With Scale, Jeff Katz’s Efforts To Improve Traveler Service Could Impact Travel Management

By | October 21, 2016

You check in for your flight. Your hotel learns this and also checks you in, delivering your room key to your mobile device. But your flight is delayed. Your hotel finds out, notes a late check-in and orders you a late meal. On the way home, you return your rental car early and your airline asks if you want to catch the earlier flight, or grab a lounge pass.

This is how it should be, right? Jeff Katz thinks so.

The travel tech and airline veteran teamed with Boston Consulting Group and several major airline and hotel companies on a startup aiming to improve the travel experience through better communications between suppliers.

It’s still early days but Katz’s company, Journera, expects to enable its first use cases within a couple months. More services will be apparent to travelers by next summer, he said this month at the ARC TravelConnect conference in Washington, DC.

Jeff Katz

Journera co-founder and chief executive Jeff Katz

Travelers do nothing to get on board. This is all behind the scenes in standards and infrastructure. They’ll just suddenly find service enhancements from what Katz calls publishers and subscribers of travel data. Do they opt in? That’s covered by the privacy framework of, say, American’s or United’s booking and servicing touch points. Affiliates of the two airlines plus Hilton, Hyatt, InterContinental and Marriott are the early investors along with BCG.

“Permissions will be requested from the traveler by both publishers and subscribers, and how that’s implemented is to be determined,” Katz said in an interview. “Most privacy policies already provide for what we’ll be doing in the beginning, mainly due to the broad marketing partnerships already in existence. So consumers have agreed, but there may be a redo.”

Katz expects that any sort of company could get involved as a producer or consumer of data — from travel management companies and booking tools through to indirectly related organizations like The Weather Channel.

He has suggested subscribers would pay publishers, and many companies will be both. Presumably Journera takes a cut.

What does this mean for business travel? Katz outlined the “non-threatening implications.”

A Weather.com app, for example, might access Journera’s “global experience record” to show customized weather information based on the traveler’s next destination — or even at a connecting point. No data input necessary.

Business travelers do this themselves already. E-itineraries include weather info. However, Katz said, “there’s no travel agent who calls us and says, ‘You might want to think about a Dallas connection instead of a Chicago connection today.’ ”

Executive assistants or VIP agents may do that. TMCs are trying to get better at it.

“Or maybe there’s an alert system that goes to the travel manager or agent,” said Katz. “All that has nothing to do with business agreements, and that’s one layer. Another layer [raises questions of] who is really providing value, and how do I pay for it? I can conceive of business relationships changing.”

He was hesitant to say more, but added, “A lot of things can change when you separate the booking from the data. We facilitate all those rules, whatever they may be, between a travel provider and a publisher. It could be an airport. It’s a completely different world.”

Pressed for an illustration that more directly impacts the management of travel than the experience of it, Katz considered duty of care.

He drew up a hypothetical app modeled on a flight-tracking service. “We’ll call it ‘People Explorer.’ In real time, it gives me a map of where my people are based on the global experience record. Who owns duty of care then? If there’s broad adoption, it knows a person is in a car if Uber is a publisher. That they checked in to a Marriott. That they boarded a flight, or didn’t.”

He also got into data for contract performance, conjuring up some of the notions of smart contracts. “This whole idea of booked but not flown — now I take contract data but also live performance data and loyalty data, and all these become published and managed through the Journera platform,” he said.

These scenarios are theoretical and, Katz said, “a little downstream.” What’s more practical and possible for now are the individual service enhancements stemming from suppliers communicating better.

“I believe there’s valuable data which today could go to a corporate account that would not go to a non-corporate account, and you need a mechanism to turn it on and off,” Katz said. Take the aforementioned upgrade example: “Maybe you want it available to the executive tier of Corporation XYZ.”

He cautioned that industry professionals should not think of this as specific to air, car and hotel. Meetings, dining and fitness are other potential components.

“This is a big data extension of what some of us know as a passenger name record, but with all aspects of travel plus all marketing data surrounding that data: clicks, social interactions, searches,” he told ARC’s attendees. “It’s a live view that is constantly being updated for changes in the operation and details of the journey.”

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