Five travel startups with a little bit more in their chemistry setNews / Distribution | TechnologyBy Viewpoints | November 27, 2015Share This article was originally published on The Phocuswright Travel Innovation Summit has always been a great opportunity not only to evaluate travel startup trends but also listen to feedback from experienced judges (or so-called "dragons").NB: This is a viewpoint from Valentin Dombrovsky, chief alchemist at Travelabs (and watching the live stream from Florida for two days).I have selected five startups from the dozens that appeared during the event, all of which show an interesting approach across different parts of the travel industry. The selection is purely subjective and I did not take the judges’ opinion into account this time (like I did in a previous article about startups from Travel Innovation Summit in Europe).When choosing my personal favourites, I also considered whether the ideas would also be understood by people from outside of the travel industry.So, here we go...1. HelloGbyeThis company has developed a mobile application which uses semantic search and voice recognition technology to help travelers create complex itineraries and to update them “on the go”.The application itself looks easy to use and manages to fit lots of information on limited screen space.It also enables users to book group trips with each person paying for their part of the trip via their credit card. The application is currently in private beta and is planned for launch in the beginning of 2016.It sees unmanaged business travelers as their core target audience, but hopes to get to a general audience all over the world later.It’s also interesting that service uses subscription as its business model (at $10 per month) and travelers get cash back on every booking they make via the service. Earning affiliate commissions is also part of the company's plans.The judges’ scepticism was about the fact that company is targeting a niche segment of travelers - those willing to keep an app on their phone which costs them $10 per month on the phone.It is not for the general traveler who might be going on trip once or twice per year, but for road warriors who don’t want lose time to build complex itineraries.All in all, the company uses interesting technology and has found nice B2C application for it. but it might need to rethink its business model , perhaps by shifting into the B2B space.2. Headout This startup tackles the tours and activities space, where many questions remain about the best way to connect travelers and suppliers.Headout approaches this segment the way HotelTonight approaches hotels - by making last-minute booking of tours and activities easier for mobile generation travelers.The app focuses on activities happening in 24 hours after the booking.It has an easy extranet for suppliers and claims that this approach helped it to acquire 14 times more last-minute inventory in US than any other traditional aggregator.A dynamic pricing algorithm which helps suppliers to get more from their offers listed on the platform is also part of its offer.In general, the approach seems to be right – last-minute bookings for tours and activities is the right space to concentrate on.The main threat might be from established players seeing the potential in this segment if Headout gains traction (like Booking.com did with Booking Now after it saw the success of Hoteltonight).Although if it does grow, Headout might attract the attention of investors/suitors.3. Qalendra Qalendra has developed B2B technology that gathers trip-related information (such as weather, location of facilities and places of interest, sporting facilities data, festivals and events) and allows OTAs and travel suppliers to present the information contextually when a user searches for a trip.This way OTAs and travel suppliers can help travelers make decisions without leaving their websites, enabling higher conversion rates and better loyalty.The technology also helps its B2B users to understand a consumer's motivation for the trip and provide some ancillary services.It can also recommend other relevant options which might be a better fit for the user's selected date range.It can also power more general searches, such as the one shown on stage where a user searched for the best ski destinations to go in US in the end of December.The company seems to have built a big data analysis engine which addresses some great opportunities in the market and it will be interesting to see if and how it used by existing industry players.4. TripChamp This company, launched by a team of travel veterans in Austin, Texas, aims to disrupt the corporate travel space by freeing businesses from GDS dependence via its “seamless marketplace”.It aggregates information on flight and hotel rates from multiple sources – such as GDSs, consolidators, individual business travel agents, direct connects with suppliers.It then uses predictive algorithms and machine learning to help business travellers access a variety of options from different distributors, thus bringing personalized travel search into the corporate travel space.In effect, Tripchamp enables an “open booking” policy via comparison tools which help corporate travellers take advantage of any available booking channel.The options appear on the same window alongside all relevant statistics and analytics.The company has received investment from Amadeus and has spent $5 million developing the platform.These efforts seemed to pay off at Innovation Summit as TripChamp was granted the so-called People’s Choice award.5. TrekkableThis company tackles a very important travel and social problem via its B2B solution for OTAs - enabling an easy hotel booking process for people with limited mobility.Its founder understands the problem from his own experience of trying to book accessible hotel rooms and seeing how hard it is.According to Trekkable, this market is worth $17 billion and accounts for 40 million trips a year in US aloneTrekkable gathers data which is relevant to people with limited mobility, such as room and property accessibility and amenities. It then creates a “Trek rating” which takes all this information into account.The information is gathered from hotel managers via “self-assessment” tools, by Trekkable local ambassadors and from GDSs via “data trade” process.The company gets payment for API calls and a small commission in case of booking. It’s interesting to see how it manages to use business motivations to make hotels and OTAs more accessible to people with mobility issues.The company has received warm receive from the judges and won 33entrepreneurs best team award.You can watch all innovators presentations (and other conference content) via Phocuswright Conference on-demand video streaming.NB: This is a viewpoint from Valentin Dombrovsky, chief alchemist at Travelabs.NB2: Main image from Phocuswright.