I started BackpackingTribe about a week ago, and it's taking off! BackpackingTribe is a platform where backpackers can join a group, a.k.a. tribe, to travel from hostel to hostel together. This way, you don't get the superficial stuff anymore when traveling and going to new hostels every 3 days; instead, you are able to form deeper and lasting relationships!
How it started
I started by talking about the idea in Facebook groups. It got quite some attention, even though most people aren't even backpacking now with corona! This post in a small backpacking NL group of 10k people got 30 likes and 27 replies!
After a few of these posts, I was not convinced yet. I wanted to know if people are actually joining these groups; people that are already backpacking. So I messaged people on a travelbuddy website called Workaway about the idea of forming a group together. It worked!
The only reason that's holding most people back was corona, but this is just a temporary problem.
In the end, I emailed quite some people, of which 14 will join the group trip to Portugal. A great start! This trip will take place for 3 weeks from the 15th of November until the 5th of December.
Now, let's grow the site!
Now the idea was validated. However, I was putting a lot of effort in filling the groups. I don't want to do that manually all the time. Therefore I started looking for a way to get passive organic traffic to the site.
My idea was to collaborate with as many travel bloggers as possible - because that's where my target audience hangs out. So I found a paid database of travel bloggers and I purchased it: $300,- for 1100 travel bloggers contact information!
I emailed half of them....
And I got great response - around 50 replies out of 500! This is just one of the many responses I got:
Most bloggers didn't want to do an affiliate model with me, but they allow me to guest post for them. Some free, some for some money.
Guest posting will allow my site to get some domain authority so it ranks higher in Google and I will get organic Traffic. Great!
I also tried ads to see how much I paid for a click. In one day, this ad got 10 clicks for just €0.60 per click... I target people with the interest 'backpacking' and also were 'away from home' and 'away from family'. This would, I hope, target backpackers that are on the road already.
Google Ads I also just started and targeted the keywords 'Travel buddy', 'travel mate' and 'travel companion'. I did this because I think people don't search that much for a travel group that's free because people don't think it exists.
However, until now, it doesn't seem to work that well for €3.13 CPC. That's a lot! I have to refine my strategy here.
What about Instagram?
I also created an Instagram and hired someone to handle it from Nepal! It now has 1482 followers, and the bio links to the site. More organic traffic!
What about the business model?
Of course, how can I do this for free? Well, whenever someone books a hostel, I get anywhere between 3.75% and 8% of the total costs. That means that, when a backpacker goes on a month trip with me, I will earn around 25 euro! Let's say the average backpacker will do this for 2 months, that means the Customer Lifetime Value is 50 euro's!
Is the business scalable?
Yes. It takes some customer support to care for all tribes, for example onboarding them, and answer questions if they have them. I don't know exactly how much it's gonna be but I don't think it's a lot. This personal touch adds a lot of value I think, so I will probably keep doing it this way. However, I'm an app developer by profession and I'm thinking of building a platform for this business. When I do this, I would make sure I'd automate almost everything. I don't see how it could NOT scale to say, 25% of all backpackers worldwide.
The coming trip the 15th of november has to go perfectly. I want 5/5 stars from everyone. This is very important for the further success of the company because I need to know if a group actually sticks together and actually likes traveling in a group!
Also, the coming months, I will be growing my domain authority and finetuning the paid traffic. I will be optimising the site, put social proof there once I have it, try to get a lower cost per conversion than the customer lifetime value.
Also, I'm looking for a cofounder. If you read all the way until here, you must be interested in my company. Maybe we can help each other! Let me know.
I'm very excited for the future and can't wait to see how this unfolds.