is the co-founder of Fineway, the first Smart Travel Concierge service in Germany that allows travelers to plan their own individual trips in as little as 3 minutes. Today, we talked to Markus Feigelbinder about the idea behind Fineway, the future of travel and, of course, his personal travel expierence.
Thank you so much for talking to us, today! First of all, please tell us a bit about yourself and what you do.
I’m a passionate traveler with too little time. That’s probably what describes me best. That is also the reason why, together with Markus Bohl, I founded Fineway in 2015. At the moment over 50 dedicated employees – from Travel Designers and Machine Learning Engineers to Data Scientists – are part of the team. Markus Bohl and I worked in management consultancies for a long time before we founded Fineway. Both of us already have had a lot of start-up experience. Markus as co-founder and managing director of two e-commerce start-ups and myself through my work in the founder team of Westwing and in senior management positions at Amazon. This specific background helped us avoid common hurdles when founding Fineway.
What is the concept behind Fineway and which travelers is it aimed at?
We provide a free service that creates tailor-made travel offers – it’s what we call Instant Trip Planning. The user is guided through a smart real-time conversation where they answer questions about their preferences and wishes. Complex machine learning algorithms in the back-end which learn with every inquiry, help generate hyper-personalized offers to present unique travel routes to the user. The service is targeted at everyone who enjoys journeys which are tailored to real personal preferences but at the same time is not willing or able to spend days on planning and booking. Our service is transparent and completely free of charge. With the help of a specialized travel designer the first offer can be adapted in every detail if the user wishes to do so.
When and why did you come up with the idea?
I don’t remember the exact situation, but a few years ago the first idea for Fineway arose from rather personal circumstances. Almost every time I planned to go on holiday, a discussion erupted about who was going to take care of the travel arrangements. I knew that I was not the only one struggling with this aspect of travel planning. Most often there simply isn’t enough time in our daily routine to deal with route planning and booking details. Markus felt the same way, he was also familiar with this problem. So it was almost obvious to jointly found a company that would offer a technology-based solution exactly for this scenario.
What are, in your opinion, the reasons why individually designed travel itineraries are becoming increasingly popular?
I guess that is because of the unlimited amount of options when it comes to hotels, flights, activities. etc. It’s impossible to make the right choice! People consequently are looking for expert guidance which enables them to make the best choice possible, to follow a unique itinerary, at the same time guaranteeing that it fits all personal requirements. The pressure when booking trips is unequally higher than when making decisions other services as the number of vacation days is limited for everybody. After coming back from a vacation it would be a pity to realize that the journey booked didn’t meet the own expectations at all. Travel planning with the help of algorithms can help avoid those negative experiences.
What does, in your opinion, the future of travel and travel booking look like?
We still see an incredible amount of innovation potential in the tourism industry. For example, the way we book travel will change from the bottom up. The increase in voice assistants and voice-driven applications will create entirely new opportunities that will lead to a new division of the travel market between young players and traditional travel providers. Startups and early adopters have a good chance of gaining a foothold and convincing customers of their new and fresh concepts, which put them at the center of their attention. And that’s exactly where Fineway comes in. Our AI-based service is currently unique on the travel market. There are countless providers who plan and sell individual trips in some shape or form offering common filter options (place, time, budget, catering, etc.). However, we are convinced that travel planning via algorithms and artificial intelligence will be the new standard in a few years as it’s the only way to generate truly personalized offers.
You are a passionate traveler yourself – what do you love most about traveling?
That’s hard to say. I am definitely fascinated by the diversity and the strong contrasts in this world especially from a cultural perspective. After coming back from travels I always feel mentally refreshed and have my suitcase packed with new inspirations and ideas. These inspirations and ideas then help shape and further develop Fineway.
What are three things you always take with you when traveling?
That probably doesn’t set me apart much from other travelers. A good book, which has been laying on my nightstand since the beginning of the year, sunscreen and not to forget the mobile phone charger.
Do you have a travel motto?
Look forward to every journey, like a little child on Christmas.
What’s your craziest travel story?
My craziest travel story so far: Being the only best man at a wedding on the Cook Islands in the South Pacific. I had only just met the Canadian bride and groom at a beach bar at one o’clock in the morning. That was quite an unique experience.
Thank you so much for these interesting insights! We actually can’t wait to go on our first AI-planned trip! We wish you all the best and pleasant travels in the future!