YabbedooÂ is setting itself a huge challenge – to disrupt the industry by providing its special deals platform incorporating geo-location as well an industry news and information service for travel companies looking for that competitive edge as well as travellers and locals.
The startup is focusing on the businesses themselves – hotels, restaurants, spas etc – to increase their visibility and improve communication between travellers and the industry.
The team currently comprises founder and chief executive Frederik Van Lierde who has ploughed EUR 500,000 into the business, Romania-based Iulia Rosu and Ana Tepsanu in charge of marketing and blogging and UK-based Abigail Sidebotham responsible for sales.
The revenue model is membership based with the aim of reaching 500,000 paid members globally resulting in EUR 50 million in turnover for the business.
Different memberships are available:
- EUR 95 per year – includes the use of the deals platform, (except the mobile application), with no limit on the number of updates, deals and information.
- EUR 150 per year – includes the use of the Mobile Concierge App + all updates
- EUR 500 per year – aimed at tourist offices who will gain access to our API so they can use our system to promote all their non commercial information towards other developers, websites, etc.
Q&A with CEO Frederik Van Lierde
How is the way you are solving this problem more special or effective than previous attempts you or the market has seen before and how different do you have to be to succeed?
Yabbedoo works directly with owners of the information and thereâ€™s no middle man for the travellers. Nowadays, we see that userâ€™s information is the most trustworthy, but hotels and restaurants don’t have the time to follow up or understand what users are doing. So, we give them a way to communicate. We are a tool that can equally help the business and the traveller.
Tourist information- many websites offer tourist information but most of the time, this information is copied and not always maintained. With the Yabbedoo Platform we offer a solution to distribute the official data.
Bookings – most of the hotels have their own booking system and booking.com and Hotels.com have been doing a great job to promote those hotels and let you as a traveler book on their website taking a commission. The fact is that hotels have invested themselves a lot of money and time to promote their venue. With Yabbedoo we give them a possibility to have direct bookings at 0% commission.
Deals and special offers – travellers will not connect to a local deal website to buy deals before their vacation because firstly, they donâ€™t know the local deal websites and second, even if they do, they canâ€™t be guaranteed to have a place during the period they are there as well, what happens with the refund in case there’s something wrong with the deal?
Yabbedoo offers members a system through which they can create offers for our travellers, for which they donâ€™t have to pay upfront. The traveller won’t take any risk, neither will the venue.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
The unique combination through which we offer publicity, information and direct bookings.Â We give the companies back control of their marketing efforts, plus they can communicate with their future travellers instead of just broadcasting the information. Yabbedoo is an extra tool alongside the existing tools and services on the internet. And the difference is that we want the travellers to book at the hotel venue instead on our website.
We strive for continued improvement as we want to create, on our platform, a conversation between the users and the business.
While other websites choose sort of a one-way channel, Yabbedoo goes back to the basis of the business – communication. We give the companies the opportunity to reply to the reviews offered by the travellers or the locals on our website.
Any comment, review or feedback added on the website will send immediately an automated notification to the business owner, so that they will have the chance to find out how people perceive them, what theyâ€™ve done well or what they can improve. We build an honest relation between the traveller and the business, which, lastly, will drive a win-win situation.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
We work closely with our members and offer them alternative tools to help them communicate with their guests. These consist of the Mobile Concierge App, as well as the Concierge Web App, which is available for members (this includes print outs with their logo and name). We will get more and more awareness when travellers visit the venue of our members.
Second, every member gets a personalised page with all their information and specials, with a unique user friendly url. The venue can use this url to integrate into their existing website in order to give it further to their guests.
Third, our blog, of which we’re very proud. We have built a non commercial blog about cool places to visit and with unique stories. This blog has now around 30,000 readers a month, which is not much, but a positive growing number.
What other options have you considered for the business and the team if the original vision fails?
Our option is to be connected with the members, they can give us ideas, remarks, comments and feedback. The whole platform was started due to the request of small family owned hotels and restaurants, which asked us to find a way to be promoted without spending incredible amounts of money and time on advertising and follow ups. (It was started in Belgium, now based in Switzerland).
If we see that we get less and less paid members, we will brainstorm with different members and find a better way to adapt. We donâ€™t want people/companies to adapt to our platform, we want our platform to adapt to the needs of members.
What mistakes have you made in the past in business and how have you learned from them?
When we started and talked to the hotels and restaurants, we created a platform that was alike the existing ones since the main reason was to gain more bookings.
Then we understood we had to be different, as we didnâ€™t have a big budget to compete with the big players. So we listened to our initial members, went to travellers, friends, etc and asked them what would be more interesting to them: to find new ways to think of holiday instead of searching for a hotel. This was most important for them. The result was the combination of tourist related information and hotel information. We used that to create Yabbedoo as it is today.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
The travel industry has become influenced by two extremes: the user input, which for some, is the only way, and the official information available on the websites of the companies on the market. Obviously and surely, this published data will always be positive news, as no business will ever broadcast negative about themselves, so what we try to do is put these two extremes together in order to give the users and the businesses a better and more real overview.
I believe this is the main problem of the industry: combining the user generated content with the content generated by marketing departments of the travel companies. If we offer real information, from various sources, both the traveller and the business can receive a better view.
Therefore, the traveller or the user can choose for themselves, as well as provide feedback for further users. We also offer the possibility for the businesses to respond to the user’s input, so that a connection is being created.
Reaching this mixture is a challenge for the industry, as well as to react to the outcome, regardless of its nature. But we believe that a more honest connection between the traveller and the business can bring both of them a direct advantage.
Disruption in the daily deals sector is a tall order indeed and this company admits it has competition from all avenues from the likes of hotels.com, booking.com and Groupon to the wealth of travel information services out there.
That said, Yabbedoo’s strategy of providing a platform to help businesses take back control of their marketing and helping them build trust with travellers by providing the official information while opening up the channels of communication is an interesting one.
The zero commission will appeal to many hotels, restaurants and spa owners/operators with limited budgets while the lead-in annual membership of EUR 95 is probably low enough to entice many to take the plunge.
One element worth noting is that the startup has already tweaked its model from a platform to help hotels gain bookings akin to much of what is already out there, to one helping travellers to think about and research trips differently.
One challenge the startup faces is getting to all those small and independent businesses who would consider using the platform but don’t know it exists.
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