It’s been a tough couple of years for tourism businesses; if a global pandemic and closed borders weren’t enough, the continual rise of third-party booking platforms and their grip on customers have made life even more difficult for operators.
Wandora, a Melbourne-based startup recently invested in by Antler, is working to even the playing field by helping booking-based businesses reclaim their customer data and increase direct bookings through an innovative new SaaS product.
Having worked for some of the world’s biggest travel sites, founder Dan Baird saw firsthand the mixed impacts booking platforms could have on small tourism operators.
Baird felt the pendulum had swung too far in favour of the booking platforms and founded Wandora to help business owners reclaim their customers and profits by optimising their direct channels for maximum conversion and trust.
“Wandora is on a mission to restore the connection between owner and customer,” he says.
“While apps like UberEats and sites like Amazon are incredibly convenient, often we are unaware of the negative impact they have on the end businesses.
“Especially in the tourism space, platforms like Booking.com, Viator and Expedia charge massive commissions, so if you’re a small operator, you’re losing around 20-30% per booking which is a lot of lost revenue.
“They’re good for acquisition, but what it means is that they really lose that direct connection with the customer and they are essentially competing for their own bookings.
“We believe customers ultimately want to support small business and book direct but poor discovery, confusing website navigation and lack of easy booking make it hard.”
Baird says one of the biggest challenges is getting time with tourist business operators.
“We’re dealing with small business owners who are generally very time poor and are constantly being sold shoddy products by sharks promising more bookings through distribution,” he says.
“Earning the trust of these businesses is our number one priority, and we’re working hard to show them that we are on their side.”
Wandora has been working with Antler and Baird says it’s been vital in getting the right network around them.
“One of the best things about Antler is that they have such an established presence within the ecosystem, that has really allowed us to plug into that network really quickly,” he says.
“Just going through an experience like the Antler program, where you are in a cohort with other really entrepreneurial people who want to build a business and take on a level of risk really unlocks a sense of camaraderie.”
Going forward, Baird hopes that Wandora can help other industries that are also at the mercy of large booking platforms.
“Our vision is really about ending the commoditisation of small business and be their strongest advocate.
“Longer-term we want to expand into other markets that also face the issue of the platforms getting in the way of the customer and taking a sizable portion of their revenue.
“We think it’s time to rebalance the game.”