Mobile

WeHostels goes globetrotting with new focus on Europe (exclusive)

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Picking the right hostel can make or break your travel experience, and WeHostels wants to make sure you pick the accommodation that is right for you.

WeHostels is a mobile app for booking hostels and cheap hotels. Today, the startup revealed its latest update, which makes the app more friendly to people traveling in Europe. It is now available in German, French, Spanish, and Portuguese as well as English, and updates prices accordingly in pounds and euros depending on your location. WeHostels also announced a partnership with German Ventures, which will provide capital as well as strategic and operational assistance to facilitate the company’s European expansion plans.

WeHostels is a useful solution for those backpackers and wandering souls who don’t like to plan ahead but also don’t want to wander the streets aimlessly or rely on guidebooks to find accommodations. Listings include more than 40,000 places in 800 cities. While traveling, you open the mobile app and search through available listings in your destination. Each listing contains additional practical information as well as photos, comments, pricing and an option to book.

Founder Diego Saez-Gil said the target market so far has been the U.S., but since launching in August, WeHostels has seen significant organic growth in Europe and Latin America, since those are major backpacker/budget-travel destinations. The startup is responding to this demand accordingly by refocusing attention toward international markets.

“In Europe, the travel market is huge for young people and we see a huge opportunity,” he said in an interview. “The larger vision for the company is to become the world’s largest mobile travel agency for young travelers, providing all the products and services that they need on-the-go. As a travel company, we have even more reasons to go global early. The big challenge with expanding internationally is that you have to understand the local culture when it comes to doing marketing, community management and customer support.”

Saez-Gil said American startups are increasingly looking abroad for expansion in the early stages. Companies like Uber, AirBnB, and HotelTonight have met with success outside of U.S. borders, and the infrastructure and web/mobile penetration numbers are growing quickly in international markets. WeHostels competitors include Priceline’s Booking.com, Hostelworld.com, Expedia’s Hotels.com, AirBnB, and Couchsurfing. WeHostel’s takes a mobile-first approach, which Saez-Gil said distinguishes it from competitors.

“Mobile growth is exponential in international markets and smartphones already outnumber PCs,” he said. “The travel industry is a huge market dominated by big players like Priceline, Expedia, and TripAdvisor, but it has been slow to innovate on mobile and provide great services to mobile users. We are the only company that is focused on mobile offerings for affordable accommodations.”

The company was founded after Saez-Gil traveled around Europe and continuously felt the need for a mobile service that could connect him with places to stay. Hostels can range from brightly-colored eccentric hubs where travelers come together to swap stories to seedy dark buildings filled with questionable sanitation and mysterious noises. He relied primarily on guidebooks and word-of-mouth to navigate, and he felt that there was a better alternative.

WeHostels first started out as a social network for cheap travel accommodation called InBed.me, which raised $1.2 million in seed financing. The company received high demand for a mobile offering and responded accordingly by going mobile-first. This decision paid off and WeHostels has grown its bookings by 778 percent since December. Along these same lines, today’s updates are also a result of user demand.

“Last year we saw the growth we were having on mobile queries, so we made a bold decision: let’s go mobile or go home,” Saez-Gil said. “Now we saw the potential of international markets so we made a new bold decision: let’s go global or go home.”

German Ventures will support WeHostels in adapting to international markets. WeHostels has plans to release iPad and Android apps this summer and will continue to add new currencies for South American and Asian countries as well. There are also plans to add more budget hotels into the listings and expand the Hot Trips feature which helps people hunt down housing during big events like SXSW, St.Patrick’s, and Coachella.

WeHostels is headquartered in New York with offices in Bogota or Munich.

Photo credit: WeHostels