Although Danilo Gasparrini is busy working on the project Hotelyo, the Managing Director of the travel outlet took some time for a interview with us (Update – December 2022: The startup seems to be no longer in business under this name and we therefore deactivated the link).
Milan-based Hotelyo offers it’s users luxury hotels for discount-prices. The membership is free and Hotelyo guarantees new offers twice a week. You might be also interested to know that the startup was founded within a partnership between Babotel and Jakala.
When did you have the idea for Hotelyo and what made you sure it was the right one?
We had the idea in July 2009, and we were working on the business plan and a test phase for more than 6 months before we decided to start up. The travel private sales field has undergone great growth in the last few years; this business is widely developed in the US with great success also in France. We believed that there was space for growth in Europe, especially in Italy and in the UK. The idea was a real challenge, but considering the results, it is the right one.
Looking back – what would you do differently in the startup-stage and what were the main stumbling blocks of the first year?
I have already started 3 companies and I think that there is always a lot to learn. Probably I would have developed the technology internally instead of outsourcing as I believe that for an internet start up it is very important to have full control over your technology. Instead we decided to outsource it to move faster and this created some problems in the first period. Now Hotelyo is growing and we are relaunching completely the website with cutting edge technology.
What makes Hotelyo unique, or better than other travel deal outlets out there?
We are very careful in the selection of the hotels that we publish; we do not take on board a lot of hotels and offers that our competitors display on their websites. For us, it is extremely important to be really competitive and to have the right destination in place. We publish according to the latest travel trends, we listen to our customers’ requests, and try to satisfy their needs. This is why I am confident about our customer service team offering an excellent service and we strongly believe in the tailor made approach.
Right now, Hotelyo is available in Italian and English. Have you any plans to enter additional markets within or outside the EU in 2011?
We are an Italian startup and we believe it is very important to establish Hotelyo as leader in the Italian market and as important player in the UK. However as any other important company, we would positively like to expand into other markets. We are speaking to Venture Capital at the moment, and if we raise the right amount of capital we will definitely expand abroad.
How many discounted travel offers are you providing per week and do you have plans to increase this number?
We provide around 7 offers twice a week, which means a total of about 15 offers per week. Our product team select very carefully every offer to present a wide quality choice to our customer. We publish mainly hotels and also holiday packages, wellness and spa centers, all inclusive tours and cruise. Of course we are always working to increase the quality and our offer portfolio.
How many people are working for Hotelyo right now and how do you support the corporate culture?
We are a small team of 8 people working in our office. The selection of human resources is a very important process in any company, more importantly in any start up. We have a great team of young people, we share the same values and we are all up for the challenge. We have fun at work and we enjoy what we are doing. We have only travellers in the team as it is extremely important to understand travellers’ needs. I encourage every single member of the team to come to me with ideas to improve what we offer and what we do.
Where would you like to see Hotelyo in 3 years?
In 3 years, and hopefully before, Hotelyo will be a very important player in the travel private sales in Europe and maybe in other continents as well.
What was your experience of Milan as a location to start a company?
Milan is the best place in Italy to start a company. It is easy to find talented people and there is a great networking going on. Unfortunately in Italy to run a start up it is much more complicated than in any other European country, as the bureaucracy doesn’t help the growth of startups.
By the way: You can find out about other interesting startups from Italy in this list.