Many of the stories in this newsletter circle around the opportunities that startups are capturing either solo or collaborating with corporates. As a category, startups could be particularly well-positioned to come out from the current cataclysmic event relatively better than others because some of the characteristics needed to survive and thrive under such conditions are inherent to the startup culture (my post on this subject in story #1).
Today is the 1st year anniversary of this newsletter. Special request in story #10 :-)
1. The greatest startup accelerator?
I wrote a short article on how startups could be relatively well positioned after CV19 in finding more willing consumers to sell to and operating in a business environment for which they are well suited for. I also go over how CV19 could accelerate the rate of collaborations between startups and corporates. The startup partnership that seemed like a non-urgent long term option two months ago for the corporate could become an immediate strategic imperative today. Read more.
2. BCG’s travel-focused consumer sentiment snapshot
As consumers in many countries anticipate the end of the lockdown phase, their level of concern declines. BCG’s 10th COVID-19 Consumer Sentiment Snapshot focuses on how consumers are thinking about travel and tourism, and what the journey back might look like. Leisure travel is the top activity that consumers miss the most, across countries, age groups, and income levels, with over 60% agreeing that they “can’t wait to start traveling again.” This pent-up intent to travel is undoubtedly good news, but when and how will consumers move from inclination to action?
3. Airports partner up with startups to look into the future
Temperature screenings, crowd control and sanitation initiatives are some of the functions that airports will need to master to protect passengers and staff, and to get travelers to regain confidence in flying. Partnering with startups will be key, as this article by Sean O’Neill suggests. Some of the startups highlighted:
CrowdVision is a London-based computer vision company that uses video cameras and machine learning to offer crowd tracking—including its flow, motion, behavior, individual body temperatures, analytics—to airports and other large venues.
Veovo is a New Zealand passenger density management startup that provides distancing insights and data-driven decisions for airports to understand how travelers move through terminals and prevent crowding. Veovo has recently launched a new set of social distancing solutions for airports.
Accesso is a UK tech company that provides virtual queuing solutions to eliminate lines in airports - helping travelers feel more at ease and capable of socially distancing.
4. RVshare bookings grow 650% ahead of summer travel season
With 100.000 Recreational Vehicles (RVs) in its platform, RVshare is the world’s first and largest peer-to-peer Recreational Vehicle (RV) rental marketplace, connecting RV owners and renters across the US. Since its launch in 2013, around 2 million days have been booked on the platform. The company recently announced their highest recorded booking numbers, with a 650% year on year rise in bookings since early April. The Ohio-based startup raised $50M in 2018 from investors including HomeAway’s co-founders.
5. Troop Travel is growing by helping large companies decide where to meet
CV19 has put a halt to large meetings and events, but there’s plenty of activity behind the scenes. Founded in 2017, Troop Travel aggregates thousands of data points, enabling corporate travel managers and meeting planners to select event destinations based on data. The Madrid-based startup initially focused on optimizing destination selection based on cost, travel time and carbon footprint. Now it has added new data layers including health, safety, travel restrictions and hybrid meeting options. Since CV19, Troop Travel has nearly tripled its number of Fortune 500 customers, from 4 to 11. Read more.
6. Hotel reopening strategies to increase direct bookings
The Hotels Network, a startup founded in 2015 in San Francisco and Barcelona, believes in the extreme power of personalization to improve user experience and increase hotel direct bookings. It works with over 5000 hotel clients worldwide who have seen a 32% increase in direct bookings. As restrictions have begun to loosen around the world, hotel brands are starting to reopen their doors. The Hotel Network has compiled a practical best practices guide on hotel reopening strategies to engage with guests and boost direct bookings.
7. Travel and health partnerships to regain traveler confidence
According to the BCG report (referred to in story #2), 60% of consumers rank “virus safety measures” in their top 3 criteria in choosing a brand to travel with, and “best in class hygiene” was mentioned as the top incentive that would make consumers more likely to travel. Large brands are well aware of this new consumer behavior, and they are taking steps in partnering with some of the most respected names in hygiene and healthcare. Two examples:
Four Seasons Hotels is collaborating with Johns Hopkins Medicine International to validate its new global health and safety program and provide ongoing, real-time guidance on COVID-19. Read more.
United is teaming up with Clorox and Cleveland Clinic to redefine its cleaning and disinfection procedures, and will be rolling out Clorox products across US airports to help support a healthy and safe environment. Read more.
8. JetBlue, 1st airline to guarantee you won’t be seated next to a stranger
JetBlue Airways committed to block middle seats in rows where parties are not traveling together until July 4th. Several major carriers have pledged to block the middle seat but with a lot of legalese and exceptions associated to the promise, such as this one from American (my italics): “We’re making more standard seats available on the seat map and restricting access to some seats, when possible, to give you more space. When time and flight loads permit, gate agents may move your seat as needed to help create a more comfortable environment.* Not guaranteed, subject to weight and balance restrictions, through May 31, 2020.”
Following similar moves from the likes of Expedia, Booking and Airbnb, Lastminute Group is planning to raise about €95 million to strengthen its financial position. The company says the equity capital will enable it to “capture business opportunities… at significantly better conditions.” Lastminute announced the move in their latest quarterly results.
Fly Now Pay Later, a London-based startup launched in 2015, raised $6 million in equity and $36 million in debt. The company gives loans to travelers to stagger payments for travel booked online with selected participating sellers. Similar to US competitor Uplift (which has raised $471 million to date). Fly Now Pay Later plans to expand from the UK to France and Germany this year.
SmartRent closed a $60M Series C Round, reaching $102 million in total funding to date. The Arizona-based startup founded in 2017 offers multifamily landlords a platform that supports a range of smart home devices, such as locks, smart speakers, thermostat control and Wi-Fi access.
10. Your input would be the best gift 🎉
As we reach the 1 year anniversary of Travel Tech Essentialist, I wanted to thank you for your time spent reading this newsletter. As we embark on year 2, I would very much appreciate your feedback on what would make this newsletter more worth your time. You can simply reply to this newsletter and let me know what’s on your mind (what you’d like more of, or less of, for example). Or you can leave your input on this feedback page.
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