At just a few weeks from the WorldBy.com acquisition that further consolidates venere.com‘s position as one of Europe’s leaders in hotel reservations, we are working hard on important technology and commercial synergies. Worldby.com is known for its commitment to travelers worldwide seeking personalized service, unconventional accommodations and elaborate property illustrations.
For our Travel Industry Rockstars series we welcome to the stage Tuscany born-and-bred Stefano Galastri (39), ex opera singer, ham radio operator, marathon runner, licensed German Shepherd breeder, die-hard single, wine connoisseur and… co founder and CEO of WorldBy.com.
Tell us some more about yourself and about your career so far
I worked through high school and university in heavy and manual labor jobs, as a waiter in restaurants or loading trucks for express couriers. In my early career, just out of university, I was working as an investment banker and I was shocked by the revolution that was going on outside the grey world of the “investment bank”. The internet was happening! I decided to quit my job at the bank and start a web design and web marketing business.
How did you get started with WorldBy.com?
It was during that start-up period when we were involved in a lot of different industries that we noticed that Tuscan farmhouses were having a lot of success online as holiday accommodation properties. I instructed my sales people to concentrate on that niche for web site design. Out of a hundred farmhouse owners we contacted, no one accepted our proposal to design a website for them.
I decided I had to put them online anyway, even if it meant designing a web site for free and get paid in commission. This idea was met favorably by the property owners and WorldBy.com was born.
With no private or public funding, we started solely on our own efforts – myself, Bim Nawrin and Lorella Martini – and we created a company that has served about 1 million travelers, and counting.
How is WorldBy.com different from other accommodation booking web sites?
The concept is to provide the service that any traveler would like to receive, but sometimes is afraid to ask: no hidden booking costs; direct contact with the hotels even if they are booked through an agent; best price guarantee; the richest content & photo galleries and the selection of hotels we offer.
A lot of our pluses are not offered by our competitors. We built our company from a traveler’s perspective. A lot of our competitors built their companies from a money making perspective. This is a bit limiting, considering the fact that intermediaries online should have a very limited and transparent role and provide the benefits of a revolution like this to the customers.
How do you think venere.com and WorldBy.com customers will benefit from the new partnership?
WorldBy.com has a very high customer retention rate and now some 10% of our travelers book again. Sometimes these return customers had needs that we could not satisfy, as we are very focused on top destinations only. The introduction of Venere.com properties will help WorldBy.com’s loyal customers to find what they search for in regions and cities currently not covered by Worldby. Moreover, the acquisition could give added availability and prices in areas where WorldBy.com is already strong.
Venere.com customers will benefit from some features of our catalogs like the non conventional accommodation types that will make the already strong Venere.com offer the utmost comprehensive inventory for many international destinations. Also, we are hoping that some of the practices that we developed at WorldBy.com will be adopted by Venere.com, with positive impacts on a much larger organization.
What are some of your personal favorite properties or destinations on WorldBy.com?
I like non-hotel lodging such as Bed and Breakfasts or apartments where you can feel “at home being away from home”. Take Amsterdam Escape. When you check-in the fridge is full and the bar is filled with liquor of all kinds. You probably won’t know what kind of food you will find in the fridge, or the vodka on the bar shelf, but you’ll feel at home. The only rule is that what you use, you must replace before you check out.
I also like the boathouses in Amsterdam and the farmhouses in Tuscany, and certainly a lot of small and independent hotels that we feature because of their warm hospitality. The human touch and personal presence is what makes a difference in a hotel stay.
There is also the business travel segment to satisfy and for those purposes it is the best and most trendy hotels I prefer. I am interested in new inventions applied to hotel design. Out of the nearly 300,000 photographs we publish on our sites, some 10,000 I took myself, and I like the interior hotel design side of things.