Category Archives: Conferences

Travel blogging and writing has blown up in the past 5 years, and more and more conferences are being held to learn about this growing business. BootsnAll has attended many of these conferences, and the following posts will give you a feel for what to expect at several of them.

OneRez: Travel Innovation Summit

Company Name: OneRez

Official Website: http://www.onerez.com/

What do they do? OneRez is a database of hotels and car rental companies that qualify for the US government’s definition of “small and disadvantaged businesses” (SDBs). Government departments and contractors can use this database to fulfill their SDB requirements easily. It’s the only SDB database for the travel industry.

Are they a business-to-business (B2B) company, or business-to-consumer (B2C)? B2B

Founder(s): Brian MacKenzie, OneRez President & CEO, has a background in federal government contracting.

Date Founded: 1998

Presentation Notes: OneRez thinks that not only will having a list of small business hoteliers, car rental agencies, and other travel-related companies benefit governments with SDB requirements to fill, it will also provide people who try to be socially conscious when they travel with another way to be responsible – by supporting small, local businesses. OneRez is the only small business database in travel, and they call themselves “the source for socially responsible travel.” The system also allows business owners to post information about themselves (similar to a Facebook profile), so travelers can learn more about a hotel owner before they choose that hotel. Major chain hotels that operate with a franchise model have endorsed OneRez. They charge an annual membership fee, but that’s not the whole revenue model.

Why should/shouldn’t travelers care? Eco-travel is increasingly popular, and anyone for whom that is an important part of travel planning no doubt understands that supporting local businesses is a great way to be a socially responsible traveler. The idea of OneRez, therefore, is an interesting one. But frankly when they said that a major chain hotel could qualify to be listed as a small business because it was a franchise model, it felt a little less genuine. Certainly, it would be easy to skip over those hotels by name, but it might be reason enough to question the whole list – that and the membership fee, which may by definition keep out some small business owners.

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Off & Away: Travel Innovation Summit

Company Name: Off & Away

Official Website: http://www.offandaway.com/

What do they do? Off & Away uses a new type of auction called a bid-to-win auction, where you compete for an amazing suite at an unheard of price – up to 99% off.

Are they a business-to-business (B2B) company, or business-to-consumer (B2C)? B2C

Founder(s): Doug Aley has over 10 years of product, marketing, and business development experience across online retail, mobile, and web applications. Prior to Off & Away, Doug was VP of Marketing and Business Development at Jott Networks (sold to NUAN ’09). Prior to Jott, Doug led product management efforts in retail and digital categories at Amazon.com. Michael Walton spent his career focused on building amazing customer experiences at companies like Orbitz Worldwide, where he lead the CRM & personalization efforts for Orbitz.com and Cheaptickets.com, and Amazon.com in their Digital Media division.

Presentation Notes:
Off and Away offers one of the freshest ideas in travel that I’ve seen in a while. Instead of bidding in a traditional auction, users bid, but never really lose.  How it works: users buy bids for $1 each. Each bid on a hotel suite adds up to 20 seconds of time to the clock and increases the bid amount by 10 cents. If you win, you pay the final price. If you lose, the money that you spent to bid on the auction can be put towards a future stay that you book using the sites “book now” feature (however, it must be used within 30 days or you lose it). So if you spent $25 to bid 25 times, but lost, you can put that $25 towards a new hotel booking. According to the site’s founders, customers save an average of 80% off retail value of suites.

Why should/shouldn’t travelers care?
Users of the site stand to score significant savings on high-end suites that they otherwise might not be able to afford.  Plus, using the site just looks fun.

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AFAR Media: Travel Innovation Summit

Company Name: AFAR Media

Official Website: http://www.afar.com/

What do they do? AFAR Media is a travel media company focused on “experiential travel,” and the product line consists of AFAR Magazine as well as the AFAR Foundation (designed to help students who wouldn’t otherwise be able to afford it have study abroad and cultural exchange experiences) and a soon-to-be-launched website called AFAR Connect (intended to help travelers connect with similar people on the road).

Are they a business-to-business (B2B) company, or business-to-consumer (B2C)? B2C

Founder(s): Greg Sullivan and Joe Diaz; Greg is a former corporate securities attorney and investment banker turned entrepreneur, and Joe is a former teacher and real estate investor.

Date Founded: 2009

Presentation Notes: AFAR was presenting AFAR Connect at the conference, which they described as “eHarmony meets TripAdvisor.” Rather than a new source of travel information, the goal of AFAR Connect is to be a new way to sort that information so that you only see what’s relevant to you. AFAR Connect asks members to fill out a profile and they are then assigned to one of 30 different travel profiles within the system. Connecting with other people in your same profile allows you to find like-minded travelers to share information and travel tips with. You can follow other members who share your interests, so you can keep up to date with what they’re doing. You can also earn badges for helping other AFAR Connect members. The system looks almost identical to Facebook, and incorporates some Facebook information, so it’s easy for most people to understand. AFAR believes that facilitating this kind of travel allows for authentic tailored experiences you can’t find in a guidebook or a review site – a richer experience that’s more local.

Why should/shouldn’t travelers care? The concept behind AFAR Connect – helping you learn from people who you don’t know but perhaps that you should know based on similar interests or travel styles – is one BootsnAll appreciates, since it’s along the lines of our very own BootsnAll Travel Connect Facebook app – but although we like the idea, we struggled to understand what would motivate travelers to sign up for yet another social network site. We also questioned the 30 travel profiles in AFAR Connect – many of us could easily fit into multiple categories when we travel, so it feels limiting to get assigned to only one at a time. We think many travelers, including BootsnAll’s audience, would like the idea of AFAR Connect but might like it better if it were part of a social network they’re already using.

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Kukunu: Travel Innovation Summit

Company Name: Kukunu

Official Website: http://www.kukunu.com/

What do they do? Build your itinerary across cities before planning all aspects of your trip, such as hotels, restaurants, landmarks or activities. Work together with travel partners to plan your trip, accessing over 100,000 hotels and 200,000 activities, restaurants and landmarks.

Are they a business-to-business (B2B) company, or business-to-consumer (B2C)? B2C

Founder(s): CTO Gerald Goldstein has a degree in engineering and a PhD in physics. CEO Itamar Lesuisse was a consultant for The Boston Consulting Group before meeting his passion for the web at Amazon.

Date Founded: 2010 (in beta)

Presentation Notes:
According to Kukunu, the average traveler spends 28 days on 20 different websites  from search to booking and over 50% of the people report that the process is unpleasant. Kukunu aims to change that, allowing users to share trip planning, add cities to a calendar and map, build an itinerary add transport like car rentals and flights, and make plans for things to see and do – together.  Users can broadcast their plans within their social network and friends can comment and add their input on the trip; Facebook comments integrate into the trip info stores on Kukunu.

Why should/shouldn’t travelers care?
Kukunu says it offers technology to make travel planning simple and social and that it will “change the way we plan travel.” While many travelers will appreciate an easy way to create and shares trips with friends, I think it’s a stretch to say the way we plan trips will be drastically changed. Still the user-interface seems fun to play with.

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Kony Solutions: Travel Innovation Summit

Company Name: Kony Solutions

Official Website: http://www.konysolutions.com/

What do they do? Provide a suite of products and support services that enable Fortune 500 companies to offer consumers feature-rich mobile applications.

Are they a business-to-business (B2B) company, or business-to-consumer (B2C)? B2B

Founder(s):
Raj Koneru has over 18 years of experience delivering to global enterprise business requirements. He co-founded Intelligroup (NASDAQ: ITIG) which grew to a $200m company over five years, and built Seranova (NASDAQ: SERA) which he grew to about $100m in revenues within 2.5 years and was sold in 2001.

Date Founded: 2007

Presentation Notes:
With a slogan of  “write once, run everywhere” Kony makes apps that work on various mobile systems, including iPhone, Android and BB operating systems.

Why should/shouldn’t travelers care?
This is a straight B2B company, and while travelers will probably use some of the apps created by Kony, they probably won’t care or notice who the app designers were.

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