TRVL’s Attempt at Reinventing Travel Bookings

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You may have heard about TRVL — a Dutch startup created by an ex-Appler, that’s trying to disrupt the entire travel booking industry by offering individuals the ability to curate travel experiences, including hotels and flights, and thus become travel agencies of one in exchange for commission. TRVL presents themselves as a “revolutionary peer-to-peer travel booking platform that gives travellers access to travel industry rates.”

When I first heard about TRVL, naturally I got excited. My friends and business partners often ask me for the names of the hotels where I stayed on my travels and I almost never remember them because I don’t have a good way to track them, short of scrolling through my Booking.com bookings. And of course, no referral bonus is ever earned this way. I thought, what could be better than a way for me to help out people interested in the good places I’ve been to, while also earning a buck or two? That’s how my TRVL agent side got created, named like my Instagram account: https://constantraveller.trvl.com. 

I added a nice header from the Seven Rila Lakes, added all the fabulous hotels I could remember from not-so-distant travels and voilá, I was ready to go. Of course, I’d have to promote the page myself and make sure someone actually lands on it. Then, a couple of weeks back I got an email from TRVL saying I could get access to TRVL Insider for free, during 3 months. I needed no further prodding to activate my account, after watching their video which promised that I’d not only generate commission on my own and others’ bookings but that I would also save big on said bookings.

I set off to check out the ”big savings” I could make when booking through TRVL Insider

trvl insider
TRVL app insider access icon

and was fairly surprised to find out that, although searching all conceivable booking platforms (Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, etc.), it offered consistently higher prices than Booking.com, albeit the 20 – 40% commission rates they were advertising (in reality, the commission they showed me for most potential bookings was, as seen in the screenshot below, right around the 5% mark. After factoring that in, the prices would even out with those available to me as Booking.com Genius. That much about getting insider rates or nice booking commissions!

As an example, a search for accommodation in Chania on Crete from February 1 – 28, 2018 (27 nights in total), TRVL showed me as the cheapest option a hotel named Manthos, which would cost a total of 2,114 euros for the month of February, in addition to only one other option (the one seen below, Pleiades Hotel at 3 stars and close to 4,000 euros for the month of February)!!

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Oddly enough, in comparison, Booking.com showed a cheapest rate of 516 euro for all 27 nights, at a different accommodation (Apartments Armonia), followed by other much more budget-friendly options:

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My best guess is that this result is simply due to the fact that TRVL isn’t rendering smaller, budget, apartment-type properties as the commission they make on them is negligible comparable to the one provided by big hotels. Not having all options available when booking is certainly a detriment to the traveller, however, especially since the rates offered are far from the touted travel industry insider rates (According to TRVL’s FAQ, ”insider rates offer discounts up to 65% off the industry rate”).

I think the premise behind TRVL is innovative enough; the execution, however, leaves much to be desired and at its current state isn’t a platform I can recommend to my fellow travellers. It isn’t cheaper or very user-friendly, either — the accommodation pictures provided are not full-size and it’s difficult to see . On top, the expensive ”insider rates” can only be used on bookings that are non-refundable and which cannot be cancelled. Until significant improvements are made with the traveller in mind, I’ll definitely stick to my regular sources for booking: Booking.com, Airbnb.com and Kiwi.com.

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