July 11, 2023 Interviews

Interview with Vittorio Gargiulo, CEO & Co-Founder of Hotiday, the first digital hotel chain

Vittorio Gargiulo is the CEO & Co-Founder of Hotiday, the first digital hotel chain that manages rooms in selected establishments in top locations.

Before becoming an entrepreneur, Vittorio worked as Revenue manager in the hospitality industry in Italy.

Vittorio holds a Master’s Degree in Finance from Bocconi University.

In March 2022, you co-founded Hotiday, the first digital hotel chain that manages rooms in selected establishments in top locations and allows registered guests to earn money on every booking. What prompted you to establish Hotiday?

Vittorio: I started working on structuring the idea with my co-founders Federico Di Carlo and Federico Brunelli in January 2022.

We are all alumni of the Master in Finance at Bocconi University in Milan, and we started by analysing a successful case of an Italian startup, Casavo.

The Casavo story inspired us because the instant buying model is purely financial. Studying the business model, we found touch points and potential in a sector that, for different reasons, all three of us founders knew very well: hospitality. Federico Brunelli and I because we had already worked in the field, and Federico Di Carlo because he comes from a family of hotel managers.

From January 2022 until March 2022, we looked for what for us could be a good product market fit. We talked to the hoteliers and advisors in our network and in the summer of 2022, we started with by managing 6 rooms in 2 hotels. We tested the model and verified that it brought value to both the hotels and the end customer and, at the same time, was very scalable. Then we applied to B4i, the acceleration programme of Bocconi University.

For us, the application was a natural process. Ex-post, I confirm that it was a good choice. B4i helped us structure the project and find a very effective organisational and working method. During the six months of the acceleration programme, we developed the product and the sales part and concluded the process with fundraising.

From the left: Federico Brunelli, Vittorio Gargiulo, Federico Di Carlo

So, Hotiday buys unsold hotel rooms in various locations and resells them online under the name Hotiday Hotels. Can you tell us more about the business model of the company? What other results have you achieved until now?

Vittorio: With Hotiday, we acquire hotel rooms for long periods, paying for them in advance and then we resold them online with a proprietary brand as a decentralised hotel chain. We, therefore, breathe new life into those rooms of larger establishments that often remain unsold while also attracting a new target group of customers thanks to the digital accessories and services we offer.

Our vision is to become the first scalable, data-driven hotel chain.

Scalable because the model is easily replicable in many geographic areas, and the acquisition of hotel partners is very fast. It happens in 3 weeks maximum.

Data-driven because our technology is our competitive strength within the market and consists of a proprietary algorithm that estimates a hotel room’s occupancy and revenue potential. It also allows the onboarding of a hotel in 3 simple steps. First, the hotel fills out an online form with information about the property, such as location, number of rooms, distance to the sea, stars, guest rating, etc. Then the algorithm instantly calculates the monetary offer for the number of rooms given by the hotel. If there is an agreement on the price, the contract is signed. And the rooms start being resold exclusively by Hotiday on all channels.

We have acquired 73 rooms in 9 fun & beach hotels in Italy. We are at an excellent room occupancy rate of 90%.

At the team level, we are now 5 people. Besides the founders, we have been joined by Cinzia Stella, who takes care of the booking and customer success part, and Marco del Pra, Head of Data.

You recently announced a € 500k fundraising round led by Bonsai Ventures, together with B4i – Bocconi for Innovation, Moonstone, and Investinit. What are the development plans of Hotiday for the near future?

Vittorio: Thanks to closed fundraising, we are growing very quickly. In September, we want to reach 20 active hotels in Italy and then at least double them  for the 2024 season.

On a technological level, we have laid the foundations for the construction of a crucial proprietary database that, thanks to machine learning, will allow us in the future to indicate not only the most interesting locations in which to invest but also what turnover we can generate by reducing the risk of the business model, which is to pay for these rooms in advance and guarantee them.

The goal for the future is to be a major hotel player in the European market in five years, with a brand that manages at least 10,000 rooms all over Europe and in all major touristic destinations.

What are the main challenges you experienced in creating Hotiday? What are your next challenges?

Vittorio: The challenges faced to date have been many.

The most important one has been for me to find the fit with the market, to find a product that is advantageous for hotels, competitive, innovative and at the same time scalable, to help operators in the sector.

Another challenge was structuring the internal organisation of the team to achieve our ambitious vision.

Among the challenges I see in the near future, the most important one is attracting good people with the right attitude who espouse our values and mission.

We are planning two key hirings and additional fundraising within a year. It will therefore be essential to find the right people to make our product as good as possible.

Another challenge will be to develop the technology supporting the business model quickly. Part of the current capital raised is already allocated for this.

One last question. What is your vision for the hospitality industry in the near future?

Vittorio: We started from a simple fact. That 90% of the hotels in Italy do not belong to a chain brand and are not in partnership with or managed by international chains.

I think the number of hotels that want to enjoy the benefits of belonging to a widespread brand with clear communication to the end customer will increase. This is one of our goals, that is, to become a support for hotels also in terms of branding.

The second trend I see is related to technological development. The hotel industry is where data is the decision-making basis for any investment.

Indeed in the next few years, anyone who wants to start operating in the sector will need to have an important database to decide which locations to go after when to go after them, and the return on rooms in a given location.

Investing in data-driven technologies will be crucial for the chain and the independent hotel that wants to improve hotel processes.


For more info on Hotiday, visit: https://hotidayhotels.com/en/