Travel Search Innovation – the Next Breakthrough

My, what a contrast in travel innovation. The first two presenters at today’s PhoCusWright Travel Innovation Summit were Hipmunk and Evature. Both focus on simplifying the travel search process. Pay attention to the implications for corporate travel.

Hipmunk is focusing on de-cluttering the results of a traditional travel search.  It integrates air and Amtrak rail options into flight searches, and combines hotels with AirBnB results. Hotels are presented with geo-heat maps to highlight shopping, dining and vice (really). Beautifully done.

Evature says hooey on traditional travel search – too many point and clicks, radio buttons, sliders, etc.  Solution?  Semantic search, aka free (unformatted) text.  “Summer beach vacation for about $600 per person”  Think about how time-consuming that search is in today’s OTA world.  Same for business – typing  “Day trip to Chicago next Tuesday” has to be easier than getting those parameters into a self-booking tool.  And yes, Evature accepts speech, just like Siri.

So Hipmunk is simplifying the structured travel search process, while Evature is handling the complexity of simple travel searches. A fascinating contrast in travel innovation.  Who will win?

My prediction: Free text/free speech trumps structured search.  Speaking is easier than typing, especially in a mobile world.  Imagine a corporate booking tool that uses Evature or Siri-based search capability.  That will be a true next-generation breakthrough in the self-booking space.

I wonder who will be the first to bring speech-based search to the corporate travel market?

(Update: The day after this post, Evature was named as the grand winner by judges at the Travel Innovation Summit)

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4 thoughts on “Travel Search Innovation – the Next Breakthrough

  1. Hi Scott – totally agree with you that business travel should go this direction…why shouldn’t my corporate booking tool be smart enough to pro-actively search on my requirements based on a more robust profile of where I travel to, and how often? As example, if I’m the head of sales for Asia, why couldn’t I just download my CRM workflow into a booking engine that prescribes for me the best options to go visit my prospects over the next quarter, for example? I am a huge proponent of travel “find” rather than travel “search” – so corporate travel technologists, take note. I’m looking for this solution!

  2. Totally agree with you …
    It’s also an area where you would see lots of innovation in the coming months. Expedia is working on it and TMC’s are also working on it.
    The objective: being apple to serve quickly a traveler without making him wait. He could alo do it by SMS, MMS, i(Message).
    Of course hell is in the details as usual. The main issues today are:
    – No API yet for SIRI or for most of the supplier
    – need to have a data connection since most of computing power in in the cloud. But with TRU (presented at Phocuswright) roaming will soon not be an issue anymore.
    – Not a lot of languages supported. Evature only offers a couple.
    – Android might be the platform where innovation will emerge quickly … Look, I found already all these companies: Iris (read SIri in the opposite direction), Vlingo, Edwin, Google Voice Actions, Sonalight, Voice Action Plus, Speaktoit Assistant.
    – cost of the platform (like Nuance)

    Next step will be to have a skype or facetime call with a virtual agent, able to understand what you say and to decipher your face (are you happy, hungry, frightened). Safety and security systeme should also benefit from this technology (corporate duty of care is gaining traction! )

  3. Kurt, you’ve got a great vision – one day, some day, we’ll all get there!

    William, thanks very much for the keen insights and implications…sounds like you’re well aware of of the progress in this space. Keep us posted, please!

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