Travel, tourism and entertainment in the technological age

A look at exciting new Israeli startups that are active in the tourism industry.

ROM HENDLER (photo credit: Courtesy)
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The travel and tourism industry is one of the last major industries to go through the innovation revolution.
Making up almost 10% of the world economy GDP, this industry stayed behind other major industries when it comes to technology.
The days when one went to a hotel to experience new technologies that were not accessible at home (like multi channels cable TV) are a mere fading memory from the mid-1980s.
Today, customers have more apps on their smart phone than the newest hotels in New York City or the best car rental companies in LAX.
The travel and tourism industry has to play catch up with technologies that are already widely used in other industries; The challenge is great but the opportunity is greater.
Rom Hendler, a 25-year veteran of the industry, is the former chief administration, chief marketing, and chief information officer for the Las Vegas Sands Corporation, the world?s largest integrated resorts company. Hendler is now back in Israel and leading InnoVel, a venture capital fund that invests exclusively in the travel, tourism and entertainment industries.
In an interview, Hendler elaborates: “Our main purpose is to assist its investors, global travel corporations, access those new technologies in a cost effective way.”
Instead of spending millions on innovation centers, innovation labs, and incubators, etc., a travel corporation can invest in InnoVel and not only receive access to all the companies the fund assesses and benefit from them in their business to increase profitability.
But they can also get their original investment back via the return that InnoVel generates from its investment in the best startups companies.
In essence, InnoVel creates an ecosystem of innovation that will generate demand and bring resources from the big international travel companies and supply from the start up community. We are creating a coalition of travel companies that together will bring the industry the next generation of technologies.
During the last year, it is clear that there is more and more innovation activity in Israel in the area of Travel. Good examples are the accelerators of ElAl, Daka90 as well as the active open innovation efrfort of the global corporate of Amadeus.
What can you say about the industry?
Our industry was always about people, relationships and experiences, and the extent those are the ones that kept technology behind. Today, without innovation and technology, people cannot be managed efficiently, relationships cannot be developed effectively and experiences cannot be executed consistently. It is time to be truly customer-centric by using technology as an enabler.
What can we look for? Disruption has arrived and it is here to stay, Airbnb changed the rules of supply and demand and made the former almost completely elastic. Expedia and Priceline challenged the hotel franchise business model by providing massive distribution. TripAdvisor eliminated the value of the brand promise, by digitalizing the most effective marketing campaign, the word of mouth. Today we see the new generation of companies that are trying to disrupt the disruptors, and successfully so.
Rom joined Las Vegas Sands in 2000. Through several promotions, Rom eventually held three C-level corporate positions in the company.
The depth of knowledge that he acquired, as well as the cutting-edge initiatives he lead, place him as a worldwide expert in the operation and management of hospitality in integrated mega-resorts, including hotels, entertainment venues, and gaming.
The following are four exciting new Israeli startups that are active in the tourism industry:
Asepectiva is an Israeli startup that takes reviews and recommendations written by people on eBay, TripAdvisor, and Amazon and uses its advanced Natural Language Processing (NLP) technology to turn them into information that people can use in their day-to-day lives.
Whether it’s travel arrangements, or product purchases, the Asepectiva technology can take a large number of summaries and create personally-fitted product recommendations based on crowd wisdom.
In today’s Big Data world, it’s possible to draw conclusions from massive amounts of information very quickly. Companies that cannot manage to keep up with the pace will find themselves being left behind.
Businesses need to correctly analyze the information at their disposal and invest their time and funds in information systems so that they don’t end up making important decisions based on feelings or guesses, instead of on hard facts. The tourism industry is more competitive now than it?s ever been before due to the abundance of reviews online, and companies must take advantage of technology to help them keep vigilant and stay one step ahead of the competition.
yapQ is the world’s first scenic navigator. The Israeli startup has developed an algorithm that ranks touristic points of interest (POIs) around the world and suggests fascinating walking routes and places to visit wherever you’re located.
yapQ is based on information taken from social networks and websites and creates unbiased ratings. The application program interface (API) includes access to 2.5 million POIs in 191 countries around the world, and is available in 12 different languages.
A group of three young Israelis who made Aliyah from the Ukraine as teens, CEO Karin Savitsky, COO Mika Shatz, and CTO Alexey Zatzepin, were tired of having to pay exorbitant prices for air travel. After conducting market research and reviewing the terms and conditions associated with ticket sales, they came up with a solution based on the resell of unused airplane tickets.
In past years, most people flew on airplanes for business, but in modern times people can afford to take more vacations, and the costs of travelling have become more affordable.
In Israel, sometimes it’s even cheaper to take a vacation abroad even when airplane fees are included.
And to make this even more of a reality, Jetta, which will be launched soon, enables people to first search their site to see if tickets that are 30-60% cheaper than market value are available before approaching the airlines. And for people who booked tickets, but are not able to use them in the end, Jetta is an incredible way to recuperate some of their lost costs ? and know that your ticket did not go to waste. In other words, it’s a win-win situation. It’s nice knowing that we can help others and benefit ourselves at the same time.
Voyjer is a website that lets you build a travel itinerary, including hotels and transportation, within minutes. Instead of spending hours and hours planning your trip, all you have to do is go onto Voyjer, describe what kind of trip you’re looking for, and you will receive a custom-built travel plan filled with personalized recommendations on what to see, where to eat and how to get around, all at a cost of only $5 per day! If you run a young startup, have developed an interesting app or have a question, please feel free to contact
Translated by Hannah Hochner.