Startup Pitch – Wanup plots a new course for hotel loyalty

Wanup is a Spain-based service that wants to give independent hotels the chance to bolster customer loyalty via an online club.

The company says that loyalty clubs for propeties “work better” when they are allied with hotels in other destinations, as well as providing exclusive rates to members around the network.

In a relatively short space of time (18 months), Wanup has established a huge team and has around 400 partner properties on the system.

It’s pretty ambitious, too, wanting to grow fifteen-fold within three years.

Members get access to free wifi and other amenities from participating hotels, as well as cashback on each booking.

Here is a short video pitch:

Q&A with founder Guillermo Vallet Millet:

What problem does your business solve?

Wanup enables independent hotels to offer a valuable loyalty programme where previously they lacked a variety in destination and type.

Many hoteliers, even those who own chains, have tried to create loyalty schemes only to realize they aren’t attractive to guests. We are solving that.

Using the sharing economy Wanup brings together partner hotels into one global alliance.

As a result, Wanup is attractive to members who travel for work and leisure as they can earn rewards on a wide range of properties from business hotels to rural retreats, boutiques and beach resorts.

In addition, Wanup uses its proprietary technology and marketing tools to boost direct sales and visibility for its partner hotels, in effect making its hotels less reliant on the OTAs and travel agents.

Names of founders, their management roles, and number of full-time paid staff?

Over 80 employees based at the Wanup head office in Barcelona, and another 20 person Area Manager team working to sign up new partner hotels across Europe.

  • Guillermo Vallet Millet – Founder and Executive President
  • Jorge Rodergas – CMO
  • Natalie Batlle – Brand Director
  • Daniele di Bella – CCO
  • Adolfo Sánchez – Chief Corporate Officer

Funding arrangements?

€20 million privately funded by the Vallet family.

Revenue model?

Hotels are never charged a commission on reservations made by the members they recruit to the club.

Revenue is generated through a sliding scale commission model. Wanup takes between 6-9% of each booking made by a club member.

Wanup has various booking channels including; main website, widgets (installed on the websites of partner hotels), and microsites and call center.

Why do you think the pain point you’re solving is painful enough that customers are willing to pay for your solution?

Joining Wanup as a member of the club or partner hotel is free.

Catering to business and leisure travellers, the Wanup club is unlike the major international programmes as rewards are immediate, and there are no black-out dates.

The rewards, known as Wanup Winnings, include up to 6% back in travel cash and in-destination perks based on membership level.

The competitive commission rates Wanup offers to partner hotels are better than the majority of OTAs.

The complimentary software and marketing tools benefit those independent hotels, with a limited budgets and limited marketing and design resources.

External validation? (Examples: The incubators/accelerators you have been accepted to, the mentors who are advising you, the number of customers you’ve signed, the marketing partner deals you’ve made, the skills/connections of your founders, etc.)

Wanup is the brainchild of the Vallet family – hospitality professionals and entrepreneurs from Barcelona who own Catalonia Hotels & Resorts.

The family identified this critical demand from independent hoteliers after experiencing it with their own established group.

Wanup is the second innovation from the Vallet family who developed Quantum – a purchasing company that uses the sharing economy to serve more than one thousand hotels internationally – in 2013.

Wanup currently has 400 partner hotels signed up and aims to have over 7,000 in three years’ time making it the world’s largest loyalty scheme.

Tnooz view:

The hotel industry appears to be going through a fair amount of soul-searching as to how the traditional loyalty programme operates and will evolve.

Some of this is driven by the consolidation amongst the big chains (Starwood-Marriott being the prime example), where loyalty schemes are a huge part of the integration strategy but their future and role is still on the table.

Independent properties need something to counteract the rise of the huge chain model, where such programmes have both volume and reach on a global scale.

Wanup’s idea is certainly a strong one, where much of the marketing for it could be done by the hotels themselves.

Where the challenge may come is if other brands come along and seemingly create a me-too model.

The technology behind the service is not particularly unique, but Wanup’s experience in the hospitality sector should help where it matters most – the relationships and contracting with hoteliers, plus its ability to add properties quickly.

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