Nezasa promises a novel travel booking engine, packaged with passion

A new entry into the travel startup scene is Nezasa, an online booking service dedicated to more bespoke travel experiences traditionally created and curated by full-service offline agencies.

The unfamiliar name, which is actually a type of bamboo, is reflective of the cohesive approach to the booking engine that the company promises.

Nezasa is a sub-species of Bamboo, a segmented grass that once fully grown is one of the strongest and most flexible materials on earth.

The name Nezasa was chosen as it represents our core offering; components pulled together into strong cohesive products.

Co-founder Manuel Hilty, who works with a team of 6 people based in Zurich, Switzerland, points to a perceived gap in the market between full-service offline agencies capable of full customization and more cookie-cutter, mass-market OTAs.

There is a huge gap in the market between the complete but expensive service of an offline travel agency and the cumbersome but cheaper do-it-yourself process for booking complex trips online. Nezasa closes this gap by combining the service of a travel agency with the availability and price structure of an online portal.

We provide a one-stop shop to fully customize itineraries and book everything (including hotels, transfers, excursions and more) in one place. Starting from suggested routes put together by destination experts, the customers can easily adjust their itineraries based on their personal preferences.

In their video overview, the company promises to provide a much more seamless, interactive and complete online booking tool for independent travelers.

The “one stop shop” concept is very much alive here, with a slick UX providing several useful options for managing complex itineraries independently: a calendar functionality to add different experiences suggested by local experts, the ability to change the number of days on a trip, and a map that allows the user to interact with various agenda items – all focused on allowing each user to individually customize the trip on their own.

Hilty took a moment to share more about his company in the following Tnooz Q&A.

Tell us how you founded the company, why and what made you decide to jump in and create the business.

The initial idea of Nezasa was formulated by Devon Perry, one of the founders. During his years as Head of Business Analysis at a large European tour operator, he developed an opinion of what’s lacking in the online travel space and took it as the basis for defining Nezasa’s vision.

What are your funding arrangements, and your estimation of market size?

Nezasa is currently in the process of closing a small seed round with a group of selected business angels. Previously, all was financed by the founders.

Only taking the US, UK, CA and the German-speaking countries into account, the market for individual roundtrips to Nezasa’s target destinations in Asia, Oceania, Africa and Latin America is about 3 Mio trips per year (based on UNWTO numbers).

Please outline your company’s competitive landscape.

There are various types of competitors, including:

1) Social Travel Planners

Social travel planning sites allow the users to create itineraries that refer to components they have researched or even booked on other sites. They basically replace the Google spreadsheet that was previously used for keeping track of an itinerary. However, none of these sites provides the possibility to book a complete itinerary in one place from one provider who will be responsible for the trip to actually work.

3) Online Package Sellers

Some sites also allow to buy complete travel packages online and to customize some aspects of them. However, the customization is much less interactive than on Nezasa. Often, you can specify requests in a text field and then a new proposal comes back asynchronously. Nezasa offers a completely different level of interactivity and control compared to these sites.

4) Offline Travel Agencies

Nezasa aims for a part of the market that is still occupied by offline travel agencies. Compared to them, Nezasa has the ability to sell at more competitive prices because of a leaner supply chain and less operational overhead. Furthermore, Nezasa is globally available online and 24/7.

Please explain your revenue model and strategy for profitability.

Nezasa acts as a broker and not as a tour operator. This allows us to scale our business internationally much quicker than if we were a tour operator (because of much less regulatory hurdles).

We provide the marketplace (including configuration tool, content management and customer interaction channels) and we control the payment flow. Our income stems from a flat commission (in percentage of the package price) on each booking, i.e., it is a transaction-based business model. The business case is very scalable due to the low transaction cost on our side.

Describe what your start-up does, what problem it solves (differently to what is already out there) and for whom?

The problem what we’re solving is that there’s a huge gap between the complete but expensive service of an offline travel agency and the cumbersome but cheaper do-it-yourself process for booking complex trips (e.g., 3 weeks of traveling in India, China or South East Asia) online. We are filling this gap by providing an online platform with the convenience and support of a travel agency and the “anytime, anywhere” availability and price structure of an online offering.

We provide a one-stop shop to fully customize itineraries and book everything (including hotels, transfers, excursions and more) in one place. Starting from suggested routes put together by destination experts, the customers can easily adjust their itineraries similar to choosing the story in the “Choose Your Own Adventure” book series.

To this end, Nezasa has developed an approach for modelling and customizing travel itineraries in a way that is unmatched among the online offerings today. This flexible configuration engine is supplemented with inspiration and advice, as well as a state-of-the-art user interaction design, in order to provide a seamless and beautiful end-to-end planning and booking experience.

The offerings on the Nezasa platform are supplied by regional tour operators from the respective destinations. Nezasa gives them the ability to reach end customers directly, which results in a leaner supply chain and more competitive prices than through the traditional distribution channels.

Nezasa’s customer segment consists of those people who like convenience in both the planning and experience of their travel, without giving up their individuality and without paying a premium for going to a specialist offline travel agency.

Why should people or companies use your startup?

The main answer to this question has already been given in 1) above: end customers should use Nezasa because of its unique combination of the convenience and support of a travel agency and the “anytime, anywhere” availability and price structure of an online offering.

Our suppliers use us because we give them a new, more direct distribution channel that has the potential to at least offset the shrinking business through the traditional channels.

Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?

We are seeking partnerships with companies that offer products which have something in common with the trip that are sold on Nezasa. Examples:

  • Trend sport magazines (e.g. golf, kitesurfing) in connection with specialized trips we offer in these areas
  • Outdoor equipment companies in connection with trips to remote regions
  • Etc.

Apart from that, SEO and SEM.

How did your initial idea evolve? Were there changes/any pivots along the way? What other options have you considered for the business if the original vision fails? 

Originally, we wanted to do the packaging ourselves and use content from many different sources. This would have mean that we’d have become the tour operator. At the end of last year, we decided to drop this and only be the broker through which regional tour operators sell their offerings.

The consequence of this is that we don’t have as much flexibility in our tool as in the old model, but we have a leaner legal framework and can start selling internationally without the problems we’d have if we were the tour operator.

Where do you see yourselves in 3 years time, what specific challenges do you hope to have overcome (please refrain from using biggest, best or most awesome in your answer)?

In 3 years time, we hope to cover the main parts of Asia, Latin America and the safe regions of Africa.  We also hope that by that time, we have built the necessary volume to fully start to leverage the potential for community features that we see in our platform.

The biggest challenge will be to gain traction in the end user market.

 What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?

For quite long, the trend in the online travel market has been going into one direction: making all types of travel components (hotels, flights, activities) bookable online. The gap between the service of traditional travel agencies who sell complete travel packages and online travel retailers like Expedia has gotten bigger and bigger.

The market needs an offering for all those people who actually want something in between these two options.

Tnooz take:

At first glance, the concept didn’t seem to have much to differentiate itself – just another curated packaged vacation finder. However, this is not the case with Nezasa. The team appears truly passionate about providing a completely customizable tool for independent travelers.

There’s most definitely a market between the traditional OTAs and the full-service travel agencies. It’s the folks that were independent travelers in their 20s and early 30s, and are now experiencing more wealth – and less time – than in previous years. They’re used to planning online, and want to still feel in control of their travel experience while avoiding mass tourism pitfalls, such as big groups and vanilla tours.

The ability to book hotel, transfers, tours and other activities directly from the website – essentially creating a full packaged tour on your own and then paying for it – is key. This convenience allows both the joys of researching a trip – mixing and matching, discovering things to do – and avoids the resignation of having to endless book items all over the Internet.

It’s a form of comprehensive peace-of-mind, where a traveler can book their travel in advance while knowing exactly what they’re getting into.

The interface is also attractive, and highly functional for a beta product – a good start to a product that is addressing a growing demographic in travel.

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Nick Vivion

About the Writer :: Nick Vivion

Nick helps brands blog better at Ghost Works, a boutique blog management service. Nick was previously the Director of Content for tnooz, where he oversaw the editorial and commercial content as well as producing/hosting tnoozLIVE.



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  1. Andy Ryan

    This is a great concept. Finally an online travel startup that’s doing something of real value (no offense to the connecting-with-locals-via-Facebook startups or the user-friendly-itinerary-builder startups).

    This is quite bold in that it seems to want to connect travellers directly with tour operators who otherwise would probably be fully/mostly wholesale, and clearly it is likely to take some time to a) get buy-in from a lot of these operators and b) achieve the necessary critical mass of content on the platform, but from the interview it is also clear that the team are aware of the challenges they face and aren’t expecting wild virality to help them gain 1 million users in 6 months. That’s key in building a sustainable business, and these guys seem well positioned to turn Nezasa into something very successful.

    Good luck!


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