Welcome Pickups CEO Alex Trimis on reducing travel “friction”

Greece: ShortTermRentalz spoke to the CEO of travel mobility service Welcome Pickups, Alex Trimis, about the gap in the market for creating a “personalised, complete travel experience” and reducing the “friction” of airport transfer arrangements.

  • Please introduce yourself, the Welcome Pickups brand and the services you provide in the short-term rental industry.

“My name is Alex Trimis and I am the founder and CEO at Welcome Pickups. I am a Stanford Engineering Graduate with product experience at Survey Monkey, Upwork and others.

“At Welcome Pickups, we are seeking to redefine the way people travel by offering them the most personalised and complete travel experience. From the moment our customers step into a new destination, till they get back home, we provide them with the warmest, most informative and friendliest transfer from and to the airport or port, equip them with all the necessary products they will need during their trip (sim card, tickets etc.), as well as stand by them for any information they need.

“Until now, Welcome has serviced over one million travellers in 51 destinations and has an average NPS of +90. Consistent with its mission to redefine the in-destination travel experience, Welcome is set to operate in 60 destinations by the end of 2019.

A Welcome driver picking up travellers from the airport

“In the accommodation space, we are partnering with more than 1300 hotels and 60,000 hotel rooms, and we are now expanding to the short-term rental side, acting as the “lobby” of the apartment, and taking out all the operational hassle of checking in and out guests.

“We pick up the customer from the airport with English-speaking drivers offering a five-star service and mini-tour of the destination, inform automatically the host about estimated time of arrival and other customer details, and make sure that the traveller is safely checked in. Furthermore, we offer an interactive dashboard to the host or company where they can view all information, create more operational automations that further decrease the friction of running a rental, and help them discover additional revenue opportunities.”

  • What was your motivation for setting up the company in the first place and why have you now decided to branch into the short-term rental space?

“Our goal is to make the first and last mile at the destination as frictionless, stress-free and personalised as possible, so the travel experience can start from the very first moment.

“As we become the go-to solution for this part, we are going to branch out and improve the overall in-destination experience for travellers as we work closely with our partners in the accommodation space and beyond. We see a big gap in a global level in what we do, and we are creating the category leader of our vertical.

“Short-term rentals have a huge problem that can be addressed with what we are offering. With no reception or front desk, rentals are losing a lot of potential customers who value convenience and keep their current customer base unsatisfied.

“With Welcome’s solution, short-term rentals can match the ease and comfort of arriving or departing from a hotel, without doing anything themselves, or spending any money.”

  • How, as a commoditised transfer service, do you seek to enhance the guest experience in a way that no other company is currently doing in the market?

“The point is exactly that, we are not a commoditised transfer service. We take a simple offering (the airport transfer) and through operational excellence and business innovation, we are transforming it to a travel experience.

“The moment you book your rental, you are automatically prompted through a flow to pre-book and pre-pay your pickup and complete a traveller profile.

“Before arriving, you get informed who the driver will be (photo, name, WhatsApp etc.) and you can also pre-order travel essentials (sim cards, tickets etc.).

An Extra service provided by Welcome

“Once landed, you get informed if your Welcomer (driver) has arrived and is waiting for you at the exit gate. He welcomes you, gives you a bag with a bottle of water, city map, and any pre-ordered essentials and takes you to the car.

“During the ride and based on the travel profile you shared, he is performing a mini tour on things you could do or see during your visit, while answering any questions you might have. After the ride, you can book your Welcomer for a sightseeing ride to see the highlights of the city or a nearby landmark, and you stay synced for advice and travel tips.

“On the host side, we have created an interactive dashboard for mobile and desktop, where you see all your guest information (including the travel profile), see the details of the Welcomer who will service them, get pinged about delays or other last minute changes, as well as live track your traveller as they arrive at your property. You get prompted for potential revenue opportunities (early check-ins, late checkouts, travelling with babies etc.) and can manage all the commissions you earn while doing nothing.

The Welcome Pickups Partner Dashboard

“Welcome Pickups is actually giving you a free and very important differentiation card vs competition, while we solve your operational problems, give you more data, create extra revenue and offer a +90 NPS service.”

  • What demographics are you looking to target with your offerings, whether it is transfer services, travel products, tickets or experiences?

“On the traveller side, we see a lot of middle class Westerners (USA, UK, Australia) and Europeans using the service (another benefit of Welcome is that it is priced close to a taxi from the line price), especially the ones who travel for leisure with their significant other, family, or the ones who travel solo.

“We believe the service will be a must as we add more driver languages for the Chinese, Arab and Indian middle class who has started travelling more heavily. Welcome is democratising good service and is turning any destination to be easily accessible by any traveller.

“On the accommodation/ partner side, our sweet spot are smart hotel managers or property managers who see Welcome as an added tool to improve operations, make an extra revenue and offer a five-star service. Usually, property managers of 20+ properties appreciate further our service as operations get more complex.”

  • Are you noticing any shifts in traveller preferences or the way in which they travel to and from their short-term rentals?

“Travellers nowadays are becoming more and more averse to friction. They are looking to travel more and to the furthest of places as airfares are becoming cheaper, but at the same time they want to travel with the maximum convenience.

“Choosing a short-term rental gives more “colour” to the trip and makes it more authentic, but at the same time adds more complexity and friction.

“In order to comfort the arrival and departure pains, the modern traveller is usually relying to ride-hailing solutions, which as we have seen are neither made for airports nor do they have a travel focus. Welcome is offering a similar-priced but ten times better service that is made for travel and works for both sides (guests and hosts).”

  • What do you see for the future expansion of Welcome Pickups? Do you have any particular priorities you would like to achieve in 2020?

“Welcome Pickups has three areas of focus as we are looking at 2020 and beyond:

• Destinations: We are currently at 50 destinations and we plan to be to at least 100 by end of 2020 covering most European destinations and main global travel hubs.
• Partnerships: We are looking to reach to at least 150,000 partnering hotel rooms and 30,000 short-term rental rooms by end of the year. Hopefully short-term rentals can surprise us and get to much higher numbers through smart host acquisition. At the same time, we are exploring and initiating bigger partnerships with OTAs, airlines and other partner verticals.
• Product and Experience: We keep improving our product experience for travellers and partners with many more features and data utilisation, as well as improving further the actual offline travel experience.

“Overall, we are looking to accelerate further growth, service millions of travellers and become the category leader of in-destination travel in the years to come.”

For more information, visit the Welcome Pickups website here.