Tier One People Founder, Dexter Cousins speaks exclusively with Mark Tarring, Founder and CEO of TildaTravel, a game changing platform bringing the worlds of online Travel and FinTech together.
I’ve known Mark for ten years starting back when he was Co-MD of Virgin Money Australia. We caught up recently to talk about the launch of TildaTravel, how he plans to revolutionise the online travel industry and why he chose Hobart as HQ.
What’s Tilda Travel?
TildaTravel is an Australian first, an API platform bringing to market a truly family friendly travel and travel money business. It makes booking holidays and organising holiday money and insurance so much easier.
The travel industry is not geared for modern families. There is an increasing trend for grandparents, brothers, sisters and even pets to go on holiday together. Trying to book a holiday for a family online is hard and time consuming, which is why traditional travel agencies still exist. You literally have to sit with an ‘expert’ for at least an hour to sort everything out.
Booking a family holiday online from Australia can be confusing and require multiple different platforms and online booking engines to compare prices, book flights, confirm accommodation, buy travel insurance and order currency.
TildaTravel is a technology platform that solves this problem by delivering a seamless customer experience. It’s a one-stop shop that allows customers to book every element of their holiday easily.
How does it work?
We start with inspiration, then guide the user through planning and execute with bookings. We add in all the extra details that make a holiday really smooth, like insurance, foreign exchange, travel data and lounge passes.
Like all great technology, TildaTravel’s unique platform takes a traditional experience – in this case the experience of working with a world class, truly expert travel agent – automates it, adds scale and an overlay of digital data analysis and AI and delivers a user experience that is better, faster and more economical.
When the new platform comes live, users will input their data once, and then find it automatically pre-filled as they work through the whole process of planning a holiday. TildaTravel’s platform uses the first piece of booking data, the accommodation, and matches that data to the full spectrum of family holiday needs, finding and recommending the best flights, travel insurance and other products, services and experiences.
TildaTravel’s proprietary technology is the first platform to efficiently aggregate multiple travel and financial services to provide a seamless, frictionless family holiday planning and booking user experience.
Is TildaTravel a FinTech, a travel business or both?
TildaTravel is something completely new, we call it TravelTech. It is a family traveller consumer centric business that partners with fintech, tech and travel firms. As an API-based platform we are able to seamlessly plug in partners and third parties who match our mission of making family holidays safe, fun and easy and allow us to offer our customers unique holiday experiences.
We were delighted to launch to market with a crop of the world’s top global travel brands already on board as partners including HomeAway (Stayz), Hertz, Travelex, Cruise1st, Collinson (Priority Pass) and Telna. For example, as part of the TildaTravel platform customers will be able to book a family friendly villa from HomeAway’s beautiful properties in Australia and around the world.
As TildaTravel evolves we are constantly adding to our suite of integrated businesses, sourcing and securing travel and technology partners who augment our customers’ experience. As well as the core offerings, we are seeking innovation; for example we are currently exploring a relationship with a unique startup which uses technology to track your luggage location – great for dads like me who need to know where it is at all time and of course an incredible tool for locating lost luggage!
Our focus is on making holidays easy, safe and fun through technology – but at the same time allowing our customers access to a myriad of options that allow them to hyper personalise their unique tailored family experience.
You spent a number of years at Virgin Money. Has working with the brand inspired your approach to TildaTravel?
Sir Richard Branson is one of the greatest entrepreneurs and pioneers in history. The Virgin brand is recognised around the world for delivering an incredible customer experience, looking after their people and always seeking to innovate and stay ahead of the competition. The Virgin business model was arguably the genesis of the platform / marketplace model that is so successful globally today. Absolutely I was inspired by my experience at Virgin and hope to bring the ethos of excellence to everything we do at TildaTravel today.
TildaTravel is a new generation innovative, unique and ultimately disruptive model. Integrating the travel and financial services industries in a consumer-centric user experience is a world first, and one we are very proud to pioneer.
We have partnered with a number of innovative fintechs and continue to seek out the best new people to work with. We are currently working with Insured By Us to develop a unique travel insurance product, which we believe will be the best in the market. Kids go free and policy holders get a free travel SIM to help avoid overseas bill shock. Car hire excess coverage can also be added if you’re hiring a car for the family holiday.
In 2019 we’ll launch an innovative prepaid travel money wearable system, where one family account or travel money card can be linked to multiple payment wearables. Customers can give their kids wristbands pre loaded with a set level of cash so that they can buy their own ice creams!
We believe that by partnering with fintechs who share our values, we can offer Australian holiday makers an experience they have never had before. If you are going to be successful as a consumer focused business, you have to own, control and deliver a first class customer relationship.
How did TildaTravel come about?
The name comes from my daughter, Matilda. The inspiration for the Tilda Travel platform comes from holidaying with a six year old. From the anticipation of ‘how many sleeps left?’ to the pure joy of arriving at your destination and exploring with a huge sense of wonder and excitement which I think is It’s something I think we lose as we get older. That really inspired me to take what I have learnt at Thomas Cook Money and create something new and different.
TildaTravel is based in Hobart, Tasmania. It isn’t renowned as a tech startup hub. What made you choose Hobart as your HQ?
My family and I were searching for a better lifestyle and found that Tasmania fitted the bill. Once here, we fell in love with the place. Tasmania is booming and it’s become one of Australia’s main holiday destinations with tourism and travel being a large part of the Tasmanian economy. We also want to make a contribution to the community, help create jobs and hopefully put Tasmania on the map as a viable place to launch a tech startup.
There was always the question of where and how we would find the talent. But we’ve had no problem in attracting the right skills and caliber of people you need to get a startup off the ground and running.
There’s a great work / life balance in the office, with five full time employees – it’s cosy! Most of the team have spent their careers in banking and tech firms in places like London and Sydney. We are a tech business, which means we’re global and we can work from anywhere, but we all tend to work from the office in Hobart. It takes me nine minutes to get to work!
What are the plans for TildaTravel?
New Zealand is next, planned for the second half of 2019. And early 2020 we plan to launch in Hong Kong and Singapore.
We see huge opportunities across Asia for TildaTravel. If you look at China, consumers expect instant, seamless, highly personalised experiences. We are looking at Asia as a significant market opportunity but also a place for innovation. We are not out to compete in the travel or financial services market; our intention is to create a whole new type of business model – our own market!.
There are great examples of businesses such as AfterPay that have achieved success by targeting the millennial market with a unique and compelling value proposition. For TildaTravel and the team, this is what excites us: technology platforms and access to huge amounts of data enable startups to create entirely new business models specially targeted to specific customers.