How entrepreneurs can break into the travel industry


I recently joined Amadeus after spending three years in the world of entrepreneurship and startups. In that time, I launched and consulted for businesses in all types of industries ranging from food service to encryption to consumer technology to casino gaming. Throughout my journey I picked up tips and tricks that made each subsequent venture a little easier. I discovered common threads that wound through each industry: you need a clear vision, an enthusiastic entrepreneur or team, keen advisors, lots of funding and a bit of luck. However, after joining Amadeus for Startups and reviewing more than 150 new travel businesses, I’ve had to rewrite my mental wide-ranging model to fit the fluid travel landscape.

Startups vs. travel startups

Travel startups do share many similarities with other technology startups and require many of the same basic components to get started such as developers, engineers and a go-to-market plan. But a major difference is that in order to break into an industry as mature and multifaceted as travel, entrepreneurs need to immerse themselves in the details of Global Distribution Systems, IATA numbers, government regulations and more. And because the travel industry is so large and complex, there are many opportunities for innovation, even a slight chance of disruption.

One requirement for all entrepreneurs, no matter the industry, is that they must have an innovative idea and the drive to create something new that adds value for their customers. For example, let’s take a startup aspiring to become the next big online travel company. An entrepreneur from another industry would put their pitch deck together with typical items such as their product, how they will make money and how they will attract customers. The online travel entrepreneur must consider all of these items, plus develop an understanding of regulations and complex payment systems, and have a specific knack for customer service. Another way to look at it is: An entrepreneur selling widgets on Kickstarter doesn’t have to worry about how natural disasters will affect the product they sell, the accreditations they need to do business, or their “look-to-book” ratio. While every industry has its challenges, travel entrepreneurs must recognize that their product has a direct effect on their customers moving from point A to point B, and their services can be affected by weather, political instability, or any number of uncontrollable factors.

So what is an aspiring travel entrepreneur to do?

  • Get familiar with the travel industry. Research the airlines, ground transportation services, tour operators, GDS partners, CRS providers and any other supplier you aim to work with. Make calls, ask questions, go to meetups, read blogs, and get help.
  • Attract and retain the best advisors – no one can do it alone! Research industry experts in your specific area of travel and reach out to them. Advisors provide the benefit of experience and subject matter expertise that you cannot gain through research.
  • Partner with the best organizations. There are many fantastic incubators, accelerators and commercial programs (such as Amadeus for Startups) that can open doors to funding, introduce you to mentors, and help you transform your idea into a thriving startup.

So, what are you waiting for? Do you have a passion for travel, an innovative idea, and the motivation to start something new? If so, do your research, reach out, form your team, and get started!

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