Romanian startups and projects bringing a fresh take on tourism and travel
From a focus on authentic experiences to customized trips and novel ways of exploring, several Romanian-born tourism and travel startups offer new takes on industry services or cover underserved niches. We outline some of the initiatives below.
Questo, a platform for city exploration games for travelers and locals developed by Romanian entrepreneurs, has recently been included in UNTWO's top 100 tourism startups in the travel and tourism industry as one of the companies that can restart the travel industry.
Questo offers city exploration games that enable tourists and locals to discover and learn about a city on their own, guided by the mobile app. While they resemble tours, they act more like real-world adventure games. The users explore destinations by following clues and solving challenges to discover new places and stories.
The Romanian travel startup also received the "Most Disruptive Travel Start-up of 2019 in Hospitality" Award from the UN's World Tourism Organization. Earlier this year, it attracted funding worth USD 1.5 million in an investment round led by Early Game Ventures with Sparking Capital's participation.
Epic Visits defines itself as a "hybrid between a travel agency and a booking platform, spearheading the new wave of experiential tourism." They aim to serve those "underserved when it comes to inspiration" and offer a range of themed accommodation and experiences on a self-service travel platform where travelers can create memorable getaways based on their style and preferences. It could be a wildlife observatory, the coolest experience on the Neversea beach, a cabin in the middle of the wilderness or old traditional Saxon houses.
The platform lists around 10% of the market to focus on the "epic factor," the listings are organized under inspirational categories, and the accommodation and experience are customized to fit people's personal style with the Mix and Match configurator.
Epic Visits was founded by Raluca Jianu, Mihai Bârsan, Bogdan Jianu, and Emanuel Pasat. This July, Romanian entrepreneur Dragoș Anastasiu joined the startup as angel investor and advisor through Touring Eurolines. Other investors in the startup, which is currently aiming to raise EUR 150,000 on Seedblink, are Felix Tătaru (GMP Group), Adrian Țuluca (Propaganda), and Bogdan Tudor (StarTech Team).
A project started in 2018, Travlocals is a booking platform that aims to promote responsible tourism, one closely linked to history and traditions, while also developing a community interested in rural and cultural tourism. When selecting their partners, the platform analyzes the services offered and the reviews received but also other requirements, one being the authenticity of the services provided. Users can find on the platform experiences such as husky sled rides in the mountains of Harghita, or escapades at wildlife observatories, and accommodation at refurbished, traditional houses, old mansions, tree houses or glamping facilities.
Framey, a startup founded by Romanian entrepreneurs Robert Preoteasa and Alexandru Iulian Florea in 2019, works on the idea that travelers are increasingly influenced by visuals. Hence, their service: the option to create routes based on the images the users like. Transforming dream photos into memorable trips is the aim of the company, which plans to "disrupt the travel industry by changing the way people are planning their trips and experiences." This July, the startup received a USD 1 million seed financing from ICE Capital in Dubai backed by the Romanian investment fund JECO Capital. It plans to use the money to develop the application, expand operations and team, and launch the application internationally. The Framey app is scheduled to launch in August.
The subscription-based Pickatrip wants to offer users access to trips and holidays at discounted prices, by event 30-40% lower than what they would find in the booking systems of hotels and tourism agencies. Besides preferential tariffs, those who subscribe receive a series of additional benefits such as added services and products, additional discounts, free activities offered by guests and more. The platform is a project of entrepreneur Alexandru Filip, also the co-founder of the Bucharest City App, sold in 2020 to a mobile phone operator.
Born in Oradea, Flat White Properties is a startup doing property management for apart-hotels, penthouses, guest houses, hotels, or individual apartments. It targets owners of accommodation units and aims to relieve them of "the stress of maintaining a property in a hotel regime," as the company "takes over all routine tasks and gives you all the management control." The company currently manages more than 30 properties in Oradea. This June, it took part in the local HoReCa Business Accelerator, where it received a EUR 5,000 grant it plans to use to further expand its business.
Booking-Mania, a booking platform developed with EU funding, offers video reviews on hotel services and car rentals uploaded by users. Its founder, Robert Răducanu, believed that video reviews are more compelling than written ones and also wanted to cover the missing segment of video reviews. Last year, the platform ran a campaign aimed at raising funds to send doctors working with Covid-19 patients on holiday for free.