Juan Pablo Lafosse, CEO
Argentina-based Almundo is a network of
offline travel agencies - through its own branches and franchises - and an
online agency, offering flights, hotels, cruises, car rentals, excursions and
In 1992, Juan Pablo Lafosse
founded a travel agency, Asatej. After selling the company in 2002, Lafosse
went on to found Hostel Suites and later to work as chief commercial officer at Aerolíneas Argentina, before returning in 2013 to lead
Asatej and changing the name to Almundo.
It's been more than
five years since you rejoined the company you originally founded in 1992. What
have you learned along the way as the company has transitioned from an offline
travel agency to one that is both offline and online?
learned that what is important is to solve our customers' problems, and there
are different ways to do that - both online and offline. There are different
types of customers and different types of trips, and if you are capable of
using both online and offline channels and tools your value proposition is
wider and better. When you put together technology and people, the results in
terms of conversion, lifetime value, net promoter score and revenue increase.
How much of
Almundo’s business is currently coming from its brick-and-mortar outlets versus
from online transactions? And how do you see that evolving in the future? Will
there always be a role for offline agencies?
Right now the mix
is approximately 50/50. I believe this mix will maintain in the future, as
online travel will probably grow more but our share on offline channels will
increase more as well.
online is a bloody battlefield, focused mainly on price, with too many players
and lots of suppliers investing heavily to compete for the same customers. Omnichannel
players have better margins, better ROI on market and higher engagement with their
customers. In the future I don't see boundaries between online and offline
as we see today.
What are the
strengths of a brand such as Almundo versus larger global players such as
Booking and Expedia?
of all we offer our customers offline channels that they don't; we also offer
local content and curated content that they don't have available. There is also
a big difference on the payment options. We
better know our customers and their preferences. We understand what they want,
how to communicate with them, etc. We believe that we can generate a different
type of engagement than a big global player that needs to standardize its
communication and operation to play on very different markets.
What are your
thoughts on Google’s continued development of travel products?
has such an amount of data and resources that they can become every day much
more relevant on the travel space. I am pretty sure that they will continue
moving down the funnel and become a merchant in a near future.
Where do you see
the biggest opportunities for growth for Almundo in the next decade?
believe that expanding our omnichannel model will be part of our strategy, but
where I see a bigger opportunity is in using our technology to create a real
travel marketplace connecting a lot of travel players, travel experts and
suppliers with our customers. I am confident that this business model that we
are developing will be extremely successful and will help us to capture a
significant share of the travel market.
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Since 2015, Almundo
has been a subsidiary of Spain-based Iberostar Group. Can you explain a how
that relationship functions - how involved is Iberostar Group in your
is Almundo's investor and its majority stockholder but there are not many interactions
on our day-to-day operations. Each company has its own strategy and we have
totally separate teams and processes.
Almundo has a
partnership with a technology company, Vrtify, to develop its Vravel virtual
reality platform for travel content. How is Almundo making use of this
the fact that today this is not part of our core business we see that in the
coming future VR and AR will become extremely relevant on travel.
In addition to
virtual reality, what other emerging technologies do you think will have the
biggest impact on the travel industry?
is no doubt that artificial intelligence is becoming every day much more strategic on our industry
and this will increase and accelerate. I see AI as the biggest thing in terms
Pure online is a bloody battlefield.
Juan Pablo Lafosse
I also believe that blockchain will help to build platforms
and collaborative business models that will rely on smart contracts. Probably
augment reality will also help to totally change the in-destination experiences.
In the last couple
of years, Almundo has expanded beyond Argentina to Mexico and Colombia (2016)
and Brazil (2018). What is the status of your business operations in those
countries and do you have to use different strategies in different countries?
have taken the decision to start our operation in these countries through an
online strategy, and now that we have built our brand and we better understand
the markets, we are starting to move into the omnichannel model that we have
developed in Argentina, converting travel agencies into Almundo franchises. We
will also be launching Almundo marketplace on these markets in the coming
What are your
thoughts about expanding Almundo beyond Latin America?
is an industry in which scale is mandatory. In order to invest in technology
and innovation you need scale. And we believe that in a few years there are
only going to exist big global players and local niche players. Almundo wants
to be one of the big players. And this means that we will not only need to be a
relevant player in Latin America, but also we need to expand beyond our
region. And we will.
Have you learned anything from watching how global brands such as
Booking and Expedia have expanded into new regions?
we learn new things from the big global brands. I guess what is remarkable from
both Expedia and Booking is the balance they find between execution and
innovation. Besides their size they have the ability to change. They are
capable of defining new strategies every year and execute them.
Before coming back
to Almundo in 2013, you founded a hospitality company, Hostel Suites, and also
served as an executive at Aerolíneas Argentinas. How have those experiences helped you?
helped me to better understand the supplier point of view and that pushed me to
create a culture within Almundo where we consider both suppliers and travelers as customers. Our everyday duty is to create value for both type of customers. I
find that view sometimes is missing in our industry. And we see that there is a
lot of energy focused on competition instead of collaboration between suppliers
and travel agencies.
Having been a young
entrepreneur in the travel industry yourself when you founded Asatej in 1992,
what is your advice to young travel
nothing you feel proud of in the future will have been achieved without passion
and effort. And without a team of good, impassioned and talented people. Never
on human history there was a generation with so many tools to create value and
transform the way people travel. Let's take advantage of this amazing
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