Israel startup wants to ‘revolutionize’ ski vacations

WeTrip gets $1m in investments for WeSki, where skiers can book flights, hotels, lessons and equipment

Skiers and snowboarders in the resort city of la Plagne, in the French ski area of the Alps, July 26, 2016. (Yaakov Naumi/FLASH90)
Skiers and snowboarders in the resort city of la Plagne, in the French ski area of the Alps, July 26, 2016. (Yaakov Naumi/FLASH90)

Tel Aviv-based travel startup WeTrip says it is planning a “ski vacation revolution,” and has developed an algorithm-driven one-stop-shop booking website, WeSki, where skiers can plan all aspects of their trip, from flights and hotels to resorts, equipment rentals and ski lessons.

Launched earlier this month in London with a $1 million investment that includes Uri Levine of Waze and low-cost airline easyJet, WeSki promises customers that its site is on average 20 percent cheaper than conventional booking.

“Our dream is to help groups around the world to put together ski vacations with maximum ease and flexibility,” said founder and CEO Yotam Idan. “I believe that the venture will change the way in which skiers book their holidays, and save them from the need to call a travel agent.” He said the firm will also launch an app in the near future.

In recent years, Israeli tourism abroad has surged. A 2013 Ski Deal survey found 40,000 thousand Israelis took off for ski vacations that year alone, and, said Idan, some tens of thousands more who go on similar “activity vacations” including cycling, marathons, diving, concert and festival-centered trips. The Alps and Western Europe combined for a 44 percent share of skier visits worldwide, according to the 2017 International Report on Snow & Mountain Tourism. According to the same report, foreign nationals made up 31 percent of French ski visits.

The WeSki website allows to book ski trips and equipment in a one stop shop (YouTube screenshot)

All of these skiers face a shopping process that involves multiple websites and apps, and for some even the services of a travel agent. The process of assembling a travel package for a ski holiday can take an average of 40 hours, said Idan.

With WeSki, he said, prospective skiers will be able to cut down on both time and cost, by going to their one-stop-shop, “the easiest and the most intuitive place” to buy ski packages, where all aspects of the package can be booked. Another innovation is that bookings and checkout can be done by a group using multiple credit cards, not just individually, a first in the travel industry, Idan said.

“We understand that the majority of skiers go in groups of friends,” he said. “Usually if they’re young people they can’t even pay with one credit card because they don’t have the credit.”

WeSki’s business model is based on commission from hotels and services it offers users. The use of the website is free and it is linked to over 100 hotels, airlines, apartments and ski centers, including 11,000 hotel rooms or apartments in the French Alps. Booking is currently limited to France, but Idan said the company hopes to expand to all major skiing markets — starting with Austria and Eastern Europe — as well as see its technology applied to other activity vacation fields through the WeTrip platform.

Idan said that this simplification is meant to incentivize people to take trips, and meets their needs more directly than the current process. He said that because WeSki is founded by a group that includes lifetime skiers, it understands the different demographics that book ski trips. The payment method for groups is easier, in installments and with each person’s expenditure calculated. Younger-aged groups — in which people are more likely to need cheaper and less luxurious lodging, but closer to nightlife — will be matched with smaller apartments near bars and restaurants, while families will be matched to hotels or larger apartments closer to nature and scenic views.

“You can tailor-make your own package with 100 percent flexibility,” said Idan.

Idan — who grew up in France — and other founding members are skiers themselves, and he said this has infused WeSki with an insider feel, aiming to acquire the trust of serious ski enthusiasts.

WeTrip was established in 2016, having been conceived the year before at the Herzliya Interdisciplinary Center, where Idan and co-founder David Ben-Zimra were training in the Zell program entrepreneurship program. It was there that they first met Waze founder Uri Levine.

In 2016 WeTrip was accepted into the UK startup accelerator Founders Factory, where they secured the investment of EasyJet. They are now coming off a $1 million first-round of investments, made up of 14 “angel investors,” the aforementioned Uri Levine and Sean Melnick of London’s Peregrine Group.

Idan said understanding the deep emotional connection skiiers feel to the trips is crucial.

“It’s one of the memories that stays with you all of your life, especially when you do it with your closest friends and family.”

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