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Episode 53:

Love as a Travel Strategy 

This week we are joined by Olga and Ivan, founders of the travel company YouTravel.me. They share their story of how a really bad travel experience led to the realization that travel requires empathy and how the love of exploration can bring people together. Check it out now.

Speakers

Feel the love! We aren't experts - we're practitioners. With a passion that's a mix of equal parts strategy and love, we explore the human (and fun) side of work and business every week together.

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Frank Danna
Director
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Olga

Olga Bortnikova

CEO & Co-founder of YouTravel.Me

Ivan
Ivan Bortnikov
 
CMO & Co-founder of YouTravel.me
MohProfile

Mohammad Anwar

President

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ChrisProfile
Chris Pitre
Vice President
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Transcript

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Frank Danna
Hey everyone. In this week's episode of love as a business strategy, we talk with Ivan and Olga cofounders of youtravel.me you'll learn how after one really bad travel experience, they realized something key. crafting an entirely new approach to travel takes empathy. We're very excited about this episode because we break down how they built this incredible new travel site, and how it's bringing people together through one common element, a love of exploration. Hope you enjoy.

Hello, and welcome to love the business strategy. This is a podcast that brings humanity to the workplace. As you know, we're here to talk about business, but we want to tackle topics that most business leaders shy away from. We believe that humanity and love should be at the center of every successful business. I'm your host, Jeff Ma. Just kidding. Again, I'm Frank Danna. Most of you are used to Jeff. I'm a director at Softway and Softway is a business to employee solutions company that creates products and offers services that help build resilience and high performance company cultures. We've got a big crew today, we've got Mohammad, who you all know and love. We've got Chris, who also you know in love. And then we've got two new friends, Olga and Ivan, welcome. Thank you for joining us today.

Ivan Bortnikov
Hey guys, thanks for having us.

Frank Danna
So first, I'd like to introduce Olga Olga Bortkinova, Bortnikova. Is that right? Olga? Borden, the CO Chairman. I knew I was gonna mess it up. We can cut that ready, Maggie, I'm gonna say it again. Ready? Here we go. We're gonna start from here because I'm not messing that up in the in the actual podcast. So first, I'd like to introduce Olga Bortnikova, the CEO and co founder of youtravel.me. Olga is the ex CEO of an event management company and manage over 1000 events which I cannot even fathom. With a team of 30. Olga, you visited 39 countries. We'll talk about that in just a moment. And in 2018, together with two other founders, one of those is here with us today. You launched a tech travel startup, youtravel.me so I'll go Welcome.

Olga Bortnikova
Hi Frank. Hi, guys. Hello,

Frank Danna
Ivan Bortnikov, you're the CMO and co founder with six years in b2b sales at international companies like AB InBev, and PETA and you use to scale sales with the biggest retailers. You also boast five years in digital marketing, and you are just one country away one country behind Olga, uh, not too shabby. 38 countries visited. When we talked about this in the pre show, it sounded like there was a little bit of a competition here, we're gonna have to unpack that in a little while. But now I want to talk about youtravel.me. So launched in Europe in 2018, just a few years ago, youtravel.me is an algorithm powered online marketplace for booking, multi day small group adventure travel, organised by travel experts, from yoga retreats all the way to massive safaris. It's a global community of over 10,000 happy travelers, and 3900 travel experts offering 14,000 tours in 130 countries around the world. Those are a lot of numbers. And I love it all. And welcome to the show. Welcome to the show. It's really awesome to have you here. youtravel.me, it sounds like an amazing tool, an amazing product and amazing company. And we're going to jump into that in a moment. So Ivan Olga, welcome. I've got an icebreaker for us. And the first question I want to ask and it's the same question for everybody. But we do this on our podcast just to get to know everybody a little bit. It's a simple one, hopefully, hopefully simple. Chris, I'm gonna start with you. What's the next place you are planning to travel?

Olga Bortnikova
The next place? I am? I would like to travel. I have no plans to travel. But the next place that I would like to travel is London, England.

Frank Danna
Mm hmm. Mohammad your facial expression there prefer people that aren't listening. Imagine Mohammad making a grimace face. Like he tasted durian in Singapore. He's just like, Yeah,

Mohammad Anwar
no. It's not that I don't like London or anything. It's like he's been there so many times. Why would he just want to keep going back there again. That's all cuz

Frank Danna
it's home. It's home. Mohammad let's let's go there. Let's go there. What's the place you are planning to travel next?

Mohammad Anwar
Turkey. Okay, yes. Okay. I have a direct flight from Houston to Istanbul Wow, I hear the food is really good out there and love to see and love to do so Turkey is where I'm planning to go and I'm maybe I'm biased because I hear Russian people love Turkey. So I'm gonna go I think my wife isn't seeing me

Frank Danna
delights my man Turkish delights. Oh God, where are you planning next to travel?

Olga Bortnikova
Oh, it's a difficult question. But I think I planned travel to go by and this is not the country. I'm in the USA already. But I think it's pretty much this nation I want to visit next.

Ivan Bortnikov
Got it? All right. Now I have to say the same destination, actually, we need to discuss it. But as you know, I have this number of countries changed. So I definitely need to visit one more country to and now it's my it's my chance actually, when she goes to help, I need to go to some other state. So I would go to Bolivia and Chile. And the reason is that the uni lake which is there is where I really dream of visited. And one of the first small groups that actually traveled using youtravel like in back in 2018 went exactly there. So now it's my time to to chase these guys also, who used our platform. So definitely believe should be the next place.

Frank Danna
That's amazing. So, Olga, just so you know, Hawaii is Mohammad's favorite place. Like that's his happy place in London is Chris's happy place. Hawaii is Mohammad's happy place.

Mohammad Anwar
Totally. I Hawaii. Beautiful. And you will love it.

Olga Bortnikova
I'm sure yeah.

Ivan Bortnikov
Actually, you're really nice to have just been there in March. Yeah. Well, so. So yeah, we've just been there like three months ago.

Olga Bortnikova
Yeah, but if Yvonne says that he will go to Chile or Bolivia, I will go to Mexico because it will be one more country for me.

Frank Danna
Wow. They're racking up points, like their points on scoreboard.

Mohammad Anwar
You may actually have to go to Mexico and another place to one up on Island because he can't go to two places to one up on you.

Frank Danna
Absolutely, yeah. I just want to go to the beach. That's my next thing is South Padre in Texas. It's not it's not as crazy as Istanbul, but it's close. Um, so thank you all very much for jumping in. And like giving us insight into your into your battle between how many people visited the most countries. So I want to start us off by asking how this idea came about to to create this this tool, this product that so many people have used around the world now? What was the impetus around you traveled me?

Ivan Bortnikov
Yeah, let me share our story about that. So back in 2018, when we were actually working in totally different areas. So as you've mentioned, I've been working retail and August, she was working in event management. But we were already traveling actively by that time with it, I would say sorry, countries approximately. And we have always been planning our trips actively and spend so much time on travel preparation. But once in November, I mean, I remember that clearly that in November 2017, we didn't have time to plan our next vacation. So we were just like in the middle of November, and understanding that we don't have a place to go in on the new year. And nothing is booked and the prices are already high. So for the first time in our lives, we did not go ourselves, but we have booked at tour package with a big tour operator. Back then we were living in Moscow, Russia. So for the first time, we we bought a package with a tour operator to China. And we went there for a new year. Holidays, and it was the worst ever trip in our lives that we ever had . I mean, it was so awful. We, I mean, nothing was really organized. Well, we had a hotel, which was I think 100 or more kilometers from the closest city and it was so I mean, we didn't have any itinerary planned by the by the operator and the guide. He tried to really exchange dollars for Chinese currency with some crazy exchange rate. And he was so boring. I mean, the big boss of 50 people and sell all their most touristic places and like the whole say that. I mean, it was awful. We didn't like it at all. And back then we came back and we just understand the same time our friend started to ask that to ask us like guys, you've been to Iceland a little bit earlier. Can you share like your itinerary? Can you share the places so Some friends have started to ask us. And we were we just decided that we need to help people who faced the same situation like we had, when we did not have time and travel preparation, and we didn't know what to do. But still, we don't want to have a boring locations. And we really want to deep dive in the country's culture and understand it well, and so on. So that's how the idea of youtravel came up, we understood that we don't know such a platform or such a company that can help with that. And that's how we created it. First of all, the idea was a little bit different, because we were thinking about a platform to share itineraries between independent travelers, but then we just found out that small group trips exist, that they are organized by independent guides, and they that I, they are so different from the tour packages we had. But nobody knows about them. I mean, they are. So I mean, they're just starting to grow. And nobody still knows that a lot of cool guys are creating expert plan trips. So we understood that we need to create a platform to help people find this independent guides, this professional travelers and join them in their unusual tours around the globe. So that's how we created it's back in 2018. Originally,

Frank Danna
wow. So it was out of pure anger. And frustration. But you know at that, but you said up until that point in time, you had traveled to 30 different places around the world, right, different countries. And so you had Where did the passion for travel and for building those itineraries come from like what what was kind of the impetus for traveling so much in the first place?

Ivan Bortnikov
Yeah, I think that so traveling is one of the biggest impressions that people can get in their lives. Because every trip I have it blows my mind, it broadens my mindset. And that's why people they believe they travel because they want to challenge themselves. They want to change their vision on how the world is built. So that's why I think we have always loved it. Because we don't want to be bored at the same place all the time. So So yeah, this is why we started to throw

Mohammad Anwar
out sorry, Chris, he said, You don't want to be bored with the same place. Okay.

Olga Bortnikova
boring things to do in and around London, like you can't get bored. And for those who might be listening from London, I don't want you to think anything of the comment that was just made. Your city is beautiful, and it is not boring whatsoever.

We have from Novosibirsk is middle of Siberia is middle of nowhere. When we start with our travel history, we didn't know about the world, enough, and we just okay, we won't go to Europe. So which country and nevermind to Europe, and we just start and then we try to see different worlds different people. And we understood that, really, the world is totally different. And when we understood that people spend time and money when they go to package stores, and they spend this money and time to that, that don't give them goes , we understood that. Why Why do I spend this time it's when it's done give you value? And yeah, we answered that. Okay, we only need to change this world. It's something mistake here.

For sure, I know for me, you know, well, I want to go next to London, my biggest sort of trip that I would love to do as a safari in Africa. So I should just tell you, and my listeners will probably already know this, but I just can't like go I want to like have the upgraded experience when I go glamping and you know, really nice food and, you know, a nice hotel I wanted all right, and I still want to sort of see you know, the loving animals up close, or they're really nice. But I really want to just like go and experience like that. And I've had friends who you know are from Africa and they're like, when you go I will tell you where to go. Go and what trips the book, and what places to go because all superpowers are not created equal. And it sounds like youtravel.me has has sort of the inside scoop on some of these types of foreign sort of attractions that, you know, people who are not in those parts of the world would naturally understand or what no to think about or would know to ask or understand. So I think that's really cool that you guys are really surfacing some of that insight and that knowledge and a platform that allows people to be an a more informed traveler, because you're right all go when it comes to value. It doesn't make sense to invest your time, money, effort, and you go someplace, and you come back with nothing, no memories, no learnings, no, no fun, nothing. And I just see travel is, you know, when we think about love as a business strategy, travel is sometimes the best way to quickly understand how to love another how to love another country, another culture. Right. And, you know, they say that the best way to test a relationship is to travel with somebody. Right? Yeah, correct.

Frank Danna
That's, yeah, that's true. That's true. If that found that to be true. That's awesome. That's awesome. And, you know, I was looking around at some of your, your, the content on your site, and just I was honestly looking at different tours, I could take in Yellowstone. But one of your values is something that I think aligns very well with our approach as an organization and our approach around humanity and bringing humanity to the workplace. And it's, it's called human approach. And I wanted to talk a little bit about that value, in particular, because you talked about embracing difference about inspiring each other and allowing everyone to achieve results. And you mentioned something in that value. That's really interesting to me. And it says it's very difficult to find really good friends in adulthood. So going through new experiences and emotions together, people become truly close friends. So why was that an important element to add to your values as an organization? And how does that play out in the the tours that people are able to take, but also how you run your company.

Ivan Bortnikov
So what we realized, from the very beginning, when we started to talk to our users, and to our customers, that the biggest pain point is that they love some travel style, or they want I mean, they dream of visiting Turkey, but nobody from their, like, friends or family really wants to go there, or they love mountains, they love hiking, but I mean, their wife, she, she's a, like beach style, hotel, and so on. So he doesn't have the person doesn't have like minded people to join them in their next adventure. So it and it all started from our user. So that's why we realized that people I mean, when we were students, when we were young, and nobody had the , the travel experience, I mean, my my friend just offered me to go to Spain, and I'm more than ready to go because we have the same income we didn't I mean, most probably we have not visited any country at the moment. So I'm totally ready to grow. But when you grow, when you become older, you have already different countries visited and it's more and more difficult to find the person who has exactly the same match so and that all came from our users. We really understood that. And, and later, when our first customers, they started to come back from their trips, and we started to read the reviews, we understood that people say like, I met these people, and I'm sure we will travel again, we will become friends forever. And we understood that this magic of small groups when it's not a big bus of 50 people and you cannot really make a connection with with most of them. But when you travel in small group, in five days, on in one week, you get to know each person you understand that you have the same passion, same love to, to whatever is there as you have and you continue becoming I mean, you become friends and lots of our customers. And travel experts continue, I mean, continue to travel together, because they just share this passion. So that's how it's how it has started that we we understood that this is a very important part that we need to focus and improve our algorithm to match people better based on their values and interests.

Olga Bortnikova
Yeah, and Through friendship is born from adventure. And adventure is a travel. And when you just go through some exercises and activities together, you really know each other better and you feel safe with this person in different episodes of your life.

Yeah. Sounds like a lot like vulnerable based trust, like what we talked about and yeah, things that we do. Like when you have that experience and you're in a foreign place, nobody knows anybody. Like, the only thing you have is vulnerability. You're completely exposed, you know, you don't speak the local language, you don't know where to go, or, you know, where not to go even. And so I think that that's a definite experience that we've seen as well create bonds that last and, and allow for even the most difficult of times to be not so bad.

Mohammad Anwar
Yeah, in fact, I think in 2019, like the, you know, Jeff is missing, but the four of us had the opportunity to travel to almost 11 countries, together all in 2019. And we were we were outside of United States, or 110 days out of the year, we were traveling together for work in business, but we also had a lot of fun. But I would say that that forged a relationship between each other that allowed us to, you know, co author, a book together called loved as a business strategy. I would, I would have to agree that the travels that we had together probably is what forged those strong relationships and alignment and understanding. Although I think we didn't really have a choice in which places we went together, it still did create that bond.

Frank Danna
crate I do remember, Chris was very, very focused on crafting his elevated experience anywhere that we went. He would, the first thing we would talk about is how many restaurants have Michelin stars, you know if that if that gives you if that gives you a perspective, Olga's like okay, well, you know, but I will say this, it was fantastic. It was a lot of fun, right, Chris? No people rode

Chris Pitre
on the coattails is what I will say

Mohammad Anwar
is anytime you have to pick hotels, or like Chris, which hotel should be staying? The best hotel options.

Olga Bortnikova
You know, your loved ones is my philosophy. So, you know, when it comes to problems, if you haven't throw money at them, you know. But for, for me, travel is definitely one of those things that as you guys started out with, it changes perspective, and allows you to see a different slice of humanity, a different slice of decision making a different slice of loving, and how love is expressed in different places. But it also gives you the chance to taste what the world you know, is made up right. And, you know, I hate going places and everybody only goes to the restaurants that are familiar to their hometowns, or home countries, right? And I'm like, No, you got to go out and taste the flavor local food. As long as it doesn't have to launcher I don't like cilantro. So that's what I'm trying to say. But, you know, getting out and sort of experiencing the world in that particular location is sometimes the most rewarding, even though it's scary. You know, and I'll be honest, having gone to places like Sydney, Australia, yes, they speak English, but it's not always like American English. Like what do they say? Thank Sonny's What are Sonny's like, oh, sunglasses on my sunglasses, okay. Like, you know, you're still in this foreign atmosphere, but you're experiencing, you know, just a different way of life, even though quote unquote, it's Western is still like extremely different. practices and customs are very different. The way that people engage and talk very different, right, not just the accent, but just the way that they, you know, embrace difference. So it's just really interesting to see and observe as someone who like, is very observant, and you know, a natural people watcher. I'm not a stalker, but a people watcher, but

Frank Danna
like, let me explain.

Olga Bortnikova
I just I like to provide clarity for our listeners and viewers who might not know. And when I say keep watch, I don't mean stopping Christmas listeners.

Frank Danna
I did. I did actually want to ask a little bit, Olga. And Ivan, I wanted to see, you know, 2020 was a very challenging year. It had to, you know, I mean, especially for travel. But now we're getting back into 2021. And we've, we've, we've come out of, you know, hopefully this, this this moment in time, where we're kind of getting to the place where we can sort of say post pandemic, which is nice. But I'm wondering, what trends are you seeing in travel, like what are people choosing to do or thinking about doing that you've noticed that may have changed in terms of how people may have been adapting or adjusting based on the pandemic and some of those things personally. Want to know, what you're seeing in regards to how people are starting to act and live differently?

Ivan Bortnikov
Yeah, that's, that's a great question. And we see a lot of changes in 2021 versus pre pandemic times. So, first of all, we see a big trend for like working style trips that are becoming more and more popular on our platform cast, lots of people co working, yeah, co living co working, I mean, the trips for digital nomads. And during this pandemic, it's so it's so many new digital normals in the world, and a lot of people they don't return in their offices, even after the pandemic, and a lot of companies just understood all the and all the good things about remote work. So that's why people still want to travel. But sometimes they don't need, they don't need to do it as quick as they were doing it before, like for one week, and then back to the office. So definitely this style of tours is booming at the moment on our platform. So Secondly, I would say that, what I really actually love, why I mean, why I really love what we are doing is that the trips that are connected with some passions of people are also becoming more popular. For example, the yoga retreats, tours for photographers, and like I don't know, kite surfing, so a lot of communities has appeared during the pandemic, people started to, because they had a lack of communicating with people they started to, to become parts of new communities, and to build new communities. And now all these communities are starting to travel together based on their interests. So that's why we see a big trend also in this thematic tours, which are built around people's passions, like like you once mentioned. I mean, we have tours for artists, we have two photographers and so on at this this is becoming more and more popular. And yeah, I think also the font policy in traveling has changed a lot it's now more flexible. And while before all the airlines for example they did not I mean it was really difficult to get refound now I mean the more flexible policies of the companies are I think they will stay and the companies and the tourists and travelers they have adapted to this new flexible style of travel preparation which is cool. I mean, people are now people there the traveling world can become flexible.

Frank Danna
That's awesome. Olga, I want to ask you about these work related tours and and co working in regards to colleagues going on tours together What are you noticing around those What are people doing I'm interested to know what Chris Mohammad I and the rest of software can do

Olga Bortnikova
Yeah, yeah, it's just yeah, I think it's like a more like team building for travel travel with your friends or with co workers. And you find some new friends you spend time together like a normal small group doors you have some adventures, you go hiking or something else but at the same time you talk with people communicate and you understand this you know committed you talk with people and you understand them more deeply then you can do this through zoom or through some office when you just work in yeah and that's why I see the the strengths as you know this bubble style travel because people like travel for one week in one bubble they just spend time with each other and after one week they change the mind change the some style of connecting between each other and they start to plan some different another trip travelers also spend some weekends together etc. Yeah,

Mohammad Anwar
that's fair. So Frank I I imagine based on what I'm hearing that this could be a new way of remote work is like traveling work and you know go to destinations together you can work from anywhere in the world right now and listen, nation work relationships. Yes.

Frank Danna
Cuz Yeah, cuz I mean, you're right, like vulnerability based trust is something that we've seen has been An unbelievable asset to building high performing teams, like when we're talking about building workplaces that thrive, that are resilient. vulnerability is really the key. And I think that's fascinating. The idea of remote work, literally remote, you know, and being able to go in the bubbles and travel and also get work done and kind of hybridize that a little bit, the flexibility is really interesting. And a lot of companies are starting to embrace this, because I did, there was actually an article today that I read in the New York Times, that was all about the realities of in in office work environments has have actually not been shown to be more innovative. And in some ways, are actually dampening innovation. And for for, you know, businesses, having the flexibility to do things like that, but also getting creative with it. I mean, for organizations that are really trying to build high performance, this is a really unique opportunity.

Mohammad Anwar
I also think, cultural competency, like, you know, there's such a big emphasis on diversity and inclusion, what better way to gain empathy and cultural competency than to send a team abroad, hey, go work together, build trust, but also learn, you know about other cultures and you know, competencies and other cultural differences and integrations and come back and bring your experiences back to the rest of the team. I think that'd be amazing if we could use those kinds of strategies to build more cultural competency for teams.

Ivan Bortnikov
Yeah, yeah. And for companies, it also has a lot of benefits cast, for example, instead of having an office in big Syria, which costs really a lot. You can just travel with your remote team to some country, which is I don't know, cheaper, and have, I mean, have same costs, but people are much more motivated, much more passionate about their work, because they just connect traveling and working at the same time, they don't need to choose between both of these activities.

Mohammad Anwar
I'm sold, we need to

Frank Danna
we're all going to Turkey, that's the surprise, we're all going. Amazing. I'm actually I'm very interested to know, a little bit I think for both of you, it would be great to know a little bit more about how you've been able to get these these travel experts into your platform and and being able to offer their experiences and and I'm interested to know a little bit more about how you are able to build and sustain a culture that creates this connection between all of these travelers and these travel experts having similar experiences. What is your intention been around building a culture at youtravel.me that allows for all of these groups of people to create the best customer experience?

Ivan Bortnikov
Yeah, so let me let me try to start with with . So first of all, when we started, we understood that the core elements of building a really, really a social platform in group touring, and in multi day touring is to build a direct communication between our users on the platform. That's why from the very first day, when we launched, we had the chat options, which was later. And it's I mean, which we have later also improved into also communication. So the most important thing is that people when they travel for seven days, in a small group, they want to, to get to know the people in advance. So the need to talk directly, it's not the same as like buying a ticket. Like there are tickets when you need to spend with these people, three hours here is spent within one week, so we want to learn to know them better. That's why we have started to build our own communication system, where people can talk to each other, and everything is still secure and safe and made to our platform. And that's how connecting people on the platform. A lot of them have started to share the same vision we have created the community of travel experts, like the one which is which is closed on the forum verified travel experts on our platform. And when it's done, how much this independent guides they want to communicate with each other before they were like competing. And and now they are in the same communication system and say they started to actually share their insights, sharing I mean, asking each other how are you guys Working with this groups, how are you guys doing? I don't know this. So this was the second stage like creating the community of this travel experts who started to follow our platform. But the third thing has actually become, I mean, has appeared for us because of the pandemic, when our sales have stopped. But when the pandemic was announced, and we had all these returns and refunds, and we had a team, and we didn't know how to pay them, we didn't have money for that being a startup, we have launched our own online school for travel experts, which we which was called the guide, where we have gathered that top knowledge of our 10 best travel experts from the platform, they have created the 50 hours online course on how to start creating small group tours. And through this instrument, like educating our travel experts with this online course, also, all our values, which which we're trying to, basically to to send the people, it was really easy for us to make them know all the values that we want them to have, and that we expect from their sites out there online school also was was the cater to this.

Olga Bortnikova
Yeah. And it's about creation economy, because travel experts could be everybody. If you want to organize your multi day, small group tours, you can do it and you can start to work on this, you can understand what you need to do. We work just with proven travel experts, we check and verify all this stuff. But it's not about us. It's about travel experts. We launch these be guides, education, and we understood there is no such information such really, for now we have more than 100 hours of different webinars and different information. And we understood that they don't have this information, as direct. They can't it can't find it in internet. So they just came to us. And they said, Wow, it's really great. Wow, I can't walk Oh, how how I can be good. If I'm a woman even difficult, it's really difficult for me. And we have Okay, you you see this video and you understood that we have some Blackhawks and we already have some women's like guides and they they can organize, it's really great. And all this stuff we check and they really help help us to understand that this information is well for travel experts, and and our platform, every travel expert has access to this database, so they can improve their service every day. And for us, it's just like, one more thing that we think, okay, we change this world, yeah, we can make the service better every day.

Frank Danna
That's fascinating. So you started by creating a communication tool for travelers. And then you made it, you helped transform all of these travel experts from enemies into friends, by giving them a chance to learn from each other. And then in when the pandemic hit, you pivoted as a company to a new business model, to offer up tools for people to learn by utilizing some of the expertise from your top travelers in order to continue to function as a company to continue to move forward and to also create educational resources that had never been seen before. That's Yeah, that's, that's fascinating. It's it's an amazing, amazing approach. And very cool to see how you were able to pivot in something like the pandemic.

Ivan Bortnikov
Yeah, it was really surprising for us that we have managed to really pivot fast in like two months. I mean, in May, we had already our first 50 students on the online course, that really helped us to survive during this tough time for the travel industry.

Frank Danna
So may of 2020. So within a few months of the actual global lock downs, you had already crafted this platform and had already had students enrolled.

Ivan Bortnikov
Yeah, exactly. So we have launched our first first batch on like, fifth of May, I mean, one one months it took for us to crop the course. I mean, first two weeks, we were like, Oh my god, what's happening when you What's going on? Is this What's going on? Your first two weeks were like that. But the next four, we were like, We understood that this can be this can save us, basically. And we started hard to work on that.

Olga Bortnikova
Yeah, we're founded this travel experts out there lonely because they're not agency. They're not tour operators, big group of people who are organized as all this big tours, they're lonely travel experts. In some countries, they have a lot of refunds, and the it, he or she feels like, Oh, my God, what should I do? Oh, my God, I'm alone in this world. And when we show them, you're not alone, you you just look, there is 3000 travel experts like you in the same position in the same city as your visitor and the same situation with COVID at the same total situation, and then the suit, okay, we are not enemies anymore. We are friends.

Chris Pitre
Nice. So, Olga, and Ivan in the travel industry, as we just alluded to had some major financial impacts this past year, due to the pandemic, as things start opening up, businesses are traveling, people are traveling for leisure, what's something that you would want people to, to do or think about as they start interfacing with the hospitality industry? Again, it's been, again, a whirlwind for everyone, financial and economic impacts. But what's what's a piece of advice or a tip that you want to you know, give listeners to think about when it comes to interfacing with, with their various hotel staff and airlines, etc?

Ivan Bortnikov
Yeah, that's a great question. That's everybody's, I mean, even way we ask ourselves when we have our next trip. So first of all, it's I mean, we have actually created recently, like, top 12, things you need to check when you travel in COVID times. So I would say that the most important ones from my side are, first of all, to check the restrictions on a daily basis. In the country you are visiting, or in the country that you're returning to guess we have ourselves recently had a situation when we have actually March traveled from Georgia, as a country, you're Georgia, another state, to Turkey, and then back in two weeks. And during this two weeks, the restrictions have changed already. But we were so so confident that we know already how to travel now to Turkey, because we have just came from there. But and we didn't check that in two weeks, it has changed, that that has resulted a really big stress in the airport with one more paper we need to fill in on the Turkish government website, which was just launched the day before, and it wasn't working properly and so on. So, the first one is to check carefully and recheck and, and the second, I would say that still it is important to to be have a human approach to your to providers to your travel companies. Because still, it's very difficult for these guys to provide the same level of service that they used to provide before epidemic because of the economic situation because some processes they they have lost during this time. So being still tolerance being still really understanding that they are humans and they it's difficult for them. You all know that at the moment. It's a big problem in the US with the car rentals and I saw us in social media, some really angry comments about that. And I understand people but I just want to motivate people to understand all this rental companies they had a tough time they are not ready. And the end the third one is to to try to go with professionals because at the moment you need to know how to say it's good to trust your next trip. To sound professional or like tour guide that somebody else because a lot of things They're still closed, some routes have changed. And in most case, most of the cases, you just cannot find all this information in the internet in advance. So, and this local people they know it already. So at the moment in 2021, I would advise that if you want, like Chris, always, top quality of your trip always top experiences. Yeah, it's important. Exactly. Now to, to trust travell professionals. So yeah,

Olga Bortnikova
yeah, it's not. Now it's moment of changing. After COVID. You can try everything you can try any new country, that's, if you have fascinated. You can Yeah, you can travel most probably everywhere. But it's time to try some new approaches. I mean, if you never child with a group child, maybe you will like it, because now travel industry is totally changing. And our company is, is one thing that's become grow faster in this time, because people, people understood, okay, we can travel in small groups, why not? And then they said that it's really a great way to travel, and you try to travel with some experienced people. Yeah, really, I'm in the service professional, because general industry is will change and more faster, if people will use it. And for now, travel experts, they really wants to work harder, because of COVID. And because of the set of all the situation, and if people will back to, like normal, not normal, new normal. It will be Yeah, it will be good for challenges. Three, it's, it's, it's, it's all

Chris Pitre
I know, I completely agree. I know. A couple of years ago, I was traveling for work with a previous manager. And she was like, Oh, do you have a tip for? For the cleaning crew? I was like, What are you talking about, I was like, Oh, I don't have any cash. And she's like, Oh, I always leave a tip for the, that's the crew that is cleaning the room. And she explained some of the backstory cuz like, up until that point, to be honest, and completely, you know, vulnerable, like, all of those folks were invisible to me, because it was just like, you cut your room clean that. And she was explaining, like some of the stories of like, hey, most of these, you know, individuals are women, especially at least in the West, um, who are cleaning rooms, and many of them are in a lower socioeconomic status, then, you know, have different hardships that are not always, you know, seen or known. And so those, you know, tips that should leave, you know, can go a really long way. And so ever since that day, when my eyes were enlightened, I always make sure that I don't leave my country without tips for the hotel staff because it is important that they sort of be seen. And they do make the experience that much better by going to sleep again, it's easy to miss. I know I missed it. But it's just something that ever since then, I'm like it's ingratiated in me, though, I got to do it. Like No, no, it's not an option. I can tell you, Chris

Mohammad Anwar
has also influenced us in the same way. And I'm like, Oh, that makes sense. So since he told me that story, now, you know, I leave tips is like, is like something that I don't think I had even thought about from that lens for sure.

Frank Danna
It's true. And and, you know, like, when we we recently traveled with my kids just to a city in Texas, but I purposely brought cash to leave in the hotel room and my son was like, Dad, you left that money on the table, you know, and I was like, well, I it's not for you, unless you're gonna clean the entire hotel, you know. And it was great. It was a great learning experience as well to understand the value and and like you said, Chris, to make sure that people are seen. But this has been it has been very fascinating. Like I very much enjoyed our conversation around the tool that you've built from the pain that you experienced traveling. When you when you felt like, I don't want anyone else to experience this thing, right? Like I want to make sure that the people that are traveling that are wanting to experience the world they're wanting to learn new cultures new and see things for the first time that they've never seen before, to have the best possible experience. Right and so I love that your story is born out of frustration because that's when all that's where are all great things start from right is this need to innovate this need to make something better and I'm very much a huge fan of the fact that humanity is such a foundational component of your business that you are fully designed around making sure that human connection is what drives your business with the travel experts connecting with the travelers, with the way you're running your organization, culturally, making sure that you can you can empower people to do the right thing. And I also love the fact that, you know, in talking about travel, you're you're showcasing new ways that businesses and organizations can be creative about building trust, about getting work done together on safaris. I mean, if we're going on safari with Chris, and maybe a little out of my price range, I don't know maybe. But I think it's very interesting to see that there's so much opportunity over you mentioned this a few moments ago, that if you're vaccinated, try it, go do it. Like you can travel, there's opportunity right now. And it's so interesting to me how there's such a connection with our workplace and learning and growing and experiencing cultures, and the travel side of things and learning experience and cultures at those places, and how much they're intertwined. So I want to before we close, I want to say thank you to both Olga and Ivan. And is there any last thoughts that you had for our listeners today, or watchers today? Before we before we close out?

Ivan Bortnikov
Yeah, I just wanted also to share that we really believe that traveling can also cannot just change your own life, but can also change the life lives of other people and what you just matched with the hotel example. That's traveling, you can help local communities, local people are bringing the I mean bringing money to their economics, bringing your self, your salts, and like different mindsets to their lives is very important. And I believe that travel can responsibly traveling responsibly and sustainably can also change a lot of things. So that that's why I think it's very important to go back to traveling. And and yeah, and try to make the people more loving and more human. Simply love it. And Olga.

Olga Bortnikova
Yeah, yeah, I want to add, that's why I said about people run you, I want to say about you, as a traveler, when you want to change your life when you feel sad, or lonely. Traveling is like protests, like all these small group tours can change your life just in one week, or in two weeks. And if you feel some depression, or you feel sad, or you feel like okay, I don't know what to do what to do. You just just buy a ticket, just go home, go first, go vaccinated, buy tickets, and try to feel these emotions and try to be open to the world and to other people. And you when you come back, you feel really better. I, I read a lot of our reviews. And then now that people really changed their lives. And it's, it's great.

Frank Danna
That's amazing. Like, honestly, you've sold all of us. So we're gonna be planning something. But thank you both so much for joining us today. And as always, thank you to our listeners. So please be sure to check out our book. It's available on Amazon, everywhere The books are sold. And you know, the book is titled The same as our podcast love as a business strategy. So for more information for free racing resources, you can also check out the website lovesasabusinessstrategy.com. And if you're ready to travel. youtravel.me. We've talked a lot about it. Go look at their incredible stuff that they've got on there. It's amazing to see all of the different experiences people can go through. It's youtravel.me. The here at loves a business strategy. We're posting new episodes every Wednesday. Is there a business topic that you'd love to have is cover? Let us know at softway.com/laabs. And if you liked what you heard today, as always, please do leave us a five star review and subscribe on Apple and Spotify. It helps other listeners find our content. And if you know someone who might enjoy this stuff, don't forget to share the love as a business strategy pun intended. So thank you again for our guests today. And we will see you all next week.

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