The only Italian OTA in the world guest at Mario Gallo’s Il Salotto
The Salotto today moves to Venice. We are pleased to have Andrea Mehanna with us. Entrepreneur in the tourism sector for generations. In 2002 he left Venice to conquer the world. Founder of Hostelsclub.com a hotel booking platform. Alas, to date the only all-Italian OTA (Online Travel Agency) remaining on the international scene.
The core business is low cost tourism or rather the target is on the sale of hostels and low cost structures that attract a market niche made up mainly by young people, families or many who face the journey with a young Peter Pan spirit.
Who is Andrea Mehanna and how does he manage to create in 2002 an OTA that climbs the peaks to enter the list of the most popular and used by young people all over the world?
Andrea Mehanna «I am the son of hoteliers, we had a one star hotel in Venice. When I tried to register him on one of the most famous OTAs, which is still on the market today, he was not accepted because they only registered 3, 4 and 5 star hotels. From that moment on I decided not to stay out and I also thought about structures similar to ours. Not everyone who comes to Venice has to spend a fortune. From there came the idea of creating something for low budget travellers. And I started with hotelveniceonline only on Venice. From what comes what and people thanked me and so I decided to extend it to the whole world ».
How would you describe your OTA to our readers and viewers?
«We have been a point of reference for years, for free-spirited travellers, for those who decide to organize their trip on their own without going to a traditional agency to buy a ready-made package. We were the first. The experience is lived in a hostel, not like in a hotel where everyone has their own room with their own spaces, no one greets each other. Now other portals are trying to offer Experiences, we have been selling experiences for 20 years ».
Diversity from others
What distinguishes Hostelsclub from other OTAs besides Experiences?
«Even the cost, none of the OTAs work for caritas, especially the most famous. They charge the cost of 20-25%. They make more money than the hotelier and hosteller. So I say better to go to hostelsclub or the hotel website, you will find very advantageous prices with us with a very low advantageous commission. Smart travellers are very price sensitive especially in our industry. A series of services are offered that cost little ».
A message of hope
Did the Covid-19 period cause the entire tourism sector to collapse, how did Hostelsclub react to the pandemic or rather how did it manage to maintain its top presence on the various search engines?
“So, how can we say, it’s a very difficult time for everyone. The bigger you are the harder it is. Since April 2020 we have tried not to take a high jump but a long one. We try to spend this difficult period with a few people on layoffs, some at work, it is done in rotation. We have resized our databases from 96 servers to 8. Waiting for the restart we are ready as soon as we can. We do not stop, we never stop and we will never stop, it is wrong. We were the first to tell people to stay indoors and keep their distance. We will all leave even stronger than before ».
A sore point is certainly being able in the short term after the end of the layoffs to keep a number of active employees in order to be able to leave as soon as possible.
«I do not hide from you that the period is very very difficult. The more we go forward the more difficult it becomes because as we can also say the characteristic of this damn virus that does not give you a point of arrival and makes everything more difficult. If you have a staff you give them a goal that they need to achieve but it is not possible to achieve it so it demoralizes people. We don’t have a point of arrival. We’re in November to save Christmas. Then the ski season, April Easter very difficult. The goal can no longer be shifted. This is our goal and that of the Government “.
Changes in sight
Today, after a year off, what has changed in the strategic plans of Andrea Mehanna’s company?
“Many things have changed. Our priorities were to always be at the forefront, from the infrastructure to the backend and frontend, after a year of pandemic the goal is not to jump, not to close. It seems to me a very important goal ».
Do you have in mind a different approach with accommodation facilities than in the past?
«We have always had a very friendly approach with all the structures. This is not the first interview, yesterday a French agency interviewed me and told me that you no longer need to go to Venice, you can take a trip or a virtual tour from home. A crazy stuff