US-based Plug and Play Tech Center, whose mission is to invest in start-ups and connect innovators with industry leaders, is staying committed to backing technologies built for the travel and hospitality industry during the current tourism crisis. However, its area of focus has shifted to solutions that are critical for business continuity in the present landscape.
Speaking at a conference session during the ITB Asia 2020 Virtual Event on October 21, Amir Amidi, managing partner, travel & hospitality revealed that Plug and Play’s investment interest today centres on three areas: personalisation, seamless end-to-end journey, and operation efficiency.
He explained: “Personalisation is an area that is definitely lacking in today’s travel industry when you compare it against others like Brand & Retail and E-commerce. (As for) seamless end-to-end journey, the pre-pandemic practice of having an average leisure traveller in North America going to 30 different websites before booking a hotel room or flight, is wrong. We are interested in backing any technology that helps the traveller feel confident about seeing the best deal on a single website quickly.”
He added: “Operation efficiency is something that will never go away, with or without a pandemic, so we will continue to be interested in technologies that could add to the bottom line and lower costs.”
Detailing specific types of technology that Plug and Play would be keen on, Amir identified solutions that facilitate contactless, seamless journey; screening, tracking and tracing; automation of processes and operations; point of care diagnostics; traveller safety and communications; air purification, UV sterilisation and new materials; restore trust and stimulate demand.
He said these solutions would be crucial for the survival of travel and hospitality sectors in the short term, although some would remain important and relevant even in the long term when the pandemic is over.
Concluding his session, Amir advised start-ups that are looking to do something in the travel and hospitality industry to focus on B2B solutions, and not B2C as they would have to “break the bank” to compete with giants like Expedia and Booking.com for global eyeballs.
“Secondly, do not start a company that is only relevant in light of the pandemic. It should solve a problem today but remain relevant post-pandemic,” he added.
“If you are an existing start-up, look for solutions suitable in today’s environment. A great example is Sherpa, which went through our accelerator programme. It was in the e-visa space but has since developed a dashboard to provide visitors with real-time information on travel restrictions, quarantine rules, Covid-19 hot spots, etc.”