Updated at 10:54,14-11-2017

New generation travelling by OpenEurop: how yesterdays students change travel industry

Maryja Maliauka, UDF.BY. Photos made by author

Six months ago Aliaksandr Lapko and Aliaksandr Hanulich launched an OpenEurop project. The company designs individual, though unbelievably economical routes for independent travelling.

Why does the company have no worthy competitors? Why the routs of OpenEurop cannot be copied? How will travel industry change and why? Posrednik learned about the development of the project that offers to see the world for the price affordable for a common Belarusian.


Demand for Europe

Could you tell me the way to the OpenEurop office? ask I an administrator in the lobby of a business center Port, when suddenly the administrator laughs: Whats going on, people keep going there! And bear in mind that is happening on Saturdays evening: young entrepreneurs have too busy schedule during the working week to find time for an interview.

A married couple is just having a consultation a small office for 3 working places; phone rings occasionally despite another economic collapse, Belarusians still want to travel.

New generation travelling by OpenEurop: how yesterdays students change travel industryIt all started from seemingly insignificant events: in the spring of 2012 a third-year student at the information and communication department of the Belarusian State University Aliaksandr Lapko decided to go to Prague.

I found information of how to reach Prague from Minsk. The route was explained fragmentarily, but I collected it in one post, and published in my blog. I also created a group in VKontakte (a Russian social network udf.by) to attract my university classmates. It happened so that the administration of one popular group saw my post and reposted it. One thousand subscribers followed me during one week. People started writing and asking me: Write more! New generation travelling by OpenEurop: how yesterdays students change travel industrythough I had only one post about Prague there. Then those, who were traveling themselves, started to write me. In result, I started from theory, collected this information to travel and check it later.

Collection of information gradually grew into a project Eurotour that consisted from a blog and a group in VKontakte. In summer of 2013, during the trip to Italy, Aliaksandr met another Aliaksandr, a student at the School of Business and Management of Technology of BSU (SBMT BSU). Aliaksandr Hanulich was studying to become a logistician and got very interested in the opportunity to plan routes. We decided to develop Eurotour first. We moved all the information from the blog and changed it into a portal. Now, unfortunately, we have absolutely no time to maintain it we have to work on weekends since there are a lot of people willing to travel at a reasonable price.


Start of a business journey

Initially, we visioned the project to be an information one. But in the process of communicating with the audience it became clear that not everyone is ready to organize their travelling themselves. Therefore, we had an idea to establish a company that would be providing help in organization of trips by affordable routes.

- It is not that we invented something absolutely new there are similar projects both in Ukraine and in Russia. Experienced travellers help other less experienced people to organize their travel for some cost. But there is no such thing with such service that the one we want to achieve.


Experienced travelers just tell where to buy a ticket, find the convenient route, and thats, basically, it. Minimal services. Some services monitor hot offers in travel agencies or organize selling of rejected tours. Whereas we dont sell tours, we construct them.

When the company only started working, Aliaksandr Hanulich worked out a detailed business plan. In 2014 the project OpenEurop took part in the competition of business ideas and projects Start2Go to be included in top 20. The idea attracted a lot of interest; in result its authors found a programmer, who agreed to work in the project on a voluntary basis. He created the software to work with clients and design travelling. OpenEurop started working as a legal entity last September.


Trailer

Programmer Aliaksei has been a real asset for a novice business. The work scheme individual construction of trips designed for the clients budget and maintenance of travelling was impossible to realize without special programs. Aliaksandr Hanulich tells about the current and future possibilities of the software designed for them. When there are numerous clients at different stages, it is impossible to keep all information in my head, - says Hanulich. We have all clients and tasks here.

The second part constructor of travelling is still at the stage of development.

Equipment also helps to choose from a great number of variants. It is a smart system, which uses the experience of travellers. I.e. it wont necessarily give the shortest possible route, but it will be a cheaper one.

Third part of the software an application for mobile phones is still in project: It will be an application for travellers that will help to automatize the maintenance of the trip. For example, now we call our clients and remind them when its time to adjust clocks, whereas in future the application will be doing it. Upon crossing the border the application will remind you that its time to adjust clocks.

The scheme of work with clients isnt perfect yet, believe the founders of OpenEurop: Since we dont have a second part of the software yet, we still have a lot of mechanical work. It takes a lot of time in real life. For example, some people want to keep their trip within 200, so they come and ask: Where can I go to? And when you find them a route to Spain, they say: Then find me a trip to Italy for 200, please. Then the search starts, and it takes both the clients time and ours.

- In the near future we will have all that at our webpage. It will be possible to find oneself a lot of variants just sitting at home with tea.


That is why the two Aliaksandras regard the current working period as a trial one.

- The service we sell isnt finished yet. There will be service that will help plan trips more specifically and more interestingly. In fact, we made a trailer to a film that isnt released yet.


New generation travelling by OpenEurop: how yesterdays students change travel industry

New generation travelling by OpenEurop: how yesterdays students change travel industry

New generation travelling by OpenEurop: how yesterdays students change travel industry

In the OpenEurop's office

The guys are sure that when the film will finally be released, a lot of people will like to travel this way and this idea will influence the touristic market a lot. I think that the generation that is growing up now wants to travel differently, - says Aliaksandr Hanulich. Not in the way that travel agencies and tour operators offered the former generation. People just have a different idea in their heads; they want to see life a little bit different. That is why I think that it will change the market.


Design something for me

The uniqueness of the idea brings its benefits and its difficulties. In the beginning a lot of people didnt understand who we are and what we do. They called to buy a package tour to Turkey to Egypt. Some time later they started to get our business, find about us from different sources. Someone read about us at Citydog (CityDog.by is a magazine about Minsk udf.by); someone traveled with our clients in the same bus and they told about their trip; so, some impression has already been made.

Gradually the audience understood that OpenEurop is not just another travel agency. Now we are getting less such calls, when people ask for something specific. Many people come and say Design something for me.

Many people find it convenient that they dont have to adjust to the date of departure as in case with the ready-made tours. OpenEurop serves for those who want to visit several cities but cannot find such offers among the tours. The elderly, who need routs with a minimal number of changes, also travel with this company.

- We always offer the time than people assign for themselves, not like you have 10 minutes for Prague and well travel further.


A lot of people come to OpenEurop from VKontakte, where the project got good promotion. Many people come to know about the project from the articles at other internet-portals. The company plans to run billboards soon, for example, in international ticket offices at the railway station.

Despite expectations, the majority of OpenEurops audience doesnt consist of students or young people that have just received education. Mainly these are people from 24 to 30 years old; both married couples and pensioners.

- Some people are attracted namely because of reasonable prices; however, a lot of people who can afford a one thousand euro trip for a couple of days with a travel agency also come to us. It is a different format that attracts them: everything is done just as they want to.



We have created ourselves the work we like

The project launched without attracting third-party investments recovered in three months. Now there are 4 people on the permanent staff: two Aliaksandras, programmer Aliaksei, and manager for current customers Julia. Constant audience is being formed: clients come back in order to travel more: We had a case when a woman had travelled with us, and her husband came later and made her a surprise, ordering one more journey. Those, who order 2 journeys within six months, get visa-processing service as a present. This offer is popular. People come and say yes, we are ready for traveling with you twice.

Guys are ready for the appearance of similar companies in the market: according to them, some attempts to copy their routes in the Internet have already happened. However, it is hard to copy the principles of OpenEurops work the question lies in how to organize the service and set the work going. Let them copy, - laugh the authors of the idea. It doesnt guarantee that they will make it work.

Im interested in the place that this project occupies in their life in the sense of terms of self-realization.

Now it occupies the whole life, - laughs Aliaksandr Lapko. I mean, 24 hours a day. When you are in the office, you work. When are outside the office, you think about work (or work outside the office), and if you sleep you dream about your work.

And when you are sleeping, a client might also call you: Its me, I got lost in Barcelona (or lost the instruction), please tell me how to find a way home?

- Its not some business we decided to arrange only to withdraw from it later. It is something we put our soul in and what we take pleasure in doing. For now we dont even think of doing something different only develop this project and make it better, more large-scale. We have created ourselves the work we like.

Despite the fact that the company has opened not long ago, it is ready to share its experience. OpenEurop takes students to practice. We ask trainee Hanna what can one learn from touristic service that is in a class of its own. New generation travelling by OpenEurop: how yesterdays students change travel industry

Learn what reasonable travelling is, how to organize it, what it is made of, - shares Hanna. I havent even dreamt of undergoing practical training with these guys. I have read about them and they seem such geniuses to me!

The other side of the question is also interesting, - adds Aliaksandr Hanulich. Apart from getting knowledge, the trainees can see how people can enjoy their work.

You know what is astonishing: when I came, the working hours were from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m., - says Hanna. These people will never go home at 7 p.m. They can get home at 9-10 p.m. , but when you enter social networks, everyone is online writing and doing something. You come to the office in the morning, they immediately register what theyve done. They dont even take a break to eat there!

But it doesnt mean that let our trainees starve in here, - laughs Aliaksandr Lapko.

It means that people are enjoying their work, - concludes Hanna. It is cool.

New generation travelling by OpenEurop: how yesterdays students change travel industry



Business in hover


The latest devaluation brought about an interesting effect: the main audience somehow of those, who are willing to travel for reasonable prices, somehow changed. Initially we planned that these will be young people, students, who have a lot of desire to travel but little money. And now it appears that well-off people, who are used to regular travelling, became poorer by 30%. They find us and, in fact, nothing changes in their daily life, the only thing is that they pay less.

Its interesting that people from Russia and Ukraine go to the company. We even got a letter from Turkey few days ago. They want us to plan their trip from Turkey to Germany. They are Russian-speaking who live in Turkey and have a travel business there.

- In fact, it means that the service we provide doesnt have geographic boundaries. We can be in Minsk, but organize a trip from Vladivostok to Rome, for example. In order to do that, certain conditions need to be organized both for cooperation with the client and for accepting payments. That is why we plan to organize this possibility as soon as possible so that not to be tied to some geographic location. To become as free as a bird.


The guys dont plan to extend the boundaries of their routes drastically in the near future. First they want to perfect their scheme for Europe. Georgia and Armenia are in demand, so they will soon appear among the offers, too. The Canary Islands are particularly popular. This route makes reasonable money, but mentally is perceived as luxury Wow, the Canaries!


Mission

The creators of OpenEurop think that it is very important for Belarusans to see the world. For them to see and understand that some things are not so bad in Belarus, but something can also be adopted. Anyway, after each trip you are not the person you used to be any longer. You can some new views, new ideas, and if these ideas are supported and realized in Belarus, it is also very good.

- When you take the same path each day, look at one and the same tree you can hardly get some novel idea even if apples will be falling on your head every day. But it is when you see something new, different people, when you communicate with them that you get insights and fresh thoughts.


That is why OpenEurop wishes more trips to Belarusians: We need to travel and see what planet we are living on.