TravTab wants to help people pay for the holidays of their dreams

10 Jul 2017

From left: TravTab founders Alan Masterson and Darren Murray. Image: TravTab

Our start-up of the week is TravTab, an app that helps people to book and pay for holidays in easy instalments.

TravTab is a B2B2C company which offers white-label mobile applications to travel agencies and tour operators,” explained co-founder Alan Masterson.

“Travel agencies and tour operators can then offer their customers a more safe, secure and streamlined mobile payment option.”

‘We envision TravTab being used by travel agencies worldwide’

Future Human

“Customers can download their travel agency’s app from either the iOS store or Google Play store to begin making payments off their holiday balance.”

Masterson explained that the idea of TravTab came about from a personal experience of booking a holiday to New York with his girlfriend for Christmas two years ago.

“Once I made the booking and began to make payments off my remaining balance, I quickly realised the total inconvenience around making payments off my booking. I was working full-time and kept having to leave the office for periods of time to ring my travel agency to make a payment, being stuck on hold and wasting my phone credit along with my time.

“I also had to make unwanted trips into my travel agency on the weekends to make some of my payments, which isn’t a great way to spend your day off work.

“TravTab eliminates all this. By using our app, you can have a payment made off your holiday booking in a matter of seconds. We want to change the total inconvenience around making payments off your holiday to having it as a quick, simple and a convenient process. As we are all aware of how busy people’s schedules are and little time people have to waste, ultimately, by using our app, it can save you a lot of time and money.”

The market

Masterson said the target market is two-pronged: consumers and travel agencies or tour operators.

“The opportunity is massive as traditional travel agencies and tour operators worldwide are up against huge online travel agencies. We want to arm our travel agencies and tour operators to compete with these guys by improving their IT offering to their customers.

“Everything is now mobile and mobile usage is continuing to grow at a rapid rate, with the payments industry playing a massive part in this. By travel agencies and tour operators offering their customers a mobile application, which facilitates a more streamlined and safe payment option, they can attract a much wider customer base while also retaining their current clientele.

“People in general love to go on holiday once, if not a few times, in a year’s period. However, not everyone can purchase the holiday they truly desire. Travel agencies can offer people the holiday they truly want by letting them book months in advance and providing them with their own app to let the customer pay off the balance at their own discretion up until the final due date.

“This results in a win-win situation: the travel agency has sold a holiday to a customer that might never have purchased the package before because of the big total cost, and now the customer is satisfied with their holiday option as they have the ability to pay how much and when they like. This is huge in terms of savings for the customer as they do not need to take bank loans, credit union loans or even use credit cards with huge APR rates. As a result of continuous instalment payments, the travel agency will generate a more steady cash flow, which, in turn, could reduce their own overdraft accounts while having a positive impact on their gross and net margins.”

Masterson said the company currently has its eye on the Irish and UK market but, in the long term, it plans to expand internationally into Europe and further afield.

The founders

Masterson has spent many years in different roles at IBM.

“During this time, the idea of TravTab was conceived and from there, the idea has developed into an established business along the way with my co-founder Darren Murray.”

Murray studied marketing in Dublin Institute of Technology, and also worked for IBM for several years.

“We both worked on the same team, which proved to be a massive plus when we started out on our journey with TravTab. At present, we are a two-man team who have established the company to date while securing major key strategic clients for TravTab and also successfully building our product version.”

The technology

The key is to make it simple for consumers to make payments and pay off their holiday.

On the user-facing side, the lead passenger will have to log into the app first using credentials, such as their booking reference and email address. Once completed, they will be brought to the main screen, which shows their total amount and balance due.

They can proceed to the menu and select the group management feature and add other members of the booking to the app, by inviting them using their email address. The other members will then receive a sign-up email containing their booking reference and app download links. People can add and remove their own debit, credit or American Express cards.

From the click of a button, the customer can make a one-off payment or schedule a payment on either a daily, weekly or monthly basis, from the day the first payment was made. They can cancel a scheduled payment by swiping left and pressing delete.

“Once the customer makes their payment, it is processed immediately. All funds are sent directly to the travel agency and we handle no money at all during the payment process,” Masterson explained.

Travel agencies will have their own TravTab dashboard with full visibility of customer and payment details.

“The ultimate goal for TravTab is to develop an app for customers with numerous value-adding features. When a travel agent’s customer books a holiday, we want our app to fulfil every single need of their expectations. We have a very exciting yet detailed product roadmap in place, which will roll out as we grow.

“We envision TravTab being used by travel agencies worldwide as the value and quality it offers can only better the end-to-end process of booking a holiday for both the travel agent and their customer.”

Trust and loyalty

Masterson explained that the founders’ patience is about to be rewarded.

“After many setbacks and speed bumps, the founders are finally at a stage in TravTab’s journey of launching a product with its first big client soon, so very exciting times.

“We have secured and signed big clients with massive presence including some well-known household brands. The beauty of operating as a white-label service with regards to sales is that our clients’ customers already have their trust and loyalty established with their travel agency, thus proving a more realistic and reliable customer acquisition strategy.

“We have raised initial funding to date from some well-known angel investors in the travel space and are currently raising our seed round of €500,000 from a mix of angels and institutional investors. We hope to close our seed round in the coming months.”

Full-time focus

Masterson said that there have been a number of challenges along the way since the company first started, “but none we couldn’t overcome.

“Myself and Darren both worked full-time, so working a full-time job whilst trying to establish a business most certainly had its challenges. Starting out, most of the work we had done on TravTab we had to conduct after hours of our day job and on weekends, but any important matters that arose whilst in the day job, we dealt with there and then. TravTab was more important to us.

“As time went on and we started to get busier, we both went part-time in our day jobs to focus more on the business but still having some financial security there to support us before finally going full-time with TravTab. We both initially funded and bootstrapped the company ourselves and took a big risk.

“But, to get anywhere in life, you need to take risks and seize the opportunity that’s in front of you. There were always challenges when we started and there always will be challenges along the way. The trick is, no one knows everything. You just need to remain calm and learn as you go while trusting yourself to make the correct decisions.”

A vibrant scene

“I think the start-up scene is great and extremely vibrant here in Dublin,” Masterson said.

“It can definitely be a great benefit to people if it is used in the correct manner. Both myself and Darren are more TravTab-focused at present; we are currently launching with our first client, so our time for start-up events is limited.

“We only attend events that will be of value to us personally or for TravTab. When attending the right events, they can prove to be very valuable, especially networking-wise. You never know who you might bump into.”

Masterson said two words are important to founders: patience and persistence.

“When I started, I was told a great piece of advice: ‘Everything will take longer and will cost more’. And it couldn’t have been truer for us on our journey.

“You have to enjoy the process and acknowledge that success does not happen overnight nor might it happen in one, two or even three years for that matter.

“During the journey, you have to be mentally prepared for the best and the worst – some days are fantastic while others prove to be very stressful and demanding. Also, the term success is relevant. As a start-up, take note of the small milestones and wins but don’t ever become complacent. Keep pushing on and eventually, all those small wins will add up.

“When you start out, you are a nobody. As harsh as this sounds, you have to accept this. You can’t get deterred if you receive no responses from emails, calls or even follow-ups from meetings; you have to persist and figure out what you can do better or what value you can bring to get what you want, whether it’s a meeting with a potential client, investor or an industry expert for advice.”

Masterson concluded: “Just do not stop. And be brazen and, most of all, be yourself – people will respect your honesty.”

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John Kennedy is a journalist who served as editor of Silicon Republic for 17 years