The State of Travel Startups and Venture Capital in 2016

A report published by CB Insights showed 2015 as one of the greatest year for travel tech funding, with more than $5.2 billion invested across 348 deals.

What does this year hold for startups?

To help walk us through what’s happening on the venture capital front, we sat down with Marcelo Ballvé, Research Director at CB Insights, and Krish Jagirdar, associate at Brand New Matter, which has investments in Rocketrip and Yatra and consults with early-stage startups on transforming their businesses.

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The Past and Future of Local Discovery

Gone are the days of foldout maps and paperback guidebooks meant to help travelers navigate new terrain. Today’s it’s all about mobile apps, which in a highly-digitized environment are valuable tools not just for consumers to understand and explore new terrain but for businesses to better comprehend consumer habits and trends.

To help walk us through what’s happening with local discovery, we sat down with Dennis Crowley, co-founder and executive chairman of Foursquare, and his colleague Sarah Spagnolo, editor at large for the company and a veteran of travel publishing.

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The Changing Trends in Health and Wellness Travel

When many people think health and wellness travel, they think spas, meditation, and yoga, but over the last two decades it has evolved into so much more. Now the field encompasses women-only surf retreats, health-conscious hospitality brands, a new focus on men and families, high-energy escapes, healthy cruising, on-demand massages, amid more — all fueling a multi-billion dollar opportunity.

In this week’s episode of the Skift Podcast, we try to better understand what’s happening across the sector.

Guests for this episodeJason Moskal, VP of lifestyle brands for IHG (in charge of its EVEN hotels) and Susie Ellis, CEO at Global Wellness Institute and President of Spafinder Wellness.

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Discussing the Megatrends Affecting Travel in 2016

The Skift Podcast returns in 2016, with a special audio companion to our annual Megatrends report.

Over nine weeks this past summer with our podcast, we explored topics ranging from culinary tourism to smarter luggage to hotel technology, and then we took a break.

With our kickoff 2016 episode, Skift staffers Jason Clampet, Alexandra E. Petri, and Rafat Ali discuss highlights from the 15 big trends covered in the report. These trends are playing out across the global travel industry, from changing consumer habits, to the big marketing changes happening, to how consumer data are finally being used to understand the traveler.

Dive in with some lively insights into the business of travel in 2016.

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The Changing Landscape of Travel Video

The power of film and video to shape our perceptions of a place are rarely surpassed, except by actually experiencing the place in person.

And with YouTube, Vimeo, GoPro, and hundreds of channels in high-definition, the choices of what to watch and how are greater than ever. The traditional travel video programming isn’t dead, but how, when and where we see it has radically changed. And what we expect to see as viewers continually challenges media brands to rethink how they distribute their programs, how viewers discover them, and the devices they watch them on.

In this week’s episode of the Skift Podcast, we talk about the changing landscape of travel video programming.

The Skift Podcast is underwritten by FutureCities initiative from MasterCard. Find out more at futurecities.skift.com.

Once brands get viewers, what they do with them has changed, too. Brand integration and partnerships integrate advertising deeper into the content, while digital analytics offer greater insight into the habits of their viewers.

To better understand what we see and why we’re seeing it, we’re speaking today with two leaders in travel programming. Ross Babbit is SVP Programming at Travel Channel, where he’s led the team that over the last year has overhauled the channel’s programming so that it can better reach not just cable subscribers but viewers on the web and through its smartphone and tablet applications.

We’re also joined by Betsy Sanner Ayala, VP of Programming and Production at PlanesTrains+Automobiles. PTA launched its on-demand digital channel in 2014 and can now be seen online as well as through Roku, Amazon, Sonifi, and in-flight on Delta Air Lines.

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How Modern Luggage Got Smarter and Better Looking

Packing rarely is front and center when it comes to travel. It is seen as a necessary but burdensome process that includes more caricatures — from women’s exploding suitcases to businessmen’s smart carry-ons — than truth.

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But it is an integral part of the travel experience, one that we all experience no matter where we are going or how we get there. And it’s become a much more fraught issue in the past few years as airlines increase checked bag fees, encouraging travelers to fit as much as possible in carry ons that overwhelm overhead bins.

To talk about the evolution of luggage, and the art of packing, we’re speaking with Diego Saez-Gil, CEO of Bluesmart, which has created the first crowd-funded carryon. This tech-forward suitcase that includes location tracking, battery charging, and an internal scale.

We’re also joined by Brad John, co-founder of travel retailer Flight 001. This boutique travel shop creates its own products — including luggage — as well as curates those of others that cover every element of the packing experience. It has shops in New York, Los Angeles, Singapore, and Tokyo.

Start listening to The Skift Podcast, today. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play, or RSS.

The Skift Podcast is underwritten by the FutureCities initiative from MasterCard. Find out more at futurecities.skift.com.

How In-Room Tech Is Changing Everything About Hotel Guest Experience

A hotel was once measured in stars, but today is better judged by Wi-Fi strength and the ease with which room service can be ordered through an app.

Guests expect a seamless tech experience from the moment they walk through a hotel’s doors, mirroring the on-demand reality that exists today for everything from ordering a cab to dinner.

SkiftPodcast_Final.Logo1400x1400.5.1.15Smartphones are at the center of this evolution with hotels and third-party services quickly developing apps and tools that transform personal devices into portals for the hotel experience.

But with the rapid change of consumer technology, it can be very difficult for any tech initiative to stay relevant for long, leaving hotels in a constant struggle to keep up with consumer demands.

To talk about the future of in-room technology and the evolving guest experience, podcast host Samantha Shankman and Skift co-founder and head of content Jason Clampet speak with Chris Holdren, senior vice president of Starwood Preferred Guest and Digital, and Justin Effron, CEO of hospitality engagement platform ALICE.

Holdren has worked with Starwood for 14 years overseeing many tech initiatives from the group’s first virtual hotel to keyless entry. Effron co-founded Alice almost three years ago and has since grown its client base to 35 hotel groups.

Our conversation largely revolves around guest experience including challenges in tech adoption, how a seamless user experience impacts loyalty, and how hotels keep pace with changes in consumer tech.

One particular insight stood out to us, which is when Effron likens the onboarding process of new hotel technology to Uber. Guests might think picking up the phone to order room service is easier until they experience the service through just a few taps.

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The Rise of Lifestyle Hotels And The Culture Driving Them

Lifestyle hotels were once a niche segment of the larger hotel industry, but have since grown to become the most talked about and coveted of hotels. Much of the appeal of these well-designed properties is the expectation of a branded guest experience.

Front line staff become brand ambassadors who are as responsible for assisting guests and perpetuating the lifestyle brand through their words and actions. Staying on brand is an obsession for most companies, but becomes especially difficult when spread across multiple properties and hundreds of employees. What this external success ultimately comes down to is a strong internal culture.

In this week’s podcast, we explore the relationship between company culture and guest experience at lifestyle hotels, as well as the drastic changes and competition facing these brand.

Guests for this episode: Elon Kenchington, the COO of the Gansevoort Hotel Group, and Josh Fluhr, the COO of Morgans Hotel Group.

The Skift Podcast is underwritten by FutureCities initiative from MasterCard. Find out more at futurecities.skift.com.

Start listening to The Skift Podcast, today. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play, or RSS.

How Bikes Are Changing the Way We Experience Cities

The humble bike is experiencing a cultural renaissance.

Bike share programs are popping up in cities all over the world from New York to Medellín, city streets are transforming with the addition of painted bike lanes, and boutique bike brands are discovering a new and growing customer base.

In this week’s podcast, we discuss the evolution of bike transportation in the U.S. and beyond.

Guests for this episode: Dani Simmons, who has worked in sustainable transportation in New York City for 11 years and currently serves as the director of communications and government affairs at Motivate (operators of Citibike), the nation’s largest bike share operator; and Dean DiSimone, who went from architect to media executive to owner of Tokyobike New York, which sells well-designed, lightweight bikes based on the concept of Tokyo Slow.

The Skift Podcast is underwritten by FutureCities initiative from MasterCard. Find out more at futurecities.skift.com.

Start listening to The Skift Podcast, today. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play, or RSS.

The Renegade Tours Disrupting City Visits for Tourists & Locals

World-renowned museums will always have a spot at the top of tourists’ bucket lists, however, a growing obsession with local and unique experiences makes a traditional local museum tour seem more like a homework assignment than cherished travel activity.

A small but growing group of entrepreneurs are responding to travelers’ changing expectations by building high-touch, low-tech experiences that share a different story at these local attractions that the general public wouldn’t otherwise know how to find.

In this week’s podcast, we discuss the rise of these “untour” alternative tour companies and what’s driving their growth.

Guests for this episode: Nick Gray, founder of MuseumHack, which runs fast-paced tours through New York’s most famous museums, and David Behringer, founder of The Two Percent, which runs a live audio tour of New York art exhibitions.

The Skift Podcast is underwritten by FutureCities initiative from MasterCard. Find out more at futurecities.skift.com.

Start listening to The Skift Podcast, today. Subscribe via iTunes, Google Play, or RSS.