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Aug 20, 2021

Top 10 Travel Startups to Watch in 2021

Samantha Shankman

Traveler ExperienceReturn to blog

While the travel industry has clearly gone through a disruptive 18 months, we’ve seen—time and again—that challenge is the precursor to innovation. We’ve been blown away by the scope of ingenuity that the pandemic sparked and are excited to see travel startups continue to build new products and services.

As we head into fall and return to business travel, we reflect on hundreds of conversations from the past year to understand which travel companies are helping craft a new narrative for the travel industry.

From San Francisco to New York to Berlin, here are the ten startups to watch in travel:

1. Navan

Navan allows users to easily book, view, and manage business travel and expenses. Unlike traditional corporate travel solutions or booking platforms, Navan is more than an OTA or expense management solution: It is an all-in-one travel management, corporate card, and expense management platform.

Its founding vision of a simplified business travel experience has expanded to address the intertwined, end-to-end pain points of expense reporting, spend management, corporate cards, group travel, VIP travel, meetings and events, and personal travel. This is all while crafting a new category of SaaS—Business Software for People—the likes of which the travel industry has never seen. As a result, every stakeholder, from business travelers to travel managers, get access to a drastically improved experience.

Navan has raised multiple funding rounds of venture capital and is considered one of the most promising travel tech companies today.

2. Welcome

Welcome is a highly personalized city guide app that makes real-time recommendations based on each user's interests and prioritizes local businesses that capture a place's unique culture and spirit. 

What’s truly impressive is the AI and travel tech that runs Welcome—its algorithm mines and calculates data to craft itineraries based on weather, time, location, current events, and place details. Think of it like a smarter, more personalized travel agent. Users can save or share their spots with their community. 

With business and leisure travel blending together more than ever, this is the perfect travel tech to download before your next business trip to optimize your travel experiences in a new city between meetings.

3. Ukio

Ukio is on a mission to empower individuals to live where they want and move when they want—and this company’s timing couldn’t be better. 

Founded in 2020, Ukio is disrupting the traditional residential real estate market by providing stylish furnished and serviced apartments for one month or more stays. Ukio co-founder and CEO Stanley Fourteau previously held leadership roles at Airbnb. They saw the gap in the short-term and vacation rental markets for on-demand apartments designed for longer stays. Each apartment is designed for the business traveler working remotely or in a new city for an extended stay. 

Apartments are currently available in Barcelona and Madrid, but the company has plans to expand throughout Europe. With remote work on the rise, Ukio makes it easy to check in to a new city in style without the usual long-term obligations.

4. Pachama

Pachama is an ambitious travel tech startup on a mission to restore nature and solve climate change. It does this by leveraging data, AI, and automation to protect ecosystems, restore forests, and improve carbon markets. 

Individuals and corporations are more conscious of the environmental effects of travel than ever before, which gives smart, data-backed services like Pachama an important role in ensuring that business takes the right steps toward sustainability.

Pachama co-founder and CEO Diego Suez Gil is a serial travel technology entrepreneur who co-founded the smart luggage system Bluesmart (acquired by Travelpro in 2018) and WeHostels. StudentUniverse acquired this early booking mobile app in 2013.

5. Sherpa

Sherpa partners with airlines, cruise lines, and online travel agencies to provide secure solutions that help travelers understand and obtain their travel identification requirements in real time. With the Sherpa integration on Navan, travelers can investigate the restrictions and documents necessary to travel from Miami to Munich before booking a flight.

6. HiHello

HiHello is a digital business card and contact manager app designed to help business travelers’ networks grow. Users can easily create digital business cards, share their cards with anyone, manage their contacts, and even turn paper cards into digital contacts. As in-person events ramp up, this is a smart and safe way to share and save contact information on the go.

7. A Hotel Life

A Hotel Life (AHL) is a pioneering travel platform that explores what it means to travel with consciousness. Founded by Ben Pundole, the former VP of Brand Experience at EDITION Hotels, and now helmed by Editor-in-Chief Tansy Kaschak, AHL celebrates travel and what makes the hospitality industry and tourism industry unique, special, and beautiful. It champions creative, progressive, responsible hospitality, becoming changemakers even more than tastemakers. 

The platform pays special attention to the magic makers behind the properties we love and has a jobs board to share new opportunities for like-minded professionals in the industry.

8. Sojrn

Sojrn is best described as a modern adult study abroad program. Designed by the team behind For the Love of Travel, Sojrn curates month-long stays in foreign cities for remote workers. Participants receive housing, workspaces, included activities, and even a networking base for a single price. 

With remote work now a norm, we’re excited about the potential for these kinds of programs and how they can enrich the lives of those once corralled in an office or sitting at home brewing online platforms through their smartphones.

9. Troop

Troop aggregates thousands of data points to help meeting planners select event destinations based on objective intelligence rather than opinion. The platform bases destination selection on cost, travel time, ease of travel, visa requirements, carbon footprint, and security risk. They’re trying to ensure no one is stuck on an 8-hour trip in a car rental with unsuspecting colleagues. 

This is a smart play with team travel on the rise. Of course, Navan customers already have access to a similar but even more customizable platform with the Team Travel feature.

10. CrowdVision

CrowdVision is a pedestrian analytics and insights company whose software shows what’s happening inside airports in real time. With this data, the airport’s team can move or shift traffic to increase efficiency and profitability—at the moment and in the future—while improving their customers’ experience. We’re excited about this kind of travel technology, which helps build confidence that travel will return stronger than ever.

Navan's modern technology increases traveler satisfaction and adoption, drives safety and compliance, and makes T&E programs more efficient and cost-effective. Finance and HR leaders gain invaluable insights with real-time data and control over spend. Request a demo.

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