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Let’s make travel more sustainable – the question is how

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What happens when you put over 100 non-travel-industry people in a room for 24 hours to brainstorm solutions to combat challenges like choosing ‘greener’ travel options, over-tourism and food waste? As a sponsor and mentor, Amadeus finds out at Berg Hansen’s recent hackathon in Oslo.

21 teams. 24 hours. Innovation. Technology. Sustainability. The air was electric at Berg Hansen’s hackathon last week where 112 students and startups gathered at the travel agency’s headquarters in Oslo to brainstorm ways and solutions to make the travel industry more sustainable.  They flew in from across Norway, even from as far north as Longyearbyen.

hackathon

The hackathon was sponsored by Amadeus which also mentored the teams with their presentations and showed them how to use Open APIs. Other sponsors included KLM-Air France, SAS, Nordic Choice Hotels, Microsoft, Qatar Airways, BA. 

“We seem to have hit a nerve with the theme of how to make travel more sustainable.” says Eli Lindland, CTO at Berg Hansen.

The teams had just 20 hours to come up with their solution and code it using an Amadeus or other Open API before delivering their presentation pitch to the audience and jury in less than four minutes. Many worked relentlessly through the night to get their pitch perfect.

Helle Havrevold, Project Manager for the hackathon said: “I love the energy and the dedication and commitment. They are very open minded and keen on collaboration. It’s also a benefit that they don’t know our industry.”

What the teams came up with

As expected, the ideas were very creative with many solutions addressing the need to create awareness for consumers about making green travel choices. Ideas ranged from blockchain-based solutions for companies and governments to track their CO2 emissions to reward systems where travelers could collect “miljøpoeng” (green points) for choosing more environmentally friendly options to redeem against future bookings.

Another team touched on the challenge of over-tourism with a trip planner recommending stopovers at more remote locations en-route to destinations, which would generate revenue for small towns.

Food waste was tackled by ‘Team Szechuan Sauce’ who came up with an idea to cut down the 5.2 million tons of food which is wasted by airlines each year. Their solution was based on a pre-ordering app for inflight meals and using data from flight specs so the airline could predict the amount of food needed per passenger per flight to cut down on waste.

The suspense builds

As the jury – made up of representatives from Berg Hansen and the sponsors – evaluated the presentation pitches, the audience was inspired by Max Gouchan, a very young Norwegian entrepreneur who has started up businesses including iPhone repair shops, solutions for the oil industry and sushi restaurants.

He shared his startup experiences and gave some tips on how to make it as an entrepreneur. The best part, in his opinion: “You get to choose the people you want to work with and you get to build something bigger than yourself.”

The winners

First place and a prize of NOK 75,000 went to ‘eo – Travel with a Purpose’ which based its solution on the philosophy that: ‘”We can’t stop travel but we can change how people choose to travel”.  This team came up with a travel portal based on APIs from Amadeus and Google Places etc. Travelers can choose their adventures based on sustainable search criteria and select a ‘standard’, ‘eo’ or ‘eo+’ sustainability level.

sustainability

Congratulating the team, CEO of Berg Hansen, Per Arne Villadsen, said: “This is one of many ideas which will help travelers to make more sustainable choices. It is a strong and interesting business model which can target any generation. It is a very good prototype and what’s very important is that the idea is scalable."

Second prize went to the “idea the jury liked best” - Team Travl – for their flight search badge reward system based on the Amadeus Open API. Their solution included gamification allowing travelers to compete with their colleagues and friends to earn more points.

In third place was the Snackathon team’s ‘Travelite’ solution – which is about bringing less luggage on the plane so it is lighter and burns less fuel. According to their research, if each passenger would take two kilograms less of luggage on board, we would save 9.5 million tons of CO2 globally.

“This seems like an easy and low-cost solution to implement. It is based on a tool that will help visualize impact and make consumers more aware. We believe it can be built on already existing data,” said Torild Schøien, Delivery Manager for the Travel Channel from Amadeus, who presented the award to the team.

Wrapping up the hackathon, Villadsen commented: “I’m very impressed by what I heard and how sustainability-engaged this young generation is. Using technology, gamification, APIs … it was really exciting to see how they spaced their ideas around how to help travelers make smart choices. There is a need to help travelers to change their habits. Now, we need to go through all the ideas again and see what is feasible for our company to invest in.”


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