Acquisition of 100,000 acres of Cumberland Forest Mountains to boost nature-based tourism in TN, KY

Travel and Tour World | April 22, 2019

The Nature Conservancy has acquired 100,000 acres of Cumberland Forest Mountains. The massive area covers 156 square miles, scattered across northern Tennessee (Claiborne and Campbell counties) and southern Kentucky (Bell, Knox and Leslie counties).It will link the North Cumberland Wildlife Management Area in Tennessee and the Cumberland Gap National Historic Park and the Kentucky Ridge State Forest in Kentucky.Terry Cook, who is now the TNC Tennessee state director and conservation leader, announced the acquisition – the largest in Tennessee’s 41-year history.

Spotlight

As future traveller tribe purchasing habits evolve, travel providers need to respond and build a more rewarding and connected traveller journey, from ‘inspiring to arriving home’. Implementing appropriate solutions and services at each stage of the traveller journey will be crucial to success. The following chart provides examples and potential benefits of various strategies to shape the future traveller journey.

Spotlight

As future traveller tribe purchasing habits evolve, travel providers need to respond and build a more rewarding and connected traveller journey, from ‘inspiring to arriving home’. Implementing appropriate solutions and services at each stage of the traveller journey will be crucial to success. The following chart provides examples and potential benefits of various strategies to shape the future traveller journey.

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TRAVEL TECHNOLOGY

HUAWEI INVESTS $100M IN STARTUPS, MAKES FIRST TRAVEL MOVE IN MIDDLE EAST

Huawei | August 26, 2021

As part of its move away from hardware, Huawei is scaling up its cloud services and startup support in Asia Pacific and, while travel and hospitality is not top of mind yet, its move into this vertical seems inevitable with the expansion of its headquarters in Singapore and a recent first move in the Middle East. Huawei, facing pressure in Western markets and a slowdown in consumer business amid U.S. sanctions, has been steadily moving its focus away from manufacturing to become a tech and software company that believes “deeply in the power of digital technology to provide fresh solutions to the problems the world is facing right now. "We will keep on innovating to help build a low-carbon, intelligent world,” said Eric Xu, Huawei’s Rotating Chairman, at the release of business results for the first half earlier this month. In the Middle East, travel marketplace Wego is the first travel player to sign a partnership with Huawei’s Petal Search to integrate the travel app into Huawei smartphones. “The world of travel and hospitality has entered a new era of m-commerce, as more than 60% of travellers rely entirely on smartphone applications when making their travel plans. Pre-installing the Wego app into smartphones is part of our continuous efforts to enable these travellers to get the best deals and options when shopping for their holiday,” says Mamoun Hmedan, Wego managing director for MENA and India. From May, all Huawei smartphones EMUI 5 and above bundled with the Wego app will be made available across stores in the United Arab Emirates, Saudi Arabia, Oman, Bahrain, Kuwait, Iraq, Egypt, Lebanon, Jordan, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia and Pakistan. “Over the last few years, we have been noticing a significant rise in the number of Wego users on Huawei devices. Interestingly, it has also been noted that Huawei smartphone users tend to spend more on travel than the average Android user,” says Hmedan. In the startup space, Huawei announced its plan to invest $100 million in the ecosystem, with the funds going towards its Spark Program in the Asia Pacific region over the next three years. Singapore, Hong Kong, Malaysia and Thailand are the priority markets and at the Huawei Cloud Spark Founders Summit in July, it announced the programme would develop four additional startup hubs – Indonesia, the Philippines, Sri Lanka, and Vietnam. The overarching aim is to recruit a total of 1,000 startups into the Spark accelerator program and shaping 100 of them into scaleups. Speaking at the Summit, Huawei senior vice president and board member Catherine Chen said 34 years ago, Huawei was a startup with just $5,000 of registered capital. “Recently, we have been thinking: How can we leverage our experience and resources to help more startups address their challenges? Doing so would allow them to seize the opportunities posed by digital transformation, achieve business success, and develop more innovative products and solutions for the world.” Alexis Lee, Spark program manager at Huawei Cloud and AI Asia Pacific, who joined the team in January, told WebInTravel that 40 startups came through in the first cohort and about eight to 10 were identified to enter the “Spark Fire” programme, an accelerator. Zhang Ping’an, senior vice president of Huawei, CEO of Huawei Cloud BU, and president of Huawei Consumer Cloud Service, announced at the Summit that “we have already helped four of these startups launch new products and completely transform their businesses, while helping eight enter new markets”. It is currently in the midst of selecting the second cohort – entries closed last week. Lee, who previously worked in the investor space and was at Grab for two years, said how Huawei differentiated from other accelerators in Singapore is in its business development strength. “We introduce startups to clients, obviously in China, as well as global. China is obviously the most attractive market for scale up.” It does not take equity, rather it invests in kind, offering cloud infrastructure support in credits as well as a strong mentoring and investor network. “The programme is about building up the startup community, and sharing our resources. We have the tech know-how and the client network to help startups scale.” Areas of interest include anything to do with AI, ML or 5G and industry verticals include fintech, logistics, smart cities, ad tech and insurance tech. Huawei says its global HMS ecosystem is the world’s third largest mobile app ecosystem, serving 4.5 million developers in over 170 countries and regions. The goal is to cultivate over 100,000 HMS cloud-native developers in Asia Pacific over three years. Huawei Cloud is second in China and fifth in the global IaaS market.

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FEATURES AND ADVICE

Klarna acquires Inspirock, bringing smooth travel planning to its 90M global consumers

Klarna & Inspirock | October 25, 2021

Klarna, a leading global retail bank, payments and shopping service, is bringing its signature smoooth experience to the travel sector with the acquisition of Inspirock, an online trip planner that enables consumers to quickly and easily explore a destination's offerings and create personalized itineraries utilizing local expertise and artificial intelligence. Over 25 million travelers a year use Inspirock to plan trips tailored to their interests or find inspiration on where to go and what to see. Klarna will integrate Inspirock's capabilities to allow Klarna's 90M users to plan and shop for a trip and pay for it in installments - all through the Klarna app. In addition, Klarna aims to save its customers hours of planning for the typical vacation by using Inspirock's technology. By bringing Inspirock to Klarna, we are bringing the best of Klarna's smoooth customer experience to the travel sector. For customers, this makes the whole journey from inspiration to planning and preparing for a trip simpler, less stressful and more fun, while enabling our retail partners to better reach and engage with their audiences by offering more personalized content. It's a natural extension of the benefits Klarna brings to payments and shopping. -Klarna CEO and Co-Founder, Sebastian Siemiatkowski Inspirock's technology also enables Klarna to offer additional advertising and marketing opportunities to its growing network of over 250,000+ retail partners, helping them to reach high-intent shoppers with more curated and personalized content catered to their travel plans and preferences. "We are excited to bring simpler, easier trip planning to Klarna's 90m global consumers. Our goal at Inspirock has been to make planning a trip fast, fun and easy. Together we can deliver on Klarna's ambitions of providing a smooth shopping experience to the travel space in an innovative way. Klarna and Inspirock together can bring great inspiration, tools and shopping experiences, making planning the trip as fun as the actual trip itself." -Anoop Goyal, CEO and Co-Founder of Inspirock Klarna's marketing solutions include Comparison Shopping, an AI-driven styling engine, a virtual shopping platform, and an influencer marketing and measurement platform. Together, these services will help consumers make informed decisions about purchasing the products they want from the retailers they love at the best price. Travel is a huge global e-commerce market with strong predicted growth. 66% of global travel bookings are made online and this is expected to grow to 72% by 2025, creating a market worth a projected $833bn1. As Covid restrictions ease in many regions and travel plans are back in the calendar, Klarna research has shown that 21% of people put travel at the top of their list of categories they are going to splurge on in 20212. About Klarna We make shopping smooth. With Klarna consumers can buy now and pay later, so they can get what they love today. Klarna's offering to consumers and retailers include payments, social shopping, and personal finances. Over 250,000 retail partners, including H&M, IKEA, Expedia Group, Samsung, ASOS, Peloton, Abercrombie & Fitch, Nike and AliExpress have enabled Klarna's innovative shopping experience online and in-store. Klarna is one of the most highly valued private fintechs globally with a valuation of $45.6 billion. Klarna was founded in 2005, has over 4,000 employees and is active in 17 countries. For more information, visit klarna.com.

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TRAVEL TECHNOLOGY

Japan-based VoicePing Choses Vonage to Power Innovative Virtual Reality Travel Experience

Vonage | March 02, 2022

Vonage (Nasdaq: VG), a global leader in cloud communications helping businesses accelerate their digital transformation, announced that VoicePing has chosen the Vonage Video API to power innovative virtual reality (VR) travel experiences via its Dokodemo (Anywhere) Door Trip service. The service uses 360° photography and video, as well as VR goggles and a computer, to enable users to enjoy virtual travel as if they were there in real life. VoicePing is a Japan-based start-up company established in 2019 and focused on developing and providing intuitive, realistic virtual experiences, including virtual office environments. As demand for immersive digital experiences grows , the company is actively developing a variety of VR-related services through a capital and business alliance with MetaReal Corp. To provide a high-quality VR travel service, VoicePing needed to implement superior video calling capabilities quickly and seamlessly within their application and at scale. Using the Vonage Video API, VoicePing built a VR travel service that enables overwhelmingly realistic video playback, two-way voice communication, and automatic AI translation. At VoicePing, we are building solutions that empower people around the world to interact with anyone, anytime, anywhere, language-free, and enjoy their lives, work, and lifestyles through the use of the latest technology," said Mr. Kei Shimizu, VoicePing Project Manager. "We chose Vonage to develop the video function within our advanced VR experiences because Vonage provides high quality video and audio, is easily implemented and operated within our applications, and has global reach and scale to grow as user adoption grows around the world. "The pandemic has greatly restricted the ability to travel and experience new countries and cultures, and caused a major shift in the way we engage with one another. As more and more experiences become virtual, demand continues to increase for experiences that rival in-person interaction, Vonage is proud to enable innovative businesses VoicePing to build immersive, interactive virtual experiences around the world." -Amitha Pulijala, VP of Product, Platform Services, AI and Video, Vonage Virtual travelers can take advantage of Dokodemo Door Trip experiences through either GuideMeetup, which allows users to experience a trip while talking with a local guide in real time, alongside 360° VR images captured by the local guide, or by using the WorldRambler service, which enables users to freely tour each country without a local guide. A key feature of the GuideMeetup service driven by the Video API is that travelers are not only able to enjoy the visuals of a location, but can also have a real-time conversation and interaction with the local guide. In addition to Dokodemo Door Trip, VoicePing and MetaReal are developing a variety of VR services powered by the Vonage Video API, including Dokodemo Door Party, which creates a realistic karaoke experience; VR Therapy, which allows users to experience therapy in a virtual space; and VR Music, a live music distribution service. The Vonage Communications Platform has more than one million registered developers and offers a full suite of programmable voice, video, messaging, and email services to forward-thinking businesses throughout the Asia-Pacific market and worldwide. Through its partners, Vonage's platform is at the center of many notable transformational projects in the region, and a de facto for startups. About Vonage Vonage, (Nasdaq:VG) a global cloud communications leader, helps businesses accelerate their digital transformation. Vonage's Communications Platform is fully programmable and allows for the integration of Video, Voice, Chat, Messaging and Verification into existing products, workflows and systems. Vonage's fully programmable unified communications and contact center applications are built from the Vonage platform and enable companies to transform how they communicate and operate from the office or remotely - providing the flexibility required to create meaningful engagements. Vonage Holdings Corp. is headquartered in New Jersey, with offices throughout the United States, Europe, Israel and Asia. To follow Vonage on Twitter, please visit www.twitter.com/vonage. To become a fan on Facebook, go to facebook.com/vonage. To subscribe on YouTube, visit youtube.com/vonage.

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