The first selection of the Travel Innovation Summit featured a variety of interesting contenders, some more so than others, including veterans Goby and 2009 winnerAmadeus.
But while the chatter on Twitter might have revealed that the over-arching themes were social, mobile and unique distribution solutions, my “young” – aka comparatively inexperienced - eyes observed something slightly different.
Social and mobile are a given – I’m only surprised when they aren’t a part of a pitch. Not to mention, every year we are all presented with the latest “next-generation of travel distribution” solution without fail.
But this year, what I observed was what went unsaid – the products told the story that user experience design has finally made its way to the forefront as a key focus for any travel company – big or small - that might dare to label itself as innovative.
You could see it in nearly every live – and I use the term “live” loosely – product demonstration during the first round of today’s innovators.
And to be clear, user experience design is an innovation in its own right – it’s just a departure from the technological game-changers we're used to looking for in competitions like these.
UX is today what social media was three to four years ago – no one understands it completely just yet, but everyone knows it’s sexy, and everyone knows it matters.
Great UX today seemed to forgive many presenters from the fact that some of the products pitched are quite similar technologically to a few of the alumni of 2009.
Take Revinate for example - while it absolutely is viable and unique that its platform is focused on the hospitality sector, I was surprised that any reputation management platform, of which we saw nearly five in the 2009 event, received rave reviews as the next big thing from the Critics Circle.
Don’t get me wrong – in addition to giving a great presentation, Revinate’s clean, well-designed platform is not easy to accomplish and is unique in that it gives even the most technology-averse property manager the ability to master.
Building a product with that much attention to design takes time, so the feature and function of the platform may not be quite where it will be in 6-12 months as a result. The fact that relevance and influence aren’t a part of the platform yet tells that story.
A similar story followed this morning for Goby, which doesn’t seem to have made too large of a shift from last year other than re-purposing its user interface for a few new features on top of its original platform, while also optimizing it for mobile.
But to be clear, I love Goby’s UI. It’s as lovely as ever.
Overall, the shining star seemed to be the one with the most solid elevator pitch this morning, which in my mind was SilverRail Technologies.
They shared enough key statistics and data about the market size and opportunity that, if I were a VC, might have prompted me to learn more about the company.
But even with SilverRail’s impressive stats and data, when it came to the big reveal of their new B2C rail booking engine, the UI did nothing less than sing… and sing beautifully. Design is clearly a core competency of theirs as well.
Finally, it seems we are putting our money where our mouth is in the travel industry and truly investing in user experience design with the customers’ needs at the forefront… and I love it.
At the end of the day, people like pretty things. And pretty things mean more pretty eyeballs, which result in pretty media revenue projections… which will hopefully lead to not just pretty, but gorgeous investment dollars for a few of these innovators in the near future.
Can’t wait to see what technological eye candy from the remaining "innovators".
NB: The views expressed here are solely those of the author and do not necessarily represent the views of Sabre Holdings, its partners, customers or subsidiaries.