A mobile app is hoping to help friends plan holidays together by curating content from OTAs in a group chat facility reminiscent of WhatsApp.
Planet launched in its beta phase in March 2017 and has so far been downloaded more than 2,000 times in 15 countries.
It works by giving consumers a platform on their smartphones that all the members of the group can check in their own time, and vote on their favourite destinations, hotels and flights to take the time and hassle out of planning a group trip.
So if the consensus is a villa holiday in Portugal with flights from Gatwick, then Planet will plan it for you, giving you a range of options on the dates your group is available.
The team of six consists of CEO David Gooch and his fellow co-founders Patrick Andrews and Stefan Manastirliu who work with chief technology officer Adeel Younas, front-end developer Jake Coxon and Claire Karoubi, who looks after marketing
Gooch told Travolution: “We see apps like Uber and Netflix, where the customer experience is frictionless. Travel is anything but when you are trying to organise trips abroad. People typically browse 35 websites before they book.”
Gooch suggested consumers can spend up to 42 hours online planning a single trip – when scrolling through social media is taken into account.
“From a consumer’s perspective, organising holidays is really quite a pain,” he added. “We set out to create a simple, hassle-free solution for consumers to buy trips and holidays.”
After lots of deliberation about what was actually needed, the team said it was “a place to keep things” – ie, an app that stored all the decisions and options that had been discussed and can host content from sites with existing travel content.
Planet pulls in hotel info from sites like Booking.com, Hotels.com HomeAway, Mr & Mrs Smith and Airbnb as well as flight information from the likes of Skyscanner.
“In the world today, people are so busy that they rarely have time to sit down together and go through all the options,” Gooch said. So, after considering many ideas, the team decided the important features the app needed were a voting system, a way to share payments and a joint calendar.
“If you go on Expedia, you are presented with data and destinations, but it doesn’t always cater to a group of passengers,” he said. “We want to be more flexible than Expedia.
“The consumer experience of booking travel hasn’t changed in 15 years. No one is designing experiences from the consumer’s point of view. Let’s not worry about bed banks, hotels and flights. What does the consumer actually want? They want a destination, transport and accommodation.”
“We are pulling in all the information that’s available in a structured way – structuring unstructured content. People spend so much of their time planning because content is not structured. You can find all this information, but if we can bring it to you it makes your life easier. We are always growing this content base.
“We are replicating what the consumer would do but with a couple more degrees of detail.”
As for the future, Gooch hopes Planet will move into direct contracts with hotels once it starts to grow – that could be done on a commission-based structure. Currently it relies on taking a slice of the fee paid to the aggregator.
Feedback and testing are ongoing and so far the app has revolved around the customer experience – with a chat feature also planned.
Platforms that allow bookings of restaurants and activities have also been tapped up as potential partners with the idea that any element of a holiday can be saved and stored on the app, available on both iOs and Android devices. Crowdfunding may be considered to raise capital and help the business scale.
So if you’re planning a group holiday and want to save time and hassle, why don’t you use Planet to plan it?