Startups

Travel startups say Omicron disruption creates opportunity

Executives of startups offering services like flexible booking, apartment stays and contactless hotel check-in say business is holding up so far.

“Strangely enough, Omicron and [travel] the changes and cancellations created a lot of opportunities, ”said Henley Vazquez, managing director and co-founder of travel agency Fora. The company, launched this year, aims to bring the travel agency into the digital age, helping people sell travel, whether as part of a full-time job or in their spare time.

Ms Vazquez said Fora, whose legal name is Greenwich & Warren Inc., generated more revenue than expected in December. About 20 to 30 percent of Fora customers, most of whom are in the United States, have canceled their travel plans in the past two weeks, Ms. Vazquez said, many of them worried they would get stranded at the foreigner due to a positive Covid-19 test. But “hardly any of them ended up staying at home,” she said, most having changed bookings to domestic destinations and paying top dollar for last-minute accommodation.

Even the wave of flight cancellations in the United States hasn’t deterred Fora customers, Ms. Vazquez said, with some taking advantage of refundable fares and booking multiple flights just in case one is canceled.

“The demand is there and the travelers are stubborn as hell and they want to go somewhere,” Ms. Vazquez said. At the same time, she added, “it has never been so confusing to travel” so people are turning to travel agents for help. navigate pandemic restrictions and other travel surprises. Some of Fora’s new agents were able to start generating business faster than Ms. Vazquez anticipated this month, as they helped find alternatives for friends whose plans changed because of Omicron.

Fora raised a $ 5 million funding round led by Forerunner Ventures earlier this year.

The performance of hotels in the United States overall was higher in the week ended December 18 than in the same week in 2019, before the pandemic, according to the latest data from the data provider of the United States. STR hotel industry. In the United States, the occupancy rate was 53.8% for the week and the average daily rate was $ 121.87, up 7.7% and 11.6% from 2019, respectively, according to STR.

The increase in the number of Omicron cases has had a limited negative effect on the operations of TUSEN House Inc., a startup founded in 2017 that manages approximately 2,000 short-term rental apartments in the United States. before their stay.

All but two of TUSEN House’s 15 U.S. markets saw steady activity in December, said Will Lucas, founder and CEO of the company.

The outliers were New York, where occupancy rates fell to 60% amid cancellations, and Denver, where occupancy fell to 54%, he said. Mr Lucas said that prior to Omicron, TUSEN House expected occupancy in those cities to be 70% or more this month.

Overall, TUSEN House’s revenue in 2021 has quadrupled from 2020 levels, Lucas said. The pandemic has reshaped the way people work and travel in ways that have benefited the company, the CEO said. People who work remotely, for example, spend a few days around a weekend, while working part of that time, which drives demand for apartment stays, he said.

“The way the world is moving in response to Covid is perfectly aligned with the product that we offer. It has been a great year for us, ”said Mr. Lucas.

TUSEN House has raised around $ 50 million from venture capitalists including Revolution Ventures, the company founded by AOL co-founder Steve Case, as well as Ingleside Investors and NextView Ventures.

Kasa Living Inc., a startup founded in 2016 that offers contactless check-in at the hotels and apartments it manages in approximately 45 metropolitan areas across the United States, has not seen a drop in demand within Omicron. , said Roman Pedan, co-founder and head of Kasa. executive.

Even the Duffy, its Midtown Manhattan location, where some Broadway shows have been canceled, maintained over 80% occupancy this month, he said, with average rates hitting around $ 198. in December compared to about $ 163 in November.

Kasa Living has also received more inquiries from hotel owners who are rocked by the continued uncertainty of Covid-19 and are looking for another company to manage their properties. This helps Kasa sign new real estate deals, the CEO said. The company operates properties on behalf of owners and typically pays owners a portion of the revenue from guest bookings. It has raised around $ 56 million from investors such as Ribbit Capital, Zigg Capital, FirstMark Capital and others, according to data provider Crunchbase.

Even if the pandemic continues, people want to travel, said Pedan.

“People are starting to look to: How can I move my life forward while trying to reduce my overall risk?” He said.

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“The demand is there and the travelers are stubborn as hell and they want to go somewhere,” Ms. Vazquez said. At the same time, she added, “it has never been so confusing to travel” so people are turning to travel agents for help. navigate pandemic restrictions and other travel surprises. Some of Fora’s new agents were able to start generating business faster than Ms. Vazquez anticipated this month, as they helped find alternatives for friends whose plans changed because of Omicron.

Source: https://www.theusexpressnews.com/travel-startups-say-omicron-disruption-creates-opportunity/

Donovan Larsen

Donovan is a columnist and associate editor at the Dark News. He has written on everything from the politics to diversity issues in the workplace.

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