Hacking towards the future of travel – a judge’s perspective

Fostering and sustaining technology innovation is critical for the travel industry.

And the participants of Amadeus’s HACK@1050 in November were focused on doing just that.

NB: This is an analysis by Debra Iannaci, director of corporate communications at Amadeus in North America.

Ten teams of students, tech professionals and hackers gave up their weekend and lots of sleep to participate at our Boston-area Research and Development Center.

Participants were challenged to develop new ideas that could shape the future of travel.

After 24-hours of hacking and with prizes and bragging rights at stake, participants showcased their best thinking for the panel of judges:

  • Murray Mazer, head of innovation and research at Amadeus
    Valyn Perini, vice president of strategic relationships at Nor1
    Giorgos Zacharia, chief technology officer at Kayak

These travel and technology industry veterans share their views here about HACK@1050 and the overall future of travel innovation.

How do you think hackathons like Amadeus HACK@1050 benefit the travel industry?

Valyn Perini (VP):

  • Hackathons provide an opportunity for innovators, entrepreneurs, students and newcomers to the industry to better understand the industry and to be able to bring imagination and creativity to the problems we face.

Giorgos Zacharia (GZ):

  • Hacks allow companies, like KAYAK and Amadeus, to see new ideas that could potentially come up within our own product development and other teams. I also think they are great for recruiting. You see young talent and how they perform and come up with new ideas.

Murray Mazer (MM):

  • Hackathons allow people to bring their creativity and explore their new ideas but with a highly focused approach because you have very limited time and resources. They are also great for people who don’t have deep experience in the travel sector because it enables them to better understand and immerse themselves in our industry in a very supportive context and environment.

What impressed you the most about the HACK@1050 participants and the ideas that they presented?


  • I liked the diversity [of participants]. I think the quality [of ideas] was better than average from other hackathons that I have been at. It ranged from UI (User Interface) to Big Data ideas. It was a good event to attend.


  • There were a lot of [participants], which is always a good thing. The ideas were interesting. There tends to be a lot of focus on inspiration, especially from people who do not know particularly well how the industry works. I think this hack was not any different from previous hacks — there was a lot of focus on inspiration. But there was also some focus on real problem solving which is always good to see.


  • We had great interest from the Boston-area high tech community, from students to young professionals to veteran technologists, marketers and others. Hackers also embraced Amadeus’ Travel Innovation Sandbox technology and used it really effectively during the hack to explore their new ideas. Participants’ showed a passion and dedication, even at the cost of their own sleep. They willingly embraced the travel domain which in many cases they really didn’t know anything about. And they showed a true collaboration, with people forming teams on the spot and helping each other. They brought a true entrepreneurial spirit using whomever and whatever resources made sense to deliver an exciting outcome.

What most surprised you about the presentations you saw and heard?


  • I’ve done several of these [hackathons]. A lot of hackers approach problems based on the issues they have had when traveling. For instance, I tried to get to Timbuktu and could not figure out how to get there. There were a lot of those ideas so that was not surprising. But what was surprising was the number of people who participated and the caliber. There were a lot of smart people in that room.


  • Some of the ideas were surprisingly high quality, given that many of the competitors were students and they lack the context and background in the travel industry.


  • Maybe not so much a surprise but I was delighted to see how visibly passionate the participants were about their ideas even after 24 hours or more without possibly any sleep. They displayed a real joy in exploring their idea and trying to see where it led without knowing what the outcome would be. That’s really the core of the entrepreneurial experience.

What area or segment in travel do you think could benefit the most from being hacked?


  • I think user experience, user interface innovations and Big Data ideas.


  • Everyone’s always looking at the hot segments of travel, but I think the most important thing is to continue to bring a fresh perspective to any area of the industry. We should always look at how we can change what we are already doing, how to disrupt what we do, and find new ways to engage travelers throughout all parts of the travel lifecycle.


  • All segments in the industry suffer from a lack of innovation and imagination. They could all benefit. Hotels and cruise lines are probably the segments where travelers want to see the most innovation. Those are the areas where there are a lot of moving parts to staying somewhere, whether it’s a cabin of a ship or a room in a building that stays put. I think travelers want a lot more options and information in the ways they purchase accommodations but also while they are in trip and how deal with it.

What do you think the industry should be doing now to assure we are fostering innovation that helps shape the future of travel?


  • I think hackathons are a great idea both internal and external. Because they allow you to step away from your daily job and embrace [innovation] again.


  • Hacks are fine, but hacks without appropriate prizes are not fine. A hack just for hack sake is not very useful. So what Amadeus has done here [with Hack@1050] is put their money where their mouth is in a way by giving cash prizes and by creating a hack that was logistically well run. It was easy for the hackers to hack, and a lot of hacks are not run that way.


  • For innovation to thrive, we need to make it easy for people with fresh perspectives on the travel experience to explore their ideas without friction. Also important is to look outside our industry for ways consumers are engaged by major companies and brands and apply those great user experiences to travel. It is critical for every industry including travel to deliver at every stage of the consumer lifecycle.

NB: This is an analysis by Debra Iannaci, director of corporate communications at Amadeus in North America.

NB2: More information about Amadeus HACK@1050 including participants, entries and the prize-winning hacks.

NB3: Coding image via Shutterstock.

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About the Writer :: Viewpoints

A founding principle of tnooz was a diversity of viewpoints from across the spectrum. Viewpoints are articles by guest contributors from around the travel and hospitality industries. The views expressed are those of the author. and do not necessarily reflect those of the author's employer, or tnooz and its partners.



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