Making Travel Tech-Savvy

Ralph Melis, Co-founder of ExploreTECH, a digital marketplace for hospitality and travel sector, on the new venture creating a tech space for optimal search for both buyers and vendors



Published: Fri 29 Apr 2022, 9:00 AM

Many companies in the hospitality and travel industry are missing out on innovative solutions which could hugely benefit their businesses, simply because of the sheer volume of information, and the vast number of solutions and tech providers available. The way in which this information is presented makes it extremely difficult for most businesses that are not technical experts to understand or explore and thus, verify whether a specific solution meets their specific needs.

Likewise, many tech providers are not reaching their target audience, or are finding themselves limited in brand awareness and customer engagement they need to grow their market share. Established providers need a greater local voice to move into new regions, and many start-ups and smaller providers are lost among the noise of a busy marketplace, despite having immense potential.

There was a need for a single entity that can act as a medium for accessible and credible engagement that can form a part of a continuous and consistent strategy for both parties to extend their reach and connect more effectively with their target audiences.

Not all technology vendors are actively optimising the marketing for their solutions due to costs involved or miss out through lack of using the right keywords. In addition to this, when the site of a vendor is found, the information displayed may not highlight key features, nor does it allow a potential buyer to compare the solution with another comparable option in a unified and consistent way. Further to this, to reach out to the vendor, the potential buyer’s only option may be to fill in a contact form, which may or may not receive a timely response, nor do they know who specifically they are reaching out to, or whether they are connecting with the right solution provider.

Once the search has been concluded, be it through gathering content available online, and/or connecting with several different providers, and in order to evaluate which option is the most suitable for the prospective buyer, a comprehensive product comparison is a must. This requires an enormous amount of time and resources, whether done in-house or outsourced to a subject matter expert consultant.

Whilst ExploreTECH appeal to different target audience personas at both the buyer and seller sides, the goal remains the same and that is to be the single source of information.

Here is one of the key benefits of ExploreTECH — by gathering all the available vendors in one location, on one platform, different types of buyers can search, review, and be able to compare multiple solutions in a unified fashion. With our new comprehensive product comparison tool buyers will be able to see information most relevant to their specific profile and technology stack and be able to reach out directly to representatives of vendors that offer what meets their requirements.

These are some of the immediate benefits that are now available on the platform and we prefer to stay quiet about these new features as they will be disruptive and revolutionary reaching for the same end goal of ExploreTECH — to be the single platform and source for multiple providers and buyers.

We have created ExploreTECH keeping in mind some distinctive business personas on both sides of the buyer – vendor fence, and offer unique benefits to both, such as:

Buyers have one unified source of information on multiple vendors, from a wider reach, which ExploreTECH can offer beyond what is regionally accessible, or already well known as technology solutions. They can also turn into the ‘Voice of Experts’ for consultancy services and possible turnkey implementation, or even project support. ExploreTECH is the first bilingual platform of its kind in English and Arabic.

Vendors benefit from the deep understanding of regional market dynamics and existing strong network of the founders working behind the scenes, as well as the integrated marketing campaigns and activities of ExploreTECH. Vendors can create comprehensive profiles for both their brand and each of their products making them more visible, increasing their brand awareness and allowing them to connect directly with potential buyers who reach out to them directly via the platform. They can utilise the tools and functionality provided within the ExploreTECH platform as a proactive sales tool; capture leads and assess their performance through dashboard analytics.

What united us is our deep understanding of the region’s challenges and opportunities when it comes to procuring commercial technology on both the buyers and vendors sides. A quick look at our individual career paths highlights the value each one on us brings to the business, and between us we have decades of hands-on experience on both the buyer and the vendor side.

We are tech-savvy and strong believers in the role that technology can play in optimising revenues, reducing operational costs, and achieving efficiency within the resources available. We also observed insufficient research, reviews, analysis, and decision making as a result of either limited resources or in-house expertise causing inaccurate or mislead decisions from the buyers’ side, missed opportunities to identify the perfect solution provider; especially for independent, national and regional brands. This made us realise that we need to widen the reach beyond our direct contacts, simplify the process and widen the reach for both stakeholders.

We needed to test and verify our business idea to ensure we can deliver a true solution to our industry and region. We then wanted to listen to our real target audience and created focus groups comprising of both buyers and vendors to define what is currently missing and how can the process be simplified and be readily available to a wider audience. The result is ExploreTECH.

A start-up, especially when its tech-driven is all about agility, speed, and optimal utilisation of the seed funds available to be able to act fast to changes in both needs and priorities to achieve that end goal. ExploreTECH pre-seed fund was slightly less than $1M and these funds were needed to support the build and launch of our MVP, bringing together the best of recourses in tech development, marketing, and operational support at the least possible cost.

Moving forward, and once we source additional funding, our plan is to maintain a hybrid model, increasing the in-house team by carefully choosing each new human asset that joins our journey.

— ali@khaleejtimes.com


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