PhoCusWright Travel Innovators Going Strong
By Rich Beattie
When is eight months an eternity? When you’re talking about the world of digital travel. New technologies are launched and companies are born—while others go bust. Since eight months have passed since last November’s PhoCusWright Conference, I wanted to check in with some of my favorite companies from the conference’s Innovation Summit, which showcases the next generation of cutting-edge travel companies. So I rang up the companies’ brass, and here’s what I learned.
Peek. You’ve got your airplane ticket, hotel, and car. So what do you do when you get to your destination? That’s the problem Peek aims to help solve, serving up thousands of bookable activities in 24 destinations. And, since companies update their tours directly through Peek’s system, you won’t go to book a tour and find that it’s sold out or the price has changed.
Since PhoCusWright, Peek has undergone “big changes,” said founder and CEO Ruzwana Bashir. They closed on $5 million in funding. They expanded into Cancun, Los Cabos, the Hamptons, Cape Cod, and Martha’s Vineyard. And they launched a sleek mobile app in December.
Oh yes, and they’ve been excelling at social media—so much so that last month, T+L’s independent panel of social media experts recognized Peek with a SMITTY Award for Best Use of Social Media by a Travel Resource.
Check out Peek.
FlightCar. I loved this disruptive concept—basically, Air BnB for airport parking— when the company’s 18-year-old CEO, Rujul Zaparde, presented at PhoCusWright. Instead of paying exorbitant parking fees to leave your car at an airport lot, you can make some money when you travel. FlightCar will rent out your wheels and give you a cut of the proceeds. Or, conversely, rent one of the cars, with taxes, insurance, and GPS included. (In some cursory checking, I found the basic cost to be significantly less than the major rental companies. There are plenty of caveats, like mileage limits, but it’s definitely worth comparing.)
Since PhoCusWright, FlightCar’s been scaling and fine-tuning operations in their three existing destinations: Los Angeles, San Francisco, and Boston. Seattle is coming soon. And they’re expecting to expand at a faster pace moving forward, said co-founder and president, Kevin Petrovic. While they’re not ruling out moving into Europe, where Petrovic sees potential, right now they’re focused on the domestic market.
Check out FlightCar.
MiniTime. This company, which has staked out turf in the huge market of family travel, launched a family trip planner last November. The exposure at PhoCusWright sparked a lot of interest in the site, said COO Eyal Keren—since then, they’ve more than doubled their user base and are currently expanding beyond the perennially popular family destinations of Las Vegas, New York, South Florida, and Mexico.
Check out MiniTime.
Freeppie. This Italian company officially launched at PhoCusWright with a unique idea—turning social media posts into dollars. When users post a photo or a review on social media, they earn credits, which they can use to get discounted offers. For example, you Instagram your hotel, which earns you a discount in the hotel’s restaurant.
It’s a great idea, but needed some fine-tuning, said the company’s Florence-based co-founder, Urbano Brini. So Freeppie’s been busy focusing on the Italian market and improving the user experience with the hope of going global.
Check out Freeppie.
The 2015 PhoCusWright conference is just around the corner, in November. As always, we can’t wait to see what the next crop of innovators will do to enhance and evolve the ever-changing landscape of travel.
Rich Beattie is Travel + Leisure's Executive Digital Editor.