Whether you’re planning a school trip, yoga retreat, culinary tour, photography workshop or family gathering, none of us want to find ourselves responsible for covering expenses such as airfare or lodging if an expected participant fails to show up and pay his or her fair share. Fortunately, WeTravel’s group-trip planning website was designed to prevent that problem.
Johannes Koeppel, a WeTravel co-founder and current CEO, recently spoke with RewardExpert about the inspiration behind the site, how you can use it to plan your next group excursion, and an exciting new feature slated for early 2017.
Koeppel and WeTravel’s other co-founders, Garib Mehdiyev and Zaky Prabowo, developed the company’s platform while studying at UC Berkeley.
“I was organizing small group trips and knew a lot of other individuals who would organize maybe three or four group trips a year just because they liked doing so,” Koeppel recalled. “There were a lot of problems. The biggest was probably payment collection. Organizers would ask participants to wire them money, even though they didn’t actually know the people. The participants had no way of knowing if the organizers were legitimate. I thought there must be a platform solution that could be built for these people to use.”
When first launched in late 2015, Koeppel and his partners thought their student friends would be WeTravel’s primary users. They quickly found out otherwise.
“To our surprise, all of the top 10 business schools in the nation—from Harvard to Stanford to Columbia—started using it as well,” Koeppel said.
Since then, WeTravel has become a popular solution for universities (including the top 20 in the U.S.), student communities, yoga instructors, bachelorette and wedding party travelers and more. Visitors to the website who want to join a public group trip, rather than organize a private one of their own, will find dance excursions, yoga and writing retreats, culinary tours, and other culture and adventure experiences in more than 29 countries.
To date, organizers have collected more than $10 million through WeTravel’s platform.
How WeTravel Works
If you’re in charge of planning a group trip, WeTravel is very simple to use. To get started, just click on “Create Your Trip” on the home page and enter the required information—such as destination, travel dates, and whether the trip is private or public. You can then name your trip, upload photos, and enter other details including minimum and maximum number of travelers, an overview of the excursion, covered expenses, a detailed itinerary, required deposit and total price.
For private trips, the website will generate a link that you can then forward to friends, family and other attendees. If you’re organizing a public trip, WeTravel will promote it on the website (a 10 percent booking fee will apply). To cover transaction costs, all organizers will be subject to a one percent fee.
“You can manage the entire trip from the WeTravel website,” Koeppel said. “Collect deposits, issue refunds and message all of your participants. When it’s time, transfer the payments wherever they have to go: a travel agency, your own bank account, even oversees.”
Whether you’re creating a public or private trip, Koeppel always recommends requiring a deposit.
“Even if it’s really small and just $50, $100 or $200, I certainly recommend collecting an upfront deposit,” he said. “People can be flaky, and if they’re your own friends, they can be even worse. You don’t want to get stuck with a $2,000 bill for a rental house when only half of the people you thought would be there show up. I speak from experience.”
He also encourages trip planners to think about the information they’re going to want from their participants before they invite people to join the trip.
“You might want an emergency contact,” he said. “You probably want their phone numbers and to know when they will arrive. You may need to know about their dietary restrictions. Make a list before you even start the process and collect this information when they submit their deposit. This way, you’ll minimize the time you spend organizing the trip and maximize the fun you will have.”
WeTravel is Releasing a White Label Solution Soon
“We’re testing this right now,” Koeppel said. “It will be perfect for businesses like culinary schools that organize culinary trips or yoga studios that organize yoga retreats. You’ll basically get your own page within WeTravel that is branded with your logo. The emails you send out will also have your logo on them. Everything will be more customized so you can give participants a more branded experience.”