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Hotelbeds is joining some other travel tech companies in looking outside for innovative ideas. It's not on the level of adding a venture capital arm as some major travel companies have done, but it follows a similar idea.

Series: Travel Tech Briefing

Travel Tech Briefing

Editor’s Note: Exclusive reporting on technology’s impact on the travel industry, delivered every Thursday. The briefing will guide executives as they decide if their companies should “build, buy, or partner” to stay ahead.

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In an effort to accelerate tech innovation in travel, Hotelbeds is putting out a call to startup founders with ideas that could solve problems in the industry. 

The primary business for Hotelbeds is as a wholesaler of hotel rooms to travel agents, but the company has been working on adding other business-to-business tech products. 

That’s where this 15-month program comes in, said José María Pestaña, innovation director for Hotelbeds. 

Hotelbeds is working with Wayra, the tech innovation hub of Telefónica, to identify worthwhile ideas that could lead to a small monetary investment by Hotelbeds as well as resources toward developing a minimum viable product. 

“The idea is to try to identify disruptive ideas,” Pestaña said. “We want to put innovation at the center of our strategy. We are taking innovation as a key element that is somehow linking together all the new projects that we’ve got ahead of us.”

This isn’t quite on the level of adding a venture capital arm as some major travel companies have done, but it follows a similar idea. The point is that while sometimes innovation comes from within a company, it could also come from outside of the company, and an investment could eventually lead to a stronger partnership or an acquisition if the startup succeeds. 

In the first Hotelbeds challenge over the next two months, Hotelbeds is seeking an idea that can ease a traveler’s experience during the planning period, where the fragmented industry can lead to the traveler needing to complete booking with multiple companies. 

“We will see what we find and what kind of agreements we can sign with those possible startups,” Pestaña said. 

“The final aim is we’re trying to ensure that we, all together, create a kind of a frictionless experience in travel.

Hotelbeds received a loan and a cash injection during the worst days of the pandemic, but Pestaña said recovery has been going better than expected along with the rest of the industry, especially so far this year. Hotelbeds said in November that it was expecting 30 percent growth over the following 12 months. Hotelbeds had its best two weeks ever in January in terms of bookings and revenue. 

Hotelbeds hired a new CEO, Nicolas Huss, in 2021 to help to lead the next generation of the business and develop a suite of products. 

Generative AI in Travel Booking

Skift covered predictions and opinions about generative AI as it relates to travel booking. Here are three of the most interesting quotes from that article. 

  • Patrick Surry, chief data scientist of Hopper:

“I suspect this is just the beginning — we’ll need to go back to first principles and rethink a lot of how and why we do things the way we do.”

  • Naren Shaam, CEO of Omio:

“If I were to make a prediction, it will completely change the way we create products as a travel company,” Shaam said. “I do see this as a mega shift that will come to the industry, and we’re definitely looking into that seriously.”

  • Marc Mekki, travel industry veteran and tech consultant, on how small operators will be found if travel search moves to chatbots:

“I think that’s the number one question for everyone to really stay up at night about. You’re not going to search engine optimize your way out of that one, so what are you going to do? You become more dependent on OTAs. OTAs are going to be the great winners here because they just don’t lose, and I’m afraid that is bound to continue.”

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Tags: generative ai, hotelbeds, innovation, Skift Pro Columns, startups, Travel Tech Briefing, travel technology

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