Mapov is setting out to simplify the hotel booking experience by combining hotel deals with TripAdvisor reviews and plotting them on a map.
The startup, which is self-funded, was founded by marketing consultant Richard Jackson who has worked in the online travel world for some years with stints at both booking.com and Expedia.
Jackson is supported by a team of four with execs responsible for front-end development, back-end development, PR and social marketing and design.
Competition is everywhere for this fledgling from Google Hotel Finder to hotel metasearch sites such as Trivago and HotelsCombined but it believes the problem of finding the best travel product quickly has not yet been solved.
Mapov doesn't charge for the service and there is no advertising so the hope is that revenue will come via shared commission from hotel providers. The startup displays the lowest prices available for each hotel and directs users to that hotel provider.
Q&A with Jonny Giddens, responsible for PR and social marketing for Mapov
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?
Unlike most of our competitors, at Mapov we display the hotel’s photos, reviews and prices on top of a map, in a crisp and uncluttered way. With arrows highlighting the hotel's location, users can see exactly where it is, whilst still comparing price and availability. This approach makes it very easy for people to find a hotel in the place they want, and at a price they can afford.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
We have re-imagined how people search for hotels with the end user at the forefront. This has helped us create a site that is very intuitive to use whilst at the same time offering the very best prices on more than 220,000 hotels. Our crisp and dynamic approach helps users to see where hotels are in relation to the area they want to visit as well as the usual information of photos and reviews.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
Our primary source of traffic is through search engine marketing on Google. Although we are competing alongside some really big companies, we are already very pleased with the level of traffic we are getting through this avenue and are consistently experiencing higher than average click-through-rates. We are currently targeting people searching for hotels in some of the top global holiday destinations. We will continue to do this but in addition we plan to target people searching for shorter stays in domestic destinations, as well as, areas where a hotel’s location is very important.
What other options have you considered for the business and the team if the original vision fails?
When we created Mapov we built it in such a way that it could be scaled up and reapplied to a whole range of different services or products. At this stage we are focused on the hotel industry and are committed to being the best and easiest way to find and book a hotel on the internet but, this is by no means the limit of our vision.
What mistakes have you made in the past in business and how have you learned from them?
Marketing an idea is as important as delivering the product. We have also learnt that the quality and productivity of technical teams, makes or breaks businesses a few years down the line.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
Traditionally hotel providers only display hotels in a one-dimensional list. This is good for comparing prices, but bad for the equally important consideration of the hotel’s location. How far is it from the beach? Is it near the train station? Will I be able to walk to the office? This is why we believe that Mapov’s implementation of the map integrated with a hotel’s other attributes (reviews, photos etc.) is its masterstroke.
There have been many promises to revolutionise the beast that is hotel booking lately so we'll watch Mapov with interest and perhaps a little intrepidation for its lofty ambitions.
The use of maps to plot the location is good and with the increasingly innovative ways maps are being used in travel websites, it's a sensible strategy. The service is also clean and crisp as per its claims.
The plan to build up traffic via search engine marketing on Google is interesting because although the startup claims it doesn't currently need funding, you've got to wonder how long before it burns all its cash especially as it's going for top global holiday locations first.
The lack of advertising and shared commission model also raises concerns about how the site will make enough money as many consumers are now educated into using online travel agencies to search only to go and book direct with the hotel.
So, if they can persuade consumers they're getting the same and best price on Mapov then it will fly. Interesting that the team has also designed Mapov in way that it could apply to other products and services.
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