After listening for a full day to pitches from 35 innovators at PhoCusWright I have picked out my favorites.
1. PassportCard. Basically, this is an insurance company that makes immediate payments. The “card” comes in the form of a Visa or Mastercard credit card that can be loaded up by the insurance company and then be used to pay for insured events such as medical problems, lost luggage or theft. It has been tested in Israel and has gained a 15 percent market share. If it works when rolled out worldwide, this is a game-changer.
Today, should a traveler have a problem with their health while traveling, they must pay the bill and then submit insurance papers. Then, they wait for the reimbursement check. And, wait. And, wonder what will be reimbursed. With this system, the card is loaded and the doctors and hospitals are paid immediately.
2. Bokun. This is a local tourism provider aggregator. Much of travel that is on the Web had already been aggregated years ago — planes, trains, cruise lines, rental cars and hotels. But, local tourism activities have lagged behind. There has not been a way for providers like outfitters, fishing boat charters, local art guides and so on to present their services on the Web and make them easily bookable and integrate them into larger websites.
Bokun provides a platform where smaller local tourism providers can sign up, negotiate commissions they are willing to pay and take credit card online payments. It has been extensively tested in Iceland and the founders plan on rolling out the technology to other cities. If this works, smaller local tourism providers will have a gateway to the Web.
3. bd4travel. This is a company that tracks a Web user’s activities on the Internet during their travel planning. I, frankly, do not like the concept. Basically, our Web shopping movements are being tracked and special offers are being sent to users as they plan travel. It is a bit creepy, but this is the way of the future. And, this start-up team is doing it right and they believe in full transparency of data collected.
This is one of many companies that is dealing with collection of Big Data. Let’s hope they do it responsibly and that consumers find getting what they want easier than ever.
4. Berkshire Hathaway Travel Protection. This is another insurance package. It is a form of “airline roulette,” in the words of a friend of mine. You pay $25 anytime up to an hour before your flight. If luggage is delayed for more than 12 hours, travelers get $500; if luggage is lost, the amount goes to $1,000. For tarmac delays of more than two hours, $1,000 will be transferred to the traveler’s account. For missed connections, travelers will get $250. And, if a connecting flight is delayed, meaning that travelers have to sit at the airport for an extended period, this insurance will pay out $50, basically for lunch or dinner money.
Their AirCare product takes care of passengers by eliminating some of the hassles and expenses of problems caused by airlines for which they no longer reimburse passengers. The insurance is backed by one of America’s premier insurance companies.
Follow-up: Other official judges agreed with me. The Brand USA Marketing Innovation Award went to bd4travel.com. And, the General Catalyst Award for Travel Innovation PassportCard International.