By Shahida Sakeri on September 22, 2015
The best things in life are often unplanned and unexpected. And the same goes for travelling. There’s nothing more thrilling and rewarding than surviving spontaneous trips. But like all good things in life, spontaneous travelling unfortunately does not come cheap. The plane tickets and hotel rates are especially expensive if travellers decide to book at the last minute. Thankfully, this is where HotelQuickly comes in. Promoting last-minute hotel booking, HotelQuickly helps spontaneous travellers by offering them decent hotel options at amazing discounts.
HotelQuickly is founded by five incredible talents, including a serial entrepreneur named Mr. Tomas Laboutka. Often described as focussed, driven and intelligent young man, Tomas inspires his colleagues and others to keep on innovating and shaking up industries. With three successful ventures under his belt, Tomas currently acts as the Managing Partner of FL Ventures ( a specialist in advising start-ups on how to scale ), besides being the Chief Executive Officer of HotelQuickly. In these pages, Tomas shares the story behind his inspiration in launching the app and how keeps himself motivated.
1. What inspired you to start HotelQuickly? Is it based on your own personal experience?
We believe spontaneous travel enriches people’s lives, and wanted to find a way to make hotel booking fast and rewarding. We wanted to bring people last-minute, high- quality hotels with great deals to help bring the spontaneous travel experience to anyone with a smartphone. HotelQuickly does not only benefit travellers and businessmen, it also settles the problem of occupancy in many hotels. My partners and I researched that on average, 25% of the hotel rooms in Asia are empty and wasted every night, so they decided to establish HotelQuickly to improve the situation. Users can start booking hotel rooms at noon until 4am in with their smart phones and enjoy jaw-dropping discounts— with rates on average 30% cheaper than anywhere else.
2. Who do you see as your target audience? Who do you think would benefit from this app?
With their smart phones, HotelQuickly customers start booking hotel rooms as early as 8am and book all the way until 4am and enjoy a jaw-dropping discount. We see that in Malaysia, the customers are fairly balanced between male 51% and female 49%. The majority of users are between 25 to 34 years old, followed by 21 to 24 years old. A large share of the HotelQuickly customers in Malaysia consist of business travellers who travel last minute, may need to extend their stay or have just experienced a missed or delayed flights. We also see a solid portion of travellers, who may just want to go on a spontaneous trip during the weekend with friends or family to take their mind of their busy business schedule and aren’t bothered to spend hours researching for the “right” choice. We get countless emails from customers who are sharing their experiences with us – of splendid getaways they were able to enjoy thanks to our app.
3. And how are you reaching to them? Can you share the promotional strategy that is being planned/ implemented?
Travellers tend to use the app, get excited about it, and tell their friends. We reach a lot of our audience through referrals. We’re also fans of executing promotions with partners that travellers value, and we reach new users using cross promotional strategies as well.
4. How long did it take to put together HotelQuickly?
Travel is different than it was ten years ago. People can check into flights online. Backpackers can navigate the globe with Google maps. Anyone with a smartphone has the freedom to just go. This exciting new world of spontaneous travel is more accessible than ever before. One way people can experience the life enriching experience of spur of the moment travel is through AsiaPacific’s leading last-minute hotel booking app, HotelQuickly. The free app isn’t another online travel agent; it’s a way of making your travel dreams a reality. Booking a hotel is usually a hassle, but HotelQuickly has simplified the process and made it possible for last-minute travellers to score the best deals on highly rated hotels, quickly. Great hotels are only a few taps away, letting travellers book hotels faster than it takes to cross the street. HotelQuickly features only the top deals from handpicked hotels so that you don’t have to spend ages deciding where to stay. But hotel booking with HotelQuickly isn’t just painless, it’s affordable too. The app offers rates on average 30% lower than the best prices online. The app makes booking affordable and easy so you can spend more time and money on things that matter, like traveling.
So how did this app start? As busy entrepreneurs are traveling constantly around Asia, the HotelQuickly founders were frustrated. Even if they wanted to just go, things weren’t simple.
Their spontaneous travel was held back by the clunky, overly complicated hotel booking process. Why couldn’t last-minute travel be easier in Asia? My co-founder and former classmate is Christian Mischler. He’s a Swiss entrepreneur and he was splitting his time between Bangkok and Singapore spending countless nights in hotels while working for Rocket Internet’s FoodPanda. He noticed that he wasn’t alone in wanting a quick fix for his hotel needs; the world seemed to have a growing interest in last-minute booking. Around the world, services were sprouting up to support the trend, so Christian started building a company to support the needs of spontaneous travellers in AsiaPacific. In 2012, I became the fledgling company’s CEO, Raphael Cohen the CSO, Mario Peng the CFO, and Michal Juhas the CTO. In March 2013, HotelQuickly was officially born.
5. What are the challenges in starting up HotelQuickly?
One of the challenges HotelQuickly faces is that we are operating in an extremely diverse region. Asia-Pacific is made up with many intricate cultures, and we have to work hard to connect with users in every distinct market. One of the ways we tackle this challenge is to hire people on the ground throughout the region so we can listen to our customers better, and deliver the best app for spontaneous hotel booking possible.
6. How do you differentiate HotelQuickly from other hotel-booking apps/sites?
Mobile is at the very heart of our business and as the first provider in Asia Pacific we excel in this segment bringing guaranteed best deals to our customers. This results in: on average 30% better rates than what our customers can find online at that moment. Recently we expanded to two other destinations, Myanmar & Laos. We added a substantial number of hotels, now up to 4,000 in 120+ destinations. We are focusing on making our app more useful for the travellers across Asia Pacific, especially for business travellers, staycation travellers and spontaneous leisure. Close to 500,000 who downloaded our app find that booking a hotel with HotelQuickly app is convenient, fast and simple. Each day, we offer top 10 handpicked hotels for each city to ease the booking selection process. Thanks to this, HotelQuickly customers can book an amazing curated hotel in 3 simple steps or in less than 20 seconds. I personally managed to select and book a hotel with our app faster than crossing a street just a few days ago.
7. What about the hotels featured in the app? Are there any specific criteria of hotels that HotelQuickly looks for?
We are looking for quality hotels that fit the needs of our target audience. We feature three to five star hotels that are going to give our users great discounts. We’re always looking for hotels with features guests would value, like free WiFi. We also don’t pick one type of hotel, so that we can give our travellers a varied, careful curation of options to fit their needs.
8. How has the response been so far towards HotelQuickly by the market?
We’ve had great reception from the market. Since we launched in 2013, we’ve raised USD 5.56m from top investors which speaks for itself. But the app didn’t happen by accident. We saw the need of last-minute travellers in Asia-Pacific and delivered a tool for them. People needed someone to help facilitate rewarding, spontaneous travel, and that’s where we came in. We get so much positive feedback from our users regularly, which keeps us motivated to continue growing and improving for them.
9. We notice that your employees are from a range of countries. How would you describe the team? Is the diversity of your team the defining factor of HotelQuickly’s success to further expand internationally?
Our team is fun, supportive, and driven. Even though we all come from different parts of the world, our energy and passion for travel brings us together naturally. The diversity of our team is a critical part of HotelQuickly’s success. We set up teams in different markets to better listen to our users across cultures. We wouldn’t be where we are today if it weren’t for our international staff. We all learn from each other and build off each other’s cultural experiences. This global mind-set has made it possible to make HotelQuickly a versatile app that flows well throughout cultures in Asia-Pacific.
10. Where do you see HotelQuickly in five years’ time?
As someone whose travel schedule changes constantly, it’s hard to say where we will be in five years. What I do know is that wherever we are, we will still be helping travellers experience the spontaneous travel we believe would enriches lives. We believe people can and should enjoy these rewarding last-minute travel moments, so we will be continuing to help make that happen.
11. How about the trends in travelling innovation? Where do you see it heading? Do you think people would be very dependent on apps?
We’ve seen a huge amount of research pointing at the growth of mobile. We see travel planning and execution moving more and more toward mobile-first or mobile-only. Apps play a big role in that. People are able to easily tap their way to their dream vacations faster than ever before, and we see that trend continuing for the benefit of the last- minute traveller specifically.
12. Can you share briefly about your background?
I was born and raised in Prague, and have always been drawn to travel and adventure. My father was an entrepreneur, and I was inspired to get into business at an early age. The culmination of my passions led me to Southeast Asia in 2012 after working in Europe on a few different ventures.
13. You seem pretty young for someone who has achieved so much success. Can you share what drives you to go for what you want and how you stay motivated?
I’m driven by the idea of helping travellers and by our great team at HotelQuickly. Seeing how driven everyone is to work on a common goal keeps me motivated every day. I also believe that staying physically strong keeps me mentally strong. I am dedicated to maintaining a healthy lifestyle so my body can keep up with the rigorous demands of startup life. Staying active is a key part to staying motivated; the right diet and exercise is a major part of sustaining the energy to keep working at full capacity.
14. When do your best ideas come to you? How do you bring those ideas to life?
I get a lot of productive thinking done when I’m on a plane. It’s one of the rare times that I can disconnect from daily life and focus on clearing my head. It helps to keep my smartphone handy – on airplane mode – so that I can jot down ideas for later. Once I land, I can execute plans via smartphone as easily as I can book a hotel in seconds with HotelQuickly.
15. What is the one current trend that excites you?
I’m excited about the rising popularity of Southeast Asian travel. More and more people from around the world are coming to see the beauty and mystery of the region. This
trend goes hand in hand with the rise of discount airlines, making travel more accessible to a larger audience.
16. Who do you admire the most in your industry?
I really admire many of the travel bloggers we come in contact with through the app. It’s inspiring to read their stories of quitting jobs they weren’t passionate about, and making the leap to just go. These people demonstrate an amazing courage to go after their dreams.
17. What is the best advice you have ever received?
My father told me that you have the freedom to build your own future. Watching him create his own businesses – I was inspired by his advice to take control of my life and become an entrepreneur as well.
18. With that said, what is the one piece of advice would you give to someone who is starting up with a new business, and being young at that?
Just start. Even if you don’t know exactly what you are doing or how to make it happen, take the first steps now. There is so much to entrepreneurship that you can only learn by doing, so it’s never going to help you to wait around. If you believe in what you’re doing, make it happen. Have a goal, then work tirelessly until you reach it. That being said – don’t let your health take a back seat. Taking care of yourself is just as important as finding the right business partners. The healthier you are, the better you’ll be at standing up to the gruelling journey of chasing your dreams