In the sixth of a series of exclusive interviews, Claude Benard meets founder and CEO of Cityzeum, Julien Laz.
What’s the idea behind Cityzeum?
Cityzeum means “City is an open air muZeum”. One of our aims is to describe with accuracy and loyalty most of travel places around the world thus encouraging people to travel. In order to do so, Cityzeum is building up web and mobile portals to help internet users prepare their trip with complete travel guides, book their hotel close to attractions, and download content for free. We have helped more than 10 million travellers within two years through the websites Cityzeum.com (travel guide portal), Alundi.com (weekends in France) and Babeltrip (smart deals)
What’s your background and why did you decide to start the site?
The company was founded by mobile multimedia service and culture specialists and passionate travellers as well. I worked for several years within the Telco industry (startups, telecom operator, consulting…) in business development. Vincent Gaudin, my partner, had some technical and product responsibilities also in the telecom industry.
How is the company funded?
Cityzeum is a self financed start-up, 100% owned by its founders. The traffic growth is around 10% per month over 18 months, reaching nearly 800,000 monthly visitors, expecting to double in the next 12 months for the French version. The company may raise funds to expand its growth more rapidly through new services, international launch, more content, and much more technology.
What are the unique features?
Cityzeum.com (launched mid-2007):
- Browse rich travel guides (60,000 places – photo, video ,audio guide, forum, user generated attractions description and comment, blogger experience, event, professional content.
- Find accommodation close to attractions (100,000) – hotel, short trip, vacation rentals, rural.
- Download free travel guides (400) – print-style or MP3 audio guides, include addresses for GPS devices and through applications onto mobile phone, PDAs and iPhone.
Alundi.com (launched Sept 2009) is a portal dedicated to France, with nearly 5,000 weekend ideas (visits, attractions) and events.
Coming soon we have a new web 2.0 site dedicated to tourism, almost a mash-up between Twitter, travel forums and a basic travel guide, enabling professionals and DMOs to establish powerful relationship with travellers.
In the battle against your competitors, what do you think are the two or three things that will help you to catch up?
The battle is quite aggressive in this industry, but we rely on strong assets to survive and soar:
- One of the most important travel places database with 60,000 content items.
- A unique technical platform operating our web and mobile portals and optimized for search engines.
- Innovation is one of our leitmotivs.
- We try to concentrate our efforts on the added value for the end user.
What are your thoughts on international expansion?
Even if we think that the market is local, we have translated a part of our database to English and Spanish for now. We will then launch our full services in these languages in a few months, thus reaching more than 2.5 million users/month by the end of next year.
Are you working with any of the travel sites and other aggregators?
In terms of hotels, weekends, trips and car rental, we work for now with a limited number of partners thus proposing around 100,000 ways to spend a night at destination. With content we produce our own and also aggregate material from independent sites/DMOs/content partners.
What about wider international trends around e-tourism – mobile, augmented reality, travel social media, trip planning?
The market is really busy, but with a few sites only proposing alternatives to main travel agencies. Our thought is that the market will evolve soon (in less than 18 months) with more attention paid to the needs of the end-user and customer acquisition costs.
This revolution will go through, provided the services remain simple, fun and with added value (mobile geolocalized services, trip planning, social networks, travel TVs, widgets) and quality multimedia content (a mix of UGC and professional content).
France is well known for its historical assets and cultural tourism. Do you see some convergence between cultural tourism and technologies? Any good examples?
We’ve just launched Cityzeum on iPhone. This basic, rich, fun and easy to use application simply tells you what to do/what to see around you, and targets mostly cultural tourists – and it’s free.
Any additional thoughts – a special message to the Tnooz international audience?
Please send us your thoughts on our sites. We really appreciate end-user and professional feedback.