Jeff Klee, co-founder and CEO of online travel agency CheapAir, says he can
now admit something he has said internally for years: He hates the name
That disdain has driven his decision to focus more of his
energy - and more of his company’s product development and marketing resources - on his other brand, business travel management platform AmTrav.
“We ended 2019 where 70% of our volume came from the
corporate side. That is a giant shift from about five years ago when we were
about 90% consumer,” Klee says.
“And part of it is because I’ve been reluctant to pour
resources into a brand name I hated.”
But Klee says he doesn't want to give up on operating a B2C brand, in part
because it provides an opportunity to test new features with customers, which can
be too disruptive for the road warriors that rely on the consistency of AmTrav.
To solve that dilemma, Klee is now launching a third brand, Qtrip, a consumer site built on the framework of CheapAir and that will
eventually replace it entirely.
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However, with more than 30 years in the travel industry, Klee
says he’s launching this new site with prudence.
not under any illusions. We're not going to be the next Expedia. What we are
trying to do is create a product that a subset of travelers - those who are a
little more discerning and care more about value than price - will love, kind
of a boutique OTA,” Klee says.
we find those travelers and make our product compelling enough to make them
loyal customers? It won't be easy, but we're going to try.”
of that acquisition strategy will, of course, involve pay-per-click ads. But
Klee says Qtrip will be cautious - “we are in this business to make money ... we
are not going to go crazy spending” - and prioritize product development over
“You can either have a really great product that people
genuinely love and be successful because of that, or you can be really great at
marketing with an average product and be successful because of that. Frankly I
think most OTAs that are out there that have been successful have taken the
latter approach,” he says.
“We’re more about trying the former. But the, 'If you build
it, they will come’ philosophy doesn’t work. So you clearly need some of both.”
Klee says Qtrip will differentiate itself by the value it
offers beyond surfacing the lowest fares, starting with features that have already existed on CheapAir
such as the Next Generation Storefront display, a U.S.-based personal travel
advisor assigned for each booking and a range of payment options that includes
Next, Qtrip will focus on adding elements to appeal to business
travelers who do their own bookings - something Klee says just wouldn’t fit
with the CheapAir brand - including the ability to generate an expense report
in the platform, the ability to add corporate discount codes for flights,
hotels and car rentals and easy access to past trips and invoices.
“From a product standpoint, we tell ourselves all the time
that if we can't deliver a better experience than Expedia and Google, why
bother? Google, in particular, is a phenomenal product. We won't be better than
they are for everyone,” Klee says.
“But for a subset of travelers, especially those who want to
comparison shop not just the lowest-priced options but also whatever buy-ups
exist, we think we will have some appeal.”