Exploring the Future of Travel Tech with John Matson of Voyager HQ

 
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With technology bringing the world closer together, global destinations have become increasingly accessible to everyone near and far. And technology is innovating quickly to keep up with the rising tides of travelers and tourists, and better serve their needs and preferences.

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To get a closer look at the world of the emerging technologies and startups of the travel world, we sit down with John Matson, Co-Founder and Managing Director of Voyager HQ — a club for travel innovators, connecting startup founders, investors, and corporations.

Read on for insights on the increasingly innovative travel space, best practices for startups in the travel realm and beyond, and the disruption to come in the travel industry.


Inspiration is the foundation for innovation.

Photograph of the great Amelia Earhart on the wall of the lounge at Voyager HQ.

Photograph of the great Amelia Earhart on the wall of the lounge at Voyager HQ.

I get inspired by a vision to create something with impact. When I think about the long-term ramifications, I realize what’s actually going to make a difference to the world. When I think about what Voyager HQ can do, I strongly believe we can make travel more accessible and affordable by impacting the bottom lines of these larger industry players; and by creating more opportunity and a bigger pie to the market.

For travelers this should come down to better cost savings for them. As a long term effect, we want to enable people to travel more frequently and to more places. When people travel more, they become more empathetic - by seeing and experiencing other places, they can start to understand perspectives that are different from their own. In this way, travel can impact spaces as high up as the government and foreign policy, by enabling leaders to better see the perspectives of others. With greater accessibility to travel, people will be equipped make better decisions for this planet and for humankind.

“All of my experiences have centered around community building.”

Successful companies build a strong community.

Pretty much all of my experiences have centered around community building in some regard. What I found across all these industries – travel, tech as its own vertical, media, healthcare – the one thing that is always prevalent is the need or desire for some sense of community.

For entrepreneurs in any of those ecosystems, it’s the ability to network and develop themselves through a community that enables them to accelerate faster. Those who have that tend to really succeed the most.

“I see this future for the travel space where there’s a network.”

The future of travel tech will be rooted in disruption.

There are signs from all sides of the travel industry that something incredibly disruptive is going to hit in the near future. I believe the next decade will see us rethink entirely how we move from one city to another. There is more and more appetite for emerging tech from the aviation industry. The idea of integrating autonomous vehicles into our daily lives is no longer surprising to anyone, and will be going to market in the next five years — which is extremely cool.

I personally see a future for the travel space that consists of a network and network operators, where consumers won’t own cars and other vehicles the way they do now. Instead, you’d book one - and it gets you where you’re going, then picks someone else up at a similar spot. And no one’s driving it – which is why Uber and Lyft are so well positioned for something like this. Despite the aviation industry is extremely regulated, it seems like something will happen in the next 10 to 20 years that will drastically change it.

What that could look like - whether it’s landing aircrafts on building roofs to make traditional terminals irrelevant, or rethinking the cost of fuel - could take many forms. For example, airlines are currently spending $50 to $60 per person per flight in fuel on average. If that cost is eliminated, that’s a huge margin that goes back to the company. I also think in tourism there’s still so much opportunity for AI and machine learning, that can change the industry even more.

“Get early customers and focus on that growth.”

Scale your business in the travel space with these three best practices.

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1. Do your research. There’s no shortage of people who want to build the itinerary planning app. There’s a lot of people who have done zero or little research on what the market looks like. It’s worth doing your research to come out ahead of the pack.

2. Wedge. This industry in particular needs a wedge approach – you start with a super niche product for a super niche market that grows into a larger product or suite of products. Everyone wants to build the perfect large app that does everything for every traveler, but the reality is you won’t get past the user acquisition cost. No one should be making an online travel agency right now without a specific wedge. Example – SkyHi is a wedge, following the trends of the digital nomads traveling fast and furious, building to that membership base in a subscription model. That’s a wedge. You have to try those wedges.  

Many people create B2C startups and speculate on what the experience is like and they’re all just speculation without data. If you’re really building a wedge, you’re building a smart company, then you’ll be able to pick up a first series of customers and the word will get out.

3. Get customers. If you’re building a travel startup, no travel company is going to work with you – you won’t get any good supplier relationships or anything that allows you to get money – without customers. Get early customers and focus on that growth.

“It’s worth doing your research to come out ahead of the pack.”

Access the Global Voyager HQ Travel Network

Here at Voyager HQ, the club for travel startups, we connect founders with corporate partners, investors and advisors - and one another. We have a global community and network — and all you need is an MVP that impacts the travel experience in some way, to gain access to this network.

The Voyager HQ coworking space in Flatiron, New York.

The Voyager HQ coworking space in Flatiron, New York.

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Our digital membership is free and gives you access to discounted services from our providers to help you scale your startup, invites to meetings with corporate travel partners and investors who are searching for your product in the market, and connection to other entrepreneurs and enterprises in the travel space. To learn more and join the network, visit voyagerhq.com.

I want more people to make travel startups. More and more — it’s hard but it’s worth it. And it’s my belief that if you can make a travel startup, you can make any startup.


Apply These Insights to Your Startup – in the Travel Space and Beyond

Technology and marketing are constantly evolving. To help founders, marketers, and international businesses keep up with these evolutions, The Port meets with entrepreneurs, marketers, and thought leaders from tech hubs across the world to get their insights on rising industries, tips for ventures to get investor-ready, and best industry practices. To keep up with these insights, subscribe to our newsletter.

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