Hybrid OTA Skylark Travel reports rapid growth

Skylark Travel has gone through its fair share of growing
pains since its 2016 beta-testing period, but the OTA-agency hybrid is now
growing at a quick clip, realizing eight-times growth in the last two years.

Skylark also recently announced it raised $4 million in
financing, with backers including Ovation Travel Group (a longtime Skylark
supporter) and its founder Paul Metselaar and BCD Travel.

“We’ve learned a lot,” Skylark CEO Paul Tumpowsky
said of his agency’s growth. “It’s not that easy to build an OTA, and it’s
even harder to build an OTA that has a giant zipper down the back of it so that
our advisors can actually help our clients when they really need help.”

Skylark, a Virtuoso agency, offers consumers the option to
search, browse and book transactions online themselves, or chat with a luxury
advisor. 

“That’s also been a really big success factor, because
our advisors are doing three times the volume of a traditional advisor, mostly
because a lot of the things that are heavily administrative — like credit
cards and other stuff like that — the clients are just doing themselves,”
Tumpowsky said. “Our advisors are spending much more time doing things
that are a real value add.”

Outside of Ovation and BCD, Skylark’s investors include
25Madison, Bessemer Venture Partners, Vectr Ventures and Clarim Holdings.

In addition to Skylark’s overall growth, Tumpowsky is
excited about its customer acquisition. The average customer used the agency
for 1.9 trips annually last year, which he described as “extraordinarily
high.”

He attributes that to two factors. First, Skylark is
offering a high level of service online, something not frequently found.
Second, Skylark enables consumers who might not want to “bother”
their travel advisor with a quick trip to book right on its site themselves.

“The notion of doing something in the middle of the
night and still getting treated with Virtuoso amenities from Skylark is
something that’s inherently quite easy for a younger, luxury customer,” he
said.

Skylark has come a long way from its 2016 beta test. Then,
the site was “really brittle,” Tumpowsky said. The agency has
invested in user experience, both on desktop and mobile, and delivering a
simplified booking experience.

“Everything that we’re doing right now we’ve gotten
wrong at least twice, and we’ve been fortunate enough to have partners that
have allowed us to recover from our mistakes,” he said.

Skylark has four employee agents. Its business is about 80%
online and 20% offline, with offline trips averaging $10,000 to $25,000 each.

The agency, which primarily sells hotels and international
business-class air, is also developing a business-to-business product for
leisure agencies that want to enhance their ability to sell air.

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