YTP: Where did the original idea for Umapped come from and how did you get started?
LI: I started Umapped with my co-Founder Thierry Wong 3 years ago with a vision to provide travelers with a modern and mobile travel tool to organize all of their trip details. We were tired of getting static PDF documents or floods of emails for our own itineraries!
Beyond providing a mobile itinerary, we also wanted to provide travelers with a collaborative tool to stay connected to the people that mattered to them around their travel experiences. We wanted to make it easy to collect travel recommendations from friends and family, since word of mouth recommendations influences over 50% of travel decisions. And since smartphones have become the default camera, we also wanted to help people capture their memories in real-time together, with all of their photos automatically synced and sharable as an online collaborative journal.
Thierry has extensive technology experience developing secure and scalable software systems and I’ve traveled a lot throughout my career, working at Intrawest developing resorts globally and then growing another startup company. With B2C companies like TripIt already in place for consumers, we saw a huge opportunity to help travel professionals and companies embrace mobile to stay relevant for their customers. We got started by bootstrapping the company and then bringing in some great investors.
YTP: What has been the most exciting thing you have learned from creating this business?
LI:The entire travel industry relies on collaboration everyday between suppliers, agents and travelers. We learned that when these travel professionals planned trips, they were each working in their own systems to produce their own “static” documents, all related to the same trip itinerary. This expanded our vision for collaborative planning on the industry side.
Today, suppliers, agents and travelers are all planning travel together in real-time in Umapped. The B2B collaboration feature also includes free co-branding for multiple brands.
YTP: Have there been any surprises and feedback over the course of your operation which you have incorporated into the product?
LI:As we started working with travel agencies, we learned that they were manually copying and pasting bookings and content from various sources to bring it together into one document, most commonly in Microsoft Word! We were shocked at how much time was being wasted which led to a core focus on developing Umapped as a productivity tool.
In terms of product development, this led to developing a number of integrations that would make Umapped more efficient for travel professionals. Today Umapped has integrations with all of the major GDS systems, ClientBase and a growing number of suppliers including Classic Vacations, ShoreTrip and niche destination specialists such as IC Bellagio in Italy and Tours for You in Portugual.
Our subscribers tell us that the average itinerary built in Umapped takes takes 10-20% of the time it did previously, making them 5-10x more productive!
YTP: What are you most excited about for the future of Umapped?
LI: I’m excited to see Umapped leveraged as a sales tool that drives business. We’re launching a powerful Messaging and Notifications Center that is the hub for both automated and user-generated communications.
From a travelers’ perspective, it’s less about basic messaging and more about valuable information they’ll find related to their trip, whether it’s an upgrade opportunity, changing their travel plans or taking advantage of a nearby promotion.
It’s also the foundation for travel professionals to engage with their customers before and during their trip. For example, after checking into your hotel, you might receive a great last-minute offer for a spa appointment, tickets to a live event and other relevant offers that are personalized by your travel agent, all in collaboration with local suppliers. We’re constantly exploring ways to bring in more curated, personalized content to travelers that will add value to their trip while driving business for travel professionals.
YTP: How has the idea evolved or changed, if at all, from it's original goals and structure?
LI: Our focus on productivity within the Trip Publisher (itinerary tool for travel professionals) is definitely an expansion from our original goals of promoting collaboration and empowering travel professionals to shift to mobile.
We are also focused on bringing real-time information to both travelers and travel professionals, whether it relates to managing travel changes or providing great travel tips for your destination.
YTP: Is Umapped available for individual travelers?
LI: Umapped is exclusively distributed through travel professionals or as a white-label platform for travel companies. As a YTP member, individual travelers can get exclusive access but otherwise, travelers need to work with travel professionals. We’ve received accolades from our subscribers who are receiving great referral business from friends of clients who want access to the app!
YTP: How, if at all, has Umapped lead to collaborations or unexpected discoveries?
LI: In terms of industry partnerships, we are collaborating with many great companies and are a Preferred Supplier for Virtuoso and Travel Leaders. We are also working closely with Sabre as a partner for multiple integrations.
We are thrilled to partner with YTP as part of our commitment to bringing cutting edge technology to the next generation of leaders in the travel industry.
In terms of discoveries, we learn new things every day as a direct result of the feedback we receive from both our industry partners and subscribers, which directly shapes the ongoing product development of Umapped.
I’m really looking forward to receiving input from YTP members so please reach out to provide us with your perspectives! You can connect with Umapped on Facebook, Twitter or email our team at email@example.com.
YTP: As a successful entrepreneur, what would be your advice to young people in the travel industry?
LI: Beyond figuring out your niche as a travel expert, invest in real relationships with your customers and industry partners. You can’t just “sell travel” today to be successful. Take the time to learn about personal preferences. You’ll get great insight into how you can grow your business!
YTP: What's the next destination on you bucket list?
LI: Portugal and Croatia are on my European bucket list for a family friendly trip with young kids. I have 2 girls, Jade (4 years old) and Cammy (turning 2). Thierry (my co-Founder) is from Mauritius and I would love to travel there together with our families, but given the distance and the age of my kis, I’m not sure we’ll get there soon!
YTP: Where is your favorite place to travel?
LI: I’m not sure I can narrow it down to a favorite place - though my favorite travel partner is definitely my husband Rob – we’ve traveled to 5 continents together and he’s always up for a new adventure! One of my favorite trips was to Argentina and Brazil. It was a fantastic mix of culture, great food and some time on the ocean.