Travel start-ups get plenty of love from GDSs


GDSs are increasingly investing into start-ups with an aim to groom a new generation of travel technology innovators and to diversify their business spectrum.

Last June, Travelport announced the development of a seed-stage investment and mentorship programme.

Participants in the programme, named Travelport Labs, which run in four-month cycles with up to four start-ups accepted in each cycle, have access to Travelport’s experienced staff of product managers, designers, developers and coaches across the world as well as to its APIs, software development kits and data feeds.

At the end of each cycle, the start-ups will be given the chance to pitch their innovations to senior Travelport executives, investors and other potential business development partners in the travel industry.

Explaining their move, Jason Nash, head of marketing and product incubation, Travelport, said: “In the business environment today, innovation is a matter of survival. It takes diverse perspectives to develop game-changing ideas. By engaging entrepreneurially-minded individuals, we can explore new product ideas, validate their fit in the industry, and create value for the entire travel value chain.”

As well, Amadeus launched Amadeus Next last December to “mentor, nurture, and partner” with travel technology start-ups in the Asia-Pacific region.

Explaining their rationale behind the programme, Simon Akeroyd, vice president, corporate strategy at Amadeus APAC, said: “We realised that there was a lack of start-ups in Asia-Pacific really focusing on travel, despite the overall surge of start-ups in today’s day and age. There was also limited knowledge on travel technology available.

“Knowing what you want from the travel experience is not the same as understanding the nuances of the industry, and that is a big challenge for the start-ups we have met, as they often only see the consumer perspective,” he said.

Amadeus Next offers start-ups access to technology and solutions to build and validate their minimum viable product, expertise in the form of mentoring and guidance, as well as reach via its customers and industry players, added Akeroyd.

In terms of funding, Amadeus would help start-ups connect to investors and venture capital. Globally, Amadeus also has a dedicated Amadeus Venture Fund which offers early-stage micro-investments.

To date, six travel technology startups are on board with them, including Klook, Orahi, Triposo, and TopDocs, a platform for medical tourism.

Additionally, JungleVentures, CyberAgent Ventures Techsauce and Hubba, Thailand’s startup leader in terms of co-working spaces, technology events, technology media and startup education, have also joined up with Amadeus Next.

As for Travelport Labs, Nash shared that from the previous incubation cycle, they have since invested in a US-based start-up called Unboundly, a company focused on optimising flight search and fares in Asia. He added: “Unboundly is now completing a follow-on funding round – you can expect to see good things from them in the future.”

Nash said: “The labs encourage breakthrough thinking to hone in on big, dynamic, and disruptive ideas that will revolutionise how people think about travel. Ultimately, we aim for at least 50 per cent of the ideas from Travelport Labs to be disruptive to the traditional travel distribution model.”

Sharing similar sentiments, Akeroyd said: “Start-ups disrupt the status quo by pushing technology to new frontiers and this is especially true in the travel space…so it only makes sense to foster and support the travel tech community in Asia-Pacific.”

Elaborating on where they expect new ideas to come from, he said: “Booking used to be one of the most important phases of the travel process, but now travellers expect more at every phase of the travel journey – from payment to ground transportation to destination content.

“Amadeus wants to make every part better for the traveller, and we are in a unique position sitting across the entire industry to do so. But we will be naive to think we can do it all ourselves. Collaboration with industry players, of all sizes, is key to the future success of the travel industry,” he added.

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