May 5-8, 2017
As part of the 32 finalists, we were tasked to redefine and innovate travel experiences. Sponsored by major travel players like British Airways, Heathrow Airport, Hong Kong International Airport and Travelport, the hackathon took us through an 80 hour immersive travel experience while we conducted user research from Hong Kong and worked our way to London.
Social Media tends to showcase the best faces of travel and picture perfect frames. But we often forget the hard work – travel planning.
Planning trips is undoubtedly exhausting. Destination, dates, budget, activities, you know the drill. What’s challenging is coordinating with friends and family.
We started our journey with the soundest way to a great product - User Research, of course. We interviewed travelers traveling with friends on their planning process and preferences.
We started with the basics like "How often do you travel? Who do you travel with?". And when we asked more in-depth questions like "How do you decide on a destination and the dates?", the frustration was instant.
"I like to travel with friends but coordination is so hard. So I just end up traveling in very small groups or going solo." — from User Research
In addition, every traveler has different personas. Person A might be lazy, Person B is all gung ho but no action, Person C just follows and has no opinions, Person D is uncommitted. Because no one steps up, Person E decides he/she needs to be the Designated Booker, reluctantly.
Clearly, we needed to make it Designated Booker no more and group travel made easy.
Nothing is more fitting than flying to another world-class hub while hacking a travel idea. We thoroughly enjoyed the Premium Economy cabins en route to London, with the benefits of wider seats and selection of drinks. In such comfort, it was hard for naps not to turn into deep sleep. Afterall, a good night's sleep will make us productive, right?
Traveling with companions is a complex task. It’s like one of those logic questions, Person A has 3 possibilities, Person B has 4, and Person C has 5, now derive the total number of overlapping possibilities.
We looked at the existing, redundant process that we all know too well.
So, what should we build?
A collaborative trip planning platform, or a booking tool enhanced with collaboration functions? Whatever it is, why should users switch to our product and not just stick with Whatsapp or use shared Google Calendar? What would our product have that can influence users to shift to ours?
We experimented and prioritized different features to gauge its usefulness and feasibility. We spent a lot of time validating these concepts with peers, mentors and the organizers. Yet, just so many features, so little time.
With 7 hours left before pitch day, it's crunch time. We picked up the bits and pieces we had been experimenting with and built our MVP.
We had a pre-programmed chatbot, some front-end web pages and a back-end infrastructure of potential data inputs. Since we all used different frameworks, we had to integrate them to bring about the final product.
Kollabo is a chatbot platform for collaborative group destination discovery and trip booking. The idea is to simplify the planning process by having Kollabo facilitate the conversation, offload the Designated Booker's responsibility and help the Uncommitted commit to travel plans. It's about making group travel easy.
In order to provide value-add, we introduced an automated flight booking function by integrating the API solutions provided by the sponsors.
I’ve always wanted to make an impact in the travel industry and we were definitely onto a real need.
I realized that hackathons aren't always about creating drastically new or different solutions. Sometimes, you don’t need to reinvent the wheel; you just have to improve the experience.
There is still a lot of work to be done in the travel industry and I'm excited to play a part.
Video courtesy of Hack Horizon