The travel and tourism industry has been hit particularly hard by COVID-19. Global revenue is estimated to be down 34.7% in 2020 compared with 2019. Although some international travel has resumed, the numbers are nowhere near where they used to be. Many are still struggling to determine how to survive this unprecedented public health emergency.
One travel-related company that is weathering the storm and making the best of an extremely challenging situation is a startup called As You Stay. Launched in 2016, As You Stay is revolutionizing the way people travel by allowing them to pay as they stay. In other words, it enables them to set their own check-in and check-out times while only paying for the hours that they actually stay at the hotel.
How Does It Work?
As You Stay is primarily a data-driven app that works on top of the big booking platforms (e.g. booking.com). Based on the queries that users type in, As You Stay’s algorithm understands which packages, solutions, and bookings are most relevant and provides the most practical and cost-effective results. When a user books a room via As You Stay, the hotel receives a regular order through its operations system. Once it receives that order, As You Stay tells it that the customer only needs the room for a certain period of time and then either sells or gifts the hotel that extra time.
By accurately defining the slots of each stay, the app not only allows hotel guests to pay less but it also allows hotels to schedule housekeeping across a wider spectrum of time, which enables operations to run more efficiently. “It’s a win-win situation,” explains Ofer Helfman, founder and CEO of As You Stay. “We give travelers the best deals for their needs while developing solid relationships with the hotels and helping them provide better service.”
From Frustration to Innovation
As a former real estate executive and hotel-chain manager, Helfman was very much aware of the issues facing the industry. He had experienced the pressure to prepare rooms and check guests in within the same tight time frame, and could not understand why hotels continued working in this way when there was surely a better solution to be found. He also closely witnessed the frustrations of travelers who were forced into a rubric that often did not fit their needs.
“Over the past few years, every area of tourism has made technological advancements in order to offer consumers better service,” he said. “If airlines and car rental services are able to offer services by the hour, then why should hotels be stuck in the past?”
Realizing that the system would be difficult to change from the inside, he left the hotel industry and set out on an entrepreneurial path. Helfman sought to come up with a framework that would be beneficial to both the hotel and the traveler. And so, As You Stay was born.
Using Challenging Times to Its Advantage
Waiting in the hotel lobby for your check-in time or for your room to be cleaned has always been an issue, but in today’s era of social distancing and strict hygiene, they have taken on a new dimension of importance. Helfman asserts that current health conditions make the app more relevant than ever. “COVID-19 has proven that our product is suitable for all situations,” he explained. “Having set times for check-in and check-out makes social distancing easier, and it also helps with the room-cleaning schedule. We have seen that our product holds water even during times of crisis.”
Despite the significant slowdown in travel, As You Stay remains active, facilitating mostly domestic tourism in the US and using every spare moment to further improve the algorithm and interface of the app. As You Stay has also been working on opening up new destinations following the unprecedented announcement about the normalization of relations between Israel and the UAE, which has turned hotels in Dubai and several other cities in the Arab world into major potential partners for the startup. “During COVID-19, we have worked to open up every possible market,” said Helfman. “The funny thing is that I’ve been looking at the Arab world for two years now. You could say that now we’ve finally had time to take it on. The big companies don’t get there much, but for a small company like ours, focusing on these places will make us stand out from those that don’t.”
Helfman takes particular pride in staying true to his values of responsibility and loyalty even during the pandemic. As You Stay has been able to guarantee that anyone who had to cancel hotel plans was able to receive a refund. Though ordinarily, this would be the responsibility of the hotels, Helfman says that he has taken that upon himself to let his clients know that the company is looking out for them.
Gaining the Attention of the Industry
Helfman founded As You Stay with the support of several pre-seed investors from the hotel industry. Not long after, Gil Smolinski of NGN Partners came on board as angel investor. As a frequent business traveler himself, Smolinski felt first-hand the pain that As You Stay solves and has been able to bring a unique and experienced view to the table. “I had long grown tired of having to leave my luggage in a storage room because the hotel was not yet ready for me and all I wanted to do was take a shower after a long trip,” Smolinksi said. “I also was convinced that there had to be a better, more convenient way, and As You Stay seemed to be precisely the solution.”
Within less than a year, As You Stay was receiving supportive coverage and reviews by travel gurus, like Johnny Jet, Life Hacker, and Thought Card. In early 2019, after signing a collaboration agreement with Booking.com, As You Stay relaunched its website and app with an improved algorithm and streamlined user interface based on feedback and data from users as well as hotels. Today, As You Stay works with more than 400,000 hotels worldwide and seamlessly serves hundreds of thousands of travelers 24/7.
The year 2020 has not been easy for the travel industry, but Helfman sees no choice but to keep an optimistic outlook. “I have to gamble and say that travel will be back very soon. I don’t see a world without flights, without vacations, without business meetings,” Helfman speculates. “The past shows that our memory, even in crises, is short. It will be a difficult year, but we are looking ahead. We aren’t here for a few months, we’re in it for the long haul.”
Author | Emily Forbes
An Entrepreneur, Mother & A passionate tech writer in the technology industry!