FORBES • BY ALISON COLEMAN
The travel industry was one of the hardest hit by the pandemic. As restrictions are eased, people need the reassurance that they can travel safely and with confidence. Here are four travel technology companies that are doing their bit to get everyone on the move again.
Powered by AI-based automation, and contactless biometric identification systems, Vision-Box is a pioneer of seamless biometric travel, safely managing passengers in airports; a challenge that has come to the fore during the era of Covid-19.
Headquartered in Lisbon, Portugal, the company was founded by Miguel Leitmann and Bento Correia in 2001. In 2007, it installed Europe’s first-ever airport facial recognition e-gates at Faro International Airport.
Since then Vision-Box has deployed over 7,000 digital identity solutions, used by more than a billion citizens globally, and has helped airlines and airports, including Gatwick, Emirates Airlines, AirAsia, Heathrow, Dubai International, Winnipeg International, and Kansai International to install contactless biometric passenger technologies including automated facial recognition gates. The company is private equity-backed by private equity partner Keensight Capital.
“Modern society is challenged by an unprecedented global pandemic, and biometric touchless technology is one of the main pillars of a strong proactive and preventative approach to limiting the spread of pathogens,” CEO and cofounder Miguel Leitmann says. “The implementation of biometric technology is nothing new, however, contactless or interaction requires higher levels of solutions and security in the worlds of aviation, border control, and identity management. These will now be crucial in establishing a new and advanced era in travel and paramount to the airline industry’s revival.”
This climate-first e-bike subscription service enables businesses to achieve their sustainability goals, while helping people get back to work. DASH Rides was founded in 2019 by Jamie Milroy and David Watkins, who’d spotted a gap in the urban mobility market.
By removing some of the barriers, for example, cost and insurance, to getting an e-bike, DASH is helping to establish a new generation of cyclists and creating smarter, greener cities, while providing businesses with tools to become carbon neutral. To date, the company has secured funding from angel investors, including a former chairman of Fujitsu and Simon Blagden CBE.
“Our goal is to be a catalyst for positive change by re-engineering the U.K. Cycle to Work scheme and making the electric bike more accessible,” Milroy says. “Our DASH 4 Work platform makes it faster and simpler for businesses to support getting their staff back to work safely, without imposing any financial or administrative burden, while also enabling them to hit their sustainability targets thanks to each of our e-bikes being carbon offset by 400%.”
A provider of booking and dispatch software to local taxi firms, Autocab was originally founded in 1992 by Dr Falah Abod as a hardware company, selling radios to taxi companies to help them with booking and dispatch. When he died in 2012, his brother-in-law Safa Alkateb returned from a successful career in Silicon Valley to take over the Manchester-based business. He transformed Autocab into a SaaS company, and created the iGo network, allowing taxi operators to take app bookings and share work with other firms across the country.
To help people feel safer when travelling again, Autocab took the lead on signing up more than 200 U.K. taxi operators to the Safe Taxi & Private Hire Charter, which sets out strict hygiene and safety guidelines that vehicles must adhere to. Users booking a taxi via Autocab’s iGo network can filter for taxis that are signed up to the Charter. This will allow people to travel safely to the office and between meetings, particularly while social distancing is still a concern and people continue to be apprehensive of public transport.
There are currently 80,000 vehicles on the iGo network in the U.K. and the Republic of Ireland. Imminent integration with Austrian software company FMS will add 50,000 cars across Germany, Austria, the U.K., and the Netherlands. Autocab was recently acquired by Uber, marking a significant investment that will boost international expansion plans over the next few years.
“As travel restarts, businesses will need to focus on ensuring their employees’ safety,” Autocab CEO Safa Alkateb says. “Our accounts portal, optimized for large corporates, offers a vehicle tracking facility for all trips, allowing travel managers to monitor live any trips that employees are taking via the mapping portal, ensuring they are en route, on time and safe.”
With foreign holidays still on hold in many countries, staycations are booming. Staze, which was founded in February 2020 by Jay Olenicz, Henry Popiolek, and Dustin Silk, just before the pandemic hit, enables U.K.-based property managers to improve their occupancy rates by increasing last-minute staycation bookings from domestic travelers.
The idea for the business was hatched by CEO Olenicz in 2020. He decided to quit his management consultant job and launch a travel tech startup. By the end of the year, Staze had secured a pre-seed investment of more than $690,000, which enabled the employment of a full-time team to grow its U.K. staycation property listings from 4,000 to 80,000 by the end of 2021. The company is launching a Pan-European arm, with a target of 150,000 properties in Europe, and a further 200,000 properties in the U.S.
Part of the company’s mission is to encourage people to visit new parts of the country that aren’t often seen as holiday destinations and explore beyond more obvious locations.
“Targeting city-based young professionals, the app takes the hassle out of planning last-minute trips – users don’t need to have any idea where they want to visit as Staze are developing a recommendation engine,” says Olenicz. “Most young adults are very aware of the need to travel sustainably and often don’t want a big carbon footprint from jet setting around the world. Staze is helping to make Britain their top choice of a holiday destination.”
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