By Riley Kaminer
Sure, the internet has revolutionized travel. It’s never been easier to decide where you want to go, book hotels and flights, and find fun things to do. But in an age of digital tools that can make our lives significantly easier, there are still a lot of headaches surrounding travel: dealing with price fluctuations, keeping track of plans, sharing itineraries with your friends and family, and wading through a sea of online reviews – just to name a few.
Jordan Scheffler, Jason van Esso, and Zach Picon of Miami-born startup Crewfare are doing their part to rethink what it means to book travel. The three University of Miami alumni – two of whom (Scheffler and van Esso) are native South Floridians – are committed to transforming the way people plan and enjoy travel, one event at a time.
“We all had experience in different aspects of entertainment, hospitality, and travel,” Scheffler told Refresh Miami, noting that they all worked at Groot Hospitality, the company behind local hotspots including LIV, The Key Club, Komodo, and Gekko, at various points between 2016 and 2018.
The origins of Crewfare can be traced back to around five years ago, when van Esso began to realize just how many logistics went into a destination-based trip. “The initial idea was to create solutions for experience and group travel,” Scheffler explained.
This was their first product, All Access, where event organizers can sell travel offerings directly to attendees. Crewfare and the organizers then share the revenue. From there, Crewfare started to create a product called Backstage, which is focused on managing the travel of the staff coming in to work these events. They also came out with a product, Passport, to enable events to sell complex, customized travel packages.
“Backstage and Passport are two first-of-their-kind products,” van Esso said. “There are corporate travel tools and spreadsheets, but we’ve taken it to the next level by offering labeling, multi-language capabilities, multicurrency offers – really anything that you want to do. It’s very, very custom.”
This is just the beginning, Crewfare reports. Plans include launching new projects in the near future including an RFP tool and an integration that enables organizers to offer hotels with ticketing packages.
“Our goal is to really solve problems, and there are lots of problems in the travel space,” van Esso continued. But really, it’s about reframing travel as a whole: “Legacy brands think of travel as destination-based, while we see it as experience-based,” said Scheffler. “We don’t want to go after the people who are going on a vacation. We want to go after the people who are going somewhere to experience something new, whether that’s a conference or a sporting event or anything else.”
This novel approach has served Crewfare well so far – having served more than 500,000 travelers and sold more than 200,000 hotel rooms, the co-founders said. The bootstrapped company has scaled to 40 full-time employees, around half of whom are based in South Florida.
“This industry is ripe for disruption,” underscored Picon. “We are excited to elevate group and entertainment travel and continue to create better products to improve booking experiences.”
Photo at top of post: L to R, Crewfare co-founders Zach Picon, Jason van Esso and Jordan Scheffler.
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