It has been said that nothing in life is guaranteed. With a humanitarian and philanthropic spirit, Bob Diener and David Litman, co-founders of Hotels.com and Getaroom strive to contradict that proverb. The duo launched Travel Funders Network on August 2021 at a time when the hotel and travel industry needed it most. The pandemic was ravaging businesses and choking the life out of the travel industry.
The online distribution platform offers participating hotels a minimum revenue guarantee with no upfront costs, and in return receives a larger than usual margin. Sounding a bit like Shark Tank, but with a larger sense of empathy, Travel Funders Network has within its portfolio mainly 3-star hotels since they tend to offer hospitality to a wider range of traveler than the 5-star elite hotels.
Certainly, this is the world of business, one hand washes the other, but, in the end, the hotels in the network survive and even thrive through a period that saw the destruction of so many other businesses. The platform markets rooms on an individual or package basis through a unique network of private business-to-business channels, including airline loyalty programs and associations. While Diener and Litman hope to eventually increase their portfolio to 500 hotels (mostly 3-star hotels), only hand-selected hotels in key markets will be initially invited to join.
Bob Diener is the co-founder and President of getaroom.com, which was awarded best hotel booking site by frommers.com. After receiving his law degree from Cornell, where he was an editor of the Cornell Law Review, Bob practiced securities and corporate law with the firm of Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher. Along with his partner, David Litman, Diener founded Hotel Reservations Network, which became hotels.com. They created the merchant model for booking hotel rooms and launched one of the first travel sites on the web in 1995.
David Litman brings more than 25 years of travel industry experience to his role as co-founder and CEO of getaroom. Dave is a pioneer in the online travel industry, and was the co-founder and CEO of Hotel Reservations Network, which became hotels.com. He was responsible for guiding hotels.com from a start up to the world’s largest hotel website. Dave started his career with the Dallas law firm of Johnson and Swanson. Wanting to fulfill his entrepreneurial spirit, he started a discount airline business in 1984 that became a multi-million dollar wholesale airfare consolidation operation.
In a recent interview with Skift, Diener stated, “We look to be a core base of business for the hotel. We help them cover their net and then they can revenue manage the rest of their rooms at higher rates.”
Travel Funders Network currently has six full-time employees, and an wealth of contractors, including call centers in Asia and Latin America. Diener said call center agents are offered incentives to encourage them to close transactions. Their success rate of 30 percent of customers compared with travel websites that might convert 2-3 percent is certainly impressive.
The network’s goal is to initially sign up 100 properties, and expand it to 500 in a few years. The company will handpick hotels initially in markets including, New York, Washington, D.C., Boston, Chicago, Las Vegas and Orlando, targeting travelers from southern or midwestern states who might be driving to Florida or flying into Las Vegas.
Knowing that “it takes a village,” Diener and Litman put together a powerful team. Melissa DelBuono is the Regional Director Northeast and Major Markets. A native of Finger Lakes, NY, Melissa has over 20 years of experience in hospitality and was the founder and CEO of Project Save Hospitality. Melissa attended Rochester Institute of Technology as a major in Finance and Criminal Justice with a minor in Accounting and a concentration in Sociology, as well as an M.B.A and an M.S in Business Strategy. She also holds a certificate degree from Cornell University in Hotel Real Estate Investment and Asset Management. Her Passion for the hotel industry and contributions on a consulting level to several major Startup companies gives her the experience to help the inception and growth of companies.
Michael Gonzales brings 20+ years of Hospitality expertise to his role as Regional Director for Gaming markets to Travel Funders Network. Michael’s hospitality experience is both on the Hotel Side and OTA sides of business. His revenue-management career has allowed Michael the opportunity to be a part of opening teams at Wynn Las Vegas, Fontainebleau Las Vegas and Resorts World Las Vegas and part of the team during the Tropicana Las Vegas $200M renovation.
Edecio Habibe is a Regional Director at Travel Funders Network. His passion for hospitality was sparked by his experiences growing up in Aruba, where tourism is the primary economic driver. While completing a bachelor’s degree in Hospitality from The Rosen College of Hospitality [University of Central Florida], he began his career working in the front office of an Embassy Suites Hotel. Edecio has since worked for several hotel distribution companies, including Tourico Holidays, HotelsPro and most recently Hotelbeds, where he was the Americas Regional Market Manager, overseeing a team of 18 geographically diverse market managers.