6 traveler-terrific innovations from the 2015 Phocuswright Innovation Summit

debbie1When travel innovators do what they do best, everyone wins: travel companies, our industry and most importantly, travelers themselves.

And innovation was front and center at the 2015 Phocuswright Conference held this week in Hollywood, Florida, with a bright spotlight on the Travel Innovation Summit event.

The Innovation Summit might be best described as where “Think Tank” meets “Shark Tank” for the travel industry, featuring new and established companies competing onstage in rapid-fire presentations and hot seat-style Q&A.  This year’s Summit brought together 30+ travel companies from around the world showcasing their latest and future-focused innovations while vying for visibility, bragging rights and even funding.

As a travel tech professional, this event is a great way to stay on the cutting edge of what’s happening in our industry. But as a frequent and avid traveler myself, my agenda is also a selfish one. I watch closely to see how our industry is going to continue to “up its game” in creating and delivering an even greater experience for travelers like me.

And this year, the innovators did not disappoint.

I was excited to see some of the latest and greatest creations in travel aimed at providing more customized, streamlined and seamless experiences for travelers. Here’s a quick look at six of the innovations from this year’s Travel Innovation Summit that are poised to help shape the future for travelers:


For travelers spending a weekend in a new city and interested in finding local events without having to spend hours researching things to do and sites to see, Headout functions as a mobile concierge, giving travelers access to find and buy tours, activities and tickets to local events in real time. With the goal of helping travelers find last minute plans, Headout works with vendors who update their inventory every 24 hours, enabling travelers to conduct a quick search for what’s happening in their area, click on it, and simply purchase their activities. Travelers also have access to local city experts that can answer any questions they may have about the city they are visiting.


Coordinating group travel or complex itineraries can be a pain point when it comes to planning trips. With HelloGbye, travelers can dictate their travel preferences and HelloGbye instantly displays their itinerary options on their mobile screen. If there are multiple travelers coming from different destinations or leaving at different times, HelloGbye incorporates all of the data being communicated through voice recognition and adjusts the itinerary accordingly to match the traveler’s needs. With the ability to view different flight and hotel options, travelers can easily assess their options and then proceed right to the payment stage. For the travelers booking with others, these folks can even split up the payment across multiple channels, making it easier to book, pay and get going.


Tired of sending screenshots of potential flights, accommodations and activities to family and friends when trying to book a trip? Hipmunk is too, which is why the company unveiled its latest travel planning assistant, Hello Hipmunk, at this year’s summit. Hello Hipmunk allows travelers to simply include hello@hipmunk.com into their email chain when communicating trip details with family and friends and automatically runs trip searches and provides results to the group. Additionally, Hello Hipmunk’s Calendar feature offers the ability to scan a traveler’s calendar and offer travel suggestions based on trip information included in the calendar. With the ability to scan emails and calendars, Hello Hipmunk takes the “search” out of “search and shop.”


At the root of innovation lies the human experience. If you’ve ever planned a trip, you’ve likely come in contact with information that can be appear to be confusing or disjointed when planning your travels. Umapped has developed a collaborative approach to itinerary management that brings suppliers, agents and partners together to synthesize all traveler information whether it be PDF email confirmations, recommendations from friends, or information the traveler found online to deliver a better traveler experience. Groups can easily pool all of their sources together using Umapped to interact and collaborate collectively throughout their experience. During the trip, travelers can share their photos and memories with family and friends right from their phones using Umapped. With social content wrapped into the experience, travelers are able to become more engaged and invested in the trips they are taking.


Revinate is a tool designed for the hospitality industry that collects personal guest data and creates an easily understandable platform to enhance and customize the guest’s experience. Revinate aggregates data from a guest’s public social media profile as well as information that has been provided by the traveler including feedback, hotel preferences, interests, interactions in the hotel, special requests, how guests responded to previous marketing campaigns, spending, as well as how the guest interacts on social media during their stay. With Revinate, hotels can better customize their guests’ stay to ensure they are satisfied with their experience and are eager to return. In my book, better service can lead to a better experience! And a big congrats to Revinate for taking first place in the Summit’s “Most Innovative Established Company” category.


Planning and splitting the bill when it comes to group travel can be a daunting task. Travefy provides powerful collaboration tools for travel brands, suppliers and agents to help facilitate trip planning, provide real time itineraries and split expenses. Groups of travelers can easily search, plan and discuss what activities they want to do during their trip and add their desired activities to their itinerary. When the time comes to split the cost of the hotel, tour or activity, Travefy sends notifications to each person indicating their required payments and enables them to pay up instantly. Travefy transforms group travel planning from a messy and disjointed experience into a fun and collaborative one for all.  And kudos to Travefy who won the “Brand USA Award for Travel Marketing Innovation” for their efforts.

Speaking of winners, so what other companies took home the awards at this year’s Phocuswright Conference Innovation Summit? You can check out the full list here. Keep those good ideas coming!

When it comes to travel, which innovations excite you most?


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