by Geri Stengel
Global travel is a $7.61 trillion dollar industry in 2014, according to Statista. Nearly two-thirds of travelers today are women, reports the George Washington University School of Business. Regardless of who they travel with, who pays for the trip or where they go, women make 80% of all travel decisions, according the Mary Bond, author of The Gutsy Traveler. And, surprisingly, the average adventure traveler is not a 28-year old male, but a 47-year-old female who wears a size 12 dress.
The travel industry is experiencing unprecedented levels of disruption, embracing digital transformation to remain competitive. For Stephenie Rodriguez, travel enthusiast — she’s explored 48 countries — and seasoned digital marketer with deep roots in the travel industry, this is an opportunity.
Even when something is fun, it can be fraught with challenge. If you want a more authentic budget-friendly experience, you don’t want to stay in a big-name chain, you want to stay someplace off the beaten path.
Once, while riding from the airport to the hotel, Rodriguez’s taxi driver cautioned her to be careful in the neighborhood where she was staying. Yes, the hotel is nice, but the neighborhood wasn’t safe. I, too, have experienced that situation.
Whether you are staying by yourself, with a friend or with family, questions will arise as you check out a hotel’s website:
Is it safe?
Is it clean?
Will it measure up to your expectations?
“What’s a girl to do?,” thought Rodriguez. She began to reimagine an end-to-end experience for women travelers. Not just a seamless and fast online booking experience but one in which women could share their own insights into the travel experience. You know, the kind of stuff you might share with the girls in the locker room at the gym. The result JOZU for WOMEN.
Apple has Siri, Amazon has Alexa, Microsoft has Cortana and JOZU has Jeni. Tell her where you want to go, your budget and who you’re travelling with. She does the rest. Behind the scenes, artificial intelligence helps find the answers you need. Like any friend, as Jeni gets to know you better, her recommendations improve.
With great confidence, Rodriguez took a professionally prepared pitch deck to Silicon Valley to talk to the venture community. “Male VCs scratched their chins,” she said. “They just didn’t get the need or the market potential.” Many a female founder has shared a similar story with me.
Rodriguez regrouped. She pitched friends and family by reaching out to them on Facebook. Forty five days later, she had raised $325,000. She reached out to Amadeus, a technology partner for the global travel industry. It had launched Amadeus for Startups, a program designed to equip travel startups with technology, expertise and consultative support.
Thinking about trip? Why not ask your new BFF, Jeni, about how to enhance your experience.
Written by Geri Stengel , CONTRIBUTOR at Forbes Magazine