Beachscape banks on affinities and matching engine to find travellers their perfect beach holiday
Founded a year ago Beachscape is based on an algorithm which aims to match travellers with their ideal beach holiday.
The company has developed a patent-pending vacation matching engine to search destinations and hotels to find the best room in the best hotel in the best destination based on the criteria users say is most important.
The startup aims to help travellers at all stages of the funnel from the beginning of the search process to those ready to book.
Beachscape says its the first travel website to offer multiple destination search, flexible destination search (search a neighborhood, city, country or region like the Caribbean or Hawaii), destination agnostic search and the ability to search based on a specific type of room or room view.
The fledgling is also claiming a first with in terms of enabling users to search hotels and destinations based on interests or affinities and factoring in destination characteristics.
Beachscape is also developing an opaque platform that will allow us to sell opaque inventory in destinations currently under-served by traditional opaque channels.
Shaun Kalnasy leads a team of eight full and part-time employees and the startup is currently self-funded.
Beachscape is looking for a slice of the $100bn US online leisure market as estimated by PhoCusWright but acknowledges competition from all angles including the large online travel agencies, metasearchers and flash sale specialists.
Revenue for the first 12 months is expected to come from commission from selling branded hotel inventory as well as the sale of opaque inventory once the platform is complete.
Q&A with founder and chief executive Shaun Kalnasy
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?
A number of companies over the past several years have tried to solve the travel inspiration or travel discovery problem including: Wanderfly, Trippy, Travel Muse, Triporati, Jetpac, Gtrot, Kayak (Kayak Explore) and Expedia (Trip Explorer). None of these companies have cracked the ‘inspiration nut’ which is evidenced by the pivots from Wanderfly, Trippy and Gtrot and the tools from Kayak and Expedia being buried within their websites.
We believe no one has succeeded because travel inspiration is not about inspiring people to travel, it is not about telling people which destination they should visit and it is not telling people where they can go for a certain budget. We believe travel inspiration is about helping travelers discover the best vacation for their unique preferences and travel criteria. It is about the details of planning a trip.
As soon as someone stops daydreaming and actually starts thinking about taking a tip, they are thinking about the interests and activities they want at the hotel and in the destination. They think about their budget, hotel star preference, room, travel time, and all the other details that will make up their trip. Therefore, we believe inspiration is about helping consumers sort through the millions of possible destination, hotel and room combinations to find the best vacation.
Using our proprietary search functionality and patent-pending vacation matching engine we allow users to search as broadly or as narrowly as they like. They can search a neighborhood, city, island, country, region or even the entire world, all at once. This is the key place where you can truly find inspiration if you have no specific destination in mind. Conversely, they can also search multiple destinations at once if they already have destinations in mind.
Next, Beachscape allows you to search based on the interests and activities that are important to you – things like amount of privacy and seclusion, food and drink, nightlife, adults only, and more. We also allow you to narrow your search based on the specific type of room, view or number of bedrooms you want as well as your preferred budget and hotel star rating.
We take all the information and pour it into our vacation matching engine, which searches all of the possible destinations, hotels and rooms to find the best match based on your criteria.
We believe our solution to the vacation discovery, inspiration and planning problem will be more effective than previous attempts because we offer the flexibility to explore and discover or compare and book vacations based on live rates and the users’ interests.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
While Beachscape offers a powerful vacation matching engine and industry-first search functionality, consumers should use us because we can help them discover new vacations, save time, and give them peace of mind that they are getting the best vacation for their money.
While other travel websites make you search city by city to find a hotel, Beachscape allows you to search by country, island, region or the entire world, therefore helping you discover new destinations and hotels that you may never had considered or even heard of.
If you are in a rush, our powerful and personalized search can help you narrow down to your best two-three vacation options in minutes, not days.
And most importantly, with Beachscape travellers can book knowing they’re getting the best deal because our intelligent search results match them to their best vacations and allow them to search a much wider range of destinations and hotels than they ever could on their own or with traditional travel websites.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
In addition to social media and email marketing, we will be pursuing a search engine marketing campaign that leverages our industry-first search functionality. We are also currently evaluating two truly unique promotional campaigns that are much more than the traditional ‘like us for a chance to win a free vacation’.
What other options have you considered for the business and the team if the original vision fails?
We are focused on our current vision and while we have received an overwhelming response from our early beta testers, we will reevaluate our business as we receive market feedback following our launch.
What mistakes have you made in the past in business and how have you learned from them?
As a young bootstrapped startup we outsourced certain tasks in an effort to save money. We didn’t truly understand our core competencies; therefore we ended up wasting money and time on key aspects of our business that should have remained in house from the start. This was a tremendous learning experience that taught us about our business and core competencies. As a result of this experience, we are much more thoughtful about what we outsource and what we keep in house.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
Most companies in travel are focused on solving problems using their existing resources rather than finding the best solution to the problem. For example, over the past few years there has been a great deal written about travel inspiration, destination discovery, influencing undecided travelers, etc..
A number of companies have come out with tools to help inspire and influence travellers, but all of these tools are products of the companies that built them. Kayak has Kayak Explore, a flight search tool that lets you search flights in multiple destinations at once. Expedia launched Trip Explorer which lets you see which vacation packages on a map for a given budget and date. TripAdvisor has Travel Inspiration which lets you find the highest rated destinations and hotels based on their reviews for a given trip type (adventure, beaches, spa, etc.).
However we believe none of these tools hit the mark because they are confined by their existing business. We believe it requires a clean slate and fresh thinking, to solve this problem.
Where so many others have failed, fallen short or pivoted in the meantime, Beachscape believes it can solve the inspiration and discovery problem with a ‘clean slate and fresh thinking’.
But, you sort of wonder if the minds and financial might of the big boys, as well as a lot of startups since, haven’t managed to crack it, can it be cracked?
Beachscape talks the talk in terms of patent-pending algorithm and just about every search permutation out there but can it deliver?
Inspiration is one of the major areas that online travel agencies have tried to solve by bringing a human element back to researching and booking travel by various means such as virtual agents, online chat and call-centres but it never quite works.
Is that because only humans can gauge what other humans really want, what emotions might be at play and what they might be prepared to compromise on? Or, maybe it’s because it’s just human nature to search around, see what others say, gather some ideas, reflect etc. ?
Could one travel site really and truly provide everything for a perfect beach trip and what will it take for consumers to put trust in it?
Beachscape is a nice idea and playing around with it you get to choose up to six criteria to find the best hotel match with options presented in percentage terms ie 78% match.
What would be a nice extra is a few lines on why it is a 78% match for the user’s criteria rather than brochure blurb about the hotel. However, the ‘What We Love’ bullet points is a nice touch and works well.
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Linda Fox is deputy editor for Tnooz. For the past eight years she has worked as a freelance journalist across a range of B2B titles including Travolution, ABTA Magazine, Travelmole and the Business Travel Magazine.
In this time she has also undertaken corporate projects for a number of high profile travel technology, travel management and research companies.
Prior to her freelance career she covered hotels and technology news for Travel Trade Gazette for seven years. Linda joined TTG from Caterer & Hotelkeeper where she worked on the features desk for more than five years.