Trip For Dog interview, when passion becomes a startup

As it often happens in the Travel & Tourism industry, successful ideas originate not only from a shared need, but also from a personal passion.

This is the case of Trip For Dog, based on the typical model of metasearch engines, which developed towards a specific target: pet lovers. Trip For Dog is a platform with a very defined focus, which provides specialised contents in order to assure the best experience to who travels with pets.

Twissen interviewed Marco Fabris, founder of Trip For Dog.

Twissen: How was the idea of Trip For Dog born?

Fabris: Trip For Dog was originally born as a blog for my friends and relatives, to keep them updated day by day of the holiday on which I went with my four-legged partner Mela, from Milan to almost Marbella (Andalusia). During my trip, Mela and I had to face several problems, so I decided to start geo-localising the most qualified accommodation facilities which welcomed my dog as a perfectly respectable guest.

Tw: Can you introduce your team?

F: The “operative pack” is expanding at the moment. The majority of the team members come from tourism multinational corporations and have years of experience. Some of them immediately accepted to join our team, others are gradually leaving their actual jobs in order to get full-time involved in our project.

Tw: Which is the business model of your company?

F: Our business model is very simple: we are a vertical metasearch, targeted at a number of specific users which is constantly growing. We have our proprietary databases and we are gathering them in a unique research in order to provide our users a simple and practical experience. It is something unique.

Tw: How important is knowledge to your company?

F: Trip For Dog was born “bottom-up”, from all the reports that we used to get and we currently receive from our users. For this reason, shared knowledge is the basis of our philosophy. Our customers are the “authors” of the information that we share after that we checked it on the sly. We are the organised and verified showcase of their feedbacks.

Tw: Which services do you provide to your community?

F: We give the chance to search and find pet-friendly facilities, also comparing the several hotel fares. At the moment we are developing our new platform, which will include more search filters dedicated to our segment, along with the opportunity to take part to one of our “pack holidays”. At the same time, we offer specific maps which localise all the beaches for dogs in Europe, dog-friendly museums, swimming pools which welcome dogs, along with tram, train, ship and air lines which allow pets on board. The new platform is going to gather all this pieces of information, linking our proprietary databases.

Tw: Which are the values at the basis of your company?

F: We are the point of reference for who is travelling with a pet. Our values are always positive ones, we don’t like to gain visibility through tragedies, that’s not our style. We constantly get requests of adoption, reports of abandonments and abuses, but we divert them to our partner associations. We like to be positive and our communication style fully represents what we do. For example, the articles on our blog are written from the dogs point of view: they tell every story and useful information that we publish.

Tw: Can you describe your target?

F: The majority of our users are women aged 20-40 yo, I think it depends on the sensibility and practical sense that they have. They usually have a medium-high level of culture and, of course, they love travelling with their four-legged friend and they feel part of our community: we are a tight-knit pack.

Tw: In which Country do you operate?

F: We reviewed accommodation facilities all over Europe. The majority of our users are Italian, but there are also Austrian, Swiss and German. We can count on an important presence in all the Continent.

Tw: Talking about numbers, how many people in Europe travel with their pets?

F: In Europe, there are about 130 million pets and we can say that 70% of people who have pets usually travel with them. Finding pet-friendly accommodation facilities or means of transport is easier in central and northern Europe. On average, a pet travels with families, namely two parents and a couple of human brothers or sisters.

Tw: Which are the most common issues that you have to face while travelling with a pet?

F: It depends on the Country. For example, in Spain the biggest problem is represented by the means of transport. Dogs weighing more that 8 kilos are not welcomed on national trains, undergrounds, trams and buses, except for Barcelona, Zaragoza and partially Madrid. In Italy, the major difficulties are found in hospitality: only one third of accommodation facilities welcome pets.

Tw: Which services do you consider “pet-friendly” in hotels or in transport companies?

F: Talking about accommodation facilities, we consider the presence of a safe area which allows people to let their pet, a beach to go for a walk, if there is a vet nearby or, more simply, if there are bowls and doghouses in bedrooms. Those are only some of the basic services that we expect to receive when we are looking for a holiday solution.
About transport companies, fortunately several shipping lines designed some pet-friendly cabins. Trains are usually accessible, unless another passenger complains: then you could end up travelling in the train corridor, even if you paid for your dog’s ticket, too. Nothing to do when it comes to airlines: in spite of the many reminders, they don’t understand that they could possibly multiply their revenue if they let heavier dogs travel into cabin and not in the hold. We are working on it but it’s really hard: if only one airlines opened to this option, I’m sure that the other ones would follow it.

Tw: Which are the European Countries that, by now, you consider to be more pet-friendly?

F: Germany and England are on the top of the list: trains, undergrounds and buses are free for pets, which can also access to almost every public place. At the very bottom we find Spain and Portugal, which are very close-minded towards pets.

Tw: How important is the social aspect to your company?

F: It is fundamental. We are a community with a very strong sense of belonging, we share the same care and affection towards our pets and we consider them as fundamental members of our families. Only who has a pet in their family can understand this: it is easy to understand who does this job only for business purposes, and customers can feel it.
About social networks, Facebook and Instagram are the most useful to share our experiences.

Tw: Are you planning to develop a mobile app?

F: Actually, mobile apps have already been developed, but I am a very meticulous person when it comes to my job, and I want them to be improved before being published and distributed for free. I rather wait and keep on using the mobile version of our metasearch, which is completely accessible from every kind of smartphone or tablet, and available in 36 different languages.

Tw: Did you receive any investment round?

F: By now, everything has been self-produced and financed. We knocked on the door of many business incubators but we got tired of hearing that we were always one step behind or one step ahead, depending on the point of view. So we started to contact private expert investors particularly with experience in the tourism field: someone answered back.