With increased opportunities to vacation, tour, and conduct business abroad, the modern traveler has many decisions to make in organizing the best trip possible. And with more people looking for personalized and unique experiences – whether for business or pleasure – startups across the globe are emerging to make these decisions easier using advanced technologies.
The travel and tourism markets, valued at nearly $8 trillion, continue to see new, creative solutions to increase convenience, accessibility, and improve travelers’ overall experience.
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“2019 is set to be an exciting year for travel,” said Pepijn Rijvers, chief marketing officer at Booking.com, in October when the international travel tech giant released its top travel predictions for 2019. The results were based on insights from over 21,500 travelers across 29 countries.
“With technological advancements, an ever more connected world and a continuously growing consumer appetite for the best travel experiences, we’re poised for groundbreaking developments, taking travel to unexplored heights,” he said.
“Instead of going to Silicon Valley to open the next tech center, we’re actually gonna do it here in Tel Aviv,” Booking.com CEO Gillian Tans said at the time.
From booking engines to tours and activities, Israeli travel tech companies have spread their influence into the industry’s largest sectors, including “conscious travel” (where travel decisions are fueled by human rights awareness, environmental issues, or volunteering opportunities), digital tour guiding, and curated experiences.
Here are eight companies, all part of the Israel Travel Tech Startups (ITTS) community, disrupting travel with innovative tools and services.
According to Booking.com’s survey, some 31 percent of global travelers like the idea of using voice-activated assistants to answer travel queries, and one in five want to see technology such as Augmented Reality (AR) helping to familiarize themselves with a destination before arrival.
Israeli-founded TravelX does most of those things.
The San Diego-based company developed a mobile app that acts as a personal tour guide and concierge rolled into one. Using AR technology and artificial intelligence, the app guides travelers to landmarks and points of interest, notifies them about restaurants and bars in their vicinity, and can even give directions.
Additionally, customizable avatars allow the user to choose from different looks and styles to meet personal preferences. TravelX’s virtual tour guide is designed to speak and interact with travelers, and minimizes the need for extensive preparations before a trip.
SeeVoov is another travel tech startup using artificial intelligence to change the way people travel, by helping them at the research stage. Rather than reading up on good restaurants and must-see tourist locations, SeeVoov introduces interactive, video-based trip planning.
The SeeVoov machine-learning system uses image analysis to present location-specific videos to the user in an organized, informative display. The program automatically searches the web for videos (following specific guidelines), feeds them through a tagging algorithm, and relevant information such as the location and online reviews of a particular place are preliminarily stored in the SeeVoov database. After being reviewed and approved by a travel expert, the data is then processed once more to improve system accuracy.
The result of this advanced video processing technology is a single travel planning application for travelers of all kinds. Users can search for specific places, explore hundreds of related videos, and quickly access any extra information like what to wear or what to bring. Once all of the parameters have been selected, the system provides a list of accommodation options and prices, and then creates a personal itinerary accessible on your phone.
Based in Tel Aviv, Seevov was founded in 2016.
The company was among four Israeli startups selected as 10 finalists for the first World Tourism Organization (UNWTO) startup competition in partnership with Globalia, a leading tourism group in Spain and Latin America.
The startups will present their solutions at the annual FITUR tourism conference in Madrid next month. The winning company will have the opportunity to design a pilot project with Globalia.
GivingWay is a socially minded, for-profit tech company looking to reestablish traditional volunteering and travel in the digital era. With GivingWay’s free social platform, people and non-profits from all over the world can easily connect to work together toward a cause.
“Education, environment, healthcare, animal-welfare and a wide range of great causes are not only cared for on a local level, but also on a wider, international level,” reads GivingWay’s site. “We make it easy for nonprofits to clearly communicate their needs, and for people to give their time, skills or funds in the most effective way possible. ”
Potential volunteers can find the right opportunity by following three easy steps: using search filters to narrow down a cause and location, applying to work with interesting organizations generated by the search, and finalizing their plans.
GivingWay stands firmly against communicating through a third-party volunteering agency to coordinate opportunities, as this can often result in unnecessary fees and miscommunication. GivingWay’s direct connection feature eliminates the need for a costly intermediary. Instead, it provides a free service to help create a mutually beneficial volunteering experience.
Additionally, GivingWay’s blog is run by volunteer content contributors who seek to share their knowledge with fellow travelers. Whether it’s tips for ethical travel, delving into some of the harmful effects of volunteering in orphanages, or looking at perfect opportunities for retirees, the section functions as a comprehensive guide to help volunteers and travelers make a difference on the go.
Trips with a purpose will become more popular in 2019, Booking.com says, with 68 percent of global travelers considering “taking part in cultural exchanges to learn a new skill, followed by a volunteering trip (54 percent) and international work placements (52 percent).”
GivingWay, based in Tel Aviv, was founded in 2015 by Israeli entrepreneurs Gigi Levy-Weiss, Alon Elish, and Orit Strauss Raz.
Pruvo developed hotel booking software with a mission to help customers book hotels at the lowest possible prices. Instead of guessing whether or not you have found the cheapest offer for a room, Pruvo removes the burden of uncertainty by helping customers rebook when the price inevitably drops. Customers forward their reservation by email, wait for a response indicating a price drop, and Pruvo allows them to rebook the same room at a lower price.
Pruvo enables bookings from any website, and there is no signup or credit card required. The company also developed a Google Chrome extension for an automated tracking system that notifies users of any changes in the price of the room. Additionally, Pruvo has a team of professionals dedicated to assisting businesses with large-scale bookings.
With its simple business model and an abundance of features, Pruvo is at the forefront of the hotel booking software market.
Founded in 2016, Pruvo is based in Haifa in northern Israel, and has offices in Costa Rica, according to Start-Up Nation Finder.
Pruvo was also selected as a finalist in the UNWTO Tourism Competition.
Roomer is an online marketplace for hotel rooms through which travelers can buy and sell non-refundable hotel reservations. The company says it is making “travel exchangeable and tradable.”
Roomer bridges the gap between travelers looking for good deals on overnight accommodations and those looking to sell an otherwise-wasted room reservation. Built to benefit both buyers and sellers, the platform guarantees security of purchase for all parties.
Using an automated validation system, all listings on the website are verified as authentic before being sold to prevent fraud. Additionally, Roomer’s secure payment system ensures that, following each sale, all sellers directly receive payment for the amount they earned.
Roomer was founded in 2011 by Gon Ben-David, Ben Froumine, and Adi Zellner.
Meeba is on a genuine mission to promote social travel. Dubbed the social app for travelers, people from all over can use the application to make in-person connections abroad.
The platform was inspired and made by travelers, for travelers, says Meeba cofounder Hatzav Aviv. “After wasting so much time trying to plan my trip so I wouldn’t miss anything, wasting time debating where my friends and I should stay, sleep, eat or drink […] I just realized there has to be a better way, and that’s when I came up with Meeba,” he writes on the company site. Hatzav pitched the idea to his brother, Cnaan, a traveler and skilled coder, and they immediately began working together on the project.
The free application delivers endless opportunities to explore local areas, rendez-vous with nearby travelers, ask questions and get tips, buy and sell travel equipment, and participate in local culture by participating in scheduled events.
The application runs on completely user-generated data, with travelers contributing ratings, suggestions, and general travel recommendations.
Based in Tel Aviv, Trailze developed an easy-to-use mobile application to make outdoor navigation and guidance accessible and free. Users can find nature trails and experiences, and get real-time guidance en route without requiring cellular coverage.
Having already mapped over a million miles all over the world, Trailze’s patented mapping technology ensures that there are always plenty of experiential outdoor opportunities, no matter the destination.
Downloaded by over 120,000 users, the award-winning application allows users to find great trails provided by top brands and professionals, use the GPS tracking system for real-time navigation, or share activities with friends.
Trailze was founded in 2014 by Ronen Bitan and Tal Lavi.
TripActions is a rapidly growing, US-based company reinventing corporate travel. Israeli entrepreneurs Ilan Twig and Ariel Cohen founded the startup in 2015, borne from the shortcomings they experienced when traveling for business. They developed an end-to-end platform that uses AI and machine learning to deliver a customized traveler experiences at scale.
In less than four years, TripActions raised $232 million and achieved a valuation of over $1 billion. Its latest funding round of $154 million was led by Andreessen Horowitz, with participation from existing investors Lightspeed Venture Partners, Zeev Ventures, and SGVC.
“We know that travel plays a critical role in helping the most innovative companies achieve their growth objectives and stay a step ahead of the competition,” said Cohen said in a statement last month. “Unfortunately business travel today is fraught with pain points for travelers and companies leading to low traveler adoption and compliance rates, incomplete visibility into travel spend and difficulty delivering duty of care.”
Cohen said clients are “flocking to TripActions” for its “modern, user-friendly solution that road warriors love.”
It seems the user experience is the draw. The simple and efficient design allows travelers to book the perfect reservation in an average of under 6 minutes. With easy access to extensive information on flights, rental cars, hotels and trains in one place, users can book quickly and easily and without having to compare prices across multiple sites.
TripActions also prides itself on advanced customer service. Travel experts offer proactive support to work around a flight delay or lost hotel room before the traveler is even aware of a problem. For any additional concerns, representatives are available at all times via the application’s instant message feature, email, or phone call. With a 97% satisfaction rate, TripActions supports clients and travelers to ensure that, “business travel is no longer a pain. It’s a perk.”