Culture Trip is betting big on its online travel agency, which it claims is “very close” to launch.
The company, which raised $80 million last year, brought in former Expedia U.K. managing director Andy Washington last summer to help launch the OTA.
Culture Trip CEO Kris Naudts says the OTA is “the big bet” commercial for the business.
The company has been operating an affiliate model for accommodation with partners including Booking.com, hotels.com and Hostelworld for some time.
The plan is to transition to being the merchant of record with places to stay, followed by experiences and then flights.
An official says Culture Trip will offer the bookable content on a destination by destination basis but declined to say where might be first.
Washington believes that while most OTAs are heavily focused on conversion, Culture Trip is looking to address the full funnel.
“It’s not here’s content and here’s a booking engine. It’s about how you get inspired, the planning, then the abilitiy to book and then inspiring what you’re going to do when you're there.”
He says the company’s product experts have been analysing the data it gets from its affiliate bookings to see what is being booked, where the brand fits and what is “special and unique.”
He adds that the company will move into a cycle of test and learn around the funnel.
For example, according to Naudts, the company has been organizing all its stories according to phases of the funnel.
The company already has a minimum viable product for customers to build up their own “wish-lists.”
In terms of marketing, the plan is to continue to attract traffic organically with the company saying it already has a really engaged audience with the majority coming direct to the site and very little from paid for channels.
When it comes to the already competitive OTA space, Culture Trip says it sees Airbnb as a competitor but not a brand such as Booking.com.
Naudts says: “Airbnb because of the shared audience and philosophy. Audience size wise it is a few years ahead of us but if we can produce five times the content we are, we will be on a par.”
He adds that the content combined with data insights puts the company in a good position to create a “culture economy.”
Washington adds that the company sees itself “solving for a behavior now but really future proofing as well.”
Both were speaking as Culture Trip unveiled research on cultural mindsets which travelers form based on their “cultural curiosity” and social and personal contexts.
The study defines four mindsets based on motivation to travel and how open people are to new experiences:
- Culturally aware - those that seek the familiar.
- Culturally curious - those that want to collect experiences and complete their bucket list.
- Culturally immersive - those that have a desire for personal growth.
- Culturally fluid - those that feel comfortable wherever they travel to.
The company says the “culture economy” is happening because of the “collision” of globalization and the experience economy.
The study, which can be downloaded here, was put together based on a survey of 10,500 as well as in-depth interviews with 150 consumers in the U.K. and U.S.