An avid traveler, Alex Simon noticed that many booking services focus too much on the transaction and don't focus on the way individual users like to travel.
"Everybody travels differently," he said. "(With) Amazon, you're able to see the different products that you would like versus someone else. But when it comes to travel, it's fairly cookie cutter."
That was the inspiration behind Elude. Simon, Elude's CEO, co-founded the company and built its IOS app with a set of AI and Tinder-like features meant to create a personalized travel booking experience for price-conscious millennials and Gen Z.
The Los Angeles-based company announced Thursday the launch of the app which lets users find trips and book hotels and flights, alongside a $2.1 million round of seed funding led by Mucker Capital and Unicorn Ventures.
The app will launch during a period of upheaval for the travel industry. The U.S. travel industry—which lost $500 billion in 2020 because of the COVID-19 pandemic— while expected to make gains in 2021, is not expected to return to pre-pandemic levels until 2024 according to the U.S. Travel Association.
Continuing travel restrictions due to the surge of the COVID-19 delta variant are also adding a layer of uncertainty for travel.
But even so, Elude is optimistic that it will still find success in part because its target demographic — millennials and younger — are more willing to travel during the pandemic.
"The first in line at the airports is definitely our generation that is looking to get away," said Simon. "And so I think that that will help our cases as well as we enter the market."
Elude is hoping to bring focus on personalization to the travel-tech industry with features that lets the app figure out the types of trips individual users like.
"If you love long flights and you love beaches, showcasing let's say Thailand makes the most sense," Simon said.
The company's app touts itself as one of the first travel apps oriented around price. Users first enter their budget and see the types of trips they can afford, instead of having to enter a destination and see yourself priced out.
"Within a couple of clicks on the app, you know exactly what you can afford to get to and see some really dope options," said Frankie Scerbo, the co-founder and chief marketing officer. "Okay, I can get to Miami for $400. But wait, I can go to Barcelona for the same price."
As of now, the app only offers booking through hotels, though the company is hoping to include Airbnb-like alternative housing listings in the future.
Elude will also enter a crowded market of travel apps that includes apps like Expedia and Priceline. But it is hedging its bets on the personalization feature will pay off in the long run. Scerbo said he wants Elude to capitalize on people's desire to leave their homes.
"People are really starved for travel," he said. "They want to get out and experience the world again — we've all been in the same walls for over a year."