Travel

Jeff Katz on Journera’s shutdown and why a connected trip still matters

Jeff Katz on Journera’s shutdown and why a connected trip still matters


After
seven years of talking about the journey – and living it as a weekly business
traveler – I’m announcing the wind-down of Journera, the travel data analytics
and journey management platform that I founded in 2016.

The
inspiration for Journera came as a result of my several decades in the travel
industry in executive roles at American Airlines, Sabre, Swissair and Orbitz.

It also came from spending nearly 10 years working at companies outside of
travel that relied on the preeminent giants in the world of data and commerce,
notably Google.

At our launch, blue-chip investors and the world’s largest travel brands
supported the mission to improve and better understand the traveler’s journey.
The opportunity to use modern and secure big data methods – machine learning,
now artificial intelligence, real-time processing of huge data sets – was credible, and there was
interest among many travel leaders to explore it.

Unfortunately,
seven years later, the concept of creating a better journey and extracting more
profits through understanding the traveler’s journey remains an idea that the
industry does not see as right for the time.

One industry leader said (very modestly) to me, “You’re trying to sell a
calculator to someone who is still using an abacus.” I respect his candor. What
he was really saying is that there are other important priorities, and this
notion of the “journey” is not for the present.

If
I were to share a few takeaways and lessons with fellow entrepreneurs,
innovators in tech industries and also with leaders in the travel industry, I’d
start here:

First,
the positives … 

Journera
had remarkable customers who were leaders in their domain, we had blue-chip
investors and we had a great team of engineers, data scientists and commerce
builders. I’m grateful to all of them for their tenacity, support and
willingness to take a risk on a new and hopeful idea. I am grateful for the
relatively long horizons of stick-tuitiveness they showed.

Now,
the lessons …

The
travel industry is famous for being fraught with pernicious external obstacles,
and we hit a few notable ones. First, there was the European Union’s GDPR
[General Data Protection Regulation] — and the California Consumer Privacy Act
in California — which established for the first time a set of global data
privacy regulations, and this initially stymied innovation where data was
concerned.

Next came a series of material and well-publicized data breaches at major
travel brands, which further introduced a set of cautions that tempered or
stopped implementations that were critical to the Journera model of “journey
matching.”

Then came the pandemic, which threatened the livelihood of most travel brands
for more than two years.

As
the pandemic ebbed and profitability and growth returned, the value of data and
tools to manage big data became widely understood. Companies in travel, at this
moment, are more focused on using their own data for their own purposes
– like personalization, automation, deeper loyalty engagement or external
market monetization. 

What’s
next

The
traveler and the travel industry today continue to solve different problems.

No traveler takes only a flight, a ride or a stay in a hotel or home. Yet no
travel company recognizes this in the way they operate or the way they are
building their business. So the opportunity to do a better job for the
traveler’s journey (and to make more money by recognizing that every traveler
is on a journey) remains.

As
someone who’s flown, stayed and interacted with nearly every major travel brand
over the last seven years, it doesn’t sit right with me that the responsibility
for the journey starts and stops with me, the traveler.

The software and systems exist today to help travel providers go much further
in taking care of their customers. Brands can “see” the journey and they can
act to improve the journey beyond their silo.

While
we worked tirelessly toward a truly connected journey, the company could not
reach profitability in the near-term. As a frequent traveler, and as an
individual who has devoted the bulk of my life to a travel industry that I
love, it is my hope that the day will come when our vision takes hold.

I continue to believe that the travel system that would result would be
friendlier to customers and more profitable for the companies that serve them.

About the author …

Jeff Katz is a longtime travel industry
executive and founding CEO of Journera. He has served as founding chairman and
CEO of Orbitz, CEO of Swissair, president of the global distribution system
Sabre and was a 17-year veteran of American Airlines.



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