Bungolow wants to be the Jetsetter for Latin AmericaNewsBy Kevin May | April 4, 2012Share This article was originally published on TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring Chile-based Bungolow, a members-only travel club targeting travellers heading to Latin America.Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?Bungolow is a members-only travel club featuring upscale Latin American hotels at rates of up to 50% off.Each property featured on Bungolow is hand-selected and reviewed by the Bungolow team for quality of service, amenities, and character. Membership to Bungolow is free but requires an invitation from another member.Bungolow was founded by Scott Bird and Scott Thompson. Scott Bird comes from a finance background where he was previously the C.F.O at a regional wine and spirits distributor.Scott Thompson has a background in marketing and has experience marketing companies ranging from start-ups to Fortune 500 companies.What financial support did you have to launch the business?We are participants in Start-Up Chile, a government-supported program to bring entrepreneurs from all over the world to Chile.The program has supported us with $40,000 in funding.What problem are you trying to solve?We are trying to better promote upscale Latin American hotels while creating a more enjoyable hotel booking experience for travellers.Unlike the OTAs or mass-market daily deal sites, our site focuses on beautiful imagery and unique reviews to highlight hotels. We have created an upscale hotel booking process that can get you excited and daydreaming about your trip.Describe the business, core products and services?We are a private sales business that allows for online hotel booking. We are able to provide our members with great rates at premium hotels and resorts in Latin America.At the same time, we help increase occupancy rates and revenues for our hotel partners.Who are your key customers and users at launch?Our key users are travellers interested in uncovering great hotel properties in Latin America and at great deals.Our initial invitations to the site were sent to key social influencers as well as friends and family but the membership base has expanded organically as members continue to invite their friends after seeing the value Bungolow provides.Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?Yes, we followed the principles of the “Business Model Generation” line of thinking and we spoke with dozens of potential customers.We talked with business owners, vacationers, travel agents, hotels as well as executives in our industry to help guide our decisions.What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?Bungolow is free for our members. We utilize a commission based revenue model where we charge a commission on each booking we generate for our partner hotels.Outside of commissions we charge no other fees. To reach profitability we are focusing on growth in our member base as well as growth in the number of promotions we run with hotels.Fortunately over 60,000,000 tourists visit Latin American countries every year so we have a lot of room to grow.SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?Strengths: We are based in Latin America and, as such, we are able to build better relationships with our hotel partners than our competitors who fly in from, say, New York City. Weaknesses: Most of our competitors are subsidiaries of large companies with deep pockets. Also, by focusing only on Latin American properties, we are limiting our supply and the size of our market. Opportunities: The Latin American market is wide open. Many hotels we have met with have never heard of our competitors. Now, if our competitors meet them—even though they’re larger companies—they will be referred to as being “like Bungolow”. Threats: We’re in a space with a lot of noise and Latin America is a great place for our competitors to expand.Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?People generally like our idea, but they can be quick to warn us of the amount of competition in the private sales space.We are not discouraged by those warnings because we are carving out a niche and providing real value to our customers.What is your success metric 12 months from now?In 12 months, we would like to have featured multiple hotels in all of the popular Latin American tourist destinations and to be known as the Latin American private sales site for hotel bookings. NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.