Soft launch for Culture Trip OTA

UK: London-based media and content start-up Culture Trip has announced a soft launch for its OTA platform.

The company, which last year raised $80 million to develop a travel business, has started the roll out of booking capability integrated into its curated content.

A soft launch went live this week with a “contextualised” accommodation-only booking experience being offered to users consuming articles and content related to 12 destinations.

Culture Trip is using Codegen’s TravelBox system in the back end. The front-end user experience has been developed in-house to ensure it fits with Culture Trip’s mission to empower users to discover the world through its articles, imagery, videos and animation.

Andy Washington, senior vice president of travel at Culture Trip, said the company wants to remain true to its content-based approach: “We have helped you understand what’s special and unique about the world, now we want to help you to book to see it. A lot of people come to us with the intent to read a story or article and find themselves looking at a destination. It’s all about what can I do, show me how I can do and experience all these things. That inspires the reader and then they will go and book their travel needs. A lot of people will tell you how to book a destination but very few tell why you should go there in the first place.”

Culture Trip will offer specially curated content from local writers about the range of accommodation it will offer.

The site will provide generic content, like check-in times and Wi-Fi availability, but Washington said it will give “a more human touch” telling a story about that particular property. “We are giving property owners a completely different approach which is not about price or rate. We give them something about what makes them special,” he said. “We are going to learn a lot from this, hence we are going out with a soft launch on some destinations.”

The company initially aims to scale up the number of destinations it offers hotel bookings for to 40 and 10,000 properties, from the 120 in 12 destinations it launched this week with.

“When you go into a good travel agent they start to build a relationship with you and explore things with you, they don’t just chuck a brochure at you and expect you to come back,” Washington said. “In the same way, we are here to inspire, to help you discover what’s special and unique around the world. What are the right properties for you, what’s the right flight, or package or trip. Culture Trip is built off relationship and trust and that will run through the OTA. That’s more important than coming in with a new booking engine just to make some money. Of course, there are commercial plans behind it, we are a business. But what we will not be doing it throwing this in front of you at every step. The opportunity is bigger if we are not pushy.”

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