Social media travel startup Tripscout has launched the first online travel agency (OTA) for Instagram. The company also recently completed a $10 million Series A investment, co-led by Accomplice and Corazon Capital, giving Tripscout the leverage it needs to disrupt the hotel booking space.
The booking platform, under the user name @hotel, offers its customers exclusively negotiated discounted rates with thousands of hotels around the world.
"Social media is the new SEO, yet the legacy travel industry has been built on transactional interactions, driven by billions of annual advertising spend. We've approached the market quite differently. We've built a large, passionate and loyal audience of frequent travelers, and we're excited to launch these game-changing private offers on Instagram, so they can travel more, travel better, and spend less in a post-pandemic world," said Tripscout CEO and co-founder Konrad Waliszewski in a statement.
TravelPulse recently spoke with Waliszewski prior to the launch to find out the details on how this groundbreaking new platform works.
TravelPulse (TP): How does the booking process with Tripscout/@Hotels work?
Konrad Waliszewski (KW): Tripscout's new @Hotel booking platform offers its customers exclusively negotiated discounted rates with thousands of hotels around the world. Travelers get access to these exclusive hotel rates by sending a direct message (DM) with the word "hotel" to the @Hotel Instagram account. They receive private rates in the range of 25-75 percent below the best publicly available rates on hotel websites and OTAs. The private "closed user group" nature of these discounts combined with its industry-leading organic audience size enables Tripscout to offer the most significant hotel deals in the industry.
Here's how we do it: Other OTAs are bound by price parity agreements that require them to publicly advertise hotel rooms at the exact same rate. Because we offer these deals via chatbot over private DM, we can offer special discounted rates that we negotiated for our audience. Also, OTAs and booking websites have to each spend billions on paid advertising to compete with each other for a customer, but because our 30m audience is all organic and growing at over 1m followers per month, we have a much higher margin per booking that we can pass on as savings to travelers.
TP: Apart from significant savings, what are the other benefits of booking through a social media OTA?
KW: We help you find and stay in the type of unique and beautiful hotels you discover on Instagram in real life. Also, because we are servicing our organic audience, we're able to over-invest in exceptional, real-human customer service.
TP: Are bookings protected?
KW: Yes, every booking is protected and almost every booking is refundable. We will explicitly let you know if a room is a non-refundable room before you book.
TP: How many hotels are you currently working with and do you expect to grow this number?
KP: With tens of thousands of hotels, we have full booking coverage around the world thanks to the many suppliers we work with. We have the special, exclusively negotiated private rates for thousands of hotels, and we are focused on continuing to grow that number.
TP: Are there any destinations that you are particularly focused on?
KW:Given our 30 million Instagram followers, we're heavily focused on the destinations that our audience is most interested in - which ranges from major cities like New York City and London to vacation destinations like Mexico and the Maldives. We want people to travel better and spend less, so we're helping them book that aspirational hotel they see on Instagram at affordable rates, rather than focusing on the hotels that service customers in the in-between destinations.
TP: Are there any other travel services that Tripscout plans to sell through social media sites such as Instagram?
KW: Right now, we are fully focused on delivering the best hotel booking experience in the world, but our vision is to leverage the Tripscout app to be the first super app of travel and support customers throughout their entire journey-from inspiration to planning to booking to exploring in-destination.
TP: Will Tripscout take the Instagram model and apply it to other sites such as Facebook or TikTok?
KW: We have a strong presence on every social media platform and plan to help travelers wherever they spend their time. However, Instagram is our priority as it's the social network that is the most impactful tool for discovery, planning, and commerce for travel. It's important to remember that Instagram has 2 billion users and the average user spends 53 minutes per day on the platform-and if you watch a traveler plan a new trip, opening the Instagram app is almost always their very first action.
The entire travel industry is dependent on unsustainable and increasingly competitive Google/Facebook ads-and this is getting even harder with increased privacy initiatives from Google and Apple. If used properly, social media is the most effective channel for user acquisition, retention and conversion and Instagram is the most important platform for travel marketing.
TP: What sort of reception do you expect to receive when the booking site is live?
KW: We have very high expectations. Hotel prices are rising rapidly at the exact time when travelers are most eager to get back out and explore a post-pandemic world. In all our testing, we have seen such a positive and encouraging response.
Our beta customers are already praising us for helping them stay in those Instagrammable hotels they never thought they could afford, and for reducing the cost of their accommodation by hundreds of dollars. We are preparing for a massive scale since we know we're offering a product that travelers want - the ability to book great hotels at lower prices - and will be sharing it to the largest audience in travel by far. It's very rare that you have both sides - product and distribution - figured out on day one.
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