The most innovative companies in travel this year are not only tackling pandemic-triggered travel challenges, they’re also addressing pain points that have long affected the industry.
Take Atlys, which makes it easier to secure required visas and health documents for international travel. And Deem’s new corporate travel tool, called Etta, prioritizes things like client security and hotel sanitation practices. Airspace Intelligence, meanwhile, uses AI-powered technology to help airlines schedule optimal flight routes, as a Google Maps for the skies. On the ground, Australia-based Elenium Automation’s technology is helping people—and their luggage—get through airports more quickly and safely.
Other winners are ushering in a more inclusive era of travel. Wheel the World is making travel more accessible for people with disabilities. Created by the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada, the new travel campaign, The Original Original, is bringing attention and resources to the country’s Indigenous-led tourism sector.
And if you need further evidence of the transformational power of travel, look no further than LaGuardia Airport’s new Terminal B, designed by HOK Architects. Once a national embarrassment, the airport is now one of the most impressive gateways to the US
Explore the full 2022 list of Fast Company’s Most Innovative Companies, 528 organizations whose efforts are reshaping their businesses, industries, and the broader culture. We’ve selected the firms making the biggest impact with their initiatives across 52 categories, including the most innovative style, design, and social media companies.
For empowering companies and their customers with tools that relieve travel pain points
Travel booking app Hopper, which has made our list in years past for price predictive technology that saves users money when buying flights and hotel stays, has continued to expand. In the past two years, the company added a tool belt of fintech products—the ability to freeze flight and hotel prices, the power to cancel tickets for any reason, price drop guarantees that automatically credit customers if rates drop—that now represent 50% of the company’s total revenue. (Overall, Hopper’s monthly revenues are now 375% higher than its pre-pandemic high point.) In early 2021, Hopper also launched Hopper Cloud, in which travel partners—airlines, meta-search companies, travel agencies—can integrate its features onto their own sites. This not only improves customer engagement and retention, but also revenue: Hopper’s fintech increases the average booking value on each transaction by around $40. Customers already include Kayak, Marriott’s Bonvoy, and Capital One.
For quick travel visas and up-to-date COVID restrictions
Atlys makes it simple to get visas and other required travel documents. Its well-organized app allows travelers to do things like fill out visa applications, schedule required appointments, take passport photos at home, and securely store travel documents and information for future use. Atlys also keeps track of countries’ COVID-19 and other health-related restrictions, like vaccination and testing requirements at home and abroad.
For launching Etta, a mobile corporate travel tool that considers the human side of work travel
In February 2021, corporate travel tech provider Deem launched Etta, a booking app that’s not only easy to use thanks to a streamlined mobile-first interface, but also prioritizes employees’ comfort, health, and security during the planning experience. Employees can see the cleaning protocols of the hotels they book, for example, or check on hyperlocal destination safety information that keeps solo, female, and LGBTQ+ travelers in mind. The app also stores travelers’ profile and preferences, so details like loyalty program memberships and flight seat preferences get applied in the process. This corporate travel refresh isn’t just good news for business travellers. Sticking to an in-house travel management tool—rather than booking outside of the system—keeps employees organized and compliant, saving companies time and money.
4. Airspace Intelligence
For creating the Waze of the skies
Created by aerospace software company Airspace Intelligence, Flyways is an AI-enabled platform that processes numerous data sources to provide a predictive view of airline operations and suggest route changes that optimize the entire airspace network. It’s a massive technical leap from today’s norm, one that enables human decision makers with a more advanced, forward-looking level of information than ever before, allowing them to make efficient and precise decisions. Clients include Alaska Airlines, which credits the new software for regularly cutting its flight times down by tens of minutes and saving it 480,000 gallons of fuel over a six-month trial period. If Airspace Intelligence can get the full US airline market onto the Flyways platform, is estimates that it could save 1 billion pounds of fuel—and cut 1.8 million tons of CO2 emissions—each year.
5. Elenium Automation
For building smarter airport kiosks
Building on already popular systems like ticket kiosks and luggage bag drops, Elenium Automation worked with Etihad Airways on a white label self-service technology called VYGR (short for Voyager), which allows passengers to check in and provide health information—body temperature, heart rate, and even respiratory rate—before getting to the airport. This has led to shorter wait times at check in and security, as well as increased health safety. VYGR products are used in over 20 airports globally including Auckland Airport, Bangalore Airport, and Avalon Airport in Australia. The company is also working on an AI-powered bag drop that essentially memorizes bags and pairs them with customers, eliminating the need for bag tags.
For transforming La Guardia into one of the best airports in the US
Thanks to HOK Architects, along with developers LaGuardia Gateway Partners and design team WSP, the new Terminal B at LaGuardia Airport joins the ranks of New York’s timeless transportation hubs—Grand Central Station and Calatrava’s World Trade Center Transportation Hub, among others. HOK designed the $5.1 billion Terminal B concourse on a theme of islands and bridges. Elevated pedestrian walkways have views of Manhattan, and soaring spaces with 60-foot windows dazzle with public artwork installations, indoor gardens, and local shops and restaurants, such as FAO Schwarz, Shake Shack, and the Brooklyn Diner. It’s also the first airport in the world to earn LEED v4 Gold certification based on its reduced emissions, water and energy conservation measures, and use of recycled materials. The design celebrates movement, technology, light, and the great city it calls home.
7. Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada
For connecting us to Canada’s roots
In an effort to recognize and boost Indigenous-owned businesses across the country, the Indigenous Tourism Association of Canada (ITAC) created a new brand mark, The Original, in June 2021. The mark—a flame divided into three parts representing First Nation , Métis, and Inuit, and encircled by two letters Os—identifies businesses that are at least 51% Indigenous owned and embrace key values (cultural activities should be led by Indigenous Peoples, for example) of this branch of tourism. These efforts aim to educate travelers and modernize perceptions of Canada’s indigenous people, who make up 4.9% of the population and have ties to over 630 communities. The Original Original is especially relevant today, as the country wrestles with abuses, both past and present, to its indigenous communities, and helps rebuild a sector of its tourism industry that was disproportionately hit by the pandemic.
8. Intrepid Travel
For making vaccine equity a part of its business strategy
Intrepid Travel, which also featured on our 2021 list of the most innovative travel companies, was the only company in our applicant pool to mention the importance of vaccine equity to business strategy and overall mission. These are not empty words. Intrepid was one of the first global tour operators to announce a vaccine policy mandate for its travelers and tour leaders—many other operators and agents have followed since—and it used its 23 offices across five continents to offer on-the-ground vaccine support for its employees and their wider communities. This translated into free transportation to vaccine sites for trekking porters in Cuzco, Peru, for example, as well as educational seminars about the shots in Sri Lanka to fight vaccine hesitancy. (Intrepid’s nonprofit arm has also raised over $102,000 for UNICEF’s Give the World a Shot project.) This mission has not only been a sound one from a business perspective—Intrepid guests can count on the fact that their guides and travel teams are up to date on their vaccines—it’s also sparked interest and understanding among Intrepid’s clients on the importance of global vaccine equity.
9. Wheel the World
For making travel more accessible for people with disabilities
Founded in 2018, Wheel the World has worked to make travel seamless and easy for people with disabilities. On its new website, travelers can create detailed profiles that include accessibility requirements and then get matched to accommodations and experiences that are guaranteed to meet their needs in more than 80 destinations. Details and upfront information—exactly how high hotel beds are or descriptions of terrain that might be covered on a tour—are key to Wheel the World’s hands-on approach, as is the company’s robust and specialized customer support. Wheel the World also created an Accessibility Mapping System (AMS), populated by a global network of “mappers” who collect information on more than 200 accessibility data points (wheelchair routes, staff training, and braille signage availability, for example) to inform site listings for accommodations, tours, and activities. It is already the most comprehensive database of its kind. Tourism attractions are also looking to Wheel the World for guidance on how to attract and support its lucrative subset of travelers, a group that spent $58.7 billion on travel between 2018 and 2019.
10. Life House
For giving hotels a back-of-the-house overhaul
Life House has two sides to its business. It’s best known for its family of boutique lifestyle hotels with locations in Miami, Nantucket, and Denver, with properties in Brooklyn, Bali, and Chattanooga in the works. But Life House also sells a white-label software that helps client hotels bring down costs and expenses and streamline their workflow. The software, which makes up 60% of Life House’s business, standardizes the hiring, training, and rewarding processes of high turnover staff; automated back-office labor like accounting and revenue management; and plugs into data-backed dynamic pricing. Life House now works with 51 hotels in North America and the software platform has consistently increased its partner hotels’ profitability by more than 200% and net revenues by over 45%.