April 6, 2017 | Skift
Oliver Heckmann, a Google vice president of engineering who heads the search engine’s travel product, revealed that the new product is still in testing. Heckmann stressed that it’s not just about selling holiday packages.
“It’s a differentiated experience,” said Heckmann. “It is a search tool that lets you buy the individual components separately or together. Consumers are not only shown bundled options.”
It is not the first time a major metasearch platform has attempted to sell packages, per se. Kayak.com/packages, and one of Kayak’s acquisitions (Sidestep), tried it first.
But Google claimed it is the first time a major metasearch platform has attempted dynamic packaging. Rather than display packages put together by operators and wholesalers, it displays air and hotel combinations pulled together in an automated process. Vendors such as Lufthansa Vacations agree to sell the combined products within a restricted database of hotel and flight availability.
Defying conventional wisdom in the US, a leading venture capitalist and the founders of two venture-backed companies – Trainline and GetYourGuide – believe that Europe is an excellent place to build travel companies that can scale globally.
Seton-Rogers explained why: He said that there is so much demand – seven out of 10 of the most-visited destinations being European cities. On top of that, the cultural and national complexity of Europe, due to its geographic compression – for example, the need for translation into multiple languages – forces entrepreneurs to solve problems in the design of their businesses that give them competitive advantages when it’s time to scale up globally.
Examples show that Europe is a great place to found a travel startup, despite not having the hype of Silicon Valley. Seton-Rogers pointed to his firm’s successful exit last year from Onefinestay, (in a sale to AccorHotels) and other partners who have seen successful exits for European-based travel companies such as Booking.com and LastMinute.com.
Clare Gilmartin, CEO of ticketing platform Trainline, cited her own firm as an example. Trainline is now expanding to Eastern Europe and Asian markets, with Gilmartin stating that the stringent demands of developing a booking business in Europe’s complex market serve it well as it enters foreign markets.
However, GetYourGuide‘s co-founder and COO Tao Tao told the Skift Forum Europe audience that one deficit in Europe is in venture capital. “Building a consumer marketplace is expensive,” he says. “We have had to raise $95 million.” So, when GetYourGuide needed capital, it had to look beyond Europe. For later-stage rounds, it had to solicit funds from investors on the East Coast of the US.
Design Hotels CEO Claus Sendlinger asserted that the next big innovation in hospitality isn’t necessarily tied to design, but is more about developing curated communities.
Speaking on stage at Skift Forum Europe, the seasoned hotel expert, who founded Design Hotels in 1993, said that hospitality is “a slow-moving business” but “hotels have always been a reflection and reaction to the changes in society.”
And while design has been, for many years, a distinguishing hotel trend, a change is afoot, according to Sendlinger, “There’s a change in socio-geographic behaviour now. It’s not about choosing a yellow or blue or red chair. I think it’s much more… Everyone is doing that now… but it needs curation.”
In terms of curation, Sendlinger talked of attracting the right guests to the right hotel. “The most innovative hoteliers we are talking to, for them it’s not about who they are distributing through. They’re thinking about: ‘How do I get the right guests into my hotel?’.”
During the forum, which assembled a raft of C-suite speakers from across all sectors of the global travel industry, CEO of Norwegian Air Shuttle, Bjorn Kjos, stated his desire to offer $66 transatlantic flights, InterContinental Hotels Group CEO Richard Solomons put forth his aim to expand in the mid-market sector, reaching new audiences, while CMO of TUI Group, Erik Friemuth, said there was still a need to have physical stores in some markets, where travellers can plan their trips in person.
Skift Forum events have established a world-wide reputation as the ‘TED of travel’ since it held its inaugural conference in New York in 2014. The full-day event in London, with over 400 travel executives and entrepreneurs present, featured the CEOs of Kayak, Skyscanner, Design Hotels, as well as executives from game-changing global brands such as Google, TUI and Trivago.