There may be countless travel services and products vying for market share but there is still plenty of room for innovation. So after the success of last year's innovation showcase, EyeforTravel has assembled five of the industry’s most promising young guns to reveal how they plan to disrupt and dethrone the online travel ecosystem in the coming year.
Next week at TDS North America, these five companies will enter a den of travel industry dragons and will have their business models put to the test. The questioning will be tough and only one will go home with the ‘innovator’ crown. Ahead of the event EyeforTravel.com’s Pamela Whitby and Ritesh Gupta put the firms through their paces.
First in the firing line is MyGola, yet another travel planning tool. So what exactly makes this one stand out? Anshuman Bapna, the company’s chief executive officer and co-founder says nobody has really dealt with the problem of ‘travellers’ paralysis’ and the infinite number of travel choices online. Mygola aims to be to become the world’s largest platform for collecting ‘travel intent’ as deeply and accurately as possible.
Dragon’s question: Recently we asked a range of people what was hot and what they thought was hype in the travel industry. One senior executive was far from convinced by the usefulness of trip planning tools. So what makes MyGola different?
AB:Planning a trip is still the last big problem in travel. Currently, that process is ridiculously complex and Mygola wants to make it radically simple. Over a decade ago, the Internet revolutionised travel distribution by making pricing universally transparent and available. We’ve had a proliferation of services, products and tools for travellers but the promise of abundant choice had become the paralysis of infinite choice. So we surveyed hundreds of travellers and three things emerged. People are inspired by others and not just friends, they want complete trip, personally customisable, mobile trip plans (not merely lists) and they want to collaborate with others on the road. This is what Mygola aims to combine in a beautiful iPad-centric interface.
The next innovator we faced is Triometric,a software firm that has developed an inventory management product that claim to radically improve look-to-book ratios, revenues and profitability. And it does this without having to completely rewrite the history books. According Chief Executive Matthew Goulden it achieves what no other company today can. Now that is a big promise!
Dragon’s question: For hotel companies, OTAs, car hire firms and so on ensuring that your customers have access to accurate inventory at the right time is a challenge but surely most firms have cracked this problem? And what are you doing differently?
You’d be surprised how common it still is for intermediaries which sit between say the likes of Expedia or Lastminute.com and the customer, receive a return of “no availability” when they put in a request for inventory. Of course there are other firms that do web monitoring but Triometric’s USP is that the product understands what is actually in the transaction held within the XML. It can look inside the document attached to the web transaction and pull out customer specific information - which room, which hotel and so on. And it does this in real-time and an unobtrusive way. This means we are able to accurately measure the end users’ performance experience and report their activity, without the need to access or deploy code on end user client machines or infrastructure servers. So another advantage is the product essentially runs parallel to what is already there.
That seems a positive development and will be one to watch.
Next on our list of innovators is the Russian start-up, i-Rates. Chief Executive Vadim AsadoviRates describes the company’s revenue management solution as “rocket science wrapped into calculator interface”. Just what we need! It does, he says, what the human brain can never do.
Dragon’s Question: Revenue management is an essential but sometimes undervalued role in the travel business but many firms selling RM solutions are trying to change this perception. What makes yours stand out?
VA: I am theoretical physicist by education and believe me I cannot calculate the best price for an arbitrary hotel on an arbitrary day. Our system does that. Our USP is that we want to give middle-tier hotels with limited resources a unique simple-to-install, simple-to-use, ready to-go, and very affordable customised tool that will help them save time on managing their prices and increase their revenue and bottom line. Our software is the most affordable in the market and is the only RM tool that tends to pay for itself during the first couple days of the trial. Whether the hotel manager decides to keep the programme after the trial or not, we guarantee that he or she will learn a lot about RM and the revenue the hotel is capable of achieving.
The last two companies in the battle for EyeforTravel’s innovation crown at TDS North America, next week are Georama and Optiontown.
Founded by Nihal Advani, Georama is another map-based trip planning too. It claims to be the world's first map-based travel platform and the only one-stop solution for travellers, bringing together the best content, fares, and social networks under one roof. The company says this helps travellers plan, book, and share their trips on a “one-of-a-kind interactive map”. The website has a simple, slick interface posing the question we all first think when planning a trip: Know where you want to go? You are given three options to click – no, maybe, yes. Searching made easier it seems.
Optiontown, founded bySachin Goel, allows you to “enjoy unique travel options”. The company’s aim is to develop unique and innovative travel options that create value for both travellers and travel providers. It has three products; the Upgrade Travel option (UTo) which allows travellers to upgrade to a higher class of seat at nominal price. The Flexibility Reward option (FRo) lets travellers to earn cash rewards for being flexibility. And the ESo programme, the empty seat option, gives road warriors the chance to get empty seat(s) assigned next to their seat at a nominal price so they can really lie back and relax.
So there is plenty to look forward to on the travel innovation front in 2013. Have your say and vote for the 'One to Watch in 2013!'
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