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Paris-based Festive Road Associate, Aurelie Krau, shares her millennial insights on Festive Road’s continuing support of “Hackathons”, to engage developers and the NextGen in our sector.


“The innovation in our sector amazes me every day. But rarely do we get the chance to shape it in front of our very eyes.”

At Festive Road we are fortunate. We get that opportunity. In 2016 we were engaged in a hackathon dedicated solely to business travel, the first initiative of its kind for the sector. Established by IATA, it’s aim was to explore how IATA’s new distribution standard, NDC (New Distribution Capability), can create innovation and bring airline retailing to the next level in our managed travel world. I was honoured to have personally been invited to act as business travel mentor to support the 104 participants from start to finish.

[Pause] – A Hackathon… what exactly is that!?

It may be mainstream in other sectors, but the exercise is new in our industry. A hackathon is the contraction of two words: “hack” and “marathon”. Basically, you gather developers, graphic designers, innovators, marketers and you ask them to come up with prototypes of web or mobile apps solving specifics challenges, over a concentrated length of time – normally 1-3 days.

Hackathons tend to have a specific focus, which can include the programming language used, the operating system, an application or an API.

A Call for Innovation

I have always thought that we should look at what happens outside of our industry and take inspiration, in order to replicate and readapt mechanisms that work. And I guess IATA and Festive Road were on the same page, bringing life to the first hackathon dedicated to business travel.

New Distribution Capability (NDC)* signals a new era in air retailing in business travel.

IATA has been engaging with the business travel environment for over 3 years regarding NDC. The “NDC Business Travel Hackathon” was an opportunity to demonstrate how the standard can quickly facilitate innovation in the sector. The very nature of a Hackathon is that you get some tangible examples of that innovation and this helps people to visualise what NDC can help to achieve.

At the opening of the hackathon, tech company SITA said that a hackathon is like MasterChef (the famous cooking TV show): you give the participants the ingredients, and you don’t know what is going to come out. And this is exactly what happened!

*find out more about the standard here

Energy and Enthusiasm!

Festive Road acted as a facilitator of the programme and the role filled me with energy and enthusiasm for our sector.

We imagined five business travel challenges of our time and think of how NDC could help meet these challenges in airline distribution.

It’s not hard to guess I had a lot of fun supporting IATA with the Hackathon. I am GenY, a travel tech geek and I know the start-up environment quite well. I’ve also been involved in several projects related to innovation and am particularly aware of the blurring between leisure and business travel (something we debate frequently at Festive Road) … so this was just the perfect fit for me!

During the Hackathon, Pascal Struyve, corporate travel buyer at Ingersoll Rand who looks after 50+ markets also supported me in my mentor role and brought the buyers’ view.

We were there to ensure that the participants got the best insights via workshops or one to one brainstorming sessions, or by coaching them.

What Came Out of the Oven?

A complete User Experience (UX) focus by the developers and NextGen.

It’s been several years now that we hear about “user-centric” solutions and traveller centric travel programmes. It was extremely interesting to observe developments made by NextGen coders corresponding to actual use & needs rather than developments which are industry focused. Furthermore, developers do not build from legacy systems, they build from scratch.

Such a focus on UX is all the more important as travel buyers and TMCs are increasingly being measured on the satisfaction of bookers and travellers.

Hackers demonstrate that barriers can be broken

We tend to think that business travel is complex. If I can confirm one thing, it’s that participants contributed to break this myth! I saw developers sharing interesting insights into our complexity, and challenging mentors (including me) on the processes of our industry. Some participants did not know anything about business travel before the hackathon, and I was impressed by how fast they could catch up with some of our specificities. It appears that barriers can be broken, and fresh eyes contribute to that.

Hackathons help shape innovation, and prototypes developed contribute to making our processes easier.The Business Travel sector has never been so dynamic. I believe that disruption has actually only just started.

It is exciting to see that hackathons are drivers of change. Such initiatives help educate all stakeholders in our industry. By bringing in people from outside of our industry, it triggers more creativity.

I was personally impressed by the profiles of the participants: students (Generation Z!) coming to challenge themselves, young start-ups already incubated who came to build a business case on business travel and identify a market opportunity thanks to a new standard (NDC), or even more advanced companies joining to refine their existing solution empowered with the standard.

This was all realised for me when I saw the faces of a regular business travel audience when they witnessed “travel bots”, enhanced reporting and predictive capabilities enabled by NDC when the 2 winners of the hackathon presented at IATA Business Travel Summit.

Creating Dynamism

I believe that hackathons can help create new tools and solve problems. They will also contribute to lure more reps of the Next Generation towards our sector. And I can relate to that!

Such initiatives contribute to the dynamism of our sector, with technology being core – more than never. After all, “In the new world, it is not the big fish which eats the small fish, it is the fast fish which eats the slow fish” – Klaus Schwab, Founder and Executive Chairman – World Economic Forum

Back into The Kitchen.

My next step is #NDCHack-Reloaded as a new IATA Hackathon will take place on 14th and 15th October 2016 in Dubai just prior to the IATA World Passenger Symposium. Challenges will look at creative ways to enhances business travel solutions for the advantage of corporate buyers or ways for business travel to inspire leisure, or the other way around.

Festive Road will once again act as a facilitator of the programme by engaging with all parties, and I will continue with my role of mentor, this time across the leisure/business travel blur.

“I’m looking forward to learning how to cook with technology some more!”

Aurelie Krau
Festive Road

“Engagement Takes Many Forms” – (Including staying awake for 3 days to code on beanbags…)
Find out more about the supported by Festive Road.

#NDCHack Berlin – Key facts by numbers

40 hours coding + 40 years of Business Travel expertise = a powerful combination
21 groups made up from 104 developers/innovators.
7 API providers (British Airways, IATA (core APIs), SITA, Timatic Auto Check, LinkedIn, RouteHappy, Vaadin).
6-week online iteration phase before the Hackathon with mentors delivering webinars along with a Q&A platform.
6 winners. 2 of them (#1 of each category: Nina and BudgetR) presented at IATA’s Business Travel Summit in Geneva in June 2016, in front of 120+ professionals, including nearly 40 of Europe’s top corporate travel buyers, Head of Associations, Airlines and TMCs.
6-week online incubation period, that ended in July 2016, with 2 final winners (Nina & Flycal) who will present at the World Passenger Symposium in Dubai in October 2016.
5 challenges within 2 categories.
Category 1. The Business Traveller Journey (consistency of content across distribution channels, personalisation, opportunities of geolocation)
Category 2. The Travel Data (reporting capabilities, traveller data).

5 sponsors (Qatar Airways & SITA, Flyiin, JR Technologies and Routehappy).
3 workshops delivered, including one on Business Travel I delivered.

For more information on the winners and a look at the gallery
Or watch the short overview video of the event