The market for travel technology start-ups targeting the inspiration and booking stages of a journey has “saturated”, say experts who want to see more innovation in practical solutions to common problems.
But there is ample space for disruptors in the industry as corporates and start-ups can complement each other, said Valentina Milanova, a venture associate at easyJet-backed accelerator Founders Factory.
Speaking at Travel Technology Europe, she said: “The travel industry is very much saturated in terms of start-ups in the booking and inspiration space. I can predict every second pitch, they are eerily similar.
“There is [however] endless opportunities to optimise what is sometimes a very outdated market, or going further and completely changing processes.”
Founders Factory links investors to start-ups, including in the travel vertical, which Milanova said helps start-ups scale or access contacts and data while corporates can ‘out-source’ innovation through a smaller firm to limit the risk and allow more agility.
She was joined on a panel at the convention by Andy Hibbert, chief executive and founder of Car & Away, a sharing economy car rental service that operates at airports and worked with the accelerator.
Hibbert, the former boss of travel management company Reed & Mackay, said that start-ups looking to solve a problem should identify ‘pain points’ to deliver true innovation – and said this is possible in mature markets such as airlines and online travel agencies.
Car & Away, he said, helped drivers by clawing back some money by renting their car while travelling, airport car parks by freeing up space, and by offering more car rental competition.
He also backed innovators with no background in the industry, saying that they can sometimes offer fresh perspective on a problem, adding: “I’m an absolute believer in naivety. People from outside of travel might see things from different angles.”
Milanova said she saw potential in technologies such as blockchain and companies that re-sell travel product. “I’ve not seen one single player come in and dominate that space,” she said.
“There are so many opportunities in travel that don’t have to do with inspiration.”