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Most of us are ready to kiss 2016 goodbye while praying the door hits it on the way out. But we’d be remiss if we didn’t take a second to check out a few travel startups we noticed during the past year that are heading into the new year with fighting chances.
In August we paid a visit to the travel startup graveyard as part of Skift’s fourth anniversary as a company, to reflect on which companies have survived and which ones shut the lights off. The five startups highlighted below have very much kept the lights on and each speak to some of the trends that made waves across the travel industry during the past 12 months.
Whether it was conversations in the meetings sector about how to stay relevant, or what it means for Marriott Rewards and SPG Preferred Guest members after the Marriott-Starwood merger was completed or how hotels can better connect guests to surrounding neighborhoods, startups were watching for how to pivot, produce results, or both. We think other early-stage startups can learn something from the strategies of some of these examples, too.
Bizly is a mobile app for instantly booking meetings at hotels. Professionals can compare prices/options, pick meeting rooms, choose food, beverage and other amenities and invite their guests.
>>SkiftTake: Sometimes business travelers’ preferred hotels don’t have ideal meeting spaces available or on property, and a tool that gives them the flexibility to reserve space at reputable hotels could be valued.
RewardExpert helps travelers use and understand their rewards programs.
>>SkiftTake: The problem should instead be making these rewards programs easier to understand in the first place rather than creating separate businesses for this.
CityKey is a B2B platform helping its hotel partners build custom branded interactive city guides to distribute to their guests. It then leverages the platform to sell exclusive VIP discounts for guests staying with its hotel partners.
>>SkiftTake: Hotels already want to be experience curators and suggest things to do for guests. This startup helps them build on their branding and lets their voices reach beyond the walls of their properties.
Freebird helps travelers book a new flight if another flight is cancelled or delayed. It provides travelers with instant notifications in the event of a flight disruption and offers the ability to rebook in fewer than 30 seconds with only three taps on their mobile devices.
>>SkiftTake: Tools like Freebird help travelers rebook flights without waiting in long lines or waiting to hear from airlines, alleviating some of the stress that comes from flight delays and cancellations. Besides, some airlines customer service departments are horrendous.
SnapTravel is a messaging bot that integrates with Facebook Messenger, Slack and SMS to help travelers book hotel rooms. The company launched this month and though the bot uses natural language processing and machine learning technology, if a traveler makes a statement that is ambiguous to the bot a human agent will step in to guide it. SnapTravel will also call a hotel to negotiate a free room upgrade for a traveler’s stay.
>>SkiftTake: Having human agents as a backup will always be a necessity regardless of how advanced artificial intelligence becomes.
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