Why we built the travel product in the middle of the pandemic

Original article was published by Alex Shevchuk on Artificial Intelligence on Medium

Why we built the travel product in the middle of the pandemic

This is a ridiculously odd time for launching the travel-tech products. In this story of I share, why we built TravelRank, and why we’re launching it in the middle of corona-crisis.

Why we built this?

We started working on this in a pre-COVID era, just about a year ago. I and my family were still traveling a lot, at least once per 2–3 months. I did all the planning and booking. Searching destinations, flights, prices, places, etc. Saving it into the spreadsheets. Where it immediately became outdated and cluttered.

My Travel Repository spreadsheet in Airtable

I felt drained doing this tedious searches every two months. So as many other travelers, as I discovered afterward through my customer research and reports from this field.

I was looking and didn’t manage to find any tool, that had everything which I needed:

  • Combined travel history and stats (with the scratch-map look and feel)
  • Destinations (ideally pre-filtered, based on my travel history and preferences)
  • Single-best flight date, price, and carrier suggestion (for the pre-selected destinations)
  • Social features (ranks, trending places, places visited by my friends, etc).

So I decided to build one for myself and like-minded travel enthusiasts.

Nearly about the same time the well-known travel company Thomas Cook (where I’ve been working as a booking API PM) collapsed under the financial difficulties. So I decided to use this pause and concentrate on my own project full-time. I did some refresher on JS (didn’t code for the past 10 years), learned the React basics with the help of my buddy Ruslan, who’s agreed to support me in this journey in the role of the founding developer (and later the CTO). Then I studied ML, data-science, AWS stack, MongoDb, Node.js, and lots of other stuff.

Thomas Cook UA team farewell photo. Sep 27th, 2019.

We went on the mission to replace all the travel research heavy-lifting with just a few clicks via the AI and automation. So travelers like me can do less planning and enjoy more traveling.

Our value proposition and key difference. We aim to:

  • Replace manual search and filters with accurate predictions
  • Offer unique and personalized travel recommendations
  • Save the time and nerves

As folks from Hopper famously noted, people don’t want more filters, they want better content.