With the rise of instant messenger, a Danish entrepreneur has designed a website that acts as the middle man between tour operators and customers – giving them the means to chat about the booking online.
Bookmundi, founded by Rasmus Juul-Olsen, is an instant messenger for travel.
Customers can search the site as they would any other comparison site, typing in their destination and can either book there and then or continue the conversation with someone via a chat service in the mould of Facebook Messenger.
“We give customers an overview of all available tours,” said Juul-Olsen, Bookmundi’s CEO. “We allow them to book the tour via an easy interface at no additional cost by putting them in direct contact with the operator.
“We are an entry point if you are looking at booking a package tour online and you don’t want to visit loads of websites.”
Juul-Olsen says his research shows that the typical online travel shopper browses more than 40 websites before making a choice. His vision is that instead of visiting 40, customers will go straight to Bookmundi when looking for a tour, just as many people looking for a flight might head to Skyscanner instead of looking at multiple airline websites direct.
The online chat offers the personal touch.
“For the big operators we are the intermediary,” Juul-Olsen explains. “Our customer service team manage that. But medium and small operators can use the platform to talk directly to their potential customers.
“We connect the dots, getting the customer to the right travel expert so they can get the right package.”
Using commercial agreements, Juul-Olsen says Bookmundi prices are never more expensive than going directly to the supplier.
“If a customer is looking for a particular tour, they can contact us and we will help them and connect them with a travel agent or tour operator, automatically connecting the customer with the right company,” Juul-Olsen added. “We quickly get to know which companies are good in this particular area.”
The key to Bookmundi’s model is scale and Juul-Olsen stressed it is independent, not favouring one operator over any other.
“We can pinpoint the right operators, whether they want high-end we can match them with a luxury operator or if they’re looking for something cheaper we can point them in the right direction.”
The process is currently manual, but Bookmundi is currently developing technology to automatically match customers to tour operators, which should be live in the coming months.
Currently, its main markets are Nepal and the USA and has over 300 listings for each country. It also features a lot of Italy, Tanzania and Vietnam among tours in 120 countries.
Tour operators can even tailor-make a package for a customer through the direct link if listed tours aren’t exactly what they want.
“Instead of leaning back, you lean forward and approach the customer,” Juul-Olsen said. “Tour operators are travel consultants – they are the experts – so we put them in touch and they can make that tour specifically for that customer.”
But what about the endless fight to own the customer between intermediaries and tour operators?
Juul-Olsen insists they are not trying to own the customer. He added: “We are not trying to stop people going direct. If the customer wants to go direct that’s fine by us. What we bring is the easy overview and easy booking.
“We also give them a human to talk to online. It’s difficult to spend £4,000 online when you’ve not spoken to anyone directly, especially if it’s a lesser known operator.”
Bookmundi’s focus on Nepal is in part due to Juul-Olsen’s background, and his own travels.
A finance graduate from the University of Copenhagen, he previously worked for shipping firm Maersk and took time out to travel Asia.
On a trekking tour to Nepal he said he found “more than 1,000” trekking operators “some with licences and some not”.
“You don’t have the security that you are going to get the right company,” he said. “And that was the motivation for me to create a website where all the tours are fully licenced and you can judge on price without having that worry.”
Bookmundi was born out of Trekbooking.com, which launched in 2012 as a trekking-only site of the same concept, and if you visit that site it will now re-direct you to Bookmundi.
He amalgamated Trekbooking.com into Bookmundi because he felt it was too niche a product.
“If you want to win online, you have to be big,” says Juul-Olsen. He has big plans ahead.