While the original idea for Travelatus was an Amazon for travel, the team quickly realised it needed to focus on a particular element - event travel.
Back in October 2011, chief executive Valentin Dombrovsky had just sold his share of a internet marketing consultancy and joined up with a couple of web developers, Vitaliy Korobkin, CTO and Denis Volkov, CCO, to explore revenue opportunities from affiliate programmes. They then decided to focus on travel and the online experience.
The team is also advised by Leonid Pustov, boss of online travel consulting company, TravelTeCo.
So far Travelatus has raised $10 000 from Prague-based accelerator StartupYard and is seeking angel investment in the near future.
In terms of the event market size, Dombrovsky says it's hard to estimate:
"We have encountered that at least 4.7m people travel to see music concerts in the US and UK. If we speak about the whole world, the number is a lot bigger. And, if we take sporting events into account, then again the number would be much bigger."
Travelatus sees competition from the likes of Cheaptickets, which offers event tickets along with travel inventory, as well as local services including India's Yatra, Skiddle in the UK and NYC.com for New York, but feels sites like these fall short because they have no recommendation mechanism and for the most part tickets and travel are sold separately.
Meanwhile, Festicket and Eventtravel sell event travel packages and Travelatus is considering including them as an inventory source down the road. Fantrotter is also focused on event travel but from the metasearch point of view.
The Travelatus revenue model is affiliate commissions from inventory providers (currently Expedia for hotels and Seatwave for event tickets) but the startup is looking to add more inventory in the near future as well as establish direct connections with selected hotels and event organizers.
"The strategy is simple – getting users for a low price and trying to make them our loyal customers. We also want to build a B2B solution developing our own affiliate programme for hotels, fan clubs and OTAs."
Q&A with Travelatus CEO Valentin Dombrovsky
Describe what your start-up does, what problem it solves and for whom?
Travelatus offers a solution to problems when trying to plan an event trip online. We want to bring up services that are necessary for the trip (event tickets, accommodation and transportation) on one website via a simple search and single window sale system.
One of the core features is our recommendation system - we gather information about the user from different sources (eg Facebook) and integrate the data with activities on our site. Basic recommendations are recommendations of events according to user's interests. Second level of recommendations is filtering of events according to their distance from the user.
And finally we want to provide really personalized solution using all the data we gather. So if we find out that Justin Bieber fans of ages 20 to 25 prefer to stay in hostels, we will present these offers to them first.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
We see our product as a good solution for those who:
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
- Don’t want to lose time while searching for events and additional services like accommodation and transportation
- Don’t want to lose nerve cells trying to get through lots of outdated interfaces
- Don’t want to lose opportunities and want to stay informed on what’s going on and what interesting events are worth visiting
The main part of our users will come from search engines through organic search and PPC ads. We can say that there’s a big range of 'long tail' keywords in online travel niche so we always have the chance to drive some traffic by using search engine optimization methods to promote low-frequency keywords.
We are using some social media marketing techniques already and are going to continue their development. We plan to encourage our users to share our offers, for example, as well as using some viral mechanics and word of mouth marketing.
We plan to develop an affiliate programme. We want to create our own API to let developers to use our platform for building their services. We're also thinking about working with sites of hotels and musicians through the widget model (eg, a hotel could show some events that happen nearby or musicians could offer hotel booking on the period of his/her concert in a city).
We also see travel bloggers as one of the main sources of growth and plan to develop good relationships with them.
How did your initial idea evolve? Were there changes/any pivots along the way? What other options have you considered for the business if the original vision fails?
The original idea was building an 'Amazon of Travel but then we decided to build a more focused solution for event travel, so we pivoted to that.
We have many opportunities to scale both for B2C and on B2B markets. We may try to sell other inventory or to offer Travelatus as a planning tool to tour agencies, for example.
Where do you see yourselves in 3 years time, what specific challenges do you hope to have overcome?
We hope to make a solution that will be really for everyone in general and each one in particular. We want to make recommendation algorithms that will be enable not only the planning of a single trip but a whole year filled with event travel experience. We also want to cover more niches establishing Travelatus as a solution for those who prefer smart travel – travel with some goal.
We think the opportunities of event travel are still underestimated and the market really lacks someone whose name will be associated with the whole event travel concept – we want Travelatus to become that company.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
The opportunities of event travel are underestimated because still there’s no solution for easy independent event travel planning. We want to bring this solution to the market and to make the idea of event travel more popular. In fact, event travel gives the opportunity of choice – it gives the freedom of doing what you want to do at a time when you want to. So the final idea behind Travelatus is giving people this freedom.
The judging panel at DemoEurope in Moscow (clip below) put pertinent questions to Travelatus around how it will be different enough in events and travel to be successful and how it will optimise results.
The key will be in how successful its recommendation engine proves to be in terms of filtering events and hotels to individuals by integrating their social media data and whether Travelatus can attract some B2B attention.
The service, lets not forget it has been launched on $10,000 of accelerator funding, is looking at many opportunities for revenue - affiliate commissions, direct connects, its own affiliate scheme, B2B opportunities and other niche travel elements that could be integrated.
It is also thinking wide in terms of promotion, long-tail search terms, social media, PPC advertising and, bloggers etc.
One sticking point might be this idea of a 'whole year of event travel' - would people really book all their trips for a year based on events? It would probably be more like a summer of concerts and festivals or travel and tickets based around your football team.
That said, the potential is huge for Travelatus to widen it out to other niches.
Travelatus recently particpated in DemoEurope, here's a clip:
NB:TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.