Israeli startups dominate final stage of UN travel tech competition

Refundit, SeeVoov, Howazit and Pruvo join six other travel startups in the finals to be held in January in Madrid; 2,771 companies from 132 countries applied for top prize

Shoshanna Solomon was The Times of Israel's Startups and Business reporter

Ziv Tirosh, left, and Uri Levine, the co-founders of Refundit, which seeks to digitalize the VAT refund process in Europe (Courtesy)
Ziv Tirosh, left, and Uri Levine, the co-founders of Refundit, which seeks to digitalize the VAT refund process in Europe (Courtesy)

Four Israeli travel tech startups out of a group of 10 from around the world have reached the final stage of a first startup run by the United Nations World Tourism organization, the UNTWO.

The four are: Refundit, SeeVoov, Howazit and Pruvo.

In June, UNTWO, together with Globalia, a tourism group in Spain and Latin America, announced an international competition for tourism startups and saw 2,771 companies from 132 countries apply. The four Israeli startups, which are members of the Israel Travel Tech Startups (ITTS) community, will take part in the finals in Madrid on January 23rd, 2019. ITTS is a group of over 300 Israeli startups that aim bring innovation to the travel industry.

Pruvo is a low-cost hotel booking company that uses an algorithm that claims to guarantee cheaper outcomes than such major market players as Trivago, Booking and Travelocity. The firm’s algorithm takes an existing hotel reservation from any website, tracks its price and finds the exact same room for a lower price, the company says, based on statistics that show that more than 40% of hotel reservations worldwide experience a price drop in the period between booking a hotel and the check-in date. Pruvo´s service is free and the only requirement is to book a hotel with a free cancellation policy.

The startup says that its service has saved customers around the world over $2 million on hotel reservations. Pruvo’s service is available in seven languages and is widely used in Israel, Portugal, Italy, and Latin America.

The second Israeli startup to reach the final is SeeVoov, which offers a social, interactive, video-based trip planner. SeeVoov’s platform offers a number of videos highlighting dozens of destinations around the world and allows you to both plan the trip, including booking hotel rooms and flights.

Howazit has set up a platform that allow travel suppliers — some 2,000 organizations in 24 countries like airlines, hotels, travel agencies, car rentals, and other organizations get immediate feedback on any problems their clients encounter,

Refundit has shaken up VAT refunds for tourists by providing a mobile solution and full digitization of the process, saving tourists both time and money.

ITTS founder and corporate open innovation expert Itai Green said that Israel’s representation in the finals is “beyond all proportion.”

“This achievement comes on top of other achievements by the community’s entrepreneurs in the past couple of years. They have won prizes and international recognition that are turning the Startup Nation into a Travel-Tech Nation as well,” he said in a statement.

Green was invited to be the keynote speaker in the final in Madrid next month, in light of the achievement of the Israeli firms.

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