Triptelligent sets sail with a shore excursions marketplace for tour operatorsNewsBy Sean O'Neil | September 10, 2013Share This article was originally published on Triptelligent is aimed at tour operators looking to book shore excursions, mainly for groups.It's similar to Etsy, an online marketplace for handmade goods, except that the site works directly with huyundreds of tour operators worldwide.On the consumer side, peer reviews and social forums help travelers compare tour providers in up to 90 ports in the Caribbean, Bahamas, Bermuda, Alaska, and Europe.On the B2B side, its technology helps tour operators sell their tours to cruise guests without having to give a large commission to cruise lines. That allows the tours to be typically 30% cheaper than the tours promoted by cruise lines.Triptelligent earns a commission from tour operators for every tour sold. The cruise guest pays the same price as he would locally at the destination but has everything settled before he or she arrives.Triptelligent is backed by US angel investors and has received $150,000 to date.The Triptelligent team is international and growing, with origins in the US and Germany. Executives include Rinat Glinert (co-founder), Joern Steinbeck (co-founder), and Jan Dillmann (Head of IT).Q&A with co-founder Rinat Glinert.What does your start-up do?Triptelligent is a marketplace to connect cruise guests with professional local tour operators, offering affordable and one-of-a-kind experiences.Cruise guests have limited time ashore, with a tight schedule of arrival and departure, and want to make the most out of their time. We connect them with tour operators who offer real value and dedicated personal service.We designed our services to fit the needs of and provide inspiration to the cruise community, with port guides and forums for cruise guests to connect before their cruise.Additionally we provide convenient mobile use via our responsive web design.Market size?The annualized total passengers carried worldwide in 2013 is 20.9 million. Taking the average number of shore excursions per cruise and the average price of an excursion, it sums up to a $4.2 billion market.What pain point does your start-up address?It’s a known contradiction in the industry that cruise guests sail with hundreds of other people on a ship but want to have an individual experience on shore. These individual options are usually provided by smaller tour operators and not by the ones with the big buses the cruise lines need to contract.The cruise lines have missed the opportunity to build consolidators in their specific regions, i.e. like the automotive industry did for its suppliers.On the other side of the market the mountains of smaller tour operators missed the opportunity to develop professional quality management and sales channel structures -- and feed their offering and availability to a global distributor, such as a GDS.Here the market needs to professionally develop. Triptelligent bridges the desire of cruise guests to choose from many individual, affordable experiences and to provide these options in a professional and trusted environment.Tell us how and why you founded the company.In our travels we met many smaller, professional tour operators who focused on delivering quality experiences to cruise guests - but the market is fragmented and there was no professional unification of these tour operators within the cruise industry.Today’s cruise guests are looking for smaller group experiences at more affordable prices but they didn’t have a way to easily find and book with them. We founded Triptelligent to be that professional platform, providing the cruising community with a simple way to search, get inspired, and book shore excursions.Why should people or companies use your start-up?There are three distinct groups that benefit from working with us: tour operators, travel agents and, of course, cruise guests.Professional tour operators get an online sales channel dedicated to cruise guests. We provide tools, analytics, and training to develop and help them grow their businesses online. Additionally, via guest feedback they can improve their services.Travel agents strengthen their client relationships by saving them money and providing personalized options. In addition, they have the opportunity to earn commissions.And the cruise guest has, besides the great memories of an off-the beaten-path tour, the certainty that he or she has directly supported a tour operator of the local economy and regional tourism development.What is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?Shore excursions are booked after a cruise is booked, which is why travel agents are important sales partners of Triptelligent. We provide a value proposition for them to enhance their clients’ vacation experiences through a simple, tailored referral process - besides earning a commission for the sale.We partner with cruise selling platforms to reach out to our target audience as these are internet savvy cruisers.Additionally we are also in discussion to embed Triptelligent tour options in GDS systems to enable travel agents to book directly in their existing systems.Because most people don’t cruise every month, our specific challenge is to continually build the Triptelligent brand in front of cruise guests.We plan to do that by building partnerships with both travel agents and other travel and cruise related sites. Our systems have been designed so that we can do this regardless of the country of origin of the partner.We've also been receiving traffic interested in our reviews of cruise ports.Competition? There are three categories of competition in our market.The cruise lines obviously have access to the guests. The average cruise ship carries many thousands of guests, and therefore structures larger tours to accommodate them - in addition to high price markups.We differ from the cruise lines by working with many different operators who keep their group sizes smaller in order to retain a higher level of personal service. Our providers charge the same tour prices as cruise guests would find locally on their own.The second category are shore excursions resellers such as Shore Trips or Shore Excursions Group. They offer a similar variety of tours as the cruise lines at more affordable prices than cruise lines. We differentiate by working with a wider range of tour operators offering more niche and personal experiences.The third category includes peer to peer and tour marketplaces like Vayable, among others. We differentiate by working with professional tour operators to offer proven interest tours, which are designed to meet the special information and logistical requirements of cruise guests in ports of call around the world.Our business model has evolved to give greater flexibility to our tour operator partners. Different tour operators have different needs, from the actual types of tours they offer to the size of their fleet.We have built in simple tools for them to be able to manage their business online without a large administrative commitment. This is appreciated because it gives them more time doing what they do best - sharing their love for their culture and delivering unique tours.Where do you see yourselves in 3 years' time?Currently we focus on the Caribbean/Bermuda/Bahamas and Alaskan markets. We plan to grow regionally in order to provide a high level of service.Our community is very passionate about cruising and we are continuing to develop additional services to enhance their experiences. Sometimes travellers know what they want to do and sometimes they are looking for inspiration - that’s where we come in.Tnooz view: Triptelligent's thesis is that a retail agent wants to deal with multiple suppliers in a single location, in a single user interface, rather than hundreds. That makes sense to us. But it will need to do downstream work (with a lot of tech development), not just upstream work. It will have to be wary of rival marketplace platforms, such as the current leader Shore Trips, SX-Group, and Viator (which has aimed at shore excursions since 2010), among other potential players, like City Discovery and Expedia. The OTA landscape is changing from ugly OTAs (like cruise.com) to ones with more integrated experiences like onboard.com, cruise.me). Triptelligent could help these companies avoid having their customers have to jump off to another website when clicking on "Shore Excursions," so to speak. The fact that it makes its tours commissionable to agents could help its product to stand out. Its single commission report for multiple suppliers might be appealing, too. Underpricing some competitors who typically charge $500 as an onboarding fee and a 30% commission may also help. On the other hand, it will also have to keep costs under controls, as it may face slim margins where it is playing against an incumbent (the cruise operator). Offering a superior user experience will also matter. The start-up may need to quantify product quality through usability testing with novice users. Marketing and user acquisition will be key challenges, too. New user acquisition channels have to be taken advantage of. (Here are helpful tips from Brian Balfour on user acquisition hacks.) On marketing, the founders may need to be patient with their marketing plans. The best long-term efforts may not deliver results right away, though they might build in "a flywheel effect" if excecuted properly. Most of all, the founders shouldn't be discouraged by any talk that there isn't enough scale in their market. It's okay to do things that don't scale. Tnooz is eager to see what the company does next.Share this quote NB:TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.