Which are the smart apps that offer solutions and experiences to the traveler?

By Nicol Kalantsidou

Everyone has surely forgotten an item at some point during a trip to a hotel, rental car or airport. How would you like the idea of an online service that would “untie your hands” and return it to you free of charge? To the CapsuleT judges’ panel, however, it seemed interesting and so Deliverback, along with 9 other early-stage startups, entered the 5th cycle of the initiative of the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels.

It is noted that Capsuleis the only accelerator in Greece that focuses exclusively on technological tourism startups. Its main objective is to offer substantial support, information and activation to early-stage startups in the sector, in order to develop their business.

On Monday, September 5, the Hellenic Chamber of Hotels Accelerator started the 5th cycle of its Acceleration Program with 10 new startup teams joining it for free for the period September 2022 – February 2023. At the end of the cycle 3 out of the 10 teams will be selected to receive cash prizes.

One of these is Cellarhopping which comes to highlight the agro-tourism sector by providing the opportunity for tour operators, municipalities and destination management companies as well as hotels to sell agro-experiences through its platform.

Another platform, estbnb, automatically estimates the price of the short-term rental of a user’s property in order to use it on platforms such as Airbnb. The platform will give the user suggestions on changes that could be made to the property in order to upgrade its investment value and improve its amenities.

For the individual traveler who wants to operate independently there is experiencescanner. Very briefly, it is a platform/application that has the ability to predict which destinations would suit him by answering the question: “I don’t know where to go, which destination would suit me?” To achieve this, the platform scans multiple data combined with tourism knowledge modeling so that in just a few seconds users are closer than ever to finding a personalized travel recommendation.

With an innovative tool the startup called Inteligg P.C. provides the opportunity of energy savings and building management up to 40% in heating/cooling/air conditioning/ventilation in buildings (e.g. hotels, industry, offices) through the use of Artificial Intelligence (A.I.) and Cloud Technology algorithms.

There is also Kalimera App, a modern tourist guide that brings together all the experiences of a destination and offers them to the traveler with an emphasis on instant booking – “Book Now”. The purpose of the app is to unite tourism channels, the local economy and travelers in an efficient network that “tracks” the traveler’s consumption and attributes the tourism channel that introduced the traveler to the network with the appropriate commission.

And an app for students! Open Calls is a next-generation mobile application which matches users in groups using machine learning and artificial intelligence algorithms. The platform helps incoming students from other countries and the tourists to network with locals and experience various activities in groups, which will be called “open calls”. 

What about Orbito Travel? It aims to become the first online travel agency exclusively for disabled travelers. Its users can choose all individual services covering completely their personalized travel needs in a single transaction. Orbito Travel’s three pillars of operation are equal access for all, reliability and price transparency.

For nature lovers there is the Star Sleep, an online platform where you can book an overnight stay in a comfortable luxury bed in an open air space, out in nature and experience a restful sleep under the starry sky at affordable prices.

Another idea that offers the travel experience to those who can’t afford spending a lot of money and have an appetite for work is Workntour. This platform connects travelers with tourism hosts, with the aim of having them work for a few hours during the day in exchange for accommodation and food. In this way, hosts make use of travelers’ skills and time, visitors cover their basic expenses, and remote touristic areas attract more tourists.

The story so far

Since 2019, it has completed 4 Acceleration Program cycles and 3 Idea Platform youth competitions helping startups to develop their idea and business. At the same time, it is worth noting that the accelerator has already managed to win awards for its work – both locally and internationally in 2022 – with the honorary distinction received at the Tourism Awards and the recent distinction at the SESA Awards 2022 as the Best Accelerator in Southern Europe. “Now, we are going for a global accolade as we have entered directly into the competitive part of the Global Startup Awards! It’s tough competition, but it’s a great honour and pleasure to be able to be on the same level with accelerators from all over the world“, said Katerina Saridaki, CapsuleTravel & Hospitality Accelerator Director.

CapsuleT in numbers

In three years of operation and before the start of the 5th cycle, as Mrs. Saridaki points out, through CapsuleT  70 teams/startups with 174 founders have managed to implement 39 pivots (i.e. to adapt their product/service to new market needs), carry out 239 pilots in hotels and other tourism businesses, acquire 345 new partners and over 880 new customers from the Greek tourism market.

The Hellenic Chamber of Hotels initiative also benefits Greek hotels, as they are informed about new technological trends and applications that improve the internal operation of their businesses, their visibility, communication with their customers and their competitiveness. They also have the opportunity to raise their concerns and needs, as well as the areas in which they would like to use technology applications. Thus, inspiration for innovative solutions also comes from within the professional himself, who possesses all the insight and knowledge of the market“, explains Mrs. Saridaki.

How Capsuleis helping tech tourism startups to “accelerate”?

Our main concern is to offer startups essential guidance through a completely free, content-rich program that meets their needs, to provide training and interface opportunities with the Greek tourism market as well as useful tools to upgrade their product/service. How do we achieve this? Through actions in cooperation with our strategic partners, specialized workshops, coaching meetings in hotels and leading travel agencies, participation in tourism exhibitions such as Philoxenia & Xenia as well as the international ITB Berlin and WTM London in cooperation with the Greek National Tourism Organization. Worth mentioning are the on-site visits that we organize together with local hotel associations, as happened in 2021 in Chania and Heraklion, Crete“, says the Director of Capsule.

The path of travel tech in times of the pandemic

The sector of travel tech and technological solutions for the tourism sector in general has been hit from the very first moment of the arrival of Covid-19 both in Greece and abroad, both in terms of revenues and investments. Since March 2020, investment from funds and angel investors has apparently declined significantly, and the “brake” that was put on seems to be slowly “unblocking” abroad after the wider opening that took place in the market this summer, but perhaps not at the same pace in Greece, according to Mrs. Saridaki.

What about funding?

“Although our country reached higher numbers this year than in 2019 in the tourism sector, with projected revenues of 20 billion and occupying a high preference of visitors and tour operators, there is no corresponding interest in supporting and investing in new startups in the sector. These startups are already active in the market with functional products, already have customers in the country (from which comes the only income and way of financing for their further development) but do not have the funding needed to develop further. Consider that in the Greek start-up register Elevate Greece, the tourism sector is ranked 2nd, but of the approximately 60 companies listed in the register, there are very few that have received significant funding from investors.

The companies that went through CapsuleT‘s programs during this two-year pandemic had the opportunity to:

– find an important support and partner to enable them

– overcome the difficulties of the times,

– cope with the challenges,

– improve and adapt their products and services according to the needs of the market and to

– acquire the know-how, new partnerships, new clientele, as well as micro-financing through the cash prizes we offer to the winners.”

But now, as Mrs. Saridaki underlines: “We need to go to the next steps of supporting the technological product for the tourism sector, beyond initiatives such as CapsuleT. To move on to investments of these companies keeping in mind that we are building a better Greek tourism product overall, and in addition we are building the foundations for Greek startups to be promoted and compete with startups abroad”. According to her: “Greece has all the tools and can become a travel tech hub, to start fresh innovative solutions from our country based on the real needs of the tourism sector, to work intensively through programs like ours and through broader synergies we can manage to stand out in this sector of tourism, that of technology, promoting startups in other tourism markets around the world.”

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