Travel Tech Essentialist #16: Step by Step

The gladdest moment in human life is a departure into unknown lands.” – Sir Richard Burton

If this is true, the protagonist in one of the stories in this week’s newsletter is living many gladdest moments. This week also brings travel news from Amazon, Facebook and Google, as well as innovations on how hotels are better adapting to their guests needs and how airlines are using 3D printing and blockchain to streamline maintenance.

1. Your longest (and last) trip

Let’s get a bit metaphysical for a change, and take a theoretical trip of tens of thousands of light-years beyond the solar system. If you want to know what it would be like to take a dip into a giant black hole to see and experience what’s inside, read on.

2. Google is turning Google Maps into a Super App

Back on earth, more than 1 billion people use Google Maps every day to get from point A to point B. And this is just the beginning, according to an article by Mario Gavira. He writes about how Google’s network of Local Guides is a cornerstone of its Super App’s ambitions and its slow but unstoppable rise to travel and restaurant industry domination. Google Maps became the digital gatekeeper of the physical retail world this decade and the article lays out how Google is well on the way to become the transactional operating system this next decade.

3. Amazon makes another travel move in India

And speaking of Super Apps, Amazon started to offer flights earlier this year via a partnership with Indian OTA Cleartrip. Amazon has now added bus tickets via a partnership with MakeMyTrip-owned RedBus. After adding flights, bus travel and movie tickets to the platform, there are some reports that Amazon is in talks to add hotels and train ticketing.

4. Walking around the world

Tom Turcich began his journey on April 2, 2015, the day before his 26th birthday, by walking out his front door of his New Jersey home with the objective of walking around the world. More than 25.000 km later, he’s still walking along with his one constant companion - Savannah, his dog. He expects to finish his worldwide journey sometime in 2021 or 2022. You can follow his adventure through his amazing photos on Instagram.

Photo from TheWorldWalk

Photo from TheWorldWalk

5. Facebook has a new team working on Travel Apps

Facebook has a new division called the New Product Experimentation Team with a mandate to build the future of Facebook, whatever that may look like. A New York Times article reports that the NPE Team is exploring the creation of new products including apps and programs for travel. The team is led by Ime Archibong, a longtime Facebook executive who was in charge of product partnerships and is close to Mark Zuckerberg.

Mark Zuckerberg and Ime Archibong jogging in Barcelona

Mark Zuckerberg and Ime Archibong jogging in Barcelona

6. AirAsia opens the first airline food restaurant

In its bid to be more than an airline, AirAsia has launched a number initiatives outside the traditional airline scope. Not only do they want to disrupt OTAs and eCommerce, they now also want to take on American fast-food chains. AirAsia has opened its first inflight menu cafe in a Kuala Lumpur mall. By the end of 2020, they aim to own five restaurants and, within the next three to five years, have 100 franchisee-operated restaurants in global markets. AirAsia Group CEO Tony Fernandes: “Our dream is to have one in Times Square”.

7. Flexible check-in and check-out

An increasing number of hotels are offering added flexibility to their guests. Some charge a fee, and others are offering this perk for free as a way to attract more loyal customers who will book directly with the hotels. “Check-in/checkout flexibility is becoming the next big battleground to personalize the guest’s stay, increase loyalty, and generate incremental revenue”, says Max Shepherd-Cross, CEO of HotelFlex, a startup that helps hotels with this service. In a related space, ByHours is startup specialized in the microstay market (hotel reservations for 3, 6 or 12 hours).

8. Blockchain and 3-D printing combine to make aircraft parts

Aircraft-component maker Moog Inc. is testing a combination of blockchain and 3-D printing to speed up the replacement of defective aircraft parts to a few hours from several days or weeks. In a pilot test, Air New Zealand placed an order for an in-seat screen on one of its Boeing 777-300s while the flight was mid-way between Auckland and Los Angeles. The order was placed through Moog’s own Microsoft Azure cloud-hosted blockchain, VeriPart. The order was soon validated and 3D printed instantly in Los Angeles – ready to be installed by the time the airplane landed.

9. IATA launches an innovation platform powered by Plug and Play

The International Air Transport Association announced the creation of Accelerate@IATA, an innovation platform operated by Plug and Play designed to support airlines and their value chain partners by speeding up new technology implementation around IATA standards. The plan is to accelerate 20 to 30 startups per year in two batches, resulting in several pilots or implementations with leading airlines involved in this new program. Learn more on how to join this program and the expected benefits.

10. Funding 💰

  • Zeus Living raised $55 million in a Series B round with the backing of Airbnb, bringing the total funding to date to $79 million. Founded in 2015, Zeus offers extended-stay housing to business travelers in San Francisco, Los Angeles, New York, Seattle and DC. PhocusWire .

  • WhyHotel, a provider of luxury pop-up hotels, raised $20 million in Series B funding. The Washington DC-based startup offers lodging and hotel-like service in newly built apartments during the lease-up phase. It has raised more than $35 million over three rounds. PhocusWire.

  • Remote Year raised $5 million in a round led by Lightbank. The company has raised $17 million since it was founded in 2015. The startup provides a platform for professionals who want to live and work around the world. To date, over 2500 professionals have participated in their 4, 6 and 12-month programs. PhocusWire.

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