The Friday Interview: Ray Nolan, Boo.com


22 Jun 2007

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This week’s interviewee is Ray Nolan (pictured), CEO of trevel site Boo.com, which has been bought by Hostelworld.com.

Your company already has successful travel sites like Hostelworld.com. Why did you launch another in the form of Boo.com?

Hostelworld is a well-established brand with a niche of its own. The rationale of developing Boo was that for a lot of our customers, once they see out their hostelling days, we have nothing to offer them.

If they liked what they saw on Hostelworld they should like what they see on Boo.

Why are consumers relying on the travel reviews of online strangers on Boo.com over the traditional travel agent?

My personal view is that back in the day when travel agents used to go on junkets and visit half the hotels that they sold, they would have a valued opinion on those destinations.

Nowadays the margins aren’t there so many travel agents don’t have an opinion except what’s presented to them.

With online reviews people have been there, they’ve had their experiences and they’re as well placed as anybody else to write their opinions on what they thought of a property, destination or airline.

Boo.com is a famous victim of the dotcom decline in the late Nineties. Why did you pick this name for your new travel site?

We picked it because it grabbed the public’s attention. We knew what we were getting, as much bad as good, but hopefully in three or four months’ time people will think of Boo as synonymous with online travel.

If you can tear yourself away from the history of it, the reality is that it’s short, it’s onomatopoeic, it’s cool and it works across languages. It does everything that a domain name should do.

You said that Boo is constantly improving its site design; do you have any new plans?

We will soon be launching a flight search engine that will have flight comparison. You’ll be able to see, simultaneously, all the airlines that fly out of Dublin and their destinations. It’ll be one of the first sites that will have all the timetables, all the flights and all the prices.

This is usually done by the people who are selling the flights directly to you, and their interface can be complicated because they are stretching the last advertising dollar out of it.

Instead of selling to you, Boo is trying to put you in a position to buy.

What is Hostelworld’s global reach?

We probably have about 55,000 properties online. There was a very logical need for the existence of Hostelworld and I think we were lucky in that the web was so nascent at the time.

Everybody was fishing up at the top, trying to sell four and five star hotels at huge commissions per booking and we were trying to make booking hostels so efficient that it made sense for hostels to take bookings online.

The per-transaction commission we make pales into insignificance compared to some of the hotel transactions that happen out there. We provide the property management system that makes sure that every bed is sold.

By Marie Boran