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Tuesday, November 30, 2010

My take on the main trends related to innovation in the Travel Industry

I attented the Phocuswright Innovation Summit. in Phoenix. It was a great conference, well organized, with great speakers. There was 1100 attendees, and I had very interesting discussions there.
My fist shock was to see how iPad and iPhone changed the way people participate and interact during a conference. With my colleagues, It tried to use th wifi with my blackberry but never succeeded to do so. With my iphone, I was operational in 2 minutes. All information about the conference was available though an easy to use iOs or Android app (and a mobile web site for others sic ..). This great tool was developped and powered by Quickmobile.
It seems now obvious that a good conference should now come with a good mobile, real time, social accompanying app or web site. It was indeed very easy to ask questions to keynote speakers through email, twitter (with specific hash tag), etc. I hope next year real-time polling could be done also via the same approach, enabling also the keynote speaker to ask questions.

Google ITA and emerging new Travel Search Hub (or Aggregators)
Google/ITA deal was in all conversations. It seems that the Google-ITA deal has a great chance to be agreed. With metasearch engines and now Google entering the travel space, OTAs (Expedia, Orbitz, etc.) are looking for alternative ways to get their travel segment information content. This opens then a new market for companies like Everbread and Vayant, specializing in airfare search.
And what is true for air is also true for other domains like:
All of them are positioned as possible alternatives for shopping and booking.

Shopping, Shopping, Shopping
I was very surprised to see that so many companies are still innovating and investing in the shopping experience.Companies are trying to re-invent the way to make search, to make it easy, to foster travel inspiration.
Some were enabling shopping in social network (Bonvoy plugged to Amadeus and providing a way to split the cost of the travel to several Facebook friends), some are offering best of breed web 2.0 user experience (Voyavo and Inntopia providing dynamic packaging, Amadeus One and Flymuch presenting great way to use web 2.0) some are just looking for new ways of presenting information (HipMunk plugged to ITA with its agony way of showing air travel).
Another trends is the capability to do shopping and providing at the same time the miles (see Usingmiles, Mileblaster).

Share IS the new search

Phocuswright CEO in its keynote claimed that "Share IS the new search". People will relate more and more to others to find the best way to choose their trip. This new trend will be pushed by mobile. Mobile social web being the most powerful collaborative tool in history of mankind.

That's may be why Expedia bought the company Mobiata delivering one of the best mobile app for traveler (already connected to Tripit database, to flighstats, etc.) and filled for an IPO.

For some innovators, Share and social mobile best platform are available via Facebook. We've seen lots of innovations around this concept (like Bonvoy). But today, nobody knows. I do think that Linkedin should be the most promising platform for business travel (to implement the share concept).

Distribution War
The industry is now concentrated around improving or better controlling distribution. Travel suppliers want direct booking through their web sites (American Airlines, Jetblue, Hotels chains) or through aggregators (like the one cited above). This will include API, white labeled web sites and mobile solutions.

OTA and GDS are trying to defend themselves by suing company or by innovating internally or through acquisitions. In the future OBT will also suffer, even if they live in a protected market, the business travel ecosystem.

Distribution is also local and mobile. One company, named Movitas, is offering a platform for enabling any hotel property to create its own hyperlocal marketplace. Everything you can imagine available from the property could then be accessible or booked through a mobile, a tablet, hotel connected TV. Imagine if you could do hotel check in with your iPad and get the "digital key" through the air. No more queues ... And, if you do not own an iPad, the hotel will lend you one.

Content on the GO
Flightstats is widening its offering for real time content delivered on the go. They are getting data from more and more sources (airport, airlines, etc). Two products named TripAssist and TripTalk are provided as SaaS solutions for TMC's. Flightstats is becoming THE hub for real time travel segment alerts and notifications.

Conclusion

The winners will be the ones offering the best fare (fair?) comparison using different categories (travel agony, miles you can earn, airport with body scanners), the best shopping experience (on mobile, on web) AND the easiest (social, mobile) booking solution.

Google dominance on search changed everything and shaked durably the ecosystem ... The PANDORA gate is now open.
  • Travel suppliers (Hotels, Airlines, rail companies) and travel hubs will leverage direct connect to the max, enabling creation and distribution of new ancillary services and new fare categories.
  • OTA will have to increase their direct connect capabilities or invest in Hubs to avoid to experience again the Google/ITA deal issue. Some if them will invest massively in mobile to differentiate from the crowd.
  • TMC's will be impacted in their capability to deliver content if GDS are not able to increase (preserve at worst) their distribution capabilities (see travelport - American airlines dispute for example).
If you want to stay updated on new travel web sites check my Netvibes public page on travel 2.0.