We talked to Gregory Geny of BeRightBack about the travel industry and he had the following to say:-
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Gregory Geny: It’s been a complicated time, especially since our relatives are spread across France, Canada, and Portugal. Travel restrictions have made traveling a lot more difficult, so we’ve had to rely primarily on technology, and FaceTime calls to stay in touch with our friends and loved ones. But what truly matters is that my wife, our relatives, and my company staff are doing well.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded BeRightBack.
Gregory Geny: I started my career in digital marketing in the early 2000’s in the sports & fitness industry. I fell in love with digital and e-commerce, and following my move to London in 2004, I spent 4 years in the music industry working for Musicroom.com, the leading site for musicians in Europe (part of MusicSales Ltd).
I then moved to the travel industry and spent 7 years working for eviivo Ltd, a Property Management Software company working with 7,000+ independent hotels across the UK and acting as a booking system & channel manager by connecting them to 150+ OTAs.
After exiting the business in 2012, I went on to building a digital marketing agency for private equity firm Blenheim Chalcot before transitioning two years later to one of their Media business, Contentive Ltd, to digitize their B2B offering.
As I have always had an entrepreneurial mindset and am passionate about solving problems, I decided to build Smileo Ltd, a healthcare marketplace that aimed to put dental and facial aesthetics practitioners in control of their digital presence by connecting them to end consumers looking for treatments. The core platform was built in under a year, and I got a few thousand dental practitioners listed on the site. I ended up pitching the business to Founders Factory, an accelerator based in London, as I knew their COO, and he liked the platform, especially since Smileo was a subscription-based model.
While the concept was not aligned with Founder Factory’s investment thesis, we talked about my background in travel and subscription, both of which seemed incredibly relevant as travel is a big sector for them. We spent the following few months looking at the travel industry in detail and researching key travel trends. Through this process, we came up with the idea behind BeRightBack, which is essentially a travel subscription service that aims to remove all the hassle for travellers.
How does BeRightBack innovate?
Gregory Geny: BRB is the world’s first travel subscription service that delivers short surprise trips to European destinations, with flights and hotel included, for a fixed monthly subscription. Each trip is tailored to your personal travel preferences, so you’re always sure to tick a place that’s on your bucket list.
The company’s core thesis is very simple, and our aim is to create a win-win situation for both travellers and hoteliers.
On the consumer side, we have witnessed a hyper-fragmentation of the travel industry over the last 20 years, with thousands of travel brands competing for travelers’ attention. This resulted in customers spending over 10 hours researching and booking weekend breaks, a process that is usually spread over a couple of weeks.
And whilst customers are trying to decide where to go and where to stay, flight prices are rising. This is driven by limited availability the closer you are to your departure date, but also by the fact that travel companies use the information you have provided them with during your research phase to increase the price of your trip.
We felt the travel industry truly lacked customer-centricity. It’s a lose-lose situation for the consumer since they have to invest a considerable amount of time before booking a break and often end up paying more for the same trip, the dynamic nature of pricing in travel.
On the supply-side, both independent hotels and small hotel chains are over-reliant on OTAs to fill their rooms. Yet these platforms offer no guarantee on occupancy, and they have become more and more competitive over the years. Not to mention the fact that hoteliers often have to pay significant commissions on each booking (between 10% and 30%) and tend to suffer last-minute cancellations.
At BRB, we believe that this lack of supplier centricity from OTAs, combined with increased competition and large commission rates, should be the drivers for a major revamp of the travel space. This is why we are flipping the OTA model on its head. We do this in four simple steps that deliver value for all parties involved:
- User Profiling: We start the process by building an individual profile for each customer based on the data collected during the sign-up process. This allows us to understand who they are, the places they love, where they have been and want to go back, the airports they want to fly from, who they want to travel with or what an ideal weekend break for them looks like.
- Clustering: By leveraging the data provided by each customer during the sign-up process, we can build an understanding of the type of travellers they are and assess similarities/differences between each customer in our ecosystem. Through our automation and clustering methodology, we can cluster customers into meaningful groups, giving us a de-facto ‘buying power’. For example, by grouping ‘foodie’ travellers for whom gastronomy is an integral part of their travel experience.
- Product Matching: Finally, we match each cluster to the best possible European destination and hotel, with a view to maximizing customer satisfaction. For example, and keeping with the example of a foodie cluster, we may select Bologna as the most appropriate destination and one of our 4 star hotels due to its quirkiness, charm, and location.
This clustering approach is then leveraged to guarantee customers to our hotel partners 4+ months ahead of time. This approach gives hotels a better view of their forward occupancy/revenue without increasing their level of commission to get better rankings on OTA platforms. Best of all, we can also guarantee our partner hotels zero cancellation thanks to our’ locking mechanism’ on the consumer side.
So what we have done is build the next generation of travel brands, one that removes all the hassle for customers and that helps hoteliers fill their room ahead of time with guaranteed occupancy.
How the coronavirus pandemic affects your business, and how are you coping?
Gregory Geny: The Travel and Hospitality sector has been impacted heavily by the Covid-19 pandemic, so it’s fair to say that the last 8 months have been incredibly disruptive for the company. But thanks to the uniqueness of our business model, we have been able to protect a significant portion of our revenue as our customers love the brand and are still excited to save for their future trips.
Did you have to make difficult choices, and what are the lessons learned?
Gregory Geny: It goes without saying that the company has had to make difficult decisions over the last 8 months. What’s been particularly difficult is that our customers have been unable to travel due to the first and second phases of lockdown as well as travel restrictions across Europe.
But we’ve learnt that there is no point focusing on what you don’t control and that instead, you should focus on the two or three things that are likely to make a difference.
So we spent this time surveying our customers, looking at our product strategy and analyzing our offering to ensure that we were delivering against this concept of true customer-centricity. As a result of this self-reflection period, we have decided to update our narrative to tell a more compelling story, relaunch our website in Q1 next year, create a staycation product, and offer a more flexible service to our customers, including longer breaks.
How do you deal with stress and anxiety?
Gregory Geny: I’ve learnt that having a healthy lifestyle is the best way for me to combat stress and anxiety. So I start every single day with a workout, I go for a long walk at lunchtime to get some fresh air, and I also monitor my sleep to ensure I get 7-8 hours each night.
Who are your competitors? And how do you plan to stay in the game?
Gregory Geny: As a lifestyle brand, our main competitors aren’t travel sites but other subscription businesses that consumers may want to subscribe to. As their disposable income is finite, it’s about showing them the value of our service and the amazing experiences we will provide them with, against a gym membership, a food delivery service, or a beauty subscription box.
Your final thoughts?
Gregory Geny: Thank you for the opportunity to introduce BeRightBack and our travel subscription service to your audience.
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