All sweat and nerves and butterflies last night, some 30 next-gen travel innovators eagerly awaited the results of this year's PhoCusWright Travel Innovation Summit. Which start-up would be crowned the industry's next change agent? After two days of schmoozing, courting VCs, and convincing the travel industry's top players they they were the Next Big Thing, only one young company would walk away with the coveted top prize: General Catalyst Award for Travel Innovation.
The competition was stiff—and the stakes high. A win all but guaranteed a steady stream of calls from investors.
“This year’s presenting companies are amongst the most exciting we’ve seen present to date at The Travel Innovation Summit,” said PhoCusWright vice president, research Douglas Quinby.
Not surprisingly, it was a tough decision for this year's panel of judges—made up top travel and technology experts—to choose from this already elite group of companies hailing from across the U.S., and as far away as Russia, Melbourne, and India. But there could only be one winner.
SafelyStay, an Atlanta-based start-up that powers safe and instant vacation rental reservations for online travel agencies, vacation rental marketplaces and property managers, walked away with the title, and $250K.
Judges selected the top innovation in multiple categories. Here are the Summit's other big winners, whose cutting-edge technologies and industry solutions are a boon for travelers:
The 2013 Travel Innovation Summit People's Choice Award: Peek, a one-stop shop for travelers and locals to book great activities—tours, tastings, more.
The Most Innovative Startup Company: VerbalizeIt allows travelers the ability to connect with a live translator at any time, from anywhere, and from any device.
The Most Innovative Emerging Company: Groupize, a fully automated booking engine that allows group planners to shop and book group-friendly hotels.
The Brand USA Award for Travel Marketing Innovation: Mygola gives travelers the chance to easily and quickly choose and tweak hand-curated itineraries and get instant recommendations at a destination.
The Most Innovative Business to Consumer Company: India-based MakeMyTrip.com provides domestic and international flight tickets, hotel reservations, domestic and international holiday packages, rail tickets, bus tickets and cab rentals.
Travel + Leisure congratulates all the winners, and we look forward to following—and reporting on—these new companies as they transform the travel industry.
Adrien Glover is Deputy Digital Editor at Travel + Leisure.