Start-ups and large corporations need to work together to drive innovation in travel technology, an expert panel has concluded.
Expedia’s vice president of e-commerce, Scott Crawford, joined Kosta Kolev, co-founder of Hack Horizon and Dave Cruickshank, chief executive of Atcore, in a debate at Travel Technology Europe.
Hosted by Travolution editor Lee Hayhurst, they asked whether investment in technology makes travel companies innovative as forecasts suggest spending on travel tech is set to rise 60%.
Cruickshank said: “All travel companies are trying to optimise, and sometimes it’s hard to look long-term. It’s a complicated product – not like selling T-shirts.”
He said search was one of the most innovative areas of travel as it gives huge insights, but said not enough travel companies were utilising the data.
“The most important thing is having the culture and commitment to innovation. Money does help, but some of the most innovate stuff we have done does not break a budget.”
Kolev said: “When you are short on budget, that creative constraint can be empowering.
“Smaller companies don’t necessarily have the same processes [as larger firms] and that allows you to iterate and try things a bit faster. That trial and error gives some really interesting solutions.”
Crawford reaffirmed Expedia’s stance as chiefly a technology company which works in travel and its commitment to its ‘test and learn’ philosophy.
He said: “Innovation comes with genesis; companies need to understand what the customer problems are and understand their reactions to experiences. Are they actually solving a problem or not?”
Crawford said Expedia is using extensive feedback from its billions of search results – in the form of smiley faces and unhappy faces – to drive improvement in its products and said it was happy to work with smaller firms to help drive innovation. He also said
The session followed a Travel Weekly Business Breakfast event where guests heard from Stephen Scott, head of global innovation for International Airlines Group, who said the multi-national had seen some strong results from its Hangar 51 programme which funds disruptive start-ups to work within British Airways’ offices.
Scott said big business had the potential to drive real change but also took a bigger risk if anything goes wrong, so teaming up with start-ups gave the smaller firms opportunity while taking the pressure risk off corporations.
Kolev said: “True innovation comes from push, not pull; coming up with that one insight that is going to be ground breaking and leveraging the technology at the right time and in the right direction.
“In travel, it’s going to be interesting to see who’s going to break away and push the new kind of user experience that’s really going to be counter intuitive and stand out from the market.”