Offering B2B solutions, Spanish startup Guiomatic sells a widget that any B2C travel company can add to a website to enable users to create customised, up-to-date travel guides.
The company pulls information from feeds from sources like Wikitravel, Yelp, Eventful, plus static sources of data to produce guides that cover more than 10,000 travel destinations, such as Prague and Shanghai, in up to six languages.
Guiomatic white-labels the technology and the guidebooks and sells them to online travel companies, which can use the guide-generating widgets to either increase brand loyalty, raise brand awareness, or boost ancillary revenue.
Some clients offer the guidebook as an extra in online shopping carts, and, to date, an average of 20% of customers have bought the guides, says Guiomatic.
Some companies insert the guide-generating platform as a widget (which consumers use to insert their names, dates of travel, and destination), connecting via an API and using their own format.
Other companies don't use the widget and instead send the guide as a PDF or ePub attachment, without having the customer fill anything out.
Some use it to raise brand awareness on Facebook.
High conversion rates
So far, Guiomatic has created travel-guide-generating platforms for several travel companies.
Exhibit A: Despegar, Latin America's top online travel agency (OTA).
In September 2011, Despegar began sending the guidebooks to customers who booked their newest vacation package to Cancún.
Despegar sends each customer who books a flight, hotel, or package access to the travel guide generating platform. To date, nearly one out of three customers have downloaded a guidebook.
Enjoy Car Hire has a conversion ratio of 28%, with guides at a typical selling cost of €3.
A Facebook page branding tool, too
Online travel agency eDreams added a white-label Guiomatic Facebook tool its Facebook fan page for creating edreams-themed guidebooks, which users can download for free in exchange for "a like" of the page.
Of all the users who downloaded guides, 40% were already fans, which means 60% were not fans and decided to become eDreams fans in order to gain access into the travel guide generating app.
After users download the guide, they are asked if they would like to search flights for the destination and dates they entered in the widget. If the user clicks, they are redirected to the eDreams website. About 15% of users end up clicking and get redirected
With the Guiomatic Facebook app, once a user likes your brand, the company get your username, email address, where the user is interested in going, and on what dates of travel - so they can later send the qualified leads targeted promotions.
So far, Guiomatic's biggest account landed so was car hire company Dollar/Thrifty UK, which this summer began to use its brand loyalty solution. But now that Hertz has acquired Dollar/Thrifty, the contract is on hold.
Guiomatic Travel Technologies is privately funded. Key support comes from two important Spanish seed investors, Andres Torrubia, founder of Trymedia and FixR, and Eduardo Manchon, founder of Panoramio (which was acquired by Google years ago).
The five-person start-up in Alicante thinks of its customer base today as top travel agents, brokers and airlines.
You can demo its technology here.
Q&A with CEO José Luis Perez Gonzalez:
How is the way you are solving this problem more special or effective than previous attempts you or the market has seen before and how different do you have to be to succeed?
Guiomatic is the only digital travel-guide publisher whose sole focus is the B2B market. It's also the only company that has been able to offer travel companies the opportunity to have their very own exclusive real-time, 100% white label travel guides at a low cost.
Most traditional guidebook publishers have B2C models, and selling their content to businesses for a low-cost would be cannibalise the core revenue streams for these companies.
Guiomatic also has a unique revenue model. It charges companies on a cost-per-unique-user model. Companies only pay one fixed fee per customer, regardless of how many travel guides the customer may download.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
It's a no-brainer. We are the only company that makes real-time white-label travel guides as a value added product specifically designed for travel companies.
We integrate and design travel guides with content and aesthetics exclusively tailored to their brands for free of charge.
We allow companies to add and eliminate any content they wish. They can later sell the guides in their shopping cart for extra revenue or give them away for free to increase brand loyalty or step-up brand awareness on social media.
Better yet, as a technology company we are able to gather business intelligence on each user that enters the travel guide generating platform and this intelligence can be used later for more targeted promotion and up-sell of travel company’s products.
What is your main competitor?
Traditional guidebook incumbents Lonely Planet, Rough Guides, Frommers, and Fodor's are now offering travel guides for download. However their main focus is a B2C model, meaning they're focused on reaching consumers directly.
These brands do offer B2B white-label solutions, yet their B2B content is not real-time, is expensive, and is not well tailored to the needs of travel agencies and airlines.
Arrivalguides is a competitor that offers low-cost travel guides to businesses.
But Arrivalguides' product is not like a traditional travel guide (fewer than 10 pages of short summaries of destinations), and its guides are not real-time (meaning not edited to provide information based on specific dates of travel), don't offer event listings, and are not 100% white-label (meaning Guiomatic can add any info the company wants... custom chapters, advertising, etc.)
Arrivalguides' product is weak and it does not offer much customisation for the brands it works with or personalisation for consumer end users. It also works on a flat fee and not per-use basis, which can hinder acceptance by travel companies.
Another flaw with Arrivalguides: A travel company could never sell their guides as exclusive, high-margin ancillary products as their guides are not of much quality and Arrivalguides gives the content away for free on its B2C site.
One more difference: Unlike Guiomatic, Arrivalguides;s content cannot be seen on every electronic device as they are not in the ePub format.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
We are targeting travel companies via connections we had already established during our previous careers in the travel industry. We also have a presence at travel trade shows like WTM, ITB Berlin and FITUR Madrid. We make a lot of contacts by word of mouth and by using LinkedIn.
What other options have you considered for the business and the team if the original vision fails?
So far, our vision seems to be working well. We already work with big names like Decolar, Edreams, Enjoy Car Hire, and Dollar Thrifty.
In the near future we plan to launch Guiomatic Express, a plug and play option which will offer less customized and more express options for smaller companies who would like to use our services.
We are also starting to negotiate with e-book readers to offer the travel-guide generating platform which could be included free with purchase of their electronic device.
What mistakes have you made in the past in business and how have you learned from them?
Our founders were a couple of engineers working in a residential apartment, and they started working on the technology in 2009, showcasing the core technology at the BBVA Open Talent Contest.
Our first thought was a direct-to-consumer offering. We spent a year with the travel guide generating platform available to the public for free on our site.
We did not know how to make a business out of it, we just thought it would be cool for travellers to get all they needed to know in one trusty real-time guidebook.
In early 2011, we settled upon a B2B business model, In June 2011 our company became legal and began booking revenue with its first customer, Enjoy Car Hire
Once we identified the B2B model, we started the business, and we quickly closed the free guides on our consumer-direct site.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
Helping travellers prepare their travellers trip after booking has been left up to the internet and to traditional guidebooks.
Taking an interest in helping customers prepare their trip has now proven to be a unique strategy to either capture new customers, keep current customers or increase ancillary revenue
Guiomatic's focus on going where the money is through a B2B model seems astute.
It enables OTAs to differentiate themselves by offering something competitors don't (travel guides).
OTAs can use the guidebook-generating platform to collect valuable business intelligence (to relpace irrelevant emailed newsletters with targeted offers for qualified leads for specific destinations and dates), and to increase brand awareness (such as by using the guides as a giveaway in exchange for a "Facebook like."
At this point, marketing and sales seem to be the weakest points. If all of their criticisms of rival company Arrivalguides are true, then it is surprising how many big players have incorporated Arrivalguides' products into their websites and Facebook fan pages.
Sometimes, the best product doesn't win, while the best-marketed one does. We haven't compared the quality of Arrivalguides' product with Guiomatic's, but in terms of strategy, the competitor is doing a better job at sales. [As Tnooz has reported, it recently signed online content agreements with British Airways and Ryanair].
Perhaps Guiomatic needs to make a key sales and marketing hire.
NB:TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.