Fora raises $13.5 million for its tech travel agency to give advisors the flexibility of a modern economy
Some of the earliest internet startups and success stories focused on the travel industry – an industry that was inherently ripe for disruption. Over the successive 20 years, much of the focus has been on supporting the consumer experience where individuals can plan trips and easily book trips. Despite pressure from other channels, travel agencies were responsible for 29% of gross bookings in 2021. However, in other adjacent industries like transportation and delivery, the gig economy has flourished (e.g. , Uber, Seamless, etc.) offering new independence to workers. For a is a technology-driven travel agency that seeks to provide the same flexibility for travel agents and advisors whether they want to work full time or on the side. The company has cleverly identified that personal travel recommendations go a long way, and many people are looking to monetize their travel expertise. Fora provides Advisors with the platform, social tools and knowledge framework to build and grow a business around their passion while providing their clients with curated and individualized itineraries as well as additional premium benefits such as upgrades and discounts. spa credits for reservation. Most of every commission earned is retained by the advisors and there are no minimum monthly sales goals or quotas. The company has already onboarded 500 advisors with a bloated waiting list of more than 30,000.
Alley Watch met the co-founder of Fora Henley Vazquez to learn more about the company, the company’s strategic plans, the latest round of funding, which brings the total funding raised to $18.5 million, and much more…
Who were your investors and how much did you raise?
Our series A round was led by capital of the heart and Precursor for $13.5 million.
Tell us about the product or service offered by Fora.
Fora is a thoughtfully designed, proactively inclusive, tech-driven and cool modern travel agency. We’re building the platform and community to empower anyone to turn their passion for travel into income as a Travel Consultant – side hustle, full-time, or anywhere in between.
What inspired the launch of Fora?
Fora was born from the conversations of our founders around:
- Women have been disproportionately laid off during the Covid-19 pandemic
- As travel resumed, there was pent-up demand for travel
- A desire for more flexible and goal-oriented work
Fora exists at the intersection of empowering anyone with a passion for travel to turn it into a meaningful career, on their own terms.
How is Fora different?
Fora is reinventing the travel agent industry with fresh eyes. We firmly believe that the journey is not unique; we are different from online booking sites because we connect you with a real person who can provide personalized support. And we’re different from traditional travel agencies that have had little innovation since inception (resulting in issues like a lack of inclusion, late or missed commission payments, and beyond). We built Fora with a focus on flexible working – so our advisors aren’t restricted by high minimum sales requirements like traditional agencies. We want to be more democratized than traditional agencies – if our advisors are successful, we are successful.
Which Fora target market and what is its size?
According to the US Travel Association, travel spending reached a new pandemic high of $101 billion in May 2022. The American Society of Travel Advisors reports that nearly half of travelers (44%) believe they are more likely to use a travel counselor when the pandemic is over.
What is your business model?
Fora Advisors earn commission on their bookings in a way that is not much different from an online booking site. Fora takes part of the commission and the advisor keeps the majority. Hotels and other travel providers also love working with us, as we strive to recommend the right place for every traveler.
How are you preparing for a possible recession or economic downturn?
While the pandemic has reduced tourism to a minimum, the industry is resilient and we have seen that there is still demand for travel. Fora advisors can book for any type of traveler, whether it’s a distant destination or a more economical stay. Also, even though travel bookings are stable in the industry, we are constantly adding new advisors, so we will see growth in our bookings. We invest heavily in training and supporting our advisors, so they’re ready to succeed at every stage of their journey as a travel entrepreneur.
How was the funding process?
We elevated our starter cycle with Forerunner and were very fortunate to work with their team as partners right from the start. When it came time to consider increasing our Series A, we again worked with Forerunner, alongside Heartcore Capital. Since they knew our brand, our team and our vision, it was natural to deepen our partnership and take the brand to the next level, side by side.
What are the biggest challenges you have faced when raising funds?
We launched a travel agency in the middle of the pandemic, when tourism was at a standstill. It is currently difficult to raise capital in any industry; being in tourism made it even more difficult.
What factors about your business made your investors sign the check?
In a very short time, we proved the two milestones we intended to demonstrate when we started:
- There are plenty of people – thousands, tens of thousands – who are at least theoretically interested in a new career as a travel consultant.
- We can support these people – through training, tools, brand and community – and turn them into successful travel advisors.
I think investors have really seen – and believe – that we’re onto something.
What milestones do you expect to achieve over the next six months?
We are excited to build the next iteration of our customer and reservations management system, the first of its kind in the industry. We are also launching a cohort training program for our advisors. 97% of them had not sold trips before becoming a Fora advisor. So we want to provide them with all the tools they need to succeed in this field.
What advice can you give to New York businesses that don’t have a fresh injection of capital into the bank?
Be creative with the resources you have. Community and connections are a big part of what drives us at Fora, and networking opportunities are plentiful. Support others and seek win/win opportunities to grow your brand alongside other companies with value-aligned missions.
Where do you see the business going now in the short term?
Our mission is bold: we want to empower 100,000 travel entrepreneurs to build rewarding careers on their own terms. Since our launch, we’ve onboarded around 500 advisors (with a waiting list of 30,000). Our fundraising represents an investment in the continued development of the platform and the community to support our advisors from their 1st reservation to the 1,000th.
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