Finán O’Donoghue wanted to go camping in Europe. He knew there were many campsites in the region – yet online, found it nearly impossible to locate a range of sites in a particular area, or to tell what they would be like.
This experience led him to identify the need for a search, locate and book website. After some blood, sweat and tears, the solution followed – campsited.com, an award-winning online marketplace for discovering camping destinations across the world.
“The irony,” says O’Donoghue, now Campsited’s CEO, “is that we are facilitating through technology the need to get away from an over-connected life.”
O’Donoghue and his wife Nora are lovers of the outdoors and veteran campers. “When my wife and I started having children we decided to introduce them to the outdoor way of life early, so chose to book a camping holiday in Europe. But the process was excruciating,” he says.
“I spent days looking for a website that was really easy to use and had a comprehensive choice of bookable campsites. I was shocked that there was no European or global aggregator. In the end, we just didn’t book.”
Gap in the travel tech market worth €13 billion in Europe by 2023
Spotting that big gap in a huge market, currently worth €11.5 billion in Europe alone, inspired O’Donoghue to park his career in IT and user experience design and find the solution: “I thought, I have the skill set but I’m also the consumer: I’d worked for 20 years in enterprise technology and user experience design, and I love the outdoors.”
While, before campsited.com, “there must have been a lot of frustrated holiday makers and outdoor lovers”, he notes. Now, with this website, consumers have easy access to more than 2,500 camping locations in 17 countries, and more being added weekly.
Bookings are booming. O’Donoghue believes that year-on-year revenues will be up by between 400% and 500% for 2019.
Campsited’s journey to travel tech success
Early on, Enterprise Ireland, the trade and innovation agency, supported Campsited with a feasibility grant, which O’Donoghue says helped facilitate the development of the platform.
The company had previously raised €1.6 million, and in September 2019, a further funding round was in progress, to raise €1.5 million.
Global interest has grown and became key, with a US venture capitalist now investing. “The story has become more compelling outside of Ireland,” O’Donoghue adds.
While assembling a database of suitable campsites was an early challenge, the business now integrates with campsite booking SaaS (software as a service) to scale its bookable supply. For the price-conscious, the next step – a Special Offers Hub – will be a magnetic draw. “We’re just about to launch that, with thousands of discounts.”
Extending the travel customer’s journey
After that, Campsited plans to extend the user experience by incorporating pre-booking of outdoor excursions and activities. “This is exciting for us,” O’Donoghue says, “because the outdoor tourism market globally is worth well over €200 billion.”
Right now, the growth strategy is built on the Campsited brand. O’Donoghue describes the priorities: genuinely useful and relevant content, best possible user experience through ongoing qualitative and quantitative research, and then partnerships with other brands.
Getting inspired by Irish travel tech success
Irish travel tech successes also motivated O’Donoghue. “Hostelworld, for example, Cartrawler, these homegrown companies, seeing them doing it and succeeding internationally,” he says. And he appreciates the importance of the ecosystem in this global tech hub.
“The Irish tech industry is so good at giving its time, including the people who have been very successful. I’ve been able to get access to everyone, and they’ve really helped. I’m very grateful for that.”
Campsited’s strengths exemplify the leading role Irish travel tech is playing globally: delivering more connected, intuitive, and user-friendly solutions. Campsited itself so impressed judges from Delta Air Lines, InterContinental Hotels Group, and JetBlue Ventures that it carried off the 2018 Pioneer Travel Tech award.
“That was huge for us,” says O’Donoghue, “The award came at just the right time.”
Enterprise Ireland has played a key role in Campsited’s development, from its offices in Ireland, the US and France. “Existing relationships, the knowledge of its advisors, its events, its research, and overall expertise, we can leverage all of these things to help scale the business and deliver for more customers. You can’t put a price on that.”