Fooba: The Expedia.com of Ski Rental Deals
Transforming an industry doesn't happen every day, but there is one new company out there that is doing just that in the world of skiing and riding on the best ski mountains of North America. It's called Fooba.com.
What is Fooba.com you ask?
Well that is what we wanted to find out.
Fooba.com is the brainchild of the two-time Winter Alpine Skiing Olympian, Chad Fleischer. Chad Fleischer is the owner of Fleischer Sport, a ski and snowboard store in Steamboat Springs, CO. Chad believes the industry has to undergo changes to survive in the computer-driven world, and that's why the idea of skiers and riders being able to find the best rate for ski and snowboard rentals on one website was a "no brainer."
"Everyone competes on pay-per-click, and then you click on an ad, close it out, and click on another ad and another just to compare prices and book. Fooba.com is one site that lets you compare all of the ski rental shops and all of the prices for the dates of your vacation."
While the idea of a website comparing all of the prices for a certain date range for hotel rooms, cars, and airline tickets isn't unique, it doesn't exist in the world of ski and snowboard rentals. So, we needed a little Q&A to get into the details.
Q: What was the inspiration behind this business model for you?
I own a business, and the primary function of that business is ski and snowboard rentals. I felt compelled to make the rates transparent because there are so many discrepancies out there with the industry nowadays. Everyone is packaging everything, and in the end, they are just hiding prices. The vertical integration of skiing has changed the landscape of the sport as we know it at a, industry level, as well as at a personal on-hill experience level.
Q: Can you explain vertical integration of the industry?
A: The consolidation or corporate environment of skiing has turned skiing into a cruise ship industry of sorts. They want every dollar from the plane leaving the ground to when you get back home, and it is choking the life blood out of the ski towns. Whether it is a ski shop, a restaurant, or a taxi driver, the ski areas own everything and package it all up and sell it.
Q: This means it’s more streamlined and cost-effective to the end user right?
A: Streamlined? Yes. Savings? No. When you get a package, it is just that: a package. It eliminates the urge to break down the cost. One-stop shopping is nice, but it generally means it’s a rip-off unless there is comparison pricing included alongside
Q: Can you give us an example?
A: When I get a referral from a central reservations office, they take 20% of my money, but they sell my equipment at full-rack rates also known in the industry as a "walk in rate.” If that same consumer goes to my website and books direct with me, they save 20% booking online, so they would have saved 20% of their total bill by booking direct. This goes for all the pricing in your package. They tell you there is savings on a lift ticket, but they are making money across the board on everything else. Your lift ticket is actually costing a lot more; it's far from discounted.
Q: So how does Fooba change all this?
A: Fooba is a website that lets all of the stores input all of their rates, and they also get to load their rates and compare in real-time the rates of all of the stores in the same town. In essence, they have to compete to earn your business, and as we all know, when this happens, it ends up favoring the consumer or "end user.”
Q: What incentive would a store have to join Fooba?
A: First off, Fooba.com is free to join, and secondly, as a shop owner, can you really afford to not be seen in the same company as all of the other stores offering their rates to the consumer? I own a shop, so I went into this thinking about how I pay all over the place for advertising that I hope entices someone to choose my store. In reality, what drives this? I think it’s location, customer service, price, and quality of goods, in that order. Many people know where they are going and are creatures of habit, so if they are treated well and know a store, they will go back. However, for those who want top quality as well as price, and maybe something new, they can use Fooba.com as the best resource in the industry.
Q: Are there filters in place for the consumer for all this?
A: What is exciting for me is what we are doing to improve the end user experience in terms of both the best pricing and the best quality. Google is a trusted source that shows all of the reviews and star ratings from validated end users who had a first-hand experience in the stores. This puts it back on the store to invest in infrastructure improvements, invest in better equipment, hire great staff, and still remain competitive with their prices. We are also giving the customer a trusted and objective source for the star rating.
Q: I cannot imagine this has been well received by your peers?
A: I think the industry will have to adapt to survive just like with Hotels.com, Uber, or anyone else who brings something so revolutionary to the marketplace. I have created a join-or-die type of model, but it serves the greater interests of everyone involved in the sport, ranging from the store owner to the end user. It is also good for the suppliers as a whole because it means higher quality equipment, knowledge, and service will be in place at all levels. Change isn't always easy, but most often it is a good thing. I think this is a great idea, and I am proud to be first to market with this business model. I think of it as being held accountable, and that's a good thing.
Q: What other offerings does Fooba.com have that are of value?
A: Another way we are revolutionizing the industry is with how we handle our reservations placed in the system. The analytical information like vacation dates, number of people, ages, etc. is taken into account. When you place a reservation, your confirmation email will have discounts from local stores, restaurants, bars and local non-skiing activities, such as snowmobiling, dog-sledding, tubing, etc. Because we know when you are coming and learn your information, our algorithm generates discount coupons from local businesses specific to you. It's a huge amount of value added, and it is good for each community, especially when you consider the vertical integration mentioned above. We promote local businesses and activities with savings to our Fooba clients. We don't share information. It’s our valued partnerships that tell us what they are willing to do to earn business from our clients, and there is a discount associated with this. It is amazing, and it is unique.
Q: What other issues are out there that aim to help the consumer get the most from this?
A: In some cases, lodging companies and hotels negotiate good deals for their clients, but in many cases, they send you downstairs to get taken for a ride. The ski shop, or "ski concierge" as they call it, charges usury rates, and the staff, hotel, or lodging company is getting kickbacks. There is an extra 20-30% right there. One week where a family of four gets rentals is easily an extra $200 or much more that you didn't have to spend. I would rather Fooba clients take that to dinner or go tubing with their kids. Fooba.com ensures you know and get a good rate, and it might be next to or in the same place that you are already staying. Our online vendors are shown by their Google.com listing, so it is ultra-transparent. It even says how far from the slopes it is or whether or not it is a "slopeside" location.
Q: What about shop locations, ski-delivery options, and amenities? How is this accounted for?
A: We have filters where you can select location options, such as slopeside or off-site, delivery, free storage, lockers, etc. If there are important options, you can choose the filter, so if you want beachfront, you get beachfront instead of back alley. However, if you want to save money by going the back alley route, as some people do want this option, it’s important to show ALL options and let the end user decide based on preferences.
Q: If you were trying to sell me on your website on the chairlift right now, what would you say?
A: Choose your resort, pick your dates, and choose the gear you need. Then you’ll see all of the prices from all of the stores in town, and you can book it. There are no secrets, no hidden costs, and no gimmicks. It’s as good and easy as it gets to save money. You also get exclusive savings with your rental confirmation from local businesses as a value-add.
No doubt this is a game-changer for the skiing industry. Fooba.com is likely to create a firestorm in a world of snowflakes for the benefit of the consumer. I have the feeling that if Chad Fleischer has created a business like he skied on the World Cup, we are all in for one hell of a ride!