FARE TRACKING SERVICES
It was our intention to feature one fare tracking company. However, we soon started to receive nominations for a number of different firms offering similar products around airline and hotel price tracking. One of them is Fairfly, which is built on the notion that ticket prices are “highly erratic”. It claims that flight prices are volatile and change an average of 92 times between the moment a fare is published and flight take-off. The start-up re-books flights after tickets have been purchased, when it sees a reduction in price..
Another similar company predicted to have a big future in corporate travel is Yapta. It monitors booked airfares and hotel rooms, and issues instant alerts when prices drop. Yapta says its corporate travel solutions, Fare IQ and Room IQ, enable companies to extend their travel and expense budgets, boost compliance and attain essential programme-specific data. These types of tools could be more commonplace for many buyers by the end of 2017.
Advances in artificial intelligence are a hot topic in the travel industry at the moment – in particular, in the role chatbots can play in the traveller’s experience. It is something we covered regularly in these pages last year. Most major travel companies now have Facebook Messenger-style bots that speak to consumers to answer queries and retrieve booking details, although as soon as the request becomes too complex, the bot automatically passes it on to a human.
This is now evolving into voice-recognition bots which could soon be used to book services such as flights and hotels.
Expedia CEO Dara Khosrowshahi has said voice recognition technology will become increasingly important in the future when booking travel. The travel-search giant has teamed up with Amazon’s voice-activated ‘personal assistant’ Alexa, and users can now ask questions about an upcoming trip, such as flight bookings and car reservations.
RANDEL DARBY, CEO, AIRPORTR
Entrepreneur Randel Darby claims to have solved one of the major hassles of flying – transporting luggage to the airport. And it seems readers were suitably impressed, as he received a number of nominations for the Hotlist.
His company, Airportr, lets passengers check in their luggage online at home or work; then someone comes around to weigh the baggage, attach a tracking barcode, and then seal it in an ‘anti-tamper’ bag before delivering it to the airport. At the terminal, it is removed from the sealed package, passed through an X-ray machine and added to the airport’s normal baggage handling system.
The service costs between £20 and £40 and is currently only available within the M25 area. The breakthrough for the company came in October when it signed a deal with British Airways, which lets passengers book the service through its app.
Wanup is Europe’s first independent hotel loyalty club and is billed as a sharing economy loyalty scheme. It has been created to address the needs of the independent hotelier who wants to offer guests rewards for their loyalty but lacks the diverse portfolio to do so.
Guests will enjoy benefits known as Wanup Winnings – these come in the form of travel cash, which can be redeemed immediately on future bookings, or as in-destination perks such as early check-in. Members can also earn a reduced amount of Winnings when they book a partner hotel via a third party, such as an online travel agency. Hotels can join the scheme for free and Wanup will take an average of 6-9 per cent commission on any booking.
There are four types of membership level with the bottom tier reserved for those that book between one-to-seven nights, who will receive 3 per cent (of total booking cost) Winnings and 10 per cent off food and drinks.
KARL IAGNEMMA, CEO, NUTONOMY
In 2016, motoring giant Ford predicted fully autonomous vehicles by 2021, while rival Volkswagen expects the first self-driving cars to appear on the market by as early as 2019.
Whatever the predictions, it’s clear that driverless cars are going to be mainstays of the ground transport sector in the foreseeable future. One company that is leading the way and could have an impact on business travel is Singapore-based Nutonomy.
It has recently teamed up with Grab, the ‘Asian Uber’, to trial driverless taxis. It has also started expanding its autonomous vehicle trials to roads in the US, after agreeing a deal with the city of Boston.
The person behind the rise of Nutonomy is American research scientist Karl Iagnemma, who has attracted fans in the automotive industry for innovation despite bigger rivals Google and Uber trialling similar products, and this year could see his profile elevated further.
Accomable is a platform to find disabled-accessible hotels and apartments. It was founded by childhood friends Srin Madipalli and Martyn Sibley, who became frustrated at the lack of information and availability for disabled-friendly accommodation.
The process is simple, and perfect for buyers who are searching for accessible places for a disabled employee, as the site lets you filter for your travellers’ needs, such as step-free or roll-in showers, and you are then put in touch with the hotel. Direct bookings are expected to be introduced this year.
The company already has offices in London and Texas and is planning expansion into Singapore. It has already secured £300,000 in seed funding and is rapidly expanding in the leisure sector, striking deals with travel companies. This year could see it break into the business travel sector and become an essential tool for disabled corporate travellers.
The way we book travel has changed completely over the last few years so it’s no surprise the way we see traditional models has also altered. As Dayuse’s name suggests, the platform lets you book hotel rooms during the daytime – for meetings, interviews or just to freshen up. The app and website enable rooms to be reserved in more than 2,000 hotels in 15 countries.
The French-based firm was founded in 2010 but it wasn’t until 2015 it secured major funding when it raised €15 million, underlining its status as one of France’s hottest start-ups.
It’s an attractive proposition for business travellers as well as buyers – Dayuse offers up to 75 per cent off the price of an overnight stay, direct payment at the hotel and free cancellation up to a few minutes before check-in. Dayuse could also provide an invaluable extra revenue stream for hotel operators.
GETT (FORMERLY GETTAXI)
Taxi companies are no strangers to the BBT Hotlist, with Uber and its founder, Travis Kalanick, along with Hailo all appearing over the past few years. However, in 2017 we predict on-demand ground transport company Gett will rise to be a strong player in the business travel world.
Formed in 2010 and operating in more than 100 cities, its recent innovations and funding could push it to rival Uber in some destinations. In 2016, Volkswagen Group announced it would be investing US$300 million in Gett – the car manufacturer’s first foray into the mobile space. It also secured a seven-year loan of US$100 million from a Russian finance company to expand in Russia, the US, the UK and Israel.
Gett is also looking to roll out its Gett Together service, which it recently launched in New York as an alternative to Uber Pool. It gives commuters the opportunity to share rides on popular commuting routes for a set US$3 fee that never increases.
It used to be that private jets were the reserve of the real high-flyers but that view is starting to change, helped by companies such as Surf Air. Launched in California in 2013, the executive airline allows members to fly as many times as they wish for a fixed monthly subscription fee.
It uses small executive aircraft flying from private terminals at airports such as Oakland and San Francisco, San Carlos for Silicon Valley, and Hawthorne for Los Angeles. It now flies from a dozen destinations in the US and operates up to 90 flights a day, with over 3,500 members.
Surf Air Europe is launching services from London Luton, Cannes, Geneva and Zurich in the spring. European membership will start at £1,950 a month. It is being led by a man with aviation experience – Simon Talling-Smith, who is ex-British Airways.