The latest travel start-up to emerge from Scotland is not short of ambition, claiming it is being touted as the next Skyscanner.
Big talk indeed, particularly given it’s chosen model is to attempt to build a £500 million business around is creating a travel social network.
Talkholiday.com has been set up by former Royal Navy man and chartered financial planner Chris Newlands and claims to have forged links with “heavy-hitting travel and media players in the UK, the US, Germany, Russia and China”.
It also claims to have amassed “an impressive array of sophisticated high net worth investors in the UK and the US and is adding more on a regular basis”.
The idea, to put people who love to travel in touch with each other, as well as their holiday providers in order to create an engaging network for research, inspiration, booking and advice, is maybe not that revolutionary.
Former Holiday Taxis boss Paul Stanyer came up with hangoutonholiday.com in 2011, which he described as a “reverse Facebook” where new friends can be found based on where they were interested in going on holiday.
At the time he claimed it would revolutionise the way people plan their holidays. In a launch press release Talkholiday similarly claims it will “quite simply change the face of global tourism” as it pursues “sky high” ambitions.
It adds Newlands is confidently predicting it will have up to 10 million members by December this year. A video has been created to explain how it works.
As ever in the world of social media, adoption and use – hitting a critical mass of each – will be the true test of whether Talkholiday really takes off, although there will be no shortage of travel firms hoping a low-cost alternative source of leads to Google and Facebook can emerge.
Talkholiday.com currently employees one senior developer and outsources the rest of the development work to local companies. It plans to grow the team to nine in the first quarter of this year and 16 by the second quarter and it is in the process of applying for a Scottish enterprise grant to support its growth.
Talkholiday says its USP will be its focus on bringing its members into contact with each other, as well as their travel provider, and allowing them to share information and experiences.
Newlands said: “At this stage, we are standing on the shoulders of giants – we are successfully garnering support from some of the best-known organisations in media and travel.
“But once we have a million members, we will be able to leverage deals with even more partners. It is a matter of time before we reach critical mass and I am projecting at least five to 10 million members – potentially many more – by December 2015.”
The idea for Talkholiday was inspired by Newlands’s stepson, who was planning a holiday in Ibiza and was struggling to find like-minded people who were going to be on the holiday island at the same time as him.
Another “blind spot” in travel Newlands believes Talkholiday will cater for is accessible travel, holidaymakers with specific needs like families and crisis support.
“It came from a nightmare holiday in Egypt when my wife became ill and my phone was stolen and I was desperately trying to contact the UK for help,” Newlands said. “Talkholiday’s self-help support package will get in touch with your relatives at the press of a button if there is a problem and assist them to come to the rescue.
“At the moment we book a holiday in January and don’t do anything else about it until July. Talkholiday’s interactive membership will let people discover who’s going to be in the pool with them – and seek out a quieter pool if it’s going to be noisy, or vice versa.
“The filters in the site let people look at who’s going to be in the same location as them, by factors such as age, demographic and marital status. Users can filter down to small groups of people with whom they share interests.
“People can also store historic trips on their profile to let other users tap into their knowledge and experience. We are building a network of volunteers all over the world who will give tourists first-hand knowledge of their cities to create a warmer welcome. It’s a whole new level of engagement.
“We aim to be the champion of the consumer and when they see the discounts and saving that we can create for them, they will know that we are on their side.”