The travel and hospitality industry has been hit harder than most by COVID-19, for obvious reasons.
With vacations, business trips, major conferences, festivals, events, and the like all canceled or postponed, it’s been a difficult time for any company linked in any way to travel and tourism.
I was able to speak with the General Manager and CEO of AirportParkingReservations.com and ParkSleepFly.com, Carlos Chilin, who is a close friend and partner to Ad Purp. He manages a massively successful airport parking and hotel and parking package aggregator.
As you’d expect, with less people flying, less people are also parking at or around our country’s airports. Nevertheless, Carlos explains why, even in lockdown, he’s still going strong with his affiliate program and why he’s optimistic about the future for travel.
He shares insights and data on a phenomenon likely to occur once lockdown ends. Due to cabin fever and consumer frustrations with restrictions, once it’s deemed safe again, he believes travel demand will pick up, and more specifically airport parking will be a preferred choice of airport transportation (as compared to crowded public transportation, taxis, shared rides like Uber/Lyft).
More than just being optimistic about the future, he’s prepared. Below, he shares why this isn’t time for travel executives to retreat or pause, but instead use this time to prepare for the future demand and adjust to traveler requirements moving forward. Rather, there is still work to be done, right now.
And I’ll let him dive into what that work entails, below.
Q: Hi Carlos, hope you’re doing well. Thanks for taking the time to speak with me. Can you briefly describe AirportParkingReservations.com’s business model?
A: At APR/PSF (Airport Parking Reservations / Park Sleep Fly) we look to partner with the best locations around the US and Canada to be able to provide travelers the best comparison shopping experience when they want to reserve either Airport Parking or Hotel and Parking Packages. Travelers can come on our website and see thousands of reviews, information about location services, photos, prices and ultimately make a reservation for the product and location they would like to use when flying out of their home airport.
Q: How long have you known Kyle and the team at Ad Purp?
A: I have known Kyle now going back to 2013, when our companies were working next to each other in a co-working space in Santa Monica, CA. Shortly after we began working with AdPurple in the affiliate marketing space and have seen great success.
Q: What is your history with utilizing the affiliate channel?
A: Historically, before AdPurple, we had our affiliate networks on “auto-pilot”. Our company is lean and the management of affiliate space wasn’t top priority internally. When we decided this was a growth opportunity for our e-commerce platform, we decided to work with AdPurple to completely manage and make it grow.
Q: How successful has affiliate been for you and your business?
A: Since we took it off “auto-pilot”, it has been greatly successful. Each year since we made the switch we have seen YoY growth.
Q: Going to ask the obvious question right now, how are you dealing with COVID-19 and what is your day to day like at this current moment?
A: Well, like most everyone in the world, the COVID-19 phenomenon came fast and hard and thus we had to (and continue) to make adjustments as we learn new information. For APR/PSF our priority was to make sure we help those travelers who were already on their trips and focus on making sure future travelers had the help they needed.
Q: What kind of data are you seeing about travel advertising right now? Are you still advertising, even with such low demand due to the unprecedented situation we’re in?
A: In general, not just with travel, advertising is down across the board. Especially digitally, most companies are adjusting to the new reality and are making sure costs are controlled and watched with a significant focus. We have found pockets of marketing/advertising that are still producing good ROI and we are certainly focusing and trying to grow those pockets, our hope is that our companies ability to continue operations in a rather stable pace will allow us to pick up at a faster pace when things pick up again. We have not laid anyone off at our company and are holding strong with all our partnerships.
Q: What geographical markets do you think will benefit most when travel is back? I know you’re here in LA, we have a major airport. But where else?
A: I think it will vary between specific markets, but more significantly it will vary more between Domestic and International. My belief is that Domestic travel (US) will see a faster improvement as compared to US people going Internationally (for example to Italy). I think the US traveler will feel more comfortable going from Austin, TX to Chicago, IL vs Austin to Milan.
Q: How has the advent of Uber and Lyft (who are also vastly impacted right now) affected your business?
A: It would be tough to say it has had no impact on airport travel. Clearly a large portion of the population does use ride share apps to get to/from airports. But for us, we have been able to sustain YoY growth even with the growth of Uber/Lyft- meaning there is still significant market opportunity for Airport Parking and Hotel and Parking Packages for those that might be worried about ride-share pricing surges/availability/reliability/distance/space etc. With COVID-19, I think travelers will be even more focused in minimizing touch points and therefore I believe travelers will consider airport parking more than before vs jumping in ride-share or even public transportation where there are much greater exposure risks.
Q: What work are you doing now, to make sure you’re prepared for the reopening of the economy?
A: As I mentioned, one of the benefits to our company is that our team is whole and we continue our regular operations, obviously at a reduced overall volume. We keep the momentum going, and will not need ramp ups, re-hiring, etc when the world starts to return to a more normal environment. We are also taking advantage of the down time to catch up on projects that just could not be launched/worked on during times when we were processing 1,000’s of reservations each day.
Q: I heard you went to UCLA. We have quite a few Trojans and Bruins here, at Ad Purp. Can you settle the score on who has the better sports program
A: Sport(s) plural is the key there. Stats don’t lie. Total NCAA Championships (across all sports) UCLA: 134 vs USC: 107. Go Bruins.
Q: How do you feel about your partnership with Advertise Purple?
A: Again stats don’t lie. With AdPurple we have seen YoY growth in affiliate marketing revenue, and the scale and speed would have been tough to replicate in house. We hope and expect that AdPurple will be important in recovery post COVID-19 and will again help us speed into recovery faster.
Q: Where do you see your business going next?
A: Back in the air, along with travelers (I hope soon).
Thank you, Carlos. Really appreciate your time! Can’t wait to get back inside an airport (an odd fantasy, I know). I hope it will be someday soon!