Sramana Mitra: Between 2005 and 2015, there’s a ten-year journey. Can you highlight for us some of the major strategic moves that really helped your business propel forward?
Tim Hentschel: The years between 2005 and 2008 were very interesting because we had two competitors. One was Group Travel Planet and the other was Groupe. Groupe had the Travelocity contract. We had the Priceline contract, and the Group Travel Planet had the Orbitz contract. Group Travel Planet and Groupe went for the more traditional venture capital while we were the bootstrapped type. At that point, we were more lean and mean. When the economy went south after the real estate bubble burst, those two companies were already on their Round D’s, the funding dried up, and both companies went out of business.
Sramana Mitra: Were you able to get Orbitz and Travelocity?
Tim Hentschel: Correct. That’s basically what ended up happening. Then when we had Orbitz, Travelocity, Priceline, and Kayak, we had such a strong position in the market. By 2010, Expedia starting talking to us about doing their group travel as well. We eventually did have an agreement with them and had all online travel agencies using us for group bookings.
In 2012, I opened up the headquarters in London and Bruce took over operations for us in North America. From then on, we’ve been growing aggressively out here in Europe. I’m based out of London now. Our headquarters in Palm Beach has been growing very rapidly. In 2013, we moved our West Coast office from San Diego to Las Vegas because Las Vegas is our number one city destination in the world. Then in 2014, we opened offices on Hong Kong to help facilitate the Asian expansion as well. It’s been very rapid growth in the last five years for us.
Sramana Mitra: What kind of volume do you do in terms of number of hotel rooms perhaps? What metrics do you track?
Tim Hentschel: We have total number of hotel reservations. One of the big ones for us is the number of group requests we do a day. Right now, it’s between 2,000 to 3,000 groups a day. Our business model is definitely in the economy of scale. If we do under 1,000 leads a day, we’ll lose money.
What makes us unique is that all of our planners that help our groups find the best accommodations are on our payroll and they’re all localized. If you plan a group in New York, you speak with somebody who’s based in New York. If you’re going to Paris, you’ll speak with somebody based in Paris. Since all of these people are regionalized, we need to make sure that our volume stays high in order to cover all those overhead. On the flipside, the consumer gets a great product because there are no fees to use the system but they get to speak with somebody local to help them arrange everything for free.