TRAVEL TECHNOLOGY

Spotnana - Travel’s First Open Innovation Platform, Launches With $41 Million in Funding

Spotnana | September 24, 2021

Spotnana Technology Inc.,the first technology company to build an open global innovation platform for travel, today emerged from stealth mode and announced $41 million in funding. The funding includes a $34 million Series A led by ICONIQ and Madrona Venture Group.

“Spotnana’s cloud-native unified global platform solves problems that have plagued the corporate travel world for decades and represents a giant leap forward for all participants travel suppliers, travel management companies, organizations with traveling employees, and the travelers themselves.”

The Series A round also included participation from Mubadala Capital, Decibel VC and super angels including technology and product luminaries Gokul Rajaram - Doordash, Scott Belsky - Chief Product Officer Adobe, Jeetu Patel - EVP Cisco, Vinod Marur - SVP Engineering Databricks and Akshay Bhargava - Chief Product Officer 1Password. The Series A comes on the heels of a Seed round of $7 million raised in early 2020, from Madrona Venture Group, 8VC, and Global Founders Capital, Shah Capital and angels.

“Spotnana is re-envisioning the travel experience from the ground up. By applying a cloud native and open approach to the technology stack, our platform enables travel industry participants to build on our platform to offer their services, and work with partners,” said Sarosh Waghmar, CEO and co-founder of Spotnana. “Spotnana’s unique and modern approach enables entirely new business models for travel buyers and suppliers which are only possible on its global software-as-a-service platform.”

Founded by travel veteran, Sarosh Waghmar, CEO, and technologist, Shikhar Agarwal, CTO, Spotnana has assembled an impressive team of technology and industry leaders with deep domain expertise in the travel industry, and a desire to dramatically improve the value proposition for all participants in the travel ecosystem. Bill Brindle, the former COO of American Express GBT and HRG, serves as Vice President of Travel Operations and Steve Singh, the founder and former CEO of Concur, serves as Executive Chairman of Spotnana’s Board of Directors. In addition, with the Series A investment, Greg Stanger, General Partner at ICONIQ, joins the board. Greg formerly served as CFO of Expedia.

“Spotnana is a cloud-native travel platform designed to serve the global, multi-trillion-dollar travel industry. We serve corporate customers, travel management company [TMC] partners, technology partners and our supplier partners – all on a global basis. The Spotnana TMC service is available to our corporate customers to run and manage their global travel program. Our TMC partners are using the Spotnana platform to deliver travel management services to their customers. Next-generation leaders in the spend management, meetings management, and TMC partners, are integrating into and building value on top of our platform, for the benefit of our mutual customers. Just as importantly, we are excited to partner with suppliers from around the world that wish to deliver differentiated content, and functionality to their customers. There is a tremendous opportunity to build a global platform that can dramatically improve the traveler experience while delivering a better value proposition for every member of the travel ecosystem. I am honored to serve as Spotnana’s Executive Chairman,” commented Steve Singh, Managing Director at Madrona Venture Group.
 

“We are honored to partner with Sarosh and the Spotnana team,” said Greg Stanger, General Partner of ICONIQ Growth. “Spotnana’s cloud-native unified global platform solves problems that have plagued the corporate travel world for decades and represents a giant leap forward for all participantstravel suppliers, travel management companies, organizations with traveling employees, and the travelers themselves.”

The company’s TMC service is now live with more than 50 early corporate travel customers, providing seamless global service for business travelers and empowering administrators to manage travel across dozens of global offices from one single online dashboard.

The funding will be used to expand the services available on the Spotnana platform and to build sales, marketing, partner, customer success organizations.

About Spotnana
Spotnana, founded in early 2020 is unbundling travel with the world’s first cloud-native, open, platform for global travel innovation.

Spotlight

In this episode of TalkingSense we’re talking some sense with Craig Rosenberg, Chief Analyst and Co-founder of TOPO. We’ll go behind the scenes of the building of TOPO as well as get the CliffsNotes version of their recent ABM study.


Other News
TRAVEL TECHNOLOGY

Internova Travel Group Enhances BookHuman.Travel Site to Foster Human Connection

Internova Travel Group | April 07, 2022

Internova Travel Group, one of the industry's largest travel services companies, is rolling out an enhanced version of its website BookHuman.Travel that harnesses the power of storytelling to reinforce the value of using a human travel advisor. Through individual profiles, you can get to know some of the more than 62,000 Internova travel advisors in over 6,000 company-owned and affiliated locations worldwide and learn what makes them experts in all types of leisure and corporate travel.You'll find out why they're passionate travelers, and how they use their background, expertise and experience to take care of every last detail for their clients. They share what it takes to create those "wow" moments that make a trip memorable, as well as the times when they saved the day for their clients. If you're searching for inspiration, you can read about some of their amazing travels around the world, accompanied by stunning photos. "It amazes me how little consumers know about the benefits of using a travel advisor, Arguably, the least important thing a travel advisor does is book your travel. What surrounds the actual booking – the planning, anticipating, troubleshooting, negotiating, resolving, and communicating – is where you will find the real value of an advisor. That's what we want to feature on BookHuman.Travel, which has evolved to become an advocacy site for our travel advisors. Here, they can share their firsthand experiences as well as tell stories of how they've helped clients before, during and after their trips." -Brent Rivard, Chief Marketing Officer at Internova Travel Group BookHuman.Travel demonstrates the many benefits of a human connection that you simply can't get from booking a trip online. For example, a family taking a trip to Japan put a visit with one of the country's few remaining samurai swordsmiths at the top of their wish list. When an emergency forced the swordsmith to cancel, "after a few anxious days and sleepless nights due to the time difference, my team and I were able to rearrange everything. A client wanted to throw a surprise dinner party at a restaurant in Paris for his wife's 65th birthday. His travel advisor suggested that he bring everyone on the Bustronome, a double-decker bus where diners enjoy a gourmet meal as they drive by the city's landmarks, discovering the beauty of Paris at night. A travel advisor who has taken trips with her husband and toddler knows what goes into a successful family vacation, from ensuring that the hotel room is ready when her clients arrive to planning sightseeing around naps and mealtimes. "I can open the door to experiences you might never have thought possible." The daughter of a client booked her own hotel in Germany and it turned out to be a nightmare. After a call from her frantic mother, the travel advisor booked the daughter into a great hotel that she was familiar with, and sent a car at midnight to pick her up. "Her daughter will never travel without me again and tells all her friends the same. BookHuman.Travel makes it easy to connect with a travel advisor. You can search for a specialist by destination or choose from a wide variety of interests, ranging from adventure travel to arts and culture, cruises, family vacations, honeymoons, LGBT travel, wellness trips and more. A green dot on an advisor's profile means that they're online. You can connect with them through a live chat, over the phone or by email. If the travel advisor is offline, you can leave a message or schedule a time to talk to them. Browse through BookHuman.Travel to meet our travel advisors," continued Rivard. "You'll love their enthusiasm for discovering new places and be impressed by the countless ways in which they deliver unmatched, customized experiences for their leisure and corporate clients at every budget level. They are knowledgeable, well-traveled professionals who take the time to develop a personal relationship with their clients, and that makes all the difference. To learn more, please visit BookHuman.Travel. About Internova Travel Group Internova Travel Group is one of the largest travel services companies in the world with a collection of leading brands delivering high-touch, personal travel expertise to leisure and corporate clients. Internova manages leisure, business and franchise firms through a portfolio of distinctive divisions. Internova represents more than 62,000 travel advisors in over 6,000 company-owned and affiliated locations predominantly in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom, with a presence in more than 80 countries.

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CRUISE

Consumers Optimistic About Cruise Travel in 2022

arrivia | March 01, 2022

Consumers are optimistic about their 2022 cruise travel plans. That's the overall sentiment from a recent survey conducted by arrivia, a leading travel loyalty and cruise booking technology platform that works with consumer-facing companies worldwide. The company surveyed 1,453 Americans between November 3, 2021, and January 10, 2022, all of whom are members of a travel club or travel benefits program, about their attitudes and preferences around cruise travel. Initial responses were collected just a few weeks before the emergence of the COVID-19 Omicron variant, with responses also being recorded into January 2022 as it became the dominant strain worldwide. The Ready to Board consumer cruise survey revealed that more than 80% of respondents have booked a cruise in the next two years or are planning or considering a cruise vacation. Of those consumers who have already booked a cruise, 37% aimed to travel in the spring, 22% in the summer and 31% in the fall. While there was a slight shift in the data based on when the survey responses were recorded relative to the spread of Omicron, the number of respondents who had already booked or were actively planning a cruise consistent outweighed those who "might" book one or aren't considering booking by nearly 2 to 1. Consumers, however, were very clear that they support cruise lines' efforts to make travel as safe as possible. Over 50% of respondents said they would want to see universal masking and vaccination on board and social distancing on cruise activities to feel comfortable cruising again. Value is still a major factor in decision-making Despite the pent-up travel demand accumulated over the past two years, 46% of consumers consider value for money the most important factor when booking a cruise — more than the double itineraries/destinations and COVID/safety protocols combined. Better pricing and deals were also the second top reason (tied with travel restrictions) that travelers haven't booked a cruise in the past twelve months. The focus on value is illustrated by the sizeable percentage (18%) of respondents using loyalty or travel rewards points to defray some or all of the cost of a cruise. "Points play an important role as travelers plan their journeys,Companies with loyalty or rewards programs should consider expanding their capabilities to include more of the travel booking and benefits options that consumers increasingly want, such as cruise travel." -Jeff Zotara, arrivia Chief Marketing Officer. Other findings from the survey: Sixty-six percent of consumers are choosing luxury cruise travel over mega cruises or niche river cruises. Travelers are choosing historically popular destinations with the desire for luxury cruise experiences. Almost half of the respondents who had booked or were planning to book a cruise had their eye on the Caribbean, with 17% zeroing in on the Bahamas as their next stop. And they're not just testing the waters with three-day excursions; 54% said they were considering a six-to-nine-day cruise, while 11% said that ten days or more is the perfect trip length. "It's no doubt that Omicron impacted some of the booking activity in the short-term," Zotara added. "But with the investment cruise lines have made in ensuring travelers' safety and in the new ships that promise to deliver even better experiences, more consumers will be setting sail over the next two years. We're excited to see the demand increasing and consumers' enthusiasm for cruise travel." The consumer cruise survey, Ready to Board, is available for download here. For more information about the survey or to speak with Jeff Zotara, Chief Marketing Officer of arrivia, please contact Vanessa Horwell at vhorwell@thinkinkpr.com. About arrivia Arrivia is a travel technology company that provides travel loyalty, booking and marketing solutions to consumer-facing companies that want to deliver exceptional value to their customers, uncover new revenue streams and drive growth through exciting travel rewards and member benefits. The company's Travel Privileges platform opens up the world of travel for companies like American Express, USAA and Marriott Vacations Worldwide by offering their customers more value through exclusive pricing and encouraging discovery with relevant and personalized options that inspire travel and consumer loyalty. To learn more about how arrivia helps companies drive growth, incentivize sales, boost affinity and reward high-value customers, visit www.arrivia.com.

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COMMERCIAL TRAVEL

As Summer Travel Returns at Record Levels, JetBlue Launches Plan to Reliably Deliver the JetBlue Experience Loved by Customers

JetBlue | April 27, 2022

JetBlue (NASDAQ: JBLU) announced a series of investments that will set up the airline to reliably deliver the JetBlue experience during what is expected to be a record-breaking summer. JetBlue’s broad and comprehensive plan includes a reduction of its summer schedule, focus on hiring and training, efforts to reduce customer support call volume and hold times, proactive aircraft maintenance efforts, and facilities/infrastructure readiness. “We want customers who love the JetBlue experience to have confidence we will deliver it to them this summer,We let our crewmembers and our customers down in April, and we must perform better. The investments we’re making will help reduce delays and cancellations during the busiest travel period.” -Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer, JetBlue. As the aviation industry has rebounded from the historic impact of COVID-19, airlines have faced ongoing challenges this year from the Omicron wave, staffing ramp up, attrition, weather events, and air traffic control delays. JetBlue’s plan builds more flexibility into its schedule and crew staffing to recover from these events, and ensures its facilities and technology are equipped to handle increased demand, especially in New York where the airline is growing nearly 50 percent as part of its Northeast Alliance (NEA) with American Airlines. Reduced schedule offers more buffer and flexibility to recover from disruptions Even though the industry continues to forecast robust demand, JetBlue is taking steps to reduce its flight schedule for increased reliability. A reduced schedule will add more buffer room throughout the day to make up for operational disruptions and put less stress on its crew resources. JetBlue originally planned to grow capacity this year by 11 to 15 percent compared to 2019. Now, with its reduced schedule, JetBlue’s capacity will grow zero to five percent compared to 2019. Most importantly, JetBlue is reducing its summer schedule by more than 10 percent from its original plan, and scheduled aircraft utilization will be down 10 to 15 percent compared to 2019. JetBlue is a growth airline, and we want nothing more than to bring our unique combination of low fares and award-winning service to more customers, Geraghty said. However, by taking a more conservative approach to growth, we can bring resiliency to our operation and ensure our crewmembers – who are the best in the industry – come to work each day set up for success. JetBlue’s capacity cuts take into account the impact of higher-priced fuel and are distributed throughout its network. Even with the reductions, JetBlue will grow significantly in New York’s three major airports as part of the NEA – from 200 flights a day in 2019 to nearly 300 flights a day. JetBlue has trimmed some of its growth at Newark to ease congestion and ensure the terminal facilities can accommodate its schedule until construction is completed on the new Terminal A. Accelerating staffing and training to support the schedule Like many businesses across a range of industries, staffing resources have pressured airlines as customers returned. Even though it’s pulling down some flying, JetBlue is moving forward with hiring efforts to staff up for the summer, including 5,000 new crewmembers in New York. The airline’s recently expanded training facility in Orlando is operating at maximum capacity. We are well aware of the staffing challenges that many companies are facing, but it’s been incredible to see how many job seekers want to work at JetBlue,” Geraghty said. “Our differentiated brand and culture continue to attract the best talent, and we have expanded our training facilities to get our new hires on the job as soon as possible. In addition to general staffing, JetBlue is working through a backlog of pilot training and re-certification flights after delays from Omicron. Volatile pilot attrition is also creating a need for additional recruiting and training capacity. JetBlue has increased its pilot training team and simulator capacity to meet this demand. “Ensuring we have a strong pipeline of pilots remains a focus, and we are expanding our innovative JetBlue Gateways program this year to support that effort, We are having incredible success attracting a diverse set of candidates to join our Gateway Select program, which trains individuals with little or no flight experience, and we launched new pathways for current crewmembers and their families to become JetBlue pilots.” -Joanna Geraghty, president and chief operating officer, JetBlue. Addressing customer call volume and hold times Recent operational disruptions have led to a record number of calls into JetBlue’s customer support center and extended wait times. These disruptions, coupled with the greater number of customers taking advantage of ticket flexibility and calls regarding other COVID-related questions, have taxed customer service teams across the industry. Since the fall, JetBlue has brought on board more than 1,100 new hires into customer support and continues to increase hiring and training while bringing on outside support to help manage call volume. By this summer, JetBlue expects to have its largest-ever customer support team ready to support customers as many embark on their first vacation or travel experience since the pandemic. JetBlue is continuing to strengthen staffing for its suite of digital tools to help customers avoid waiting on hold, including online chat capabilities and support via iMessage. In addition, JetBlue is improving self-service capabilities on its website to offer customers additional options to make changes without calling. The best way to reduce long hold times is to eliminate the need to call us in the first place, and a more reliable schedule with fewer delays and last-minute cancellations will help improve that,” Geraghty said. “For those customers who do need individual support, we continue hire a record number of customer support crewmembers and are using technology to make it easier to chat with us. Long hold times are not unique to JetBlue, but they are simply not acceptable. JetBlue is also working to proactively cancel flights on days when bad weather is forecasted or if it anticipates air traffic control delays due to congestion or air traffic control center staffing shortages. The dynamic nature of spring and summer weather, including thunderstorms, sometimes prevents this, but the airline is working to provide cancellation well in advance of arriving to the airport so customers have time to adjust their plans. Reducing disruptions due to maintenance The reduced schedule frees up aircraft time to give the airline additional opportunities to get ahead of planned maintenance programs. JetBlue is investing in additional preventative maintenance as well as reserving more aircraft as spares this summer to reduce the impact of maintenance-related cancellations and delays. With COVID-19 supply chain challenges continuing, JetBlue has pre-purchased long lead parts, tools, and equipment as well as added additional inventory of frequently used parts, to mitigate potential delays. Handling a record summer at JFK This summer, JetBlue will operate approximately 190 daily flights from New York’s John F. Kennedy International Airport (JFK) as it continues to expand its footprint as part of the NEA. With its heavy concentration in the Northeast and major operation at JFK, ensuring that JFK runs smoothly is essential for the entire network. In addition to hiring across workgroups, JetBlue is making a number of investments at JFK’s Terminal 5: Redeveloping a portion of the lobby to add more kiosks and open additional space for customer throughput. Retiming flights for the busiest international markets to ensure enough lobby space is available for COVID documentation checks. Smoothing out some of the peaks in the schedule to ease congestion in the lobby, TSA checkpoint, and gates. Dedicating ground staffing crews at gates across Terminal 5 and adding ground equipment. While summer reliability continues to be the focus, JetBlue will also see a significant improvement in its airport facilities across focus cities this fall, as new terminals and space become available to support the airline’s growth. JetBlue will be consolidating or opening new or renovated terminal spaces in LaGuardia, Newark, and Orlando. Many customers have been waiting for two years to travel again, and our goal this summer is to offer an incredible experience, Geraghty said. Unfortunately, weather and air traffic control delays will always be part of air travel, and we are doing everything we can to manage them better for our crewmembers and customers. Our plan makes responsible investments to prepare us for these challenges and restore trust in JetBlue. About JetBlue Airways JetBlue is New York's Hometown Airline®, and a leading carrier in Boston, Fort Lauderdale-Hollywood, Los Angeles, Orlando and San Juan. JetBlue carries customers across the United States, Caribbean and Latin America and London. For more information, visit jetblue.com.

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DESTINATION AND TOURISM

Denver ranks among most popular holiday travel destinations

Business Journal | December 15, 2021

Denver is one of the top 10 most popular destinations by flight this holiday season, according to a new online travel agency survey. Among those planning to fly between Dec. 17 and Jan. 1, Denver is one of the most popular destinations — and one of the most affordable for booking hotels — according to a survey by RetailMeNot and Priceline. Denver ranks among other popular cities such as New York City, Orlando, Florida, and Las Vegas for flight destinations. However, the survey found that most travelers are taking to the road for holiday travel, at 75% compared to 41% who said they're traveling by plane. The survey also found that hotels in Denver are among the most affordable, at an $151 average nightly rate. That put Denver among relatively affordable hotels in Las Vegas, Pigeon Forge, Tennesee, Washington, D.C., and Kissimmee, Florida, Hotels in the Denver metro area are still struggling to recover decreased visitors from the pandemic. Statewide hotel occupancy climbed from 15.7% in April 2020 to 77.2% occupancy in July, according to the Colorado Hotel and Lodging Association. However, since then, occupancy has dropped again, particularly among downtown hotels. Meanwhile, Colorado is getting used to high air traveler volume, with Denver International Airport becoming the third-busiest airport in the world this year. DIA predicted about 2 million travelers to pass through the airport over the Thanksgiving holiday. AAA predicts more than 109 million people — an almost 34% increase from 2020 — will travel over the end-of-year holidays (between Dec. 23 and Jan. 2) in 2021. That includes people driving and flying, among other transportation. According to an AAA spokesperson, that number includes 851,900 predicted travelers from the Mountain region — including Colorado, Arizona, Idaho, Montana, New Mexico, Nevada, Utah and Wyoming — this holiday season.

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Spotlight

In this episode of TalkingSense we’re talking some sense with Craig Rosenberg, Chief Analyst and Co-founder of TOPO. We’ll go behind the scenes of the building of TOPO as well as get the CliffsNotes version of their recent ABM study.

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