Travolution Summit 2023: Travel moves forward with agile tech and partnerships

Travolution Summit 2023: Travel moves forward with agile tech and partnerships

Experts from software solutions providers Modulr and intuitive and online tour operator and retailer easyJet Holidays discusses latest technology trends in travel at the recent annual event in London.

More open and agile approaches to technology is making it easier for travel brands and developers to benefit from an eco-system of interoperable systems.

The Travolution Summit heard from a panel of tech experts who discussed some of the ley trends that are being seen in the sector as it continues to recover from the COVID crisis.

UK government data analysed by Travolution in the 2022 Innovation Report revealed tech spending in the UK travel sector was due to rebound to pre-COVID levels, up 44% to £1.98 billion.

However, the panel said new approaches to both developing and partners on technology has seen a shift away from investing in large monolithic systems that are hard to adapt.

Paul Curtis, technical director of easyJet Holidays, a standalone division that was spun off by the lowcost carrier in 2019, said it has been built without any technical debt.

“We saw an opportunity to create a new disruptive business that was agile and has that start-up mentality and could start without any tech debt. 

“We had the opportunity to set things up exactly as we wanted and work with a couple of partners in terms of reservation system and the digital development.

“In terms of partnerships we take a very fail fast mentality. If there are solutions out there that do what we need them to do. We’re not working with big systems integrators we will work with a number of smaller partners.”

Curtis said the brand has an in-house development and innovation team and it focuses on core areas like yield and price management. Otherwise, he said the firm looks to work with partners on Software-as-a-Service API sign up basis. 

“Anything customised we have in-house dev team that allows us to build capability around the edges to customise to easyJet’s need.

“We’ve adopted that approach internally. As of about 12 months ago we shifted the way we do development so we are all organised internally as individual product teams,

“They are all autonomous and able to work exactly as they want, to expose APIs to the rest of the product teams internally.

“Having that approach internally makes it much easier to connect to external products and create an eco-system that gives us the capability we need without…creating huge archaic systems that have prevented the travel industry from moving forwards for far too long.”

Paul Nixon, chief executive of intuitive, said travel reservation systems have moved away from the more traditional on-site mainframe walled garden systems of yesteryear.

“We see ourselves a little more in a position where we live in a web and an ecosystem where we can do what we do best but also integrate with partners, for example in areas like payments and CRM,” he said

Intuitive announced a contra-deal at World Travel Market last year under which it will promote rival Inspiretec’s CRM while Inspiretec will promote its hotel connectivity capabilities. “We’ve done quite a few deals like that over the last 12 months,” Nixon said.

He added that around 60% of the work intuitive is doing with partners is on product API connectivity including for hotels, flights, extras and excursions.

“It’s been a subdued two or three years. We have almost fully bounced back in terms of the work we are doing and have picked up where we left off to a certain extent,” he said.

Technology to enable travel companies to drive greater efficiencies due to them have fewer staff following the pandemic is one other area of focus.

And Nixon said it is a challenge to find the “sweet spot” between offering fully fledged technology product and one that can be honed and adapted to individual customer needs. 

Tom Kelly, sales director at Modulr, that provides travel firms with an embedded payments solution, said it found that partnerships remain important when supplying tech solutions.

“That’s fundamental to what we do,” he said. “We started out five or six years ago with the initial thought we could build our API and payments platform and people would come and just connect to it.

“But the reality is you need to support and work with your partners, you need to help them to implement. So, investing in resource and choosing a partner that is investing in the appropriate resource to help you be successful is very important.

“When choosing a partner that’s the research you should be doing. Look at how they support you, look at the innovation, their plans for the future so that they will grow with you as well and bring things to the table.

“A good payments solution is one that you can forget about, embedding it into software or systems that you already use, not starting fresh with something from the beginning. 

“We work really hard with partners to look at their end-to-end process look at where there are inefficiencies and then embed into that so you can forget about it.”

Kelly said travel firms do not necessarily need big budget to make a difference with their technology investments.

“What we see is a real mixture between the big-ticket investments and some of the smaller stuff. There’s a lot that can be done for little investment and that can make big change to end-to-end processes.”