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A Bad Time for Travel, a Great Time for Travel-Tech

Hesitancy and uncertainty about joining a travel startup in the current climate has been trending lately. It’s understandable. But the truth of the matter is - the future of travel tech has never been more exciting, and now is the optimum moment to join in the movement!

In fact, Brian Chesky from Airbnb recently cited "this is probably the most important thing to happen in travel probably since World War II".

Let me explain why.

Yes, the travel industry has been one of the worst-hit markets throughout the Covid-19 pandemic. But simultaneously, travel has also been one of the markets most open to opportunity and technical advancement as a result of it all.

Throughout all the gloomy headlines, the cancelled holidays, travel red lists and enforced quarantines, the industry has been busy giving itself a makeover.

At Impala we connect with players across the industry; and so we have some good insight into what’s been taking place, and why this really is the time for travel tech.

"The level of excitement around travel has probably never been higher. We’re seeing an influx of innovative new travel businesses signing up to our products. Anything from surprise travel agents, to travel concierge services, to chatbots for making bookings.” -Toby Urff CPO and Co-Founder, Impala.

Travel’s infrastructure is outdated and has needed a complete overhaul for a long time. The enforced hiatus in Travel hasn't meant players sat still; instead it triggered new thinking and developments. In short, in order to navigate these uncertain times, companies have been adapting strategy, hotels and travellers have been re-prioritising, and innovators have been coming up with solutions to decades-old problems - that includes us.

Impala's Year

At Impala, we've been busy building a cutting-edge technology stack to support the resurgence of travel when it does inevitably happen, and we’ve had a pretty amazing year so far.

Since December we have 10x’ed our number of hotel partners, 20x’ed the load on our services, connected with countless new innovators, and launched two new products (including our game-changing Hotel Booking API which reached 3rd Product of the Day on Product Hunt upon release).

And we’re only just scratching the surface of all that we want to achieve.

We’ve also tripled our team size, and invested a lot into improving our internal environment & culture; to be able to offer a fantastic, inclusive, async, and flexible employee experience for all - but that’s a story for a different time!

And all this in the midst of a travel catastrophe? Well, yes. As Cathie Wood (of ARK Invest) says "innovation gains traction in times of crisis".

The Bigger Picture - A brief look at the market

There’s no way around the fact that Covid-19 desecrated the financial results of many travel companies in 2020, and it is unclear how long it may take travel numbers to recover fully. However, in the face of this, we’ve seen some remarkable shifts across the entire gamut. Innovation is clearly at the forefront of everyone’s minds.

Tech is where it’s at, and across the entire ecosphere there is a major push towards digitisation. Just look at the latest news from Hotelbeds, the world's largest bedbank, as an example. Their longstanding CEO, Joan Vilà, has just stepped aside for Nicolas Huss, who has been appointed specifically to amp up their digitisation schemes.

Those facing darker days looked to reconfigure their strategies in order to survive the past year. Just one example of transformation, demonstrating the appetite for innovation and change in travel, is with Trivago; the hotel metasearch who traditionally only engage with customers before trips; have expanded their remit to offer services during trips too.

You only have to follow the money to find out where people are predicting the future lies. There have been huge investments and funding rounds raised for travel tech startups. TravelPerk, Guesty, Staymyway and TripAbrood recently announced over $212 million in funding. And Sonder, the short-term rental startup, has just reached a merger agreement with the special purpose acquisition company, Gores Metropoulos II Inc. - the combined company now has an estimated value of $2.2 billion.

Another telling point is that across the industry demand for new staff is already exceeding supply.

This is clearly the moment to pay attention. With the rollout of vaccination programmes and lockdown restrictions lifting, travel is looking to open up again and we will start to see some of these changes put into action.

Impala & Change

At Impala we are not just part of the change. By truly democratising the hospitality industry for all players, we aim to be at the centre of it.

Our new Hotel Booking API allows anyone to sell rooms from any app or website with just a few lines of code. It offers a simplified approach that takes away all the headaches, costs, and inordinate amount of time for integration and maintenance; meaning businesses can focus their resources on their recovery and enriching the future of travel instead.

By bringing integration costs down, we’re opening up the playing field to new, forward-thinking creators in travel.

These innovators are integral to a dynamic future for travel as they keep the industry moving with ever-fast developing technology. An example of this is the recent proliferation of contactless payment;

"Following the pandemic, people have developed an expectation around contactless options. This has completely overtaken cash payments in many markets. There’s just no way guests won’t expect any hotel to have a base level of Uber-ness to their experience in a few years. We’re building that." -Toby Urff, CPO and Co-Founder, Impala.

And the concept we’re working towards is fast gaining traction;

“At least 40% of the hotels our sales team speaks to, want to sign up there and then. And that number is rising as they hear more about us and what we're doing. Our vision for the future of travel resonates.” -Rob Day, VP operations, Impala.

Hopefully, now my enthusiasm for what’s ahead for travel tech makes sense!

It’s been a crazy year, but Impala and many others have been taking hold of the moment and making the most of the circumstances to shake things up. There is so much room for disruption right now and I'm so excited to see what happens next.

Much like the opportunity that travel provides us, the future prospects for travel itself are endless.