Over 200,000 US high school students travel abroad as a part of an educational travel tour every year.
While several companies have offered a variety of services for the student travel industry for decades, a new player has aggressively and successfully entered this established market place leveraging a key differentiator: using technology in all aspects of the travel experience. As a result, not only have they substituted technology as the medium for most interactions with customers and suppliers, thereby reducing overhead and errors, but they are also using technology to enhance the travel experience.
Formed in April 2000 by an experienced management team, Explorica combines a deep understanding of the educational travel industry with a detailed vision for technological innovation. From detailed itineraries to complex invoicing, the business of student travel is information-intensive. With customers and suppliers scattered all over the world, traditional operators have managed this complexity using a multitude of paper-based forms and printed materials.
Through Explorica`s use of the Internet to register students and teachers online, communicate and transact business with its suppliers, utilize credit cards for payments (unusual in this industry) and manage and deliver its invoices, they have reduced the costs of educational travel by an average of 10-20 % over their competition. Ironically, the efficiencies generated by Internet technologies enable Explorica to offer higher quality travel while saving people money. “Our long-term vision,” states Olle Olsson, founder and CEO of Explorica, “is to build a cost structure where the overhead costs are up to 50% lower than the industry average.”
Explorica is also improving the experiences of student travelers by delivering information and easing administration of their tours through personalized TourCenters on the Internet. Tour Directors are equipped with a laptop and digital camera, enabling them to chronicle their group`s experiences while on the trip. Every few days this information is uploaded to the student`s Tour Diary on the Explorica website along with digital photos, enabling parents and other family members to follow their children`s travels from home. Explorica is also developing online community capabilities that will enable students and teachers to build relationships with other Explorica travel groups online.