One of the hardest parts of every vacation is figuring out the best place to stay. There are various factors to consider before booking accommodations — proximity to tourist attractions, spacious rooms, a balcony with a view, included amenities, good sheets — and the list goes on. Of course, the number one thing that keeps us from booking that hotel we really want is the hefty price tag. Luxury doesn’t come cheap…but it might come discounted thanks to Tripscout‘s latest product launch.
Tripscout, a social media travel empire that’s amassed more than 30 million followers across its many Instagram profiles, has introduced quite possibly the best travel hack to come along in a long time. Now, you can get insanely discounted hotel rates through just a simple DM. All you need to do is send the Instagram account @hotel a direct message saying “hotel.” Within seconds you’ll receive a personalized link serving up hotel discounts around the world for as much as 75% off.
To learn more about how Tripscout’s new hotel booking platform actually works and how it can save travelers money, we spoke with Tripscout’s founder, Konrad Waliszewski. Read on for everything you need to know before booking your next hotel.
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Can you start by explaining exactly what the new Tripscout hotel booking platform is?
We’re building the first hotel booking platform for Instagram, and there are two really interesting components to this. One is the fact that we realized a long time ago that people search on Instagram for their travel inspiration and travel planning, long before anywhere else. We wanted to update the whole experience of how people plan and book travel, which is a more social media experience. The second thing is that there’s something really interesting in the industry. The interesting thing about the travel industry is every online travel agent and booking website and hotel website are all bound by these price parity agreements where everyone has to publicly advertise the same hotel rooms for the exact same rate.
That’s why everyone has the same room at the same price. But the key nuance that we tapped into is that you have to ‘publicly’ advertise that rate. Privately, as long as you’re an OTA, you can charge whatever you want for that room. What we realized is that we could become an OTA and have a direct message channel with 30 million followers across our accounts that are growing at 2 million followers a month. So we realized we could give people really compelling hotel deals by giving them a private booking link. So it’s a booking link that takes them to a booking website that’s exactly what they’re familiar with.
It’s like everyone else, except this booking link is personal and it can’t be shared and can’t be indexed by a search engine. So it’s your own link and has basically every hotel in the world, but with thousands of them being 25% to 75% off. We’ve decided we can pass pretty much all the savings back to the traveler. By DMing the account @hotel and sending the word “hotel,” you’ll get that personal link. It basically allows you to book hotels with a massive discount compared to what you’d find anywhere else, including the hotel website.
What else makes the new Tripscout platform stand out among other booking sites?
The social media angle for sure. But the main thing is just the fact of how much people can save because we’re able to deliver you these over DM, as opposed to just an open website. Especially right now, hotel prices are just skyrocketing. When we like really dug into our customers and our followers, we found that everyone wants to travel more. But the number one barrier to doing that is it’s just expensive. We wanted to find a way to help people travel better and travel more and spend less and do it at scale. That kind of put us on this long journey, which was the product that we ended up building.
We want people to be able to spend less and be able to travel more. How do you save some money on the hotel you’re going to book, but how do you then book those hotels that you find on Instagram that you really dream about that you just never thought you could afford? Because of our huge social reach, we were able to work with thousands of hotels and suppliers in order to give those crazy deals because they wanted access to our audience
We work with a bunch of different suppliers, so we pull in the best discounts on our website. That is compared to the best available rate publicly — what you would expect if you went to a hotel website or you went to any of those other really famous booking sites that everyone goes to. We are comparing it constantly to them. For some rooms, we have the same price. But for many of them, we’ll offer 50% off. Wow. And then we’ll have a couple of dozen that will be 25% to 50% off. You can almost always just end up finding a better rate and we’ll tell you what the market rate is compared to our price.
Do you have any specific tips for first-time users of the platform and how they can make the most of it?
The biggest tip is just flexibility. Just go to @hotel, DM the word ‘hotel,’ and explore whatever destination and dates are on your mind. Right now people have more flexibility than ever. The problem that most people have when booking travel is they pick a specific place and then they pick a specific date and then they try to find a flight and a hotel that match that exact time and place. What I’d actually say is just like play around with it, look at the places that you have on your list, and ask yourself, ‘where do I want to go?’ Because right now people have like so much more flexibility.
There’s a chance that you could go somewhere for longer, and you don’t even have to take a vacation. You could just go work remotely from that place. I would say play around and look at what’s available. Then I’d also look at flights. You can find those places that you’re like, ‘oh man, I’ve always wanted to go here.’ And then you just happen to find that there was this crazy 60% off deal for this really incredible place on the beach with this great view, and back into it that way. I would recommend that people just not pigeonhole themselves into a specific place and specific time. Browse around and see what’s possible.
I’ve been testing it and it really is a great travel hack. Why should people be excited to use this in the future?
When we were running our tests, people were blown away. They’re like, ‘I’m going here for a few days and I just saved $300 or $500.’ I think it’s the best travel hack that has come around in a long time. It’s probably the best way to save money on travel. There is this nuanced legacy in the travel industry, which is all dominated by a few companies that have been doing the exact same thing since the invention of the internet. And they haven’t really changed that model. The reason that becomes really expensive is that not a lot of people do it.
And then two, they have to spend a lot of money on advertising. Booking.com and Expedia together spend 12 billion a year. Wow. So a lot of their profit margin goes to just paying for advertising. We don’t pay for advertising because of social media. We have 30 million followers growing at a rate of over 2 million followers per month. We’re not gonna spend that money. We’re just gonna keep growing organically and pass all that savings to the customer. It’s a pretty new way of doing things. I’m hoping that people end up traveling a lot more and traveling a lot better while spend spending a lot less.
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What inspired you to start Tripscout in the first place? And what has the journey of growing it so immensely over the past few years been like?
I’m a repeat entrepreneur, but travel was always my passion and obsession. I’ve traveled to 100 countries. I had a travel blog in the very early days of blogging and I don’t do it anymore, but I got deeply plugged into the travel industry and the travel community and I became friends with a lot of really big, early creators. I just saw a real fundamental shift happening with our society’s relationship to travel — why we travel, how we travel, what we hope to get out of the experience, and how we share those experiences with our friends. All that looks radically different over the last 10 to 15 years. But if you look at every single travel product and service you use, nothing has changed in over 20 years. Maybe with the exception of taking an Uber from the airport or booking an Airbnb.
I thought that we could create something for the modern traveler built for a modern time. We started building products and I ended up giving my personal cell phone number to the first 250,000 customers. I was like, “Hey, anytime you’re traveling, text me, call me, email me anytime. If you’re traveling, there’s a chance I’ve been, I’m happy to be helpful.” Through that, I learned so much about how people were planning trips and what their pain points were. That was one of the reasons we saw people search on Instagram before they did anything else. When it came to planning a trip, they went and typed in a destination into Instagram to get visual inspiration.
We basically pioneered the science of SEO for Instagram and built a hundred different brands. We’ve built a community around that. We’ve partnered with a bunch of creators and ended up building this 30 million follower community. Once we did that and we helped people have all these experiences and planned trips, we realized there’s so much value in traveling. Travel has changed peoples’ lives and opened their minds and made them better people, and given them really cool, fun experiences. Then we asked, why don’t you travel more?
So we knew that finding a way to make it more affordable would be the next big step. To double-tap into the affordability, people were seeing these really cool spots on Instagram, but so many people just couldn’t actually book those places. We wanted to find a better way. We had a really smart team working on it for a while until we came up with this approach.