TLabs Showcase on travel startups featuring Argentina and US-based package travel flash sales service Itinerie.
Who and what are you (including personnel and backgrounds)?
Itinerie is a new start-up in the travel flash-sale space. We will offer our members full one-week luxury vacation packages (itineries, if you will) to fantastic destinations in Latin America.
We are currently in beta stage, building our membership base, but will be releasing our first trips this spring.
The company was founded by Nick Milne and Jack Sarvary. Nick brings the travel expertise to the team, having spent three years in luxury travel: two years with Sunvil Latin America in London and one year with Blue Parallel in Buenos Aires.
Jack, on the other hand, has more formal business and start-up experience. Prior to Itinerie, he worked in New York City for the Boston Consulting Group for two years and then in Buenos Aires with a series of entrepreneurs through the non-profit, Endeavor.
What financial support did you have to launch the business?
Although to date Itinerie is completely self-funded, we are currently in the middle of raising additional investment through our personal networks.
What problem are you trying to solve?
While in recent years there has been steadily increasing demand for luxury vacations to Latin America, it remains a relatively unknown destination.
Many potential travelers do not know where to start in organizing a comprehensive trip to the continent. Attempting to figure it out independently online can be stressful and time-consuming, while using travel agents or tour operators comes at a significant cost and is still far from efficient.
Itinerie looks to provide an alternate solution to this problem. We use our years of experience in luxury Latin American travel to create well-priced luxury trips to the region’s best destinations. We then release these fantastic trips through email and our website one at a time, every other week.
Our members can therefore sit back and wait for their dream vacation to come to them, eliminating all the stressful searches or tedious back-and-forth interactions currently associated with booking travel.
Describe the business, core products and services?
We will run flash-sales selling luxury vacation packages to Latin America. These packages are designed to be truly once-in-a-lifetime trips, spanning one week and 2-4 destinations within a selected country.
They will include luxury accommodations, all internal transportation, and a number of unique and interesting activities. And while these packages are put together in bulk, the experience for each individual party will be completely private.
If a member is interested in a reserving a trip, all they will have to do is select which activities interest them most (picking 5-6 activities from a menu of 8-12) and then choose between two potential start dates (each roughly 6 months in the future).
They must reserve their own international flights but then that’s it – their vacation is fully booked.
Who are your key customers and users at launch?
We are already well underway working with partners in Argentina, Brazil, Chile, Ecuador, and Peru to design the ultimate vacation packages for our members.
We are pleased to announce that despite our untraditional model, we have been able to secure discounts in line with what the hotel-only flash-sale sites are receiving.
From a user base perspective, we are very excited with how things have taken off. Through a combination of personal networking, participating in online communities, and leveraging social media, we have built a substantial and fast growing user base in only a few weeks.
Did you have customers validate your idea before investors?
Not directly, but we believe we have seen strong indicators of demand in the market. First, the success of flash-sale sites in the travel industry to date indicates that customers are willing to book vacations spontaneously and online in order to secure good prices.
Second, changes in the product mix on these sites (where full package tours are showing up more and more frequently) suggest there is significant demand for more than just hotels. It wasn’t hard for us to find investors who agreed.
What is the business AND revenue model, strategy for profitability?
Itinerie will make a margin off all packages purchased on the website. We aim to grow our bottom line by increasing the number of reservations we set aside for our members each week and offering customers more potential start dates for each trip.
SWOT analysis – strengths, weaknesses, opportunities and threats?
- Our main strength is the quality of our packages. We are working with some of the best partners in Latin America to ensure that our packages will exceed the expectations of even the most discerning travelers. In addition, we have a unique angle on a dynamic, high-growth market, as well as a beautiful website.
- Most of the other players in this space had huge user bases from the start – for example, Jetsetter started with Gilt’s user base, SniqueAway with TripAdvisor’s, Vacationist with Travel+Leisure and Luxury Link’s. We, on the other hand, have had to start from scratch. We are very excited with our numbers so far, but we undoubtedly still have a long way to go.
- While there are a lot of players in the travel flash-sale space, no others are dedicated to selling full itineraries. As first movers, we believe we have the opportunity to build a strong brand in this niche now, and when the market moves in this direction, as we expect it will, we will be well positioned to become a dominant player.
- The current players in this space have significant cash at their disposal which they can use to squeeze potential new entrants out of the market. While Itinerie hasn’t raised significant capital to date, we have had preliminary conversations and believe it is there if and when we need it. Additionally, we are focusing on product quality in the short term in order to build a strong and well-respected brand, and that does not require a huge amount of investment.
Established competitors could quite easily expand and copy our products types. While this is true, we believe our experience in organizing package trips and our long-term personal relationships with the players in this space make the quality we offer hard to replicate.
Who advised you your idea isn't going to be successful and why didn't you listen to them?
Many people warned us of the large number of established players in the space already. However, we believe we are sufficiently differentiated to create a new niche brand for ourselves. In fact, we like the fact that there are so many other players in the market as it demonstrates the size and growth potential that exist.
What is your success metric 12 months from now?
We are giving hundreds of people once-in-a-lifetime experiences each month, and are expanding well beyond our initial Latin American focus.
NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.