FlexTour is a software that will make your life as a tour operator easier. You will no longer be juggling with your daily tasks and trying to manage different communication channels. For happy customers and competitive tours, tour operators choose flexTour.
FlexTour was founded after a group of students from the class of IMTE 2018 were given the task to identify problems and create digital solutions for different companies in the field of tourism. FlexTour was given the challenge to find problems for tour operators and identify their daily challenges at the workplace. This project started at the beginning of March and the product development ended at the end of May with a pitch in front of potential investors.
Where did it start for us?
It started with identifying the problem experienced by tour operators. Some of the group members had former experience working for tour operators, but none of us was directing or leading a company. It was therefore important for us to call around and ask tour operators what their problems were. We asked detailed questions with general managers about their biggest problems as a tour operator.
The conclusion of the research gave us three major problems:
1. Lack of efficient communication between themselves and their tourists
2. Time-consuming problem solving
3. Lack of flexibility when managing tours
Some theories we learned on the way
From there, we started to apply some theory that we were guided to. The lean startup methodology, a process that would help startups to succeed and that can be described as learning- building -measure methods was applied. From there, we also learned about personas and the customers journey. With the personas, we looked at what types of customers we are targeting, and why. Our ideal persona was Phil Hellmuth, a middle-aged manager of a small tour operator company in Germany. We used him in our storytelling throughout our project and we often asked ourselves, “What would Phil Hellmuth do?” Using the customer’s journey we could describe his workday and where his peaks and downfall of working in a small tour operator company lay.
The real struggle for us – Who are we selling our product to?
After finding the problems for Phil Hellmuth came the next phase, how we could help him and test the feasibility of our plans. Our mentor and teacher Mr Marcel Broumels was often in our room and talked to us and when we had so many ideas he would say: “You started small, and then suddenly when I get back you want to save the world. You need to shrink your idea to something more feasible”. With that he meant, kill your darlings, something that was presented by Mr Roman Egger, and do not hold on the first idea you have.
So why did we have a problem surrounding our product, when we already had the persona and our customers? Well for us it was important to have a solution for what we called the “customer” and the “customer’s-customer”. The customer was the client we wanted to sell our product, the software, to. This would help tour operators with getting a more efficient daily routine and easy communication streams to his clients and partners by using one communication software for the tour operators and direct with their guest, and what we called, “customer’s-customer”. Many hours were spent on identifying the most important part of this product and our MVP- Minimum Viable Product. It was in our case important to find a reason why people would be willing to buy and use or product. It was therefore crucial to find the fine line between working out the idea and designing the platform. This platform would be used for the tour operators to create and adapt their tours and react quickly to changes from suppliers and clients. For the clients of the tour operators (i.e. travelers), there would be an application where they could access their day to day travel plan. Tour operators will have the authority to give access to their clients once they have confirmed their trip. They would receive push-notifications immediately updating them to any changes to their tour.
How much you can agree on when the deadline is approaching
By the end of the project with Mr Marcel Broumels, we had to make a prototype and pitch it in front of him; this was easier said than done when we could not agree on minor problems. It was then important for us to make a prototype and establish our market size and our revenue streams were. Research showed us that the German tour operators market share for SME was 37.7% and that’s where our specialization in this market would be. Our revenue streams would be a model consisting of fixed minimum prices depending on the size of the business and a variable price per user of the application.
The Shark Tank
Our final pitch in front of highly critical investors was daunting. They were prepared to ask us some tough questions and decide if they would be interested to invest in our idea and our project further. The date was on the 21st of May. The day we all had waited for, our final pitch. Shabab and Tommy had been practicing for days before the final day and hoping to carry and charm the investors with their message. Flextour- the software for all SME companies tour operators. We believe that we sold it very well with the story of Phil Hellmuth and this was something worthy of their investment. A question answer session followed the presentation. Our potential investors were interested to know whether we had been looking deeper into the competitors and if other companies were already using these types of software. Other questions were in regards to the pricing, and where we see ourself in the future.
We came to realize that there were many areas which we had not considered. We were too focused on the product and not on other factors such as pricing, similar features that competitors offered and their pricing model. We were too much into the thoughts of getting the perfect product and not being aware of the environment around. We realized it that we were lacking here the most. However, we did receive some of the more positive feedback from the day, and were considered by one investor as being in the top three companies that had been presented.
Our team at FlexTour and our expertise
Georgia has experience in a hospitality software company with a good eye for combining technology and hospitality. She had new ideas all the time, capable of leading when it was at boiling point in the group. Binod worked for five years in the tour operator business and has first-hand knowledge when it comes to the challenges faced by tour operators. During this project, he worked hard and took the lead when something needed to be done. Tommy has a tourism background from Norway and has always been a tech enthusiast, providing innovative ideas to the group. He, together with Shabab, was the voice of Flextour, speaking out and presenting in a persuasive way. As already mentioned Shabab and Tommy were the spokesperson of FlexTour. They both have good financial know-how and are experts in storytelling. Victorine has past experiences in marketing and was our critical eye when we were discussing our problems. Aleksandra worked as a tour guide in Russia and has backgrounds in intercultural communication beside that she and Edina were responsible for the design and the prototype of FlexTour. Edina has got tourism background and worked in the hotel industry. She is aware of the problems faced by tourists arising from miscommunication. She has seen the complication between tourists and tour operators during her working hours in the hotel.
Reflection on the project and the road for FlexTour
Our project work took several months. During all that time, we faced many problems but always tried to find proper solutions. Moreover, having a chance to develop our own product from the very beginning, we gained useful knowledge and extremely valuable experience in creative thinking and idea managing which could be applicable in creating new projects.
Above all else, the project work taught us teamwork. As all of us are from different countries and have different backgrounds and knowledge, we managed to collect completely different points of view because each team member had a freedom of deploying decisions and creative findings.
We did a really great job but we are at the beginning of a long journey and we have no intention to stop anywhere soon. The sky is the limit for our team, and maybe one day you will come across of using our product FlexTour software and be a happy traveler.
We strongly hope that our project experience will help you in starting your projects and inspire new achievements and innovations. Good luck!