaba had three core beliefs:
No money, as it makes people complacent and dependent on throwing money at problems rather than solving them with creativity, hustle, diligence and intelligence.
No technology, as Alibaba views itself as a service company that solves customer issues and uses technology as a tool rather than as a core focus.
No plans, as success occurs off-plan and companies should prioritize their mission and vision over following a rigid plan. By staying true to their mission, companies can adapt and come up with the right plan.
2. 100 ❤ > 1million 👍
The founders and Airbnb attribute a large part of their success to the advice they got from Paul Graham while they were in Y Combinator in 2009. The most important piece of advice they got from him was that it’s better to have 100 people who loved Airbnb than get 1 million people who liked it. All movements grow this way. That’s when they decided to do things that wouldn’t scale. Read + or see the video (Stanford University class of Reid Hoffman interviewing Brian Chesky)
3. Strategically Constrained: turning limitations into opportunities
Seth Godin recommends all entrepreneurs to read A Beautiful Constraint, authored by the founders of eatbigfish, an agency that specializes in assisting "challenger brands." The book’s core tenet is that the very best place to look for breakthrough capabilities is right behind your biggest constraint. This post by Tiago Forte gives a good summary of the actual mechanism of how to turn constraints into opportunities.
Raise your bold ambition
Bold Ambition x 10
Example: “Each property on our platform should have high-quality photos”
Create a propelling question
Constraint + [Bold Ambition x 10] = Propelling Question
Example: “How do we get high-quality photos of each property without the personnel and travel overhead of staff photographers?”
Give the propelling question legitimacy, authority, and accountability.
Constraint + [Bold Ambition x 10]= Propelling Question^[accountability]
Example: “As CEO, I promise to all our hosts that their listings will feature top-notch photographs before the end of June.”
Identify undervalued resources
Effortless, fun capability = abundant resource
Example: Our community of hosts.
Write a “We can… if…” statement.
Propelling Question^[accountability] x Abundant Resource = WCI Statement
Example (Airbnb): “We can offer great photos of each accommodation (bold ambition) without the personnel and travel overhead of staff photographers (constraint) if we use other people’s skills as photographers; people from within our community (resource).”
4. Google Flights launches a best-price guarantee
Google announced a new price guarantee feature that monitors prices and pays customers the difference if their fare drops from booking to departure. The guarantee currently applies to select US flights on Alaska, Spirit, and Hawaiian Airlines, as well as some US-originating international flights with carriers such as Canada's WestJet. Google plans to expand this feature to more flights and carriers. If eligible, a light blue-colored price guarantee badge will appear on the booking page, and customers must book directly through Google's platform, which then passes it to the airline to confirm and manage the reservation. Read + Bloomberg
5. What do Americans want in a European vacation? Fewer Americans
Europe saw a surge in American tourists last summer and 2023 is predicted to be even busier, with an 8% rise in reservations, according to Hopper. The dilemma is that, according to this WSJ article, Americans want to see fewer Americans in their upcoming European vacation.
To help them, I went to Google’s Destination Insights and searched for the top European destinations originating from the US based on recent search data. Then I asked ChatGPT to suggest alternatives with fewer Americans (“I'm looking for a city that has a similar vibe to X but with fewer American tourists”).
Instead of London: Edinburgh, Scotland
Instead of Barcelona: Valencia
Instead of Paris: Lyon
Instead of Lisbon: Porto
Instead of Dublin: Galway
Instead of Santorini: Naxos
Instead of Sicily: Sardinia
I went a step further and asked ChatGPT to give me the best tourist destinations in Europe with the fewest Americans. Here they are: Faroe Islands (Denmark), Ljubljana (Slovenia), Kotor (Montenegro), Rovinj (Croatia), Zakopane (Poland), Matera (Italy), Český Krumlov (Czech Republic), Gdańsk (Poland), Hallstatt (Austria) and Bruges (Belgium).
6. Putting ChatGPT to the test
Bloomberg put the AI chatbot to the test using three very different scenarios. Its performance varied widely:
The mission: A relaxing, family-friendly trip with two (very) young kids.
The mission: A crowd-free trip to Europe
The mission: A mental health escape on a $750-per-night budget
The author’s conclusion is that she will go back to the pros, but as a preliminary travel planning tool, chatting with the bot was more satisfying than taking to Google or clicking on endless slideshows offering the best hotels: “When it works, ChatGPT’s randomness fosters a sense of discovery—which is what travel planning is all about. And when it doesn’t, well, at least it makes you laugh. The catch: You’ll have to do a lot more Googling to find out which one’s which.”
7. Hopper adds a tip at checkout
The option to leave a tip in venues where gratuity was not customary has become more prevalent (at least across the US) due in large part to the adoption of point-of-sale systems like Square. Hopper launched a new feature that automatically adds gratuity at checkout. Depending on the type of reservation, you see the tip amount presented as a flat fee (for example, a $5 Hopper Tip) or a variable amount (i.e 15% Hopper Tip). Hopper says that the tip allows them to “provide customers with the best insights and maintain the accuracy of our notifications.” If the money is not flowing directly to service workers who depend on it, should it be called a tip or a service fee? Depending on how this evolves, you might soon see it being rolled out in other OTA, airline and hotel booking flows. Read +.
8. Time to level up your SEO game 😂
Inspired by this, here are naming ideas for your new hotel, restaurant, local activities, and Online Travel Agency:
Hotels in New York
Best paella in Barcelona
Things to do in Paris
Cheap flights(oh, wait, that’s taken)
9. 1000 travel startups
I launched two interactive datasets in 2021: Startup & Investor dataset and the Research & Insights dataset.
The Startup & Investors dataset just reached its 1000th startup. Here is a brief highlight of the subset of startups that have raised rounds in the last six months.
- Most active investors: Plug and Play, F-Prime Capital, Goldman Sachs, Thayer Ventures, TechNexus
- Most represented startup country headquarters: USA, England, France, Germany, Spain, Israel
- Most represented city headquarters: Paris, New York, San Francisco, Amsterdam, Austin, London
- Top micro categories: Hotel Tech, Vacation Rental, Airline Tech, B2B, Corporate Travel, Camping, Fintech
- Largest fundraising rounds: Mews, TripActions, Connexpay, Hopper, Holidu
- Median size of last round: $9.5 million
- Top 3 stages: Series B, Seed, Series A
If you are not a subscriber to the dataset(s), you can access here:
Startup & Investor dataset ($100)
Research & Insights dataset ($100)
BOTH datasets ($145)
10. Fundraising, M&A, Announcements
San Francisco-based Whimstay, a vacation rental platform aimed at last-minute travelers, secured $10 million in pre-Series A.
New Orleans-based Spot2Nite, a fast-growing campground and RV spot marketplace, closed a $3 million Series A round.
Your.Rentals, a property management software provider for short-term rentals, closed €2.15 million through crowdfunding and angel investors.
South Korea-based Yanolja Cloudacquired Oregon-based hotel software provider Innsoft to target the North American market. Read +.
Expedia Group announced a new partnership with Wheel the World, a travel booking platform for accessible travelers in wheelchairs. Read +.
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