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.
There’s been an overwhelming amount of news following the Google I/O conference last week, but one of the things we’re most excited about is the search giant’s big acquisition of music service Songza. Why? Unlike Pandora or Spotify, Songza ditches the algorithm-based method of suggesting tunes that riff on your existing preferences. Instead, it learns about your circumstantial preferences—where you are, what the weather is like, and so on—to offer up beats that fit for the time and place. And if that sounds interesting for travelers, you’d be right: Songza has a music conciergethat helps you explore the world through regional music. (Ireland? Italy? Brazil? They’re all there.)
Travel + Leisure has long celebrated hotels as the go-to choice for travel accommodations, and in recent years we've covered the explosion of the vacation rental market, from villas to Airbandb.com. Time shares were not often part of the conversation. Their merits as a good investment were questionable—limitations on use and impossible to resell. Enter Vacatia.com. With a special focus on the family market, this online marketplace for timeshares is changing things for the better. We caught up with Keith Cox, Vacatia.com's CEO:
Q: How is Vacatia.com disrupting travel?
A: Vacatia is creating a new online sales and marketing channel for the timeshare and fractional ownership industry, a $10B a year market segment of travel that is still selling almost exclusively offline using the same sales strategies that have been used for decades. In particular, with the recent launch of Vacatia.com, we are bringing transparency and liquidity to the secondary, resale market serving the 8.2MM American families who own timeshare.
You need a vacation, but all you can afford is an Internet connection. And you don't live in Buffalo, Cincinnati, or Pittsburgh, three of America's top staycation destinations. Well relax, we’ve got you covered. Kick your feet up, crack open a cold Summer beer, and stretch out your index finger – Google Street View (GSV) is about to take you on a 360-degree adventure to some the world's most exotic destinations.
Need to know where your FIFA World Cup seats are in relation to the nearest caipirinha vendor? Take a virtual tour of the twelve stadiums hosting this month’s soccer extravaganza thanks to Google Street View. Google has also beefed up its transit coverage in Brazil to help fans find the easiest routes to the goal.
See the World Cup in 25 Selfies You Have to Take This Year
Photo: Robert Whitman
Drones: they're used by the military, even to walk your dog. Now The Cosmopolitan, in Las Vegas, has taken the drone trend to entirely new heights—it'll deliver your drinks. This is bottle service worth writing home about.
If you own a DSLR and are in New York City, you may be eligible for a free camera upgrade. Tomorrow, Samsung is hosting #DITCHtheDSLR Day, a pop-up event dedicated to their lineup of mirrorless models--and why they're just as powerful as their bulkier counterparts. Head to Times Square between noon and 6pm to take their top-of-the-line NX30 SMART Camera for a spin (with the help of professional photographers, there to take you on photo walks and offer their best shooting tips). If you like what you see, you can trade in your old DSLR and get an NX30--for free. (That's a $999 camera, for those of you keeping track.) But get there early and bring any kit lenses or batteries that came with your dinosaur, as only a limited quantity will be available on a first-come, first-served basis.
Somewhere in Google’s hometown in Mountain View, California, there is a car navigating the suburban streets without a driver.
Yesterday Foursquare pushed its new app, Swarm, to the iTunes and Google Play stores, revealing to the world what it had been teasing for weeks: a tool to help you connect with friends globally, in a way that’s more socially-driven than the Foursquare we’ve long known and loved. Swarm differs from Foursquare by focusing on interactions, and not solitary check-ins or points, which were hardly being used in the competitive, socially-charged way that had once been intended.
Social media engagement has become increasingly valuable to hotel brands and travel companies—look no further than our own SMITTY Award winners—but today, Marriott is becoming the first company to place a real dollar value on customers’ tweets, check-ins, and likes. With PlusPoints, a new feature of the brand’s much loved rewards program, visitors who download the Marriott Rewards app and synch their social media accounts will now see their points balances increase with every digital interaction—up to 2,000 points each month. Says Rich Toohey, VP of Marriott Rewards, “It’s a way to provide immediate gratification for our members, who happy to be very active on social media channels.” Immediate is right: most interactions (geo-tagged Instagram pics; Facebook comments; check-ins and tweets) will yield an automatic deposited of 25 points to your Marriott Rewards account, while one-time activities, such as liking a property page on Facebook, will boost your balance by 250 points.