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Posts tagged ‘startups’

The World of Travel Technology is changing.

November 9, 2014

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Its subtle but its there.

Mobile not Social
Ground not Air
Packaging stays true to its routes

The world of Travel Technology is part now of shifting sands as the universe changes (consumers are changing) then also the service model needs to change. At WTM (World Travel Mart) this year I really felt that the world is moving away from its traditional roots. In my view that is a good thing. Consumer facing technologies are great but the Supply Chain access and management remains stuck in the 1960s legacy platforms.

I like to wander at Trade shows. I of course spend the time looking intently at what people are offering in the sectors “du jour” and in the bits that I am personally interested in. Having done the Trade show walk for many years – what used to be somewhat chaotic is now a delicate dance and balance. Where I get quite a lot of inspiration is in listening to the questions that real punters – er I mean customers – are asking vendors for.. In truth I have become blasé about the wiles of the Steppes or the pebbled beaches of the Northern Med but the technology that powers consumers options both on the supply side and the demand side fascinates me. For much of my professional career in the Travel Industry – I have to say that much of what happens is actually a lot of smoke and mirrors. Complicated solutions built on fragile legacy technologies that in today’s real time economy really look archaic.

For technology I like to understand what is the shift. Not what the spin doctors are saying but what the users of tech are finding from their customers. In my somewhat jaded perspective I sense that much of the technology never gets used. So listening is very important. And what users are asking for is interesting? Yup you bet.

However while we are seeing some good stuff occurring in what the providers are focused on – sadly I still see that the Travel Industry sees itself as somehow uniquely wonderful and special. IE they don’t believe that the rest of the world is in that special place that Travel has occupied for decades and will continue to do so. How wrong can they be?

The latest set of startups I have seen are showing themselves as being far better designed and better suited for today’s consumer. However the bottleneck remains in the access to the supply chain. What we need is a better set of tools there. The days of an evolutionary approach I think are nearing the end and we are about to see some revolutionary changes. I hasten to add that this is not being driven from within the industry but from the periphery and definitely from the likes of the Big 4 Ecommerce players – Apple, Facebook, Google and Amazon.

Stay tuned folks this is going to be quite a ride.

If you are a traditional player – get your finger out and start rethinking your platforms.
If you are a new entrant or just interested in the category. Be careful where and how you source your data.

Cheers

2013 The Year of Transition – Part 1 of Year End Review

December 28, 2013

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2013 has seen some clear indications that we are reaching a level of maturity in many parts of the Travel Startup ecosystem.

For startups things are humming along nicely. The world of the sharing economy seems to have pushed new life into the moribund world of truly different and innovative. Many people are taking a run at  Tours and Activities again. And of course inspiration and planning seem to have been on a lot of people’s minds. And what is my take on this state.

In my view 3 things defined 2012:

  • The blockbuster acquisition of Kayak announced
  • The settlement of the Sabre vs AA lawsuit
  • The launch of NDC

For 2013 – there was not as much going on. We had no real blockbuster events. Yes there was still a fair old amount of money pouring into the world of startup and innovation. Not a lot of it smart. I was singularly unimpressed with the crop at PCW’s First Philip-less Innovation Summit. (I suspect I am not alone there).

Hopper finally launched and I am rather unimpressed. This could be so much better. I think much of the world has moved on. In my view – Social Sign-ins should be OPTIONAL not compulsory. This really annoys me?

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I don’t want to give Hopper or ANYONE ELSE my friend list. It is not my right to share other people’s data. Nor should it be anyone else’s. I am also getting tired of the minimalist interface that already frustrates me. I think I am REALLY tired of seeing a one box entry with a pretty background. 

Let’s get into the sharing economy – actually let’s not. AirBnB is an amazing phenomena it has unleashed a way for the consumer to search shop and buy a stay that is reasonable and affordable. It is also illegal in most cases and multiple instances in the same transaction. However that illegality is not stopping the consumer. I just hope someone asks me to right the Risk statement in their IPO document. Sometime in 2014 AirBnB will likely be the source of the most room nights booked by a single brand. I firmly believe that AirBnB must be held accountable for the actions of its efforts. So far few people are considering the impact of the macro economic change that AirBnB is bringing to both short term and long rental accommodation markets.

So my final note is on the consolidation of power across the board in the travel supply chain.

Cars and Airlines have now migrated into a scarce supply. I have watched as the supply of the traditional (aka legacy) airline product supply has slowly concentrated. And boy has it concentrated. In the USA we have gone from large number of players to just – 4 yes FOUR AIRLINES. And for car rental that has now come down to a much smaller number. Hertz, Avis, Enterprise. Pretty much that’s it.

There is now a new reality – the days of neutrality are dead. We are dealing with the Dealership model and we need to get used to it. The consumer has less choice than perhaps he has had to deal with in a very long time.

In conclusion – i believe that the “old” new economy is fading and we are facing a more stable and somewhat boring world. 2013 has been a maturing of what we saw as the brave new world. The year of transition from the hyper-euphoria to more mundane things belies the need to fix a large number of under the covers infrastructure changes. (More on that in my follow up article for 2014).

As a postscript for 2013 – perhaps as a tantalizing look at how we can imagine the future – check out these new UX possibilities here:

http://www.fastcodesign.com/3023146/the-17-most-amazing-user-interfaces-of-the-year#1

 

Thanks for reading and here’s to a great 2014.  Lunar year 2013 was the year of the Snake. As one – I welcomed the year with a bit of trepidation as it marked a major milestone in my life. Now I have had the chance to reflect – it wasn’t too bad. I wish all the best for your loved ones. May you find the true path and of course may peace come to all of us!Image

Some you win – some you lose – Part 2

January 2, 2013

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In the some you lose column is the sad story of Lodgenet. the dream of piping media into the hotel room was a long time held belief that this was a great way to reach an upscale and valuable audience at a time when they were most susceptible to influence.

Well it took a LONG time. It was expensive and also prone to technology change.

The sales cycle was part of the problem. But the company failed miserably in my view to address the issue of the internet. So here we are nearly 20 years after the birth of the consumer web and they are still plugging away at a conventional media base.

The writing on the wall should be clear, Internet pipes are valuable but portal real estate is not that great.

On Monday the company filed for Chapter 11. It is up to its eyeballs in debt. It has little future and in my view is a dead duck. Why?

It has failed to recognize that consumers now want to consumer media in their own mode and via own tools, services and especially own devices. During the waning days of 2012 – I met with a large hotelier who operates and dominates a market segment. They have Lodgenet in some of their properties but it has little value and in some instances does not make the hotel any money.

Interestingly Colony Capital who is plunging $60 million into the company has a history of bailing out lodging based companies. Let’s wish all the best for them.

The company lost the plot on what it’s business is/was. It is to provide access to entertainment content. In that they have failed to keep pace with the market and the consumer. For that they have been well and truly spanked by the marketplace. The lesson to startups here is to remember and focus on what your core business is. And don’t EVER lose sight of that.

 

Cheers

 

Some you win – some you lose – Part 1.

January 2, 2013

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Two stories today point to the perils of businesses that sound good at the time but either fail to maintain their value or just lose the plot altogether. Two companies today point to a bit of both.

Firstly the success. ZipCar has been acquired for $500 million (yes that’s half a Billion) by Avis. Its a good fit for both businesses. It brings credibility to ZipCar. (Especially the poor CRV I saw being transported yesterday that had broken down 😉 But there is a clear message here for others in the “Sharing Economy”. As I wrote in TNooz today:

I think this purchase sends a clear message to those who believe that its OK to comply or not with current legislation.

One of the reasons ZipCar and Hertz on Demand both work in the “Sharing” economy is that there is a clear sense of liability and a clear value. Both of which are handled by the companies concerned. AirBnB and the accommodation players in “Sharing” are now only just waking up to the liability and legality issues. There has been frantic efforts to adjust the rules to isolate the problems they face. (If you are an AirBnB “host” you might want to read the new T&Cs VERY carefully. Ditto the new ones from Wimdu. About now those investors who have pumped loads of cash into it are probably hi5ing themselves. BUT they should be eying the door. However in my opinion this is all window dressing.

ZipCar addressed its car sharing liability early through membership and its legal status. It also lobbied hard to ensure that it could get the laws changed to allow the service. Hertz on-demand service is also a straight rental contract provided by a licensed provider. Both of them legal and both legitimate to the consumer and local and national legislation.

The path to success took ZipCar a long time. There were other competitors who tried to muscle in but in the end they are the survivors. This is a good exit for the company and the founders/investors. Please read part 2 for the downside of not keeping current. Lodgenet.

Cheers