Collaboration between large corporates and independent developers and start-ups is vital if new technologies are to be nurtured and scaled in travel.
That’s the message from technology supplier and GDS Travelport, the headline sponsor of this week’s Travolution Start-Up Summit being hosted by IBM in London.
The half-day event will showcase the travel start-up community in the capital and the UK, as well as debate the challenges and opportunities for fledgling firms.
Paul Broughton, Travelport northern Europe managing director, said it has taken an open approach to working with third parties including running an incubator programme and building a network of 1,700 developers who can use its open source technology to create new systems and solutions.
“As a technology provider we do not expect to design everything in the travel ecosystem,” he said.
“We have to have a set of core objectives in the world of travel commerce but our time is to help drive that day-to-day process for all of our customers whether that’s airlines, hotels, tour operators or TMCs.
“To do that we have to encourage complimentary developers to build their own products through our systems that work as part of that process.
“We have created that network and we really foster that kind of approach and allow that to be successful by providing that connection with the Travelport brand and customer businesses.
“Fifty percent of our technology expenditure goes on innovation to help transform and improve that entire travel ecosystem.
“Part of our culture is to continuously innovate and bring those ideas to the marketplace. We know we can’t do that on our own, we need to work with other organisations and we do that with large partnerships, with the likes of IBM, and small.”
Broughton said an indication of where these sorts of partnerships may lead has been Travelport’s decision to acquire two early stage companies to bring expertise in-house which it did not have.
These were Mobile Travel Technologies based in Ireland which is now Travelport Digital and Australia-based Locomote, a developer of a next generation corporate booking tool built for mobile first.
Broughton said firms that have built something that is complementary to Travelport’s principals of connecting content, distribution and driving automation could be considered for investment or acquisition.
However, Broughton, added there are times when established firms like Travelport need to have honest conversations with start-ups about why their idea won’t work and how it may be flipped to achieve success.
Travelport says it hopes this Friday’s Travolution Start-Up Summit will help to further the sort of collaboration in travel and commitment to putting the customer first.
“Ultimately sometimes we lose sight of the fact that successful organisations put the consumer at the centre of everything that they do. If you are a start-up or large organisation if you are going to innovate it should be with the consumer in mind.
“I hope all start-ups are approaching this from the perspective of what we are going as a sector to make consumers’ lives easier or the experience of the traveller more inspiring and more fulfilling than it is today. My view is that there is still a lot of challenges and problems to solve out there.”
Broughton said London and other hubs like Dublin are real centres for innovation and start-ups and the sector is taking advantage of a proliferation of ways to get funding and interest from investors.
“If you look at travel at the moment and look at the kind of consultation and M&A activity that’s going on toy can see that investors see travel as a very appetising industry to invest in. That’s a reflection people recognising that the travel industry will continue to grow.”
A small number of places are still available for the Travolution Start-up Summit, taking place on June 15 at the offices of IBM, on London’s Southbank.