Where are you from? Where do you live now? And what took you to your current residence?
I am from Melbourne, Australia. Okay I was born in the mountains in Croatia, my mum was only 19 so she decided to go back there and I was brought up by my grandparents and others… I moved to Melbourne when I was three then moved to Sydney when I was 26. I worked there for five years then moved to back to Melbourne. I was only in Melbourne for a week until I was sent to Honduras and I have only been in Melbourne for a few weeks a year for the last few years. My current location is Melbourne but I have no permanent home anymore and start of July I will be flying off on a three month holiday. I will be in Croatia for two months leading the way with the sales team there working on Holiday Nova. Croatia was chosen as a first location because I have the most proactive team there. My other very trusted and high potential teams are in Greece and Mexico.
You run Holiday Nova which can be found at holidaynova.com, can you explain a little about how Holiday Nova works?
Okay Im going to have to keep this very simple if I can. It’s a challenge because the site has a lot more behind the scenes then what people can see. I designed the business model and requirements and it was implemented by the company www.syntonic.com.au
There was more then a little bit of scope creep over the last four years of development. What we have now is a platform with accounts different types of partners, each with different contracts and benefits.
Sales teams (ST) are made up of one regional director (RD) with regional managers (RM) and sales managers (SM) reporting to the regional director.
Travel agent (TA) accounts can book the accommodation, tours and activities on the site, they take 3% of a cut from the sales teams and Holiday Nova’s (HN) profits without increasing the price for the customer.
Holiday Nova shared 50% of the profits with the sales teams so for every product the sales team adds to the site they make 50% of the profits for each booking and as long as there are not issues there is no other work for this to perform.
There are product owner (PO) accounts who can add as many products (accommodation, activities and tours) as they like. They can set prices, availability, include photos, videos and descriptions. To benefit the customer HN makes it compulsory photos are included for any service listed by the PO.
Last but not least there are Customer accounts. These are not compulsory, a customer can booking without setting up and account. We have currently five different customer accounts; hidden, black, silver (corporate), blue and no account members. Some PO might want to only provide exclusive products and services to different member types. All customers are guaranteed the cheapest price online. We can do this because we go direct to the PO. Even now although we don’t have many products, we haven’t started trying to add many, we have only exclusive places and some that are 30% cheaper then the next cheapest price, even if you direct, example is cooking in Crete cooking tour.
We can deliver guarantees because HN holds the customers money and only pays the PO and everyone else after the service has been executed and everyone (ie the customer) is happy. Not all PO are happy with this but a lot are and this promotes service excellence. Another part that promotes service excellence is customer reviews. This is my favorite part of HN. I wish it could be as good as tripadvisor.com but I think we have done such a good job it is even better. Customers can review the same way but they can also include photos and videos in their reviews.
Essentially using Holiday Nova customer or partners (other websites or TA’s) can get the cheapest price online, wholesale prices. Everyone benefits.
HN does a great job in informing the customer with a great search, photos and videos, maps and hot offers all from the front page using a consistent four quadrant layout like a 4 pane window. From there the customer can choose to search and look at the complete list of products and prices for a few weeks. They can preview each product by clicking on it and seeing someone photos. Searching again will take them to the detailed page and they can book it for there. Customers can go directly to the details page from the front by clicking on a hot offer.
What inspired you to begin Holiday Nova?
My parents asked me many time to build them a website. Croatia four years ago didn’t have much coverage on the internet. Even now there are many amazing location and things to do that are not covered on any website. The large sites only have major cities. So while I was in Croatia I found I couldn’t find any activities and tours online, I thought this is a simple problem I can try to fix this myself. It’s fixed but all I need are partners to help me build up all those locations and add activities and tours.
I love science and nature. With the profits from Holiday Nova I want to help underdeveloped locations build up their potential tourism BUT another feature I had developed that no other site has I believe is eco quotas. For any activities and tours there is only a limited number of times it can be used, displaying this will be developed soon but the back end works and the product owners can control this. Eco quotas and proper local controls will insure sustainable tourism. I have recently partnered with solar cell developers rolling out cells over Australia and the USA and I want to promote the benefits to all product owners I meet. No profit for Holiday Nova. If they do this and they have great feedback from customer we will be very likely to put this on hot offers and promote them via our travel agent partners.
Is your Holiday Nova business garnered mostly online or via traditional word of mouth or phone solicitation?
I am initially relying on word of mouth and Travel Agents. If I can target some niches in each location working closely with the sales teams in the region then we can get more happy customers and from there others might hear about us. We hope to get more coverage online in time. Holiday Nova isn’t yet SEO optimized but I hope we have a lot of articles pointing to the site and soon to have the product landing pages SEO friendly so we can get popular search term traffic. I would love to have Holiday Nova show up first in google for every time some types holiday Croatia or another country.
How does a traveler take complete advantage of the Holiday Nova website?
Travelers can search any other site and then check prices on Holiday Nova if they are looking for the cheapest price. They can then look through the activities and tours tabs to find things to do in the area. Everything can be booked real time. They can even book on the same day because the operators get an sms alert to inform them you have book and paid. Travelers can do research on the front page by choosing different countries and regions and then look at the map and photos and videos to get a feel for the location. Under tours and activities then can choose the tour or activity and the locations with them will show up or they can choose the location and the tours and activities in that location will show.
What steps are you taking to improve the Holiday Nova experience for individual and group travelers?
There is still a lot of work to be done. I would like to be able to integrate so travelers get an sms alert with all their booking details. This is actually very simple. At the moment we have no reviews but when we get some I want to allow travelers to be able to be able to search for the best or worst reviews for any country and region, the same power and simplicity as with the price search.
Do you remember your first holiday/vacation experience?
The first, I was only 8 years old and as you can guess from the theme so far, it was my first visit to Croatia since I was three, so it was my first. The place was very different then in 1998, Chernobyl had gone off that year and we ended up flying at the time. I hope the cloud didn’t go where we were. Croatia was very backward then, no cars but horses, just another cold war victim but the place was still amazing.
Were you hooked on travel at that young age or did you gain a love for travel later in life?
I had no urge at all to travel and I only got the bug five years ago. It keeps growing as I travel for work all year round. I’ve fallen in love with every country I’ve visited.
How many countries have you visited?
I hope I don’t miss any, in the last 3 years I have been to; USA (NYC, New Jearsey, Boston, Miami), Honduras, Singapore five times, Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, Sweden, Germany, Austria, Latvia, Finland, Netherlands, UK, Denmark, France and Arctic circle (Sweden).
I keep missing opportunities to visit Japan. Only my holiday I will go to Croatia, Mexico and Cuba. From these I’ll visit neighboring countries.
In all of your travels, where have you eaten the best food?
Best food… That’s not easy because I love all the different types of food. Sydney Bondi Junction Sushi Train!
In all of your travels, where have you had the hardest time leaving to go back home?
NYC. Not because it actually feels like the centre of the world but more because of the great friends I made there.
What advice can you give Americans and other travelers in regard to the currency and economic woes hitting various parts of the world and especially in Eurorpe? Are those issues relevant as people plan their travels?
There should be no relevance at all unless you lose your job. For Americans, as long as your currency is strong and the prices are not over inflated then you should take the opportunity to travel.
Finally, how has travel been a blessing to your life?
I’m meeting amazing people and making long lasting friends. I hope to make a lot more good people and friends.