Travel tech – yet another sub section of the tech industry. I seem to be writing on sub sections of
the technology start-up world on a regular basis but this isn’t just a fancy naming exercise; the depth of the London tech sector allows things to be segmented. I don’t see the segmentation as a
negative, instead I see it as a positive, specialization allows communities closer to the heart of the
matter grow and nurture themselves.
Back to Travel Tech -now, most of us have already witnessed a massive change in how the travel
industry engages with its customers. First off was the move to online booking, taking hotel, flight
and car reservations out of the hands of the travel agents and placing it within your control from a
web browser. Then came the online replicators of the traditional travel agent, Expedia and Orbitz
which were somewhat replications of traditional travel agencies aggregating a wide variety of travel products under one banner. Next came the specialized search engines, such as Kayak and
Skyscanners who aimed to make sure that you were always getting the best deal possible. More
recently the rise of social media has created the likes of Trip Advisor. Finally, there has been the rise of AirBnB which is upending the traditional model of how we find accommodation.
So is there any more room for Travel Tech? London & Partners, the government organization dedicated to promoting and building London business certainly believe so. They have launched the Travel Tech Lab at their headquarters in More Place on the South Bank. This co-working space is designed to help connect the travel industry with technology start-ups.
Recently, I sat down with Alex Grant, CEO of Touriocity, who are currently housed at the Travel Tech Lab. Touriiocity are trying to provide bespoke, personal tours across major cities in Europe at an affordable price. Imagine you are visiting the Vatican and instead of choosing to see it by yourself or going on some gigantic general tour group you could visit accompanied by your own private tour guide (at a reasonable price) You could combine a number of different personal tours together still leaving you the freedom to other attractions at your leisure.
This is the gap they are trying to fill. Why do I find this model interesting? I remember a few years ago, when I visited Egypt with a group of friends –one of whom is now was a lawyer but had done his undergraduate degree in Classics, so was well versed in Egyptian antiquities and with a clear view on what he wished to see. Making the trip from Canada is a fairly big undertaking both financial and time wise –the proverbial once in a life time trip. Therefore, we certainly were not going to a mass market tour bus being given the standard tour of the Egyptian sites. We managed to arrange for separate private tour at the areas we wished to see: Cairo, Luxor, the Valleys of the Kings & Queens et al with extremely knowledgeable local tour operators who were able to give us the experience that we were seeking.
I can remember how incredibly complicated and time consuming the process was and difficult as we were so many thousands of miles away. For independent travellers, comfortable in arranging flights and hotels on the internet, arranging personal tours over the internet fills an interesting niche. I feel there is still more disruption to come to the travel industry.
By Ashok Parekh