TouristWay, the company which makes online booking painless and affordable for tour operators, pitched at The Get Funded [email protected] Travel Market this month. Having already put in place an expert team of software engineers and had a successful beta launch, TouristWay is looking for the funding that can turn their vision into a lucrative reality.
TouristWay offers tour operators an off-the-shelf solution to online booking. Combining simplicity and affordability, it removes the barriers to entry and offers every tour operator access to millions of customers worldwide.
Stefano Bertacchi, of TouristWay spoke with Tom Ellum, Director of The Get Funded Show about some of his motivations and challenges.
Tom Ellum: Tell us a little bit about your company – what made you decide to start it?
Stefano Bertacchi: I have been a consultant and software developer in the travel industry for 5 years and so many projects seemed to just carbon-copy each other. Every meeting started with some excited entrepreneur telling me “we have a great idea, we want to create something like booking.com”, followed by the same list of features and the all-mighty integration with all GDS and hotel chains. Then sometime in 2006 things started slowly changing, more and more new travel ideas, original concepts and smart business models. The most compelling projects came usually from inspired but really small teams, unfortunately we had no way to follow up on those idea as budgets were often a way too limited. This is when TouristWay idea kicked in: we were turning down repeatedly a small crowd of fanatic entrepreneurs, a market nobody had spotted before. 18 months later the first beta version of TouristWay was ready.
TE: When was your eureka moment, most challenging moment and most enjoyable moment?
SB: Most exciting moment has been the first paying subscriber of a just-released TouristWay after 3 hours from the first mailing campaign. Just 89 bucks, but it has been like watching a new ship smoothly sliding down the bank into the water and boldly float in front of the designers.
The user interface for the administration areas have been the most challenging part of TouristWay design. When you agree to build a complex reservation system for a big tour operator you know there will be plenty of space for training, consultancy and phone support. TouristWay was meant to be exactly the opposite, we wanted our users to be able to start loading their catalogues without reading a single line of tutorial, no consultancy at all and support, although provided, needed to remain minimal in order to efficiently scale.
TE: And some information about the team?
SB: We are 3 software engineers, all coming from previous entrepreneurship experiences, all with our scars, our successes and lot of lessons learnt. Our skills and specializations range from travel technology to corporate software through CRM and business intelligence. All people I know that started a company right out of university soon got hit by the unexpected realisation that geeks shouldn’t sell stuff so one great thing that certainly add up to our expertise is a significant street-marketing experience we were forced to learn in the field.
TE: 5 years time… what will the travel industry be like and where will your company fit in (or will you be on a beach sipping cocktails after a centi-million exit!?)?
SB: We see lot of signals of deep changes in the way we search information. Social networks and user generated contents are influencing more and more our decisions. All major search engines have plans to integrate real-time feeds (from Facebook or Twitter for example) into their results thereby creating an addictive enriched knowledge that we will soon give for granted.
In the online travel landscape we see this happening already when 1 out of 5 travellers are extremely influenced by user reviews before booking.
At TouristWay we believe that innovation and best value are going to be keys for tour operators to stand out in this new hyper-globalized marketplace. We will work hard to give them the greatest tools to present their products and transmit their passion but also to remind them that competition is just one click away.
As per beach and cocktails, they are certainly welcome, but I guess few weeks of that life would make just the perfect inspiration for the next business, I love to build things.
TouristWay (www.touristway.com) pitched to an assembled audience of senior travel executives, investors and the world’s travel press at The Get Funded [email protected] Travel Market. Organised by EyeforTravel, on 11-12th November, the show offered innovative travel companies mentoring from travel veterans, worldwide publicity and real investment opportunity. For more information on the show please go to www.getfundedshow.com.