Travel Tech Essentialist #49: The Surge is Coming

The travel surge, that is. Holiday bookings are reacting very positively to any hints of travel restrictions removals (story #2). And those for whom earthly travel is not enough, intergalactic travel is getting closer (#4). Investors and entrepreneurs are betting on local experiential tourism (#8) and the remote work trend has opened opportunities for business travel disruptors (#6). In #3 you will find that travelling is just what the doctor ordered.

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1. The geography of travel startups

I just published Travel Startup Cities, based on analyzing 878 travel and mobility startups that have raised fundraising rounds between early 2018 and Feb 2021. I look at their global geographic distribution by country and city and then zoom into five countries: USA, UK, Germany, Spain, and France. AOL founder Steve Case often refers to the Rise of the Rest, a new era for entrepreneurship in which high-growth companies can start and scale anywhere. This is clearly happening in the travel sector.

2. Holiday bookings surge after lock-down exit plans

More indications of the travel surge taking place at the slightest possibility of travel restrictions being lifted. Boris Johnson announced this Monday that his government would put forward a report by April 12th on how to return to international travel and that they would then make a decision on removing restrictions on international travel, but not before May 17th. These were some of the consequences of this announcement:

  • Tui saw bookings for foreign trips jumped 500% overnight

  • EasyJet reported a 337% surge in flight bookings

  • Thomas Cook’s website traffic was up over 100%

  • Record sales at UK-based holiday firms Hoseasons and

Read + BBC

3. The pandemic made the world realize the importance of human contact

The Economist published an interesting article highlighting how touch is the only sense crucial to humans’ survival and the wide ranging positive health effects it brings. Humans “need to interact with each other”. More reasons to be optimistic on leisure and business travel. Read + The Economist

4. Elon Musk says SpaceX will be making regular passenger flights by 2023

Elon Musk and Joe Rogan had a fun and interesting 3h 24m conversation on Joe Rogan's podcast. Musk said that SpaceX’s Starship is 2 years away from having regular passenger flights (and landing safely). Take a listen at this 9m clip.

5. Airline digital trends

Iztok Franko from Diggintravel just released a detailed report with insights into key 2021 airline digital trends that are defining the airline industry. In the report he refers to the concept of digital bothism, which is a fancy way of saying “do more with less,” or balancing the long term and short term.

6. The most promising virtual work startups

TNMT mapped the 100 most promising startups offering virtual solutions that disrupt both physical interactions and business travel. All startups are categorized by type of business meeting/travel need, ranked by VC funding raised, and ordered by their expected impact on business travel in the next years to come. Read + TNMT.

7. As Bitcoin surges, will cryptocurrency become an accepted form of payment in travel?

Since Bitcoin first appeared in 2009, a handful of travel companies have come to accept it as a form of payment. One of the first was OTA CheapAir, which began accepting Bitcoin in 2013 and is used in “single digit” percentage of its sales. Spain-based Destinia has been accepting Bitcoin since 2014, accounting for about 2% of sales. Travala, an Australia-based OTA founded in 2017 processes about $1 million in monthly bookings, 70% of which is paid in cryptocurrency. This Phocuswire article goes over some of the current challenges, risks and rewards of adopting Bitcoin as a form of payment. If you owned bitcoins, would you use them to pay for your trips? Because of its fluctuation, I see its value more as an investment than as a currency. If I had paid with Bitcoin in October 2020 a $3000 family vacation for this week, I might not enjoy the poolside Gin & Tonics as much, knowing that the Bitcoins I spent would be worth $15.000 today. Would love to hear your thoughts on this.

8. Entrepreneurs and investors are betting big on high-tech experiential centers

In a sign of post-pandemic thinking, immersive museums and experiential art centers have been expanding to new cities and attracting investors willing to bet on the future of this emerging tourism industry. This could be a particularly attractive proposition for locations that are not necessarily dependent on fly-in tourism. Read + NYT.

9. Fundraising and partnerships

  • GetYourGuide announced new funding of €80 million via a Revolving Credit Facility to “explore strategic investments”. Read+.

  • Netherlands-based scooter-sharing service Felyx secured a €24M Series A round, bringing the total raised by the 4-year-old company to €28 million. Read+.

  • RocketRez raised a $6.6 million Series A. The Canadian startup provides cloud-based management software for tours and attractions and provides an integrates with distribution partners such as Expedia, GetYourGuide, Klook and Viator. Read +.

  • Romanian startup Questo  raised $1.5 million in funding led by Early Game Ventures. Questo enables tourists and locals to discover a city by unlocking challenges that reveal stories. The company describes the self-guided tours as a “new form of urban entertainment.” Read+.

  • FantasticStay, a Bulgarian short-term rental technology startup, received €1.3 million in investment in a round led by New Vision 3. Read+.

  • Uplift Ventures, creator of the Uplift Jet Lag App, closed a $500,000 round of angel funding. Earlier this month another jet lag app creator, Timeshifter, announced it had raised $2 million to create an app for shift workers. Read+.

  • NY and Munich-based NextGuest merged with Cendyn to create "the largest scalable CRM & Digital Marketing provider for the hospitality industry". Clients include Hyatt, Marriott, Hilton, IHG and Jumeirah. Read+.

10. Promising startups

  • Geneva-based ZYTLYN is an analytics startup that helps travel companies address their most urgent decisions with actionable data and predictive insights.

  • The Host Co. is a retail platform for short term rental hosts to easily sell anything in the rental property or any other item that guests might need.

  • Ethik'Hotels is a France-based platform that facilitates access to sustainable tourism accommodations as well as local incoming agencies.

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