Digital Spy: An Insight Into Nemo Travel With Co-Founders Tom & James

By HOPP Team

Nemo is a digital travel agency. We give travellers the tools to design their dream holiday, at a price that suits them. By combining human expertise with innovative tech we are revolutionising an industry that has not really changed since the birth of the internet.

Tom, James, how did you come up with the idea of Nemo? 

Nemo was born out of client frustrations. Having spent a couple of years out in East Africa managing safari lodges, I noticed a number of recurring themes, namely a lack of transparency, control and flexibility when booking with traditional travel agents. James had been at Black Tomato for a few years when I joined and he was just as determined to revolutionise the way people booked bespoke trips. We are building a modern travel company, for the modern traveller and our current platform is just the start!

How do you curate your experiences? 

Having worked in the industry for a number of years, Tom and I have some great relationships with suppliers in the countries we operate. So it was a case of reaching out to them and discussing what range of experiences and hotels would best suit the nemo traveller. We handpick everything and do our research to make sure we only work with partners who have the same ethical practices as us, so this is always key when curating awesome new experiences. 

Who do you view as the ultimate Nemo traveller (ie target audience)? 

A nemo traveller is someone who wants to feel ownership over their itinerary. It is their trip, we are just providing the tools to make it a reality. Whether it is a two week honeymoon to Zambia or a long weekend in Lisbon, the modern traveller wants to know that their trip is going to be perfect. We give them that assurance with transparent pricing and without the endless emails or calls of an agent. Our travellers are also sustainably minded, ready to experience new corners of the world and want exceptional post-booking services. 

We see HOPP giving clients more knowledge and power to create better and more personal experiences and I get the impression that Nemo does the same - is this one of your goals? And any other major goals/aims?

100%, that is why it is so great to chat with you guys, there are a lot of parallels between what our clients want. As mentioned, the ‘modern traveller’ is also the ‘modern consumer’ and the points mentioned above apply for all industries, they are starting requirements for brands looking to disrupt traditional industries. We are constantly striving to innovate, whether this is working with our chosen charity Hello World, improving our online experience, adding new destinations and hotels or developing the nemo app. We want to continue to be one step ahead of the game.

What has the reaction been from traditional travel agents who stand to lose out from Nemo?

Travel is an inclusive, friendly industry that is (was!) growing, so there’s generally enough business to go round. We are walking the line between online travel agents (Expedia, and traditional agents, so nemo is a different proposition in many ways. That said, we believe digital travel planning is the future so we’ve turned a few heads and provided some welcome competition to keep everyone on their toes! 

Is the focus providing a consultancy service to hosts or being purely digital? 

We want nemo to answer questions before they’re asked, so the aim is for the website to do the initial ‘consulting’ and take the sales out of the user journey. It’s a fine line to tread, as we also want to get our expertise across and guide people in the right direction, so our travel nerds are always on hand to answer questions or hop on a call. We are constantly working to make the experience more digital but are well aware that personal consulting is sometimes necessary, if just for reassurance before committing to the trip.

What new features have you got up your sleeve for Nemo? 

We are introducing a freetype search tool and redesigning our itinerary builder, with the changes going live at the end of April. This is part of our journey towards offering live availability, as we carefully move into a more digital space. As always, communication is going to be key, so we are working on an online portal where our team can engage with travellers, trips can be designed, saved, or sent to friends, and all the information can be safely stored. The nemo app is always in the back of my mind but it is some way off, as is James’ dream for a hotel on the moon… 

What mistakes did you make in the first year you began incubating Nemo? 

We are still in our first year so I’m sure there are more up ahead! But when we soft-launched in September I think we were really excited to get the website to the masses and therefore made a few silly marketing decisions - frittering money away on ads, flyers, wedding fairs, and various magazine promotions which didn’t amount to much. I think it’s also taken us a good 6 months to really get to grip with the consumer problems and to strike the balance between human expertise and technology, as we were definitely leaning on the tech too much at the start. 

Tom, what is James good at and what is he bad at? James, what is Tom good at and what is he bad at? 

Tom’s forever the optimist and is constantly thinking of innovative ways nemo can develop as a website and company in general. He’s also extremely creative when it comes to forging partnerships and getting people to engage with the brand, which is brilliant. There aren’t many negatives, but once Tom gets hold of an idea he tends to run with it, for better or for worse! He’s also a decent chef, which comes in pretty handy when we’re working a long shift…

James has a ridiculous knowledge of his destinations and is truly one of the top India experts in the UK. He is also definitely the best nemo founder to go for a beer with, is pretty neat in the karaoke booth and it is hard not to like the man. Having two chefs in the kitchen can be a challenge (see what I did there) but we have got a great balance and are constantly working to make things as efficient as possible. This period of working from home would be a nightmare without having trust in your partner in crime, no issues there! 

How has isolation affected business - have you noticed different behaviour of users on the site (aside from the obvious lack of booking trips in the near future)?

We are using this time to really focus on developing our website, adding some great new destinations, experiences, and generally improving the UX. People need escapism more than ever right now, so we’ve noticed a lot of browsing and playing around on the site. For us, eyes on the brand is key and we are more than happy to give people a non-committal place to think about getting away, with the knowledge they will come back to us when the time is right. 

On the back of that, we are trying to engage with would-be travellers in new ways with mini competitions on our Instagram (@wearenemotravel), weekly vlogs and blogs as well as our bi-weekly ‘nemo journal’. We have also found that, as other travel companies slash their marketing budgets, we now have the chance to get some organic press so have been working our socks off to get the name out.

Do you think there will be any positives once the travel and events industry are back on their feet? 

One positive has been the bounce back of nature and a reduction in carbon due to a lack of movement and shutdown of so many industries. I think people will be looking for longer, more meaningful trips, which is something we promote at nemo. It’s better for the planet and means you get more from your time away. We also have a modest woodland where we plant trees for clients and give a percentage of our profits to a brilliant charity called Hello World. 

As touched on, we think now is the time for the shift to digital travel (or party) planning. This is going to be a long couple of months for people looking to organise a trip or a party with no end-goal in sight. To get their inspiration whilst also understanding pricing, they will need platforms to guide them in a non-committal way. There is a huge amount of opportunity out there for companies willing to really go for it!

To check out Nemo Travel click HERE

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Written by our Team of HOPP Experts.