One-on-One with Naveen Thattil, Founder & CEO of TripTwit

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  1. In this month’s One-on-One blog, ExpertFlyer talks with Naveen Thattil, founder & CEO of TripTwit, a powerful technology that searches millions of tweets each day to find breaking travel deals based on a user’s origin, destination or brand preferences.
    Soon-to-be travelers simply sign up and plug in up to 20 origin, destination or brand alerts and they receive daily emails informing them of last minute deals from across the Twittersphere.

    Naveen Thattil, CEO, TripTwit

    “We have found a way to cull the Twittersphere and extract the travel deals YOU are interested in from the millions of conversations that are happening everyday.”
    – Naveen Thattil, CEO, TripTwit
    There are no shortages of travel search engines. In fact, ExpertFlyer has interviewed at least four top sites over the last couple of years, including Hipmunk, Lonely Planet, TripAdvisor and Momondo. Can simply culling Twitter for daily travel deals really compete with these players?
    Yes it can, because we focus on a different part of the purchase cycle than most travel sites. If you need to be someplace on a specific date and time then traditional booking engines like Kayak, Expedia, Orbitz, Travelocity and Hipmunk make sense. Pre or post-purchase sites, like Lonely Planet or TripAdvisor are useful for advice and recommendations about your destination.
    TripTwit is for travelers that say “I want to travel, but I’m waiting for the right deal before I pull the trigger.”

    What is TripTwit’s true niche – what travel search void are you filling and how does your strong social media connection help your business?
    TripTwit’s true niche is finding the hottest travel deals people are talking about. Traditional travel deal providers, like Travelzoo and Sherman’s Travel, who we view as our direct competitors, simply do not capture the deals that we do. Our technology allows us to grab breaking deals from a wide variety of sources, like airlines and hotels, but also lesser-known sources, like tourism boards and travel agents. Before TripTwit, the only way to find these deals was to follow and monitor thousands of Twitter feeds yourself. I personally flew from New York to Austin, TX for $40 round-trip by taking advantage of a tweeted airline promotion. It’s the kind of deal that’s going to be sold out before you get your weekly Travelzoo email.
    Our strong connection to social media is probably the biggest differentiator for TripTwit in the travel deal space. We’re in the middle of a shift of how businesses communicate with consumers. The best deals are being tweeted directly from travel brands to consumers and since we do not include deals from automated Twitter accounts, the deals we find are already curated by human beings. If a brand is using a valuable tweet to talk about a deal, there’s a very high chance that it’s a great deal – otherwise they’d lose followers.

    Can TripTwit pick up on developing traveler behavior trends before anyone else?
    That’s something we’re working on. We know where people want to go, where they want to leave from and what their favorite travel brands are. We’re in the process of trying to identify some useful trends and patterns. Stay tuned!
    Are you predicting any travel industry trends at the moment? For example, can increased twitter activity about a destination foretell a price increase to that destination? Does the data predict overall trends in the price fluctuations of travel or of hot destinations?
    It’s too soon to predict pricing trends via Twitter at this point. Increased Twitter activity for a particular destination is not indicative of increased travel demand. For example, chatter around New Orleans increased dramatically during the flood, but it was not related to travel demand. Also, the travel industry is still trying to figure out the best way to leverage Twitter. Some brands use Twitter to post deals and others don’t. A few airlines, for example, choose to require customers to sign up for their emails to get deals. It’s interesting, however, that whether airlines themselves use Twitter to promote deals or not, someone else will tweet about their deals.
    So, my prediction would be that more travel brands will jump on the bandwagon and use Twitter to promote deals. Forcing people to sign up on a per brand basis becomes a moot point when another Twitter user already tweets their best deals anyway.
    Do business travelers use TripTwit or are you mainly a consumer solution?
    TripTwit is mainly a consumer solution. The specific requirements of a business traveler in terms of dates, times and locations are better suited for traditional booking engines. That being said, the consumer travel market is still a huge piece of the e-commerce pie. We’re not trying to be everything to every traveler. We just want to be the de facto source for finding amazing deals for flexible travelers.

    What should a new user’s expectations be when they use TripTwit and what’s the most effective way to utilize the tool?
    Flexibility is important when using TripTwit. We’ve seen some amazing deals in the past that are a little unconventional. For example, an airline launched a new route between Chicago and Hong Kong and as a promotion was offering $100 round-trip tickets on a very limited basis. Chicago might not be your preferred departure city, but depending on where you live it would probably still be much cheaper to fly from there.
    Vigilance is another thing I’d say is important – you never know when an amazing deal is going to be posted on Twitter. The Japanese Tourism Board posted a once in a lifetime deal to spur tourism after the tsunami – $780 for a round-trip flight and 4-night hotel stay in Tokyo. TripTwit users found out about it a full 2 days before the L.A. Times Travel section wrote about it – at which point it was already sold out.
    In terms of getting the most out of TripTwit, you want to take advantage of the full 20 alert limit. Create alerts for anywhere you’ve dreamed of going, your origin city and any travel brands you really like. As mentioned previously, you never know when an amazing deal is going to pop up. Also, since we only send you deals that match your alerts and consolidate them into one nightly email you can be sure your inbox won’t get inundated.

    What’s next for TripTwit’s business – how will the business evolve to take advantage of Twitter’s continued growth?
    We want to expand our international user base next. Right now, we support US travelers for domestic and international travel. Our ability to grow internationally is dependent on marketers within those countries utilizing Twitter to transmit travel deals. Right now, the rest of the world is playing catch up with the US in that department, but it’s definitely something that’s trending upwards rapidly. We’ve had a lot of demand from Canada and Western Europe recently – two markets we plan to expand to once Twitter is fully embraced by the travel industry in those regions.
    Also, we’re working on mobile app versions of TripTwit with push notifications. This will allow our users to know about deals as they happen versus a nightly email – all without having to monitor Twitter themselves.

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