Contxto – When hospitality startup Ayenda Rooms closed US$8.7 million last October, it never imagined (nor did we) just how crucial that capital would be for its immediate future.
The original plan was to use the funds to consolidate its presence in Peru, the second country in which the Colombian startup operates. However the Covid-19 outbreak in both countries in early March changed everything.
It’s worth noting that both Colombia and Peru were among the Latam countries to completely shut down their borders and further stifle their respective travel industries. It was only until September 1, that Colombia reopened to commercial flights. Meanwhile, Peru will do so until October.
So despite the steep drop in hotel bookings on its platform, Ayenda Rooms says it made the most of these unusual circumstances to build a more robust business for itself.Ayenda Rooms keeps the fam together
So what became of Ayenda’s US$8.7 million through Kaszek Ventures? The company says it played two major roles.
“[The funds] helped us keep our entire workforce at Ayenda, which made it possible to make operations more efficient during the pandemic and leading to strategic action with all our available talent,” says Andrés Sarrazola, CEO and co-Founder at Ayenda.
Other companies within the travel industry weren’t so lucky. Brazilian MaxMilhas and Argentine Despegar for example, faced layoffs earlier this year.Andrés Sarrazola, Ayenda Rooms CEO and co-Founder
And when life gave Ayenda lemons, it made lemonade.
“Covid came as an unparalleled opportunity that few businesses get to experience. It’s a chance to pause, clean up processes, and refocus the business so as to confirm what we are and what we don’t want to become—despite this being a business opportunity,” Sarrazola told Contxto.
Correspondingly, the startup made the most of operation slowdowns and its full workforce. For example, it improved its platform’s capability of handling reservation volumes by ten-fold.
Ayenda also used its investment to financially withstand not receiving a commission from associated hotels.
“Given the fall in demand, something we did to help our partners—and simultaneously help our brand—was not charge them a fee for five months,” says Sarrazola.Tough times bring out the best
Like other companies in the travel industry, Ayenda also saw a fall in operations due to Covid-19.
“As a recovery indicator we measured the amount of daily bookings, taking February as 100 percent,” explains Sarrazola. “We went as low as five percent in April, and throughout September we’ve been at a 35 percent recovery rate, so we’re very optimistic.”
And what will the post-Covid/new normal traveler be like? The startup’s co-Founder and CEO shared his thoughts.
“We see a very cautious consumer in the face of the freedom they’ve been granted. This can be explained mainly by two causes: One, they don’t want to go back into isolation and two, they don’t want to catch the virus,” reflects Sarrazola.
The laxing of social-isolation measures, coupled with Ayenda’s low-cost accomodation rates leave its CEO confident that Ayenda can make a full recovery by the end of 2021.
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