7/17/2017 - St. Louis-based startup Hoperator makes its public debut with its Express product.

Hoperator is a live chat and social messaging platform which increases lead conversions and guest loyalty for independently owned travel and hospitality businesses. Hoperator’s co-founders Michael Foltz and Chris Douglas noticed that while millennials are pushing the number of international trips to an all time high, the booking and planning processes are still very disconnected, resulting in one of the highest abandonment rates of all e-commerce experiences at 81.6%.

In addition, OTA’s (online travel agencies) dominate paid and organic search, and many independent businesses lack the financial resources and technical knowledge to market themselves competitively. Hoperator gives these businesses an edge by helping them utilize their key differentiator; their own customer service. Besides simplifying the booking process by bringing it directly into chat, Hoperator connects guests with staff throughout their stay, creating a virtual, on-demand concierge. Through seamless Facebook and Google integration, businesses can easily create guest itineraries by recommending places, events, and activities. 

Research shows 40% of bookings now come from mobile, which will only continue to increase. The average consumer already spends five hours a day on their mobile device. With Hoperator, not only can website visitors speak with staff and book through live chat easily on their mobile devices, but the platform serves as a direct messaging platform which connects staff and guests throughout their stay. 

Live chat and social messaging is an evolving trend which will continue to be popular for the foreseeable future. Consumers find live chat and social messaging easy to use, and strongly prefer it to other modes of communication; live chat has a 73% satisfaction rate compared to email’s 61% and the phone’s 44%. The naturally tech-savvy Generation Z is already more than one-sixth of the world’s population, and in five years they’ll be 40 percent of the U.S. population. By 2020 they will have more than $44 billion in spending power and will require e-commerce experiences which reflect their preferred mode of communication. 

Foltz says, “The challenge with travelers is that everyone has different interests that aren’t adequately covered by guidebooks or online travel resources. So inevitably, guests talk to the receptionists and get personalized recommendations based on the interests they share. Staff members, with their ability to share their local expertise and connect personally with travelers, is arguably any travel business’s most valuable asset.” 

To promote the launch, Foltz and Douglas will be at the Global Business Travel Conference Convention, July 17th-19th. Hoperator is offering their Express product at a 50% discount through August. To sign up, visit the Hoperator website

Hoperator’s founders have roots in travel and software development. Prior to Hoperator, Foltz co-owned the Stranger Hostel in Krakow, Poland, a Lonely Planet Blue List Recipient as one of the top 10 hippest hostels in the world. Douglas created the social gaming platform Postactive for the digital media agency Switch

Hoperator started in December of 2015 when it earned $250,000 in Angel Investment to build the prototype. It went into beta in October of 2016 with a handful of hostels located in Venice, Italy. In late March of 2017 the company acquired $1M in Series A funding from St. Louis-based, AI software company, Veteran Technology Group.

For Hoperator’s future plans, Douglas says, “aside from partnership integrations and more robust analytics, we’re working on developing our AI, we’re adding integrations with Facebook Messenger, skype, SMS, email, etc. so that a businesses can use Hoperator to manage all of their communication channels. We’re also working with a partner to allow a business to chat with visitors on an OTA’s website.” 

Hoperator is headquarted in St. Louis, Missouri.