CuddlyNest Finds Growth in an Uncertain Travel Market

By Bruce Harpham Sunday, April 11, 2021

Keeping a travel startup business going through the pandemic is far from easy. CuddlyNest, a travel startup company founded in 2017, has managed to stay in business through creative marketing and outside funding. The travel marketplace company helps travelers find accommodations in locations around the world. CuddlyNest has 4 million listings on its booking platform.

CuddlyNest co-founder and COO Ritesh Raj.

How the Business Is Funded

The company has successfully raised funding from multiple private investors. “Our company raised $10.5 million from private investors. Our last funding round came back in October 2020 and brought in $6 million. It was right in the pandemic when the whole travel industry was struggling,” co-founder and COO of the company, Ritesh Raj, told Startup Savant in an interview. The business has not disclosed its investors.

“When the pandemic rolled around, bookings slowed down, and our company was hit hard — but luckily, we were able to maintain our team members, make new hires, and even raise funding for the business. As global vaccines roll out, I’m happy to say that things are starting to look up again at our company,” added Raj.

Rethinking Travel Marketing

The COVID-19 pandemic has suppressed the travel business across much of the world. For instance, the Transportation Security Administration reported that 1.2 million travelers went through airport checkpoints on March 31, 2021, a significant decline from the 2.1 million travelers who went through checkpoints on the same day in 2019.

CuddlyNest took a different approach to marketing by encouraging customers to dream about the future. “In April 2020, our company launched our “Plan Now Stay Later” campaign and photo contest, encouraging customers to dream up future plans rather than immediate ones,” said Raj.

Later in 2020, the Orlando-based startup company emphasized domestic travel activity. “Staycations, short-term breaks, weekend getaways, domestic travel — all continue to be major travel trends,” Raj commented during the interview.

Flexibility Is Key to the Travel Company

While vaccinations are progressing quickly in some countries during COVID-19 as vaccinations roll out, it is far from universal. According to Our World in Data, Israel is the only country that has vaccinated more than 50% of its population as of April 6. As a result, CuddlyNest and others in the travel business have offered a high level of flexibility to customers.

“We launched various sales, including Black Friday and Valentine’s sales, and customers could redeem offers on stays until December 31, 2021. That wide window, largely inspired by the airline business, was incredibly well-received, and we were surprised to see that customers were ready to plan ahead,” said Raj.

American Airlines waived change fees for tickets bought on or before September 30, 2020. Likewise, Delta has offered an even greater degree of flexibility. Tickets purchased through March 30, 2021, can be canceled or changed without any fees subject to certain conditions.

Competing Against Airbnb

CuddlyNest faces significant competition from others in the online travel booking business. With an estimated six million listings, Airbnb offers a significant amount of competition. However, there are still niche markets in the travel business. CuddlyNest offers pet-friendly destinations in several locations like Belgrade, Deming, Sante Fe, and Dubrovnik, Croatia. Catering to pet owners matters because pet adoption rates have soared during the pandemic.

About the Author


Headshot for author Bruce Harpham

Bruce Harpham is an author and marketing consultant based in Canada. His first book "Project Managers At Work" shared real-world success lessons from NASA, Google, and other organizations. His articles have been published in CIO.com, InfoWorld, Canadian Business, and other organizations. Visit BruceHarpham.com for articles, interviews with tech leaders, and updates on future books.

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