How RueBaRue is Reinventing the Travel Brochure
RueBaRue is not just a travel guide – it’s a guest experience platform. Think of it as every guide brochure you’ve ever seen in those motel magazine racks, only far more helpful, accessible, and modern.
Through a single line of code embedded in a website, RueBaRue provides mobile-friendly destination guides for hospitality businesses – especially those that deal in vacation rentals.
“What we have built is a platform that a hotel or vacation rental can use to customize a page that says, ‘If you come and stay at my vacation rental, this is what you should do,” says Founder Nars Krishnamachari, who works on RueBaRue as part of a five-person team in Cambridge, MA.
The problem he’s trying to solve is not so much in the big cities, as there are “Too many choices and you’re generally going to be okay.” RueBaRue is thinking about smaller towns with fewer choices.
Krishnamachari came up with the idea when he was traveling in Turkey with a group of people, and he found that it was nearly impossible to plan the trip because there were too many choices and too many resources. As a result, the group struggled, and spent a lot of money on tour guides in order to plan the trip.
“That’s the first moment where I felt, ‘There’s a big problem here, and I would like a better solution,’” Krishnamachari remembers.
Any critic would immediately point out the existence of travel brochures and Yelp. Krishnamachari argues that a brochure is neither a digital tool nor a catered one; places like TripAdvisor and Yelp are “okay,” he says, but they offer too many options and not enough recommendations.
RueBaRue uses an algorithm to recommend select top choices rather than dozens that range in quality. It also allows hospitality providers to customize the platform further with personal picks, allowing for a more human, local touch than Yelp would normally provide.
Here’s how it works.
First, the business types in the property’s address into the RueBaRue search bar.
From there, the platform’s search algorithm finds highly rated restaurants, activities, and utilities (like boat rentals and pharmacies) nearby.
The business can then fully customize the list by adding hidden gems, removing lesser spots, and adding personal tips. Do you think the fried Oreos at Dewey’s in Old Orchard Beach are worth checking out – because they totally are? Note it on the list.
After the list is complete, RueBaRue generates a line of code that can be embedded on the provider’s website, or linked to in a confirmation email.
RueBaRue is targeting vacation rentals – businesses operating on websites like Airbnb and VRBO – as its primary source of business. These are places that rent out millions of apartments and homes each year to guests via website listings.
“Because the owners who own those properties don’t want to deal with the hassle of checking in their guests and maintaining the properties, they give these properties to the vacation managers and the vacation managers manage them,” Krishnamachari said.
According to him, there are thousands of vacation managers around the country who will manage anywhere from 50 to several thousand properties. Instead of primarily focusing on hotels, which he describes as an “old school business,” RueBaRue has decided to focus its efforts on an industry that has been around for decades and remains “quite underserved.”
“Anytime we try selling it to these companies, they look at our product and say they want it,” he said. “Because when you go to these places, they don’t have a dedicated concierge, so they’re spending a lot of time answering guest’s questions about things like boat rentals, babysitting, and ordering delivery.”
This vacation rental focus marks a pivot for RueBaRue, which started with a consumer-focused model before switching its strategy in January. The platform’s focus remains unchanged – to reach the guest. What has changed is the means; instead of being a consumer app, as was the focus a year ago, RueBaRue was relaunched in March as a platform to be sold to providers.
The pivot came when local hotels started calling RueBaRue, asking for a platform that can fit their guest’s needs. Krishnamachari says that this was the moment when they saw an opportunity – that people actually want this platform.
When they launched the new product in March, RueBaRue found success almost immediately. They gained significant momentum at the VRMA Eastern Regional Conference in late March.
“Every person who stopped at our booth wanted our product,” Krishnamachari told us. “They said yes to this product. They’ve been wanting this product for years.”
In three months, RueBaRue has earned 15 paying customers, with 20 more on trial. Some of their clients include On the Water in Maine, Beachnest, and Be My Guest. Beyond this, RueBaRue has entered a strategic partnership with CiiRUS Vacation Rental Software in order to enhance guest experiences everywhere.
RueBaRue operates via a subscription service. They charge anywhere from $3-5 per month per property depending on how many properties a manager operates. So if a client owns 120 properties, he or she would pay $3 multiplied by 120, every month. That’s $4,320 per year for one company. They also make money through a referral model, but subscriptions are RueBaRue’s financial focal point.
“Every hotel can use this, every vacation rental can use this. Just on subscriptions alone, this is a billion dollar market.”