October 4, 2018

Why TravelPirates Chose Boston to Accelerate Their Business

Everyone wants a good deal when they are going to travel and when they get to their destination, they are going to want to experience something local, not something they’ve done thousands of times before.

The travel tech company TravelPirates is providing services for both of these vacation aspects and is looking to bring this into the United States. The company’s Senior PR Manager Calvin Iverson spoke with us to not only talk about how their platform works but to also discuss why the company put their North American HQ in Boston and how it is growing their business.

I’m a big fan of the phrase “origin story.” What are the origins behind TravelPirates?

As students, our founders Sebastian and Igor were expert deal hunters and managed to travel the world at bargain prices. They wanted to share their expertise with others, so they started a blog, which grew into a business and took the shape of HolidayPirates Group, our parent company based in Berlin, Germany.

After the business proved successful in Germany, we expanded to eight other markets in Europe and then launched TravelPirates in the US in 2016.

Explain what your company does. How does TravelPirates’ services work?

Our goal is to inspire people to travel more often, and to go to places you might have believed were unaffordable on a budget. We want to make travel more accessible for everyone.

Calvin Iverson TravelPirates
Calvin Iverson, Senior PR Manager at TravelPirates

TravelPirates is a free-to-use travel search platform and app providing users with the best deals on flights, hotels, vacation packages and more. We employ a team of full-time deal hunters who use our proprietary algorithms and their extensive travel expertise to evaluate whether a deal is a good value, so you can be sure that every offer we publish is vetted for quality.

We’re not a travel agency, so we don’t book travel for you. We simply find the best deals out there and then show you how to book them yourself without hassle. We research every deal thoroughly so you won’t be caught off guard with hidden or less obvious costs, like resort fees and baggage fees.

What sets TravelPirates aside from the many other travel websites that populate the Boston tech scene?

I’d say our biggest differentiating factor is our mix of smart travel technology and human-sourced content. An algorithm can tell you if a flight is the cheapest flight available, but you need a human to evaluate whether the fare is a good value.

Because our deal hunting team is searching for these deals every day, they know better than anyone else whether any specific travel deal is worth your money. For example, we’ll tell you that we’ve found cheaper flights available for a certain route, but we recommend paying a little bit more for a different flight because you can get a direct, non-stop flight on a full-service carrier instead of one with long layovers that dig into your much-valued vacation time. Most Americans don’t have too much time off from work, so we always consider that when we’re vetting deals.

We’re also experts at finding and explaining error fares (pricing mistakes made by hotels and airlines), which can save you hundreds of dollars but need to be booked carefully in order to not get into a sticky situation if the airline or hotel decides to cancel the fare.

Another big difference is our strength on social media. Unlike our competitors, we grew our business on social media, primarily on Facebook – in fact, we just hit 10 million fans! Rather than spend money on more traditional traffic acquisition efforts, we’re focused on building organic traffic by finding relevant content for our audience and making it go viral.

TravelPirates Screenshot

The company was originally based in Germany. Tell me a little more about what their technology sector is like.

The Berlin tech and startup scene is thriving. The cost of living is relatively low, which has attracted a lot of young, talented people to the area. Lower overhead costs also give companies more wiggle room to try new things. I recently read an article that said that a new start-up is founded every 20 minutes in Berlin, which puts the tech industry on track to produce 100,000 new jobs by 2020.

Why choose Boston as the area for the North American headquarters?

We chose Boston for a variety of reasons. The Boston area has a rich talent pool coming out of some of the country’s top schools and universities, and it’s also increasingly a hotspot for US travel companies, so we’re in good company with some other big players.

What kinds of events have TravelPirates participated in in the Boston tech scene? What about events outside of Boston?

This past year we exhibited at the New York Times Travel Show and the LA Travel & Adventure Show, which were great experiences to increase our brand’s credibility with consumers. A lot of people see the prices we find and immediately think we’re a scam, which of course isn’t the case. Seeing us in person at these events is impactful.

Our CEO David Armstrong regularly attends conferences and summits hosted by EyeforTravel, a media company specializing in business intelligence for the travel and tourism industry. Most recently he spoke at EyeforTravel’s San Francisco Summit about how to successfully acquire traffic with the power of social media, and in October he’ll speak at EyeforTravel North America in Las Vegas about the formula to survive and thrive as a travel brand in a world of media monopolies and all-powerful platforms.

With a name like “TravelPirates” there has got to be a story behind how the founders came up with the name. Where does the name come from?

When our founders launched the business, they envisioned themselves as pirates hunting for treasure, searching the deep ocean of online travel deals. The reason we’re named TravelPirates in the US and HolidayPirates in the UK is in America we say we travel and in Europe they say they go on “holiday.”

If you and your team could find a perfect vacation spot, where would it be and why?

We’re big fans of island getaways – this year we had a company summit in Ibiza, and last year we went to the Canary Islands. I think we’d have a lot of fun at a place like Casa en el Agua, an eco-hostel located on a private island in the middle of the San Bernardo National Park off the coast of Colombia. I went on a bioluminescent plankton tour last time I was in Colombia, and I’ve been dying to go back!


Colin Barry is an Editor & Staff Writer to VentureFizz. Follow him on Twitter @ColinKrash