Why We Started Bacarai
Group airfare is one of the last parts of travel to come online. Historically, customers were forced to shop for rates over the phone, as if the internet didn’t exist.
Like many startups, our founding team launched Bacarai to solve our own problems. It was 2018, and our team was busy booking a ton of group airfare, which means we were spending tens of thousands of hours on the phone with the airlines…
Taking a step back, to understand the motivation behind launching Bacarai, you first need to understand the current customer journey in regards to booking group flights. Its borderline laughably archaic.
Let’s say you want to book a group of 40 students for an 8th grade trip to Washington DC. Interestingly enough, there is no search engine that allows you to search rates and availability for more than 9 passengers.
In fact, group airfare is one of the last parts of the travel industry that has yet to come online. That means if you want a quote for your group of 40, you have to call the Group Desk of each airline in your market.
This is a painstaking process for both group customers and airlines alike. Both sides waste millions of hours on the phone each year. It turns out shopping over the phone isn’t terribly efficient or a good user experience. (RIP QVC).
And the pain doesn’t stop with the initial shopping experience, it continues! Group airfare is a multi-stage, multi-touchpoint product. Customers can reserve space by simply signing a contract.
Within 14 days, the customer has to submit a $50 per person deposit to the airline over the phone. Then, 30 days prior to travel, the customer has to call the airline yet again to submit a names list and provide final payment.
Circling back to 2018, our team was booking about 13 million dollars worth of group airfare. We were a full fledged agency growing sick of spending countless hours on the phone with the airlines, tracking down quotes and managing trips (we love the service but hate the hold times).
To no fault of their own, our clients want a similar shopping experience that they have come to enjoy online which means we are typically asked for 2 to 3 quotes.
Everyone wants to compare options, this is baseline human behavior when making large purchases.
Our agency would have to call multiple airlines, shop rates, and hold space (we don’t want to lose the seats, so when we call, we book it).
The whole process is tedious on a normal day. During the busy season, it was brutally inefficient.
We sat around the table one day and pondered…
Wouldn’t it be nice if there was an Expedia specifically built to handle group airfare? Wouldn’t it be nice if we could do all of this, online?
There would be no more spending hours on the phone, waiting on quotes. Deposits could be paid online, names lists could be collected electronically, ticketing would be automatic.
Customers could see and manage all of their group trips in one central dashboard — it would be a dream!
We circled around the idea, joked about how hard it would be to build, but ultimately did the math on amount of time it would save internally, and the value it would bring to both the supply and demand side of the industry.
What needed to happen next became crystal clear.
Someone needs to bring group airfare into the digital world, and our team has the industry experience to do so.
Group airfare is quietly a multi-billion dollar opportunity. Every school, sports team, religious group, tour operator, and distributed business use group contracts to fly. So the market is quietly bigger than people think.
A year into our journey, we got affirmation we were on the right track. Groups 360 is on the same mission, but in the hotel space, and received a $50 million dollar investment from the big hotel chains. The group hotel space has many of the same issues as the group air space (all stemming is that both industries historically happen offline).
We built the platform to benefit all major stakeholders in the group travel space. As we share parts of the platform with our tour operators it got very exciting, the collective anticipation for a digital groups ecosystem only grew.
The truth is that group customers deserve the same great shopping experience they enjoy on platforms like Expedia and Google Flights.
And airlines deserve a way to digital retail their group fares, and even monetize their product further by upselling the customer.
So in summary, we knew in solving our frustrations with doing business over the phone, we’d solve a lot of problems for all the various stakeholders of group travel. Innovating in travel won’t be easy, but group travel deserves better.
Should you be interested in helping shape the future of travel with us, please get in touch!