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Holidayen wants to get up close and personal with trip itineraries

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While there aren’t many new travel startups that focus on transaction as their core feature, there are many new startups now in the market that power the pre-transaction stage and post-transaction stage.

Trip planning startups are definitely on the rise. US-based travel startup Holidayen has created a platform for travellers to customise their holiday itinerary in minutes.

Holidayen - Tnooz TLabs - 1

Once the user selects a destination, duration of travel and the type of traveller (solo, family, couple etc) the system recommends an itinerary that has a list of activities, attractions, hotels and events.

Users will be able to view details of each item in the itinerary, modify it (drag and drop), exclude items from itinerary, add items to itinerary.

Holidayen is bootstrapped and it was founded by Tarun Madan, Mitanshu Garg and Tarun Kalra. There are interns from the Indian Institue of Technology Roorkee working with the company.

Mitanshu has more than seven years of development experience (previously launched the android app SCM Buddy) and Tarun Kalra runs Design Mantras, a web design house.

Holidayen - Tnooz TLabs - 2

Tarun Madan tells Tnooz why he started Holidayen,

“I got the idea last year while I was planning a trip to Thailand. I realized that while there were several good sites for booking flights and hotels, there was no comprehensive resource for choosing the other aspects of a trip itinerary, namely attractions, activities and events. As part of an Entrepreneurship course at the University of Texas, Austin, I validated this idea in a market study, where an overwhelming majority of the travelers surveyed agreed that planning a trip was time-consuming and a hassle.”

The product has been through several iterations so far. The first beta release of Holidayen took about six months to build, with a core team of three people.

Holidayen says there are no established companies in this space, however they say their competitors are Mygola, Plnnr and Traverik (TLabs here).

Q&A with Tarun Madan

Describe what your start-up does, what problem it solves and for whom?

Holidayen is a travel planning tool that creates personalized, fully customizable trip itineraries in seconds.

The heart of Holidayen is the recommendation engine, which takes into account traveler profiles and preferences, and proposes the most pertinent attractions, activities and events. The user can fully personalize these recommendations by tweaking the ‘preference tuners’, or by picking and deleting individual items, each of which have listed against them entrance fees, opening hours, ratings and numerous photographs.

Finally, the itinerary builder recommends optimized travel routes, which can again be customized. Users can share their ‘saved trips’ with their friends on Facebook, and carry it on their smartphones or tablets.

We will be releasing city-specific mobile apps in July, which will totally eliminate the hassles of researching and planning trips.

Why should people or companies use your startup?

It can take up to a few tedious weeks for travelers to research a destination, glean the most preferable attractions that they would like to visit and chalk out an itinerary. Holidayen simplifies this entire trip planning process by providing customizable itineraries almost instantly. Now travelers can have a personalized start-to-finish itinerary covering their stay, sights, activities and events, without spending weeks on planning.

Also, if people are undecided about a particular destination, then they can simply browse through the attractions in that city to decide on it.

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

As a secondary channel of marketing, we will be advertising on Google and Facebook. We are also focusing on SEO to generate a stream of users to Holidayen.

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?

There have been several iterations, and feedback from our early users has tremendously helped us in chalking out the roadmap for the evolution of our product.

Originally, Holidayen only offered recommendations on sights, but now we have expanded to offer hotels, activities and events as well. Also, we are developing city-specific apps, which many (test) users have felt handy.

User assessments have been critical to product development, and it will remain the cornerstone of any future transformation.

How do you think Holidayen differentiates itself when compared to similar products in the market like Mygola, TripTern, Traverik?

The recommendations are based on feedback from travellers and locals, and Holidayen provides just the right amount of detail about individual attractions so that the user can make an informed choice, but not so much that the user gets overwhelmed.

The itinerary generated by Holidayen is in a unique format, which is remarkably simple and easy to customize for routes, and duration at each attraction as well.

Also, Holidayen covers the entire gamut of the itinerary from sights to activities and also events.

Which is your focus market?

We are targeting the global base of international travellers.

How are you going to address the challenge of reserving products from multiple suppliers in real-time?

We are starting out by partnering with Viator for product reservation, and for products not being offered by Viator currently, we will set up a direct liaison with the vendor systems.

Estimation of market size?

Tourism is a trillion dollar industry and the online travel market touched $313 billion in 2012, with a phenomenal growth of 22% in the last two years.

Taking into account that travellers on 1 billion international trips annually spend ~$200 on sights, activities and events per trip, only a very small fraction of tourists book these online, the market is estimated to be $1 billion, at a 10% commission charged by online portals.

Where do you see yourselves in 3 years time, what specific challenges do you hope to have overcome?

Our vision is to help people have holidays full of excitement and discovery, creating cherished memories which will always stay with them.

In 3 years time, we would like Holidayen to be the simplest and quickest way to plan complete trips to 500 destinations worldwide, offering the best travel booking deals.

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

Currently, there are two ways to go about trip planning –

Tour operators – They offer inflexible itineraries, and do not take into account individual preferences. So travellers may end up going to places which might not be of interest for them. Self planning – Travellers have to browse through numerous resources, ask several people, and spend a lot of time creating an itinerary.

Planning with Holidayen addresses both these issues.

Elevator pitch by Tarun Madan


Holidayen product demo


Tnooz view

We have to agree with Holidayen on the fact that trip planning is very complex and time consuming. While this being the case, few travellers might enjoy doing it the hard way. On the other hand, for travellers who are in the need of a one-stop-place for end-to-end trip planning, Holidayen is for them.

While the opportunity for growth is high in the trip planning space, we summarise below the main issues to be addressed:

Content sourcing (and structuring it) for various destinations, activities, events, attractions Ability to book (also modify/cancel) all items in an itinerary in real-time, given the fact that the number of suppliers in a holiday package will be high Web-enabling all small activity/attraction providers across the globe

For a trip-planning startup to generate substantial revenue, eventually it will have to tap the transactions market.

Hotel and flight bookings are the easy issues to address. Holidayen has partnered with Expedia for hotel bookings. By the end of this year, Holidayen will roll out the ability to book sights and activities on its website.

The real complexity will kick in when trip planning startups start to generate revenue. But, once the formula is cracked, then there will be huge impact on the traditional tour operators and players who offer fixed-itinerary on their site. But, as we see, there is a long way to go.

Holidayen’s user interface is sleek, especially the itinerary customisation section works smooth and it is easy to understand. Having said that, user interfaces of competitors like Mygola and Traverik are equally challenging.


NB: TLabs Showcase is part of the wider TLabs project from Tnooz.

Original author: Karthick Prabu
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