By Simona Shemer
Travel tech is a booming industry. It has provided travelers with a completely new way to experience travel, in a much more personalized way. It has radically changed the way hospitality staff connect with guests and presented new opportunities to small businesses who would have otherwise never been able to compete with the larger companies. According to a study by American Express, 83 percent of millennials would even allow travel brands to track their digital patterns, if it meant they would provide them with a more personalized travel adventure. Eighty-five percent believe a personalized, customized itinerary is more desired than the general mass-market offerings. Travel tech is there to give those travelers exactly what they need.
Never one to stray far from transformative innovation, Israel has already honed in on this enterprise. Some of the biggest travel tech companies in the world have come out of the Startup Nation. Israel is currently home to more than 300 travel tech startups making an impact in all travel sectors from tourism to hospitality and travel giant Booking.com just announced it will open an R&D center here in Israel.
Trying to make sense of all these startups, though, is no easy feat. That where the Israel Travel Tech Startup (ITTS) comes in.
Founder Itai Green has established a community of at least 250 Israeli travel tech entrepreneurs brought together with a common interest. While travel tech is one of the most competitive industries in Israel , the ITTS hopes to increase and strengthen an internal collaboration between Israeli startups, while also connecting them with investors and increasing their engagement with multinational corporations and investors.
“We want the travel corporates and investors from around the world to discover the rapidly growing travel tech ecosystem in Israel, from which they can get a huge benefit,” said Green.
Green had this in mind when he got behind the launch of the first-ever Israeli Travel Tech Ecosystem Map that reviews all the local travel companies.
Together with Green, we review some of the hottest players out there:
Roomer, the travel marketplace site, makes finding a hotel room affordable and profitable for both the consumer and the hotelier, by delivering canceled accommodations at a discount rate. Roomer takes the idea of hospitality and the sharing economy and points it to travel sector. By alleviating the frustration of travelers who need to cancel non-refundable hotel rooms and offering those hotel rooms to other travelers, it is creating a marketplace that is mutually beneficial for all parties.
Roomer raised $5 million in a Series A funding round in 2014. It was founded in 2011 by Gon Ben-David, Ben Froumine, and Adi Zellner.
RoutePerfect is the free, interactive, and fun trip planning tool that helps you create a European trip itinerary based on your preferences. The user-friendly platform also allows you to plan your itinerary based on your interests, budget, and the type of landscape you prefer. In other words, you can create an itinerary based on everything from a laid-back beach vibe or to posh, high-brow vibe. You can visit historical landmarks or you can just relax and walk the streets, taking in your surroundings for the remainder of the trip.
The company’s gets a percentage of hotel rooms revenue booked through their platform.
RoutePerfect had already reached 2.5 million users in 2016 and is on its way to 3 million, according to founder Boaz Lantsman. It has an R&D center in Tel Aviv and offices in Miami and London. According to Startup Nation Central, the company has raised $4 million from investors, that include Cyrus Angel Fund, Elevator Fund, AltaIR Capital, entrepreneur Yanki Margalit and businessman Leon Recanati.
Travel tech’s next big thing might just be Guesty, a company taking advantage of bigger travel companies like Airbnb and building cutting-edge technology to help property managers optimize their listings and rental businesses to grow. Property managers and Airbnb hosts can use Guesty to screen guests to fit the host’s demands, send emails before and after the rental period, and even determine a rental rate for the host by comparing it to prices of other hotels and rentals nearby.
Guesty is considered one of the leading cloud-based firms in the travel industry right now. Currently located in Tel Aviv, Guesty has become one of the fastest growing startups in Israel.
The company just raised $3 million in a Series A funding round in May 2017 and looks to be a force to be reckoned with where travel tech is concerned.
Those who live on the social media world know that getting recommendations upon traveling shouldn’t be limited to phone calls to the front desk or conversation with hotel staff. Gooster knows this too and has created a free smart chatbot that acts as hotel concierge, offering guests recommendations on restaurants, shopping, sightseeing and more. With a location-specific platform and a database of more than 50,000 tips, Gooster is already available in Tel Aviv, Amsterdam and Berlin and is making its way to other cities very soon. Gooster works through Facebook Messenger and its product is powered by artificial intelligence, helping hotels increase engagement and revenue.
Gooster caters to hotels that don’t have a physical concierge service including boutique hotels and even hostels. It plans to target even bigger hotel chains in the future.
The company was founded in August 2016 by Amit Ben Dor and Ardon Wesly.
The four travel tech startup highlighted above are just a small sample of the varied assortment of travel tech companies making their way on to the somewhat competitive Israeli travel tech landscape. But while an estimated 300 travel tech startups might appear a bit crowded, there’s room for everyone — from the smaller hotel discount service to the bigger smartphone and social media-infused travel experience.
The future of travel tech is in Israel
“Multinationals in the travel industry are in the process of investing in open innovation, and they should know that Israel is definitely the best place to put their money,” he tells NoCamels. “As more international travel corporations invest in Israel and collaborate with Israeli startups, more and more startups in various fields will adapt their technology to the travel world.
“I think that in the upcoming year we will see more travel corporations open innovation hubs in Israel and we will see a significant growth in the number of startups that offers tech solutions to this industry, including in the areas of virtual reality, augmented reality, artificial intelligence, big data analytics, and e-commerce,” he explains.