We talked to Simone Semprini of TourScanner’s, a tours and activities price comparison site. This is what he said:
First of all, how are you and your family doing in these COVID-19 times?
Simone Semprini: I am doing well. I have not caught by the virus yet.
My entire family got the COVID-19 some weeks ago, but without having strong symptoms. All of them recovered very well.
Tell us about you, your career, how you founded TourScanner.
Simone Semprini: I graduated in Engineering and worked in tech companies for a few years. Then, I started TourScanner with our current founding team, composed of Guillaume Picard and Joseph Dimucci and I.
In the beginning, we self-funded the business for half a year, and then we joined the NCA accelerator program in Hamburg, which provided pre-seed funding. From 2019, the business was profitable, and we could self-fund our growth.
How does TourScanner innovate?
Simone Semprini: We have created a meta-search engine specialized in tours and activities. TourScanner works very similarly to Kayak, Trivago or Skyscanner, but it focuses on tours, attraction tickets and outdoor activities. We have connected around 20 online travel agencies specialized in tours and activities, like Viator, GetYourGuide, Musement, Groupon, etc. Travelers can search and compare through their entire catalog of products and can book at the best price.
How does the coronavirus pandemic affect your business finances?
Simone Semprini: The pandemic has been affecting our business since the outbreak in Europe in February-March 2020. The travel bans applied by most of the countries in the world prevented people from traveling. Therefore, our sales volume quickly dropped drastically, and we were forced to reduce our costs as much as possible.
Of course, since the pandemic is still among us, the demand for travel products is still below the value of 2019. However, the United States is leading the recovery of the travel sector, and we see positive growth of the demand.
Did you have to make difficult choices regarding human resources, and what are the lessons learned?
Simone Semprini: When the COVID-19 appeared in Europe in February-March 2020, we were interviewing the first employees to hire in our companies. We soon realized that the pandemic was going to affect our finances for a long time, so we had to suspend the hiring plan. We were also collaborating with several freelancers, and we had to suspend the collaborations for several months.
How did your customer relationship management evolve? Do you use any specific tools to be efficient?
Simone Semprini: Our customers are online travel agencies, and we often have meetings to discuss priorities and optimizations. We were already making all the meetings in video calls and documents in digital format. Therefore, the COVID didn’t change the way we worked since we were already used to work with online tools.
Did you benefit from any government grants, and did that help keep your business afloat?
Simone Semprini: Yes, we have received some small supports from the government. Unfortunately, for companies in the tourism business that saw the turnover dropping by 80% for over a year, the supports are just a little help.
Your final thoughts?
Simone Semprini: We are seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. We see very positive signs from the final customers. People are greedy to start traveling as soon as the conditions improve. Therefore, we are very optimistic about the future of leisure travel.
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