For organizers of group travel, payments platforms that were built for selling products just don’t always cut it.
Despite the tools available, crucial functions for these businesses – collecting deposits and reminding travelers of subsequent installment payment due dates, for example – are still often a manual process.
Seeing the opportunity to turn those processes into something much simpler, the founders of WeTravel have created an online payments system that serves the specific needs of travel organizers and small and medium-sized B2B travel companies.
According to the company’s CEO and co-founder, Johannes Koeppel, the company initially built its platform to meet the needs of student-organized trips, such as club trips or travel with groups of friends. The needs of this group were simple.
But then it expanded to include yoga retreats led by teachers, who wanted the platform to offer a more professional presentation. As it continues to expand and serve larger and more sophisticated businesses, the company relies heavily on feedback from customers to determine what its platform needs to offer.
“That has to be the DNA of a payment facilitator from day one,” Koeppel said. “Even if you’re an expert in the field, you never know what product you have to build. You have to stay extremely humble. You have to constantly go back to your users for input, and not be shy to get rid of what’s not working.”
That feedback has directly affected how WeTravel handles payments. For example, companies that ship products often prefer card payments over ACH in part because they are reluctant to wait for settlement from payments that are routed through the participants’ bank account.
But that timing is not as much of an issue for a company that is selling trips booked months in advance, Koeppel said. So some trip organizers prefer to accept ACH payments to eliminate the cost of a credit card fee.
WeTravel charges a 1 percent fee to process ACH transactions and has worked to make potential pitfalls, such as insufficient funds, easier for its clients. If a transaction fails, an email goes out to the customer detailing what happened and what their next steps should be, reducing the burden for their users, Koeppel said.
And because many travel organizers prefer to offer a choice of payment methods to their participants, the company handles credit card payments as well.
WeTravel integrates these payment options into a software platform that enables organizers to create itineraries and add custom options such as varied pricing packages, accept bookings, and manage marketing and communication to group participants.
The company currently uses third parties to process its payments, primarily Stripe in the U.S. The team feels that it’s important to focus on building out its front end for now, but is open to taking on a larger in-house payments role down the road, Koeppel said.
“As we grow, we are starting to integrate slightly deeper into the whole payments ecosystem, not just using a single API but starting to build our own,” he said. “At some point, it becomes worth it to build your own system.”
WeTravel announced last month that it had raised $2 million from investors to continue building out its platform and expand internationally.