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Welcome to the world through my eyes. I'm an internationally published travel writer and photographer who has travelled to 75+ countries, and has tried to capture some of that along the way. Travel means the world to me, and my goal is to offer tips and advice to help you feel the same! 

An Interview with Jochem Wijnands: The Founder and CEO of TRVL

An Interview with Jochem Wijnands: The Founder and CEO of TRVL

I’ve met many movers and shakers in the travel industry, and Jochem Wijnands, the founder and CEO of TRVL, is certainly one of them.

Since I began seriously travelling, roughly ten years and eighty countries ago, a lot has changed in the way that we all travel. We now all quite literally have the world at our fingertips. For better or worse, long gone are the days of fumbling with bulky maps and booking hotels through happenstance and intuition. Now, we’ve got an endless stream of reviews to sift through for just about any form of accommodation. But, according to Jochem Wijnands, the traveller is rarely being put first.

From my conversation with him, I got the sense that Jochem is tired of that trend, and has created a platform that serves to empower the traveller, not swindle them. I got the sense that he wanted to see the traveller have a little extra change in their pocket to keep fuelling that trip, even if it came at the expense of fuelling his company’s coffers. It was nice to chat to a founder who seemed so open and honest about his company’s intentions and ambitions.

I caught up with Jochem about a week ago to talk about TRVL’s approach to travel and how he got where he is today. We’ve attended several of the same conferences (including TBEX), and know many of the same folks, so it delightful to dive a little deeper with him here.

Just so you know - In very, very brief terms, TRVL allows you to earn money on your hotel bookings by paying you the commission that usually ends up in someone else’s pocket. They’re trying to shake up the industry.

 TRVL, and their founder Jochem Wijnands, is aiming to shake up the travel industry.

Chris Mitchell: Firstly, Jochem, thanks so much for catching up with me, I really appreciate it. Can you start by telling everyone a bit about yourself, and your relation to TRVL?

Jochem Wijnands: I created TRVL to pursue traveler happiness. TRVL started in 2010 as a magazine for iPad out of frustration with travel magazines. I’ve been a travel writer and photographer and I knew first hand that magazines are paying more tribute to their advertisers than their readers. They make us see the world trough the eyes of tourism boards.

TRVL quickly grew to 2 million app installs and maintained a 5 star rating. We then created software to publish directly to mobile, which Apple acquired. We moved to California and started building Apple News. When that shipped, I quit my job to return to TRVL and turn it into a new type of travel booking platform.

Travel brands don’t really care about you and whether you have a great trip or not. They rush you into booking decisions and want you to stay in a hotel that offers them the best margin.

Chris Mitchell: I can appreciate that philosophy as a fellow traveller, for sure. So, what were you doing before TRVL, and how do you think that prepared you? If I’m not mistaken, you essentially created Apple News, which is no small feat!

Jochem Wijnands: I didn’t feel I was prepared at all, haha! But I have always been deeply involved in both traveling and publishing, and I have always been quick to tackle a problem and try to solve it.

I think the two lessons I learned are to learn from mistakes quickly and to keep going, keep pushing, don’t give up.

If you’re enjoying this interview with TRVL’s Jochem Wijnands, you might also like to check out some of the other engaging interviews I’ve done on this site.

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“Personal travel recommendations are the best, but they are completely missing online. We’re not there yet, but our aim is to create a personalised travel booking experience, that includes online advice from people you trust.”

Chris Mitchell: It’s funny you mention that because I’ve recently been reading more and more about the power of sheer determination and force of will - it’s something I’d like to think I embody a bit myself. Anyway, let’s shift focus back to you!

I’ve read a bit about your “aha moment” after your trip to Mexico which really brought the ideas for TRVL to the forefront of your mind. Can you talk a bit about that?

Jochem Wijnands: An Apple colleague told me about an tiny fishing village with a crescent shaped beach, that you can only reach by boat. It’s called Yelapa and it’s heaven on earth. I went there and realised I would have never found if it wasn’t for her.

Personal travel recommendations are the best, but they are completely missing online. We’re not there yet, but our aim is to create a personalised travel booking experience, that includes online advice from people you trust.

Chris Mitchell: You’ve talked openly about the “pursuit of traveler happiness” being the leading principle with TRVL? What does “traveler happiness” mean to you?

Jochem Wijnands: We want you to enjoy travel booking as much as you enjoy traveling. It’s all about you and your trip. A great trip starts with great travel booking decisions. Part of that is knowing you found the best deal, but it runs much deeper. We want to put travelers first, to personalizing the experience, to create transparency and trust. Ultimately, we want you to be happy when your trip is over.

 An Interview with Jochem Wijands, Founder and CEO of TRVL

“A great trip starts with great travel booking decisions. Part of that is knowing you found the best deal, but it runs much deeper. We want to put travelers first, to personalizing the experience, to create transparency and trust.”

Chris Mitchell: What, in your opinion, makes TRVL different? What separates you from the crowd?

Jochem Wijnands: TRVL is the only company that pays travelers a “travel agent commission” on 2 million hotels and home stays and give you access to industry discounts that are normally off limits to travelers.

I think we’re the only travel booking website that can claim it puts travelers first, that is transparent about prices and room availability, and doesn’t try to rush you into booking a room.

Chris Mitchell: Obviously, you’re a big believer in travel. Why is that, and how does that translate into the ethos of TRVL?

Jochem Wijnands: I believe travel makes you a better person and the world a better and more connected place. I am a bit of a hippie for believing that we’re all one. I believe sharing is the essence of what it means to be human. The traveler community is an example for the world at large when it comes to acceptance, tolerance, open-mindedness and the value it places on sharing.

Chris Mitchell: That’s a beautiful sentiment, Jochem, and if that belief is what classifies someone as a hippy, then I’m happy to be a hippy right along with you my friend!

In terms of the name, is there any big story behind the name “TRVL,” did it come to you in the night, or was it more something that seemed obvious to you from the beginning?

Jochem Wijnands: We wanted a 4 letter URL and TRVL.com was for sale, but very expensive, of course. I negotiated for a year to get the price down. A few months later a company approached us and offered to pay us 50 times what we paid for it.

Chris Mitchell: Hah, well obviously you were on to something. I’ve loved hearing that you guys are a “travel platform 2.0 with a touch of Robin Hood.” Can you talk a bit about that? What gives you that “Robin Hood” edge?

Jochem Wijnands: Say your hotel is $100. This includes $13 in commission a travel agent would get when he/she would book that hotel for a client. Now, if you book the hotel without the help of a travel agent, you end up paying $13 for a service you’re not getting. That’s what’s happening today, all the time.

TRVL rewards you for doing all the work yourself by paying you the travel agent commission. In this example, you would earn $10 and $3 would go to TRVL to cover our costs.

If you’re enjoying this interview with TRVL’s Jochem Wijnands, you might also like to check out some of the other engaging interviews I’ve done on this site.

 TRVL also has a mobile search function

“The traveler community is an example for the world at large when it comes to acceptance, tolerance, open-mindedness and the value it places on sharing.”

Chris Mitchell: I’ve got to say, that’s a really unique and intriguing approach. Beyond that TRVL also seems to have been some emphasis on building community. Was that something important to you when you were establishing TRVL?

Jochem Wijnands: To build a community is not the objective of TRVL. We want to facilitate and incentivize travelers to help each other to make better travel decisions. We’ll start by allowing you and your co-travelers to work on a trip together, to share ideas and recommendations, and then we’ll expand that to other people you trust, like your friends and family.

Chris Mitchell: That makes sense. To back away from the company for a second, and really because I’m curious, what has been your favourite travel story over the years, and why?

Jochem Wijnands: I traveled around the world when I was in my early twenties. In China I met a farmer in a village that had mastered English by reading 20th century English literature. I told him I would travel for a few more months and then go home again. He said, “don’t think of traveling as something that stops when you’re home. Just always travel.”

This man had never left his own village, yet he understood the essence of traveling better than I did.

Chris Mitchell: It sounds like, like me, you learned a lot through travel. In terms of business, how was TRVL grown and changed since it first came to be? What have you learned in the process?

Jochem Wijnands: We have members in 120 countries and handle thousands of customers every day, but it was very hard at first. We had to integrate 5 travel brands and 2 million hotels into one seamless travel booking experience, and we underestimated how hard this would be.

It has never been done before. One of the positive aspects is that it has brought the team closer together and made us even more determined and resilient.

Chris Mitchell: That’s impressive, I must admit. Where do you see TRVL going from here? What are you hoping TRVL looks like in the coming years?

Jochem Wijnands: In the future, it should be absolutely normal to get personal and curated travel recommendations online, on demand - either from your friends, local experts, or other people you trust. This knowledge is already widely available, the technology to make this possible is available, too.

But travel brands have other interests, so it won’t happen unless companies like TRVL are willing to put their lives on the line to make this happen.

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 So, where are you staying next? As TRVL says at the top of their site, “power to the traveler!”

So, where are you staying next? As TRVL says at the top of their site, “power to the traveler!”

I want to sincerely thank Jochem Wijnands for his time for the interview. The travel industry and travel space in general is always evolving, and I appreciate people like him are trying to shake things up for the benefit of the traveller.

I should note, if this idea is something your keen on, you guys can get a $20 cash reward on the first booking and a free upgrade to TRVL Insider to access industry discounts by using this link. I’m not taking any commission off that, so my only incentive there is to help you, my readers, out.

I want to thank TRVL for working with me professionally as media. Please note that all opinions that I expressed are fully my own.

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