International luxury travel agency network Virtuoso has opened up for entries in its class of 2019 Incubator Programme, with the hope that more start-ups will be encouraged to create useful tech members can later adopt.
The programme provides technology developers with real-world feedback from Virtuoso’s network of travel advisors about what kinds of tools they are looking for, therefore allowing developers to meet genuine pain-points or needs in the market.
Virtuoso said the travel technology space set record highs in 2017, with £4 billion having been invested across 348 deals, according to data from CBInsights.
Incubator was started in 2015, with the organisation saying current specific focuses for companies could include client and email management tools, group booking management, and activities and tour booking solutions.
Once the suggestions are put forward, almost 100 Virtuoso advisors from 80 agency members assess them, providing guidance on improvements; Virtuoso said all of 2017’s advisor testers wanted to take part in Incubator again this year.
Once an Incubator company’s trial phase ends, it goes under consideration for full Virtuoso partnership, potentially gaining access to the invitation-only network of more than 1,000 travel agency partners with 17,500 advisors in 50 countries, who between them produce more than $23.7 billion in annual travel sales.
“Virtuoso Incubator has made a real difference in the efficiency and service levels of the advisors who use these solutions - we’re introducing cutting-edge tools and providing choices,” said David Kolner, senior vice president, global member partnerships at Virtuoso.
“We recognise that not all agencies and advisors have the same needs. The diversity of these tech offerings, combined with the opportunity for our advisors to speak up and help shape their outcome, is the real strength of the programme.”
Some of the recent successful Incubator products and services included HelloGbye, a tool by a Canadian company that saves advisors time by using AI to create itinerary suggestions using the spoken word or ‘natural language’. It reviews incoming communications and provides immediate recommendations to advisors based on preferences, past purchases and geo-demographic profiles.
Another is Jrrny, a content creation platform where advisors can promote destination posts that showcase their travel know-how. The posts then turn to potential lead acquisition from among the millions of readers on the platform.
Meanwhile, PlanitEasy is a one-stop solution for customer relationship management, trip management, communication, project management, itinerary building and accounting, with RFPs also soon to be added on.
Start-ups should express their interest to Virtuoso by December 15, 2018.