In various spheres, from trade expos to high-level managerial positions, Black Americans remain significantly underrepresented in travel and tourism. Research indicates that only 7.2% of U.S. travel agents identify as Black or African American, and an overwhelming 62% of travel advisers function as independent contractors, lacking the necessary tools and resources to compete with larger agencies.
Pioneering tech visionaries Darrien Watson and Stevon Judd are instigating a paradigm shift within the travel industry through a bespoke SaaS (Software as a Service) platform designed for group trip organizers and travelers. Beyond mere financial growth, SquadTrip is deeply committed to empowering 50,000 Black travel professionals over the next two years, aiming to bridge the diversity gap within the travel and tourism space. With its mission to foster community and meaningful connections through travel experiences, the software firm will share optimal strategies and educational resources via webinars, conferences, and workshops.
Watson, CEO and co-founder of SquadTrip, highlights, “One of the most prevalent challenges for travel organizers is the efficient planning of trips in terms of both time and cost. Many small-scale travel agencies resort to managing multiple online tools at a cost, but our all-inclusive platform streamlines this process by offering professional-grade tools that facilitate the creation of trip landing pages, automated billing schedules, and seamless back-office operations.”
Having secured an impressive $1.5 million in funding, the startup has emerged as one of the few Black-owned travel software enterprises to garner over $1 million in investment. Backers include notable entities like TechStars, Forum Ventures, and Atento Capital, a Tulsa-based venture capital firm focused on unlocking unsung potential in early-stage founders.
SquadTrip’s co-founders have generated $7 million in travel sales and facilitated 6,000 bookings. The business partners, who originally bonded as best friends during college, embarked on their entrepreneurial journey by establishing an event ticketing platform tailored for Black entrepreneurs. In 2022, they launched SquadTrip.
Watson recollects, “The concept for SquadTrip emerged while helping a friend create a simpler way to collect money for his birthday trip. Our software system transformed his annual group excursion into a million-dollar travel enterprise.”
The automated payment solution caters to professional group trip organizers, travel agents, and travel brands, but it also suits travel enthusiasts who regularly organize trips for family and friends. Be it a significant milestone celebration or a family reunion, users can access SquadTrip’s platform free of charge, paying a mere 6 percent fee per booking.
Stevon Judd, CTO and co-founder of SquadTrip, reveals, “Initially, our focus was on our ideal customer base, but we soon realized that our platform resonates with a wide array of travel professionals and enthusiasts. Our users span travel agents, destination wedding planners, retreat organizers, and even leisure travelers who arrange trips for their loved ones.”
Group travel often involves coordinating multiple aspects such as transportation, accommodations, activities, and itineraries for a larger number of people. This complexity can lead to logistical challenges, especially when dealing with last-minute changes, cancellations, or unforeseen circumstances. While small agencies might lack access to advanced travel management software and tools that larger agencies use to manage bookings and handle customer interactions, SquadTrip addresses these challenges by helping travel professionals work more efficiently and recover untapped revenue.
Stephanie Kilson-Thomas, a SquadTrip customer and owner of KT Travel & More, explains, “The majority of my clients are destination wedding groups, and SquadTrip allows me to manage the reservations process for a large number of travelers from beginning to end.”
With the recent investment funds, the company is strategizing to amplify its business presence, onboard fresh talent, and enhance its product offerings. A notable addition to the platform is a new affiliate feature that allows travelers to share trips with friends through a unique link. Users will be rewarded with cash when their referrals participate in the trip.
In the current year, SquadTrip has undertaken a full-scale relocation from New York to the Black-owned tech ecosystem in Tulsa’s Greenwood District, renowned as Black Wall Street.
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