There is a saturation of travel search engines these days that will do everything from find a cheap flight to offering tips and advice on best hotels, restaurants and sights to visit. So how does one stand out from the rest? On this episode, Jason Hartman talks with one of Momondo’s partners, Martin Lumbye. Launched in 2006, there were fewer travel search engines, but today, the web is crowded with them. Momondo has very sophisticated search technology, but being based in Denmark posed a challenge to becoming a global brand.
Thanks to the media, they succeeded. As the market became more saturated, Momondo’s leaders came up with a unique, but user-friendly and contemporary approach for travelers to find the best flight comparisons and destinations around the world: a color-coded system to match a traveler’s emotions/mood for travel. For instance, if traveling with children to a city, you would choose green for a list of family-friendly destinations. If you’re looking for something trendy and vibrant in a city, you would choose hot pink.
Martin Lumbye is a Partner of Momondo, which was launched in Denmark in September 2006. His role at Momondo encompasses: marketing, communications, business development and all commercial arrangements. Momondo has rapidly become one of Scandinavia’s most popular travel meta-search sites. Today it is an international site with a very compelling range of services which enables consumers to quickly search for and book a trip. Services include: flights, car rentals, hotels, travel guides, multi-destination booking and many high-speed rail routes.
In 2011 Martin was nominated for the Danish “Growth Factor prize” awarded by the Danish publication “Monday Morning” in association with Denmark’s largest television station DR – (Pengemagasinet). Prior to Momondo, from 2003, Martin was the youngest Secretary General of The Aarhus Festival. Under the patronage of H.M.The Queen of Denmark, the festival is one of the most famous Danish Art and Cultural events, and is among the largest arts extravganzas in Europe. In that role, Martin transformed the festival’s internal organization and finances to turn a profit.
Earlier, Martin was the Press and Marketing Manager for the 1990s Danish theatre success Dr. Dante. Martin sits on the Boards of a number of Danish Companies, in a number of different areas, and is Chairman of the largest food festival in Scandinavia – Copenhagen Cooking. He is very involved in charity work and has for years been an Ambassador of the Danish Red Cross.
ANNOUNCER: Welcome to the JetSetter Show, where we explore lifestyle-friendly destinations worldwide. Enjoy and learn from a variety of experts on topics ranging from upscale travel at wholesale prices, to retiring overseas, to global real estate and business opportunities, to tax havens and expatriate opportunities. You’ll get great ideas on unique cultures, causes, and cruise vacations. Whether you’re wealthy or just want to live a wealthy lifestyle, the JetSetter Show is for you. Here’s your host, Jason Hartman.
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JASON HARTMAN: It’s my pleasure to welcome Martin Lumbye to the show! He’s coming to us today from Copenhagen, Denmark, and he is a partner and member of the board of directors for Momondo, which is a travel website, however, it has a very, very unique feature, and that is a color coding feature that we’re going to talk about. Martin, how are you today? Welcome.
MARTIN LUMBYE: Many thanks. I’m good! And I’m very pleased to be part of this show.
JASON HARTMAN: Well, the pleasure is all mine. So, tell us about Momondo, and what makes it unique, if you would.
MARTIN LUMBYE: Yes, yes. Momondo was born back in September 2006, and actually, at that time, which is not that many years ago, there were not so many travel search engines online worldwide. We were looking at some startups in the UK, and some startups in the US, but actually it was not that crowded as we see today. And we want to—our mission was actually to offer the most trustworthy price comparison on flights and hotels, with a very unique technology, which is independent. We grew quite fast, that service, and our main challenge actually, it’s funny, but our main challenge at that time was being a startup with a very unique and superior technology, but being based in Copenhagen, Denmark is often difficult, as it’s the world’s smallest market, and one of the world’s smallest countries. So, that was actually a challenge, being a global service and being a global brand at that time. But, soon actually, and thanks to the American media, we succeeded quite well. As CNN picked it up, and awarded it as being best for searching worldwide fares, and [unintelligible] a lot of blocks about Momondo, and she couldn’t understand why we kept on coming up with better fares for even domestic, US travelers. So, that was in the early years how it all started actually, so thank you very much to the American media.
JASON HARTMAN: Well, there you go. So, tell us about what makes it unique. Especially, I want to talk about the color coding feature.
MARTIN LUMBYE: Yeah. We’re trying to be—well, we’re not trying to be, but we are different in many ways I would say. If you go to Momondo, you can see first of all that we are not reaching out for the geeks and nerds and all the tech guys being very much Google and the like; our approach and attitude, it’s very colorful, as you mentioned. But we’re trying to work very much on both the usability, make it very user-friendly, as well as very contemporary in look and feel. And that’s also part of the brand Momondo, which means my world, and we decided to be different in that way, because our background is not in the online business, but in entertainment. We are in entertainment, and for my own part, I worked in theater many many years ago. So, we do what we feel natural for us, and that is—
JASON HARTMAN: Well, what, Martin, how does the user use the website, and use the color coding system? And how does it benefit them?
MARTIN LUMBYE: Yeah. Of course, the main thing, which most of the users use at Momondo, is of course they compare flights very fast, very easy, very trustworthy. But in addition to that, we also work with other services, and one of them is the city guides. We wanted people to go out in an open world to explore themselves, and having a great time, because actually it’s not that sexy just finding a cheap flight. If you know from where to where, on which dates, actually there are many travel agents that are actually very good at qualifying that request. But if you want unique experiences and unique places, we also want to inspire you to do so. And the way we do that is that travel is very much about emotions, and emotions are very much connected to colors. So, we found out instead of introducing another block where you ask other users, tell me about some romantic beach, tell me about—or, recommend a very good restaurant in Paris, and so on—we would rather go emotional. Emotional in that way means that you navigate by ambience, you navigate by colors when you go through our city guides. So we simply just ask you, tell us your color, and we’ll try to recommend you where to go, because your colors are so connected to emotions. So, probably we found out that men, when we ask users, tell us—if you are on a family trip, tell us what should that color be that connects to family. And we found out that nine out of ten would probably say green. So, if you’re green, we’ll come up with all the recommendations for family adventures, and restaurants and so on. And if you want to be more high-end lifestyle, [unintelligible] and so on, most users would probably choose pink and so on. So, actually, the whole idea is to navigate by ambience and colors. And I think it was Times that wrote that finally a fun way of planning one’s trip.
JASON HARTMAN: With the colors, what part of the colors—when you choose your color, going to the website, what does it do? So, say for example you say you’re green. That’s the family trip. I believe pink is the hip and trendy sort of avante-garde traveler. And then maybe you can talk to us about some of the other colors. But say you choose pink or green, for example. What do you get? What result? Does it tell you which hotel to stay at? Which excursions and activities to do? Or what? Does it even pick the airline?
MARTIN LUMBYE: Exactly. Then the other users have recommended—it works that way, that if you post, let’s say, a trip, or whatever, then other users—then you give it a color, because you believe that this recommendation should be recommended to someone in the family. A family that wants to discover. Then you give it a color. Then you would probably give it a green color. Or, if you are a business traveler, and you recommend something for another business traveler, then we ask you: give it a color. Then we found out, you would probably give it a blue color. And that’s how it works. So when you choose a color, you will get all the recommendations and yeah, from other users, and other users gave it a color. So that is actually how it works.
JASON HARTMAN: And the color will influence which parts of travel though? Will it influence the airline? Will it influence the hotel selection?
MARTIN LUMBYE: No, not the airlines. But the restaurants, fun parks, shopping—
JASON HARTMAN: How about nightlife?
MARTIN LUMBYE: Yes, nightlife. Bars, restaurants, whatever.
JASON HARTMAN: Okay. Okay. Good. Good. Now, are there any other things, Martin, besides the color coding, the ease of use, the media exposure that you’ve had, that would make it sort of the unique selling propositions? That’s what I’m looking for. Because there’s so many travel websites out there. I’m trying to find out, what are your unique characteristics?
MARTIN LUMBYE: Yeah, that is one characteristic. I believe that it’s very user-friendly, and it would work with these kind of surveys that can make it easy for you to navigate, and find inspiration, and so on. And we just introduced our smiley rating, where we give airlines a smiley. And you see today, when you work with travel search, or travel online, it’s simply not enough just to put some filters on the left, and put a very white search result on several flights on the right. You need to give the consumers more. You need to share more information. And we collect so much data that we are able to actually give you much more knowledge about the particular flight, the particular destination, and so on. So, when you search on most travel sites today, you will just find on the right, a lot of different flights from New York to Los Angeles, or from Los Angeles to Paris, and so on and so on. But the first trip results will probably be the cheapest. But the cheapest is probably not the most convenient for you. If I search from Copenhagen, where I’m based, to Budapest, in Hungary, probably the first option coming up takes me 18 hours. It’s cheaper, but it probably takes 18 hours from Copenhagen to Budapest. It’s not convenient. And no one would choose that flight. So, to navigate within our service, we also make it much easier for you, because we come up with a smiley and a rating, as we call the convenience balancer, that helps you navigate and find the best flight. Not only the cheapest, but also the best. And what is the best? The best flight is probably the one the flies direct, that departs and arrives in time for on the day that most people meet, and so on and so on. And actually, it is possible mathematically to calculate on what is actually the best flight for the average travel. So, that’s what we get.
JASON HARTMAN: There are so many variables, I couldn’t agree more that the concept of the best flight, whether it be nearby airports, maybe not the exact airport, maybe flexibility in travel dates—there are just so many—times of day, ground transportation issues, it’s just so many, so many variables come up, that even the very experienced traveler, it’s hard to evaluate all of these different variables in one’s head, and then compare them against pricing. So, very complicated. And of course the airlines know this, and they have very complex algorithms programmed into their pricing engines that try to outsmart the traveler. So it’s difficult, no question about it.
MARTIN LUMBYE: Exactly. So, we believe that the future of travel online is more intelligent, or, yeah. More intelligent results. So, today, if you—if you know—I know where, I know when, then several agents, or travel sites, can probably help you in some way. But what if you ask, I know when—tell me where. Or, I know where; tell me when? So, you need to develop services that interact and give you much more inspiration. Or, what if you just plug in your budget in a certain period? Are you able to come up with a very smart, and very intelligent service for that request? And so, we believe very much in much more intelligent services that are able to make it much more easy and much more convenient for you to travel.
JASON HARTMAN: So Martin, the website is Momondo.com, is that correct?
MARTIN LUMBYE: That’s correct.
JASON HARTMAN: Fantastic. And, just a, kind of in wrapping up here, do you have any travel advice for listeners? Whether it be something your company can offer, or just something in general that might be useful?
MARTIN LUMBYE: In general, I would say that when I travel, I’m trying to plan at least a month ahead. At least. Because at that time, the prices are lower. The closer you get to departure, the more expensive the flight will probably be; that is one thing. Another thing is that mostly I’m trying to be flexible about dates. So, mostly, it’s less expensive to travel on a Tuesday or a Wednesday than a Friday or a Saturday. So, yeah, planning is a good thing. And then, of course, I always compare prices, because the same flight will probably be sold from several different agents, to several different prices, and actually that was the whole idea of inventing Momondo back in 2006, because it was a jungle, and it was extremely difficult to navigate, and to see what is actually a good price, how do I avoid getting cheated? So, compare prices, try to plan in advance, and be a smart buyer. And probably that’s some quick advice I can give.
JASON HARTMAN: Fantastic. Well Martin, thank you so much for joining us today from Copenhagen, and keep in touch, okay?
MARTIN LUMBYE: Yes. Many thanks for letting me be part of the show.
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Transcribed by David