After being in the corporate world for nearly 25 years working with airlines and hotels, David Schlottman found a niche that opened up to him a natural career in the world of online hotel bookings. The odds of success were, by every measure, great as he was already in the travel booking platform space.
Schlottman spun out ubookdirect.com, an online travel program, four years ago. Building corporate partners with banks, telcos, holiday clubs, et al, ubookdirect, is in short, tied to the simple idea of providing services exclusively to select membership organisations and many other below-the-line channels with loyalty, rewards and staff benefits.
“For hotel partners, we align their brand across our network of corporate brands and provide a closed environment for them to distribute more inventory without diminishing returns from traditional sales channels.
“We deliver our B2B corporate partners’ high-value hotel, air and cruise packages that enhance their membership proposition. Our member-only offers are delivered by white-label booking sites, apps and API (application programming interface) connections,” says Schlottman.
Having made it through with ubookdirect.com for four years now, Schlottman found another business opportunity when COVID-19 hit early this year.
“When COVID-19 happened, I thought I needed to do something completely different and, luckily, the market was ripe too for a new travel platform offering that is not seen anywhere in the market,” says Schlottman, adding, “There was an opportunity to do things differently during the beginning of Covid, so we said let’s see if we can focus on domestic and help people get more bang for their bucks.”
With ubookdirect.com as his company, he founder a sub brand diamondtravelclub.com.au, a commission free booking platform that members can access 24 by 7, 12 months of the year at their leisure and “book our lowest wholesale rates without any commission factored into the pricing”.
Diamond Travel Club, therefore, is also an exclusive-members only platform, where one pays an annual membership fee priced at 199$ per year. “Typically, it only takes anywhere between four and six nights per year to cover that, but members have access to it all year round. So, you can save an average of 33 per cent on trips with Diamond Travel Club and we give you access to more than 800,000 hotels and resorts around the world,” says Schlottman.
What differentiates Diamond Travel Club in the industry and how it is spurring it to faster growth, says Schlottman, is the fact that there are no commission built in. “Hotel prices are, on average, inflated by 33 per cent compared to wholesale rates. So, we start by doing away with those commissions. Then we start negotiating for better discounts, more inclusions and amazing extras such as free night offers.”
Interestingly, Schlottman, who has been a Bartercard merchant (a concept that uses an alternative, electronic currency that is exchanged between members to pay for goods and services, instead of paying cash) for quite a long time, jumped into Qoin, Australia’s digital currency platform launched early this year that enables consumers to spend with their favourite merchants instore or online.
As an early adopter of Qoin, Schlottman believes if the businesses have to expand, the privilege of giving members the opportunity to use Qoin gives more room for growth.
“The fact that we accept Qoin on every hotel (so members of ubookdirect.com or Global Travel Club can either pay on credit card on our lowest rates or Qoin) increases traffic and makes it ideal for everyone,” says Schlottman, adding, “I purchased a package with Qoin as a merchant and became more and more interested in cryptocurrency, and as time went on, I discovered that our platform was actually perfect for Qoin.”
Schlottman says there is a lot of traffic coming from Qoin as they are probably the only travel platform that accepts Qoin as currency. “Everybody is booking 5-star luxury,” he says with a laugh, and on a serious note, adds, “It is hard to give any sales numbers or the number of transactions at this point, but we are getting tons and tons of bookings through Qoin. We do all the conversions with the hotels, so we accept Qoin and put it through the exchange and we pay the hotels as per the invoice.”
Schlottman believes his businesses have evolved from a niche tool but there have been challenges through the early days. Fortunately for him, with foreign-owned peak booking sites such as Expedia, Booking.com marking up 20-30 per cent commission, hotels have been receptive because of his commission free policy. “We don’t charge any commission, all it is is a very low membership fee with a 24×7 for 12 months access for members and if they to book anything through Qoin they can reach out to us.”
He has a small team of five running both his brands—ubookdirect and Global Travel Club—but anyone familiar with how the technology market works knows size does not matter. “We don’t need a big team to be honest because a lot of our sales are just coming online. We also have a dedicated concierge service in Melbourne, so members can ring us and if they want help booking on Qoin or if they want us help find the best deals. That’s what we do as well.”
Looking ahead, Schlottman wants to build scale and expand. “We are adding flights, tours and other experiences from early next year. We will be integrating all packages into the Diamond Travel Club site. And we have a fresh new high end web design coming from January.
“We want to go into international markets. We have a number of partners including Qoin that are going into India from start of next year. So, we will follow them basically and we will open our channel platforms to all the Indians in that market.”
Asked what entrepreneurship is really like, Schlottman says it’s a struggle. “You are constantly having to reinvent yourself, you are constantly having to stay strong mentally, stay the course particularly when you are not funded, you have to be very smart with how you spend your money, you have to be very persistent, very relationship focussed and make sure that you secure those partnerships for the long term and that you build that trust with your partners. It’s amazing and horrible at the same time,” he says with a laugh.
Schlottman is operating in a large industry but as the only travel platform that accepts Qoin, a type of cryptocurrency as payment, he believes his ventures have the potential to thrive.
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After being in the corporate world for nearly 25 years working with airlines & hotels, David Schlottman found a niche that opened up to him a natural career in the world of online #hotel bookings. #TheIndianSun @indira_laisram https://t.co/A7FSmraRDL
— The Indian Sun (@The_Indian_Sun) December 18, 2020