We talked to Drago Maximov of DiscountFlights.com on the impact of COVID-19 on traveling.
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Drago Maximov: We’re extremely fortunate that everyone at DiscountFlights.com and our families is safe. We are all doing our parts in helping to slow the spread of COVID-19 to keep our family healthy while keeping our families afloat economically.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded DiscountFlights.com.
Drago Maximov: Almost two decades ago, I started investing in premium travel domain names. DiscountFlights.com was one. Since I enjoy traveling, I decided to build a portal to save people time when planning and booking travel. We wanted to provide tools for travelers to easily find the fastest and easiest ways to fly from point A to point B. Rather than searching airline and online travel agency websites, users only need to search one site to see all available flight times and airline tickets. The site would also allow people to choose the most convenient flight, not just the cheapest. That’s how DiscountFlights.com was born.
How does DiscountFlights.com innovate?
Drago Maximov: People generally use DiscountFlights.com at the start of the travel booking process –for inspiration or to explore their travel options.
After deciding on their destinations, then we present the real-time availability of flights so that the traveler can compare and purchase tickets. We continue to develop new features and focusing on improving user experience by always optimizing our platform.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Drago Maximov: I obviously would have answered this question differently if it was the start of the year when the future looked brighter, and most of the world hadn’t heard of COVID-19.
It’s been a difficult time for us, but I think, and hope, we’ve made it through the toughest period. We can start to look at the future again with the plans we had in January. In the meantime, we’ve built and launched our sister portal, www.BusinessFlights.com. This will complement our also brand new hotel website, www.BusinessHotels.com, which has started accepting reservations.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Drago Maximov: When COVID-19 hit, searches tanked, and our revenue dropped by almost 90%. We did not have a huge workforce, so we didn’t have to lay off any staff, but we had to make some drastic marketing cuts. We know this will eventually pass, and things will get back to normal.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety? How do you project yourself and DiscountFlights.com in the future?
Drago Maximov: The road to success of a young startup company will always be full of stress and anxiety. Fortunately, we are 100% private and self-funded, and we don’t have to worry about answering to investors like a lot of funded startups.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Drago Maximov: They are few – Kayak, Wego, Mobissimo, FareCompare for Flights
HotelTonight, SnapTravel, Hotels.com, and soon probably all major business travel conglomerates for accommodations for our new www.BusinessHotels.com.
We’ll look to the future with our fingers on the pulse of new technologies and the latest trends. This will help us achieve our goals of improving performance and user experience, as well as giving travelers the best choices.
Your final thoughts?
Drago Maximov: People will always travel. Right after 9/11, travel stood at a standstill, and people couldn’t imagine getting on a plane again. But the travel industry rebounded in no time. Both business and leisure travel were back to their highest peaks after less than a year. I have all the confidence that travel will come back.
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