Fantasy “surprise holidays” are not just made in Hollywood. Banking on booming demand for low-cost travel, three young Spaniards have created the ultimate surprise vacations for just €150 per person.
Their app Waynabox also uses celebrity-endorsed marketing campaigns to position itself as a cool jet-setting lifestyle choice for European millennials. Hence goes their tagline: “Don’t be a tourist. Be a Wayner.”
Voted as “World’s sexiest reporter” by FHM in 2009, the Spanish influencer Sara Carbonero has revealed to fashion e-talier Modalia that she was looking forward to a mystery trip from Waynabox. The wife of former Real Madrid goalkeeper Iker Casillas said that her 2018 New Year resolution was to escape from routine and make secret trips to unknown destinations.
It’s a formula that seems to be working. Waynabox’s sales in 2017 exceeded €5 million with over 30,000 mysterious trip packages sold, two years after the launch of their citybreaks.
“InterRail del Aire”
Traveling just for the sake of travelling is not new. For decades, many have taken time off to explore new horizons. The most popular form of cheap travel is the InterRail that takes over 300,000 young people around Europe every year. Its fixed-price ticket allows travellers to hop on and off trains along networks running across Western and Central Europe.
In fact, “Wayna travel” was mooted by three engineering students during an InterRail journey across Europe. The three friends felt that travelling (and sleeping) by train was too slow. A faster option would be low cost air travel within Europe – like an “InterRail for Air travelers” with hotel rooms included.
Pau Sendra, Ferran Blanché and Daniel Jiménez remained keen on their business idea even after the InterRail holiday. They began creating a business plan for Wayna while completing their master’s degrees.
Their mission: to create affordable, fun and spontaneous trips for adventurous travelers who like exploring unknown destinations. InterRail enabled students to visit many countries cheaply, but a lot of time was wasted sitting on the train. A faster way was to do it with airplanes – taking advantage of the hundreds of unsold seats on regular flights around Europe, explained CEO Sendra.
Luckily for the three postgrads, their business idea won a Lanzadera entrepreneurial award. Wayna was rebranded as Waynabox at the accelerator’s campus in Valencia. The first Waynabox surprise city break was launched in 2015. Waynabox also secured its first funding of €250,000 from local investors.
The young entrepreneurs were finally able to transform their business powerpoint into a real-life online travel company straight after graduation. But not everything was simple. They had to quickly learn to handle day-to-day challenges of team management and overcoming bureaucratic obstacles to achieve their original vision of fun and spontaneous “InterRail del Aire” travel for European youth.
Like all new businesses, travel startups have to work very hard to survive in a highly competitive and overcrowded market that is dominated by well-connected offline and online operators with deep pockets. Product differentiation is the only way to carve out niche markets being underserved by the travel giants. The exciting online vacation game of blind-booking surprise holidays is an innovative way to pull in tech-savvy wanderlust travelers.
Like trendy cocktail drinks roulette games - Waynabox offers the same thrill-seeking emotion of letting computers match travelers to empty seats of flights to unknown destinations around Europe. The designated hotel and return flights to the surprise destination will be sent to customers 48 hours prior to departure.
Standard Wayna-trips start from €150 per person for 3-day getaways at Tripadvisor 3.5-rated accommodation including hotels, apartments and boutique hostels. Those picky about hotels can pay premium prices of €249 per person for 3-day getaways at premium hotels with breakfast included.
With prices ranging from €150 to €499 per person covering return flights and rooms without breakfast, Waynabox is ideal for budget-conscious backpackers. Beach bums and sun-seekers pay just €449 each for seven days at a European resort. Solo travelers will normally have to pay extra for single person room occupancy. The thrills of last-minute surprise holidays are also perfect gifts for celebrating special occasions and for corporate events.
The Waynabox “surprise factory” proprietary software compares flight times, prices, destinations, availability and quality. The best options are automatically matched to customer preferences, such as price of holiday package, departure airport and travel dates. A list of 12 available destinations is produced by the algorithms. The customer can either accept all 12 as possible surprises or eliminate one for free. Subsequent rejections will incur a charge of €5 per location. However, a minimum of three suggested surprise destinations must be left for the booking to proceed.
Once the purchase is made, there is no going back. The adventure has begun! Waynabox will take care of all flights and accommodation. Commissions are earned from the hospitality and airline partners.
Users choose from over 50 destinations, including popular party resorts in Southern Spain and Tangiers in North Africa. Departures currently take place from Barcelona, Madrid, Málaga and Alicante in Spain; with new overseas departure points in London, Paris, and Lisbon and Oporto in Portugal.
Will the novelty fade?
Travelers have plenty of choice from competitively priced holiday packages offered by early pioneers like Lastminute.com and Secret Escapes. Airlines are also working with prestigious hotel partners to offer in-house holiday specials to popular destinations.
Waynabox shares similar unique selling point (USP) of other new travel startups like Flykube, Drumit and Wowtrip – all aimed at millennials and their love for sharing holiday experiences on social media.
But Waynabox also strives to differentiate itself by offering stress-free vacations to travelers who don’t want the hassle of planning trips in advance. In addition to providing advice on unexpected travel emergencies, Waynabox offers only quality accommodation with ensuite bathrooms, in central locations near clubbing and sightseeing hotspots favored by millennials.
By operating a typical travel agent business model of low margins and commissions, Waynabox has devised innovative ways to earn extra income from the surprise vacation game. For example, €5 is charged for the second and subsequent rejection of destinations offered during the booking process. A high turnover and repeat bookings fueled by social media blogs of loyal customers or Wayners are crucial for sustainable growth and profitability.
Expansion into other European markets like France and the UK is also important for growth in the search for more new holiday destinations that appeal to young travelers. Mutual benefits can also be achieved through collaboration with traditional airlines such as Air France that will soon be offering Waynabox surprise getaways directly to their customers.
There are still many empty airplane seats to many unknown destinations that are not yet explored by young travelers. The #likeawayner campaign offers free holidays in return for Wayners posting the most original photos on social media. It is inevitable that digital natives will be key #holiday influencers of the future.