The conventional wisdom back in 2015 was that travel agencies were a shrinking business. But that year, Spanish entrepreneur David Hernández thought he saw a whitespace for creating a fast-growing travel agency business, and he launched plans to create Pangea.
Fast forward to 2022, and his “travel store” invoiced close to 50 million euros in sales, Hernandez told the Spanish publication Time on Monday. In the first quarter of 2023, Pangea doubled its revenue year-over-year. This year, it expects to generate close to $75 million (€70 million).
What factors are enabling Pangea to grow quickly, having now served more than 20,000 travelers in only a few years?
In 2019, Hernandez raised an approximately $11 million (€9 million) round of venture funding, led by led by Axon Partners. The funding helped the company survive the pandemic and open four stores: in Madrid, at 1,500 square meters; in Barcelona, at 1,700 square meters and with a restaurant; in Bilbao, with three floors; and in Valencia, in the heart of the city.
The physical stores have attracted a new generation of travelers, just as some online-first direct-to-consumer brands like eyewear maker Warby Parker have opened physical stores as a marketing technique. Pangea’s Madrid store last year had a turnover of about $35 million (€30 million). Roughly a fifth of its customers were walk-ins.
“People fill out an online questionnaire, and based on their interests and characteristics, we find the best advisor for them,” Hernández said. “We have expert professional advisors in diving, volcanoes, safaris… anything you can imagine.”
Hernández doesn’t neglect technology. But he sees it as supplemental rather than the full offering — mainly as a way to make back-end and routine processes more efficient. His services are within a rounding error of the cost of fully booking trips online but save customers time, Hernández claimed.
“We have been developing a global technological tool for a year that aims to help further digitize the sector,” Hernández said, who aims to launch the tool at the travel trade fair Fitur early next year.
Read about Hernández's Pangea travel store in Spain, via Time
“Who thinks Booking.com, to name one, has no margins?” Hernández said. “That you always find the cheapest on the internet is not always true. For a difference of five or ten euros, it is not worth giving up the after-sales service, the security, the customization that we offer… We [as travelers] don’t have enough time to spend more than 50 hours preparing a far away and complex trip, like Costa Rica, Japan, Tanzania, the USA, or the Maldives. .. In an agency, they solve it for you in 30 minutes with all the guarantees and professional advice.”—David Hernández, CEO of Pangea