DragonSlayer is a platform that curates unique travel experiences
DragonSlayer is aiming to ride the ‘personal touch’ trend to positively disrupt the high-end travel market. The app uses machine learning and analytics to match users to personalized travel experiences. And with access to expert travel concierges, DragonSlayer can help plan and book custom journeys, curated tours, cruises, or last-minute requests. DragonSlayer currently offers over 8,000 journeys and excursions from 50 tour and independent operators, plus an extensive inventory of unique hotels, villas and yacht charters; which are all currently searchable in the app to help DragonSlayer users to find their next travel experience.
We are in uncertain times in the travel industry and Dragonslayer is taking the reigns on insider information on laws and tips on how to live out your greatest destination fantasies. Read below on some of the innovations and unbelievable experiences…..
- The 2.0 version (with the SAFE-T and Risk Tolerance Factor capabilities included) launch date is July 4.
- The new features are the SAFE-T screens, the personal risk tolerance factor, individual landing pages for 50 states and 128 countries, and the watch list screen where you can get push notifications on specific destinations.
- Market leadership. Some travel experts and companies (e.g. The Points Guy) are trying to be a source of information but he recently stubbed his toe by declaring Iceland open to American travellers and then realizing that Iceland was only opening up to the EU. It is hard to have current, accurate, relevant information about everywhere you might choose to go and only DragonSlayer is doing this.
- Innovative ideas: Spas out west (United States) for outdoor R&R: Amangiri (UT), Carneros Spa (Napa); or east coast: Shou Sugi Ban Zen Spa and resort in the Hamptons
- Dude ranches (learn to fly fish, trap shoot, hatchet throw, or hike, horseback ride, zip line) at Dunton Hot Springs (Colorado) or same at Triple Creek Ranch (Montana); Wild horse safari at the Mustang Monument ranch in Nevada (wake up at dawn to find mustangs in the wild having their morning graze).
- International (when things open up): wash an elephant in Myanmar (orphans and retired elephants); get your submarine pilots license in St. Thomas (two-man sub); drive a real F-1 car on a closed track in Dubai; drive a different super-car every day for a week on a journey through France; Ultra luxe riverboat down the Amazon; helicopter inland off the deck of your ship in Antarctica to find the Emperor penguins and dive under the ice in a six-person sub on the same trip.
THIS IS THE Q&A
Do you remember the first time you got bitten by the travel bug? What was it like?
My parents travelled extensively their entire lives. They took us to Europe for the month of October when the four of us were between seven and thirteen years old. We travelled all over, visiting castles, beaches, museums you name it and stayed in small villages and ate at local cafes. And since we got to skip school, the impression it left was indelible, I knew I would travel my entire life.
Out of all the countries you have been to Which ones are your ultimate go-to’s? And where have you not been to yet?
Three countries come immediately to mind: Vietnam, especially the north where the food has the French influence and is amazing the sights, and the incredibly lovely people. South Africa where you have a good chance of seeing the Big Five in a single safari game drive. And where you can taste wine, get up close with penguins, and visit beautiful beaches all in one day. France because I love their wine, their food, history, and Paris. It might be my favourite city on the planet.
I have yet to travel to the Arctic, Antarctica, or South America. Some of that has to do with my girlfriend who gets cold easily but South America??? I have got no excuse!!
Travel wise, what is the one thing you really want to cross off your bucket list?
My bucket list is embarrassingly long but I will pick three that are burning a hole in my travel heart right now. French Polynesia for the promise of epic beaches, resorts, and scuba diving and because Gauguin painted those amazing paintings there. Morocco for the food, the architecture, the history, and because I really want to glamp out in the middle of the desert. And Patagonia for the vistas, the hiking, the outdoors, and the remoteness. Being from Colorado I am a mountain guy so this part of South America really has a draw for me (and yes, the Himalayas are right behind them).
If you were given the opportunity to travel with three of the people that inspire you the most. Who would it be and why?
I will take a bit of poetic license and say travelling to Antarctica with Ernest Shackleton. I’ve read a number of accounts of the Nimrod and their epic two-year-long journey and I would so enjoy spending time with him understanding his thoughts, his motivations, how he stayed strong for his crew when all (repeatedly) seemed lost and how he pulled off that open boat trip to South Georgia island.
Next would be to travel to West Africa with my father who died 13 years ago to retrace his experiences in the U.S. Foreign Service in the 1950s. He was just out of college and was finding his place in the world and Africa in those post-WWII days must have been fascinating. I would give everything I have to spend time with him again.
Finally, I would love to travel to India with Steve Jobs. I visited India in college and absolutely loved it and I know he was greatly impacted by his experiences there. To talk about the metaphysical aspect of our western lives (or not) and to share war stories about being an entrepreneur would be an incredible opportunity. And believe me, those stories would be more about me trying to learn from Steve than vice versa, especially about resiliency (Hey Steve, how about launching a travel start-up in the midst of a global pandemic???)
In creating Dragonslayer, what was the concept behind it? And what do you think sets your brand apart from others?
Being a tech guy who also loves travel I felt that the industry had spent the last twenty years focusing on the self-service traveller and wasn’t really catering to the discerning traveller who was seeking unique life-changing experiences, like a water safari in Botswana, washing an orphaned elephant in a river in Myanmar, or getting a private wine tour from a famous proprietor in Bourgogne. We aggregated literally thousands of these unique journeys and experiences in DragonSlayer and have added analytics and machine learning to help make smart recommendations for our clients. But it’s not all “in the app” as they say, we are bringing back the travel advisor role because there is nothing like a person who gets to know you to make travel amazing and magical once again.
With the ongoing pandemic, experts from the WHO has said that the virus will be with us long term. As the CEO of a travel company, what are your thoughts on the future of globetrotting in the new normal?
I happened to live a block away from the World Trade Center on 9/11 and witnessed the entire day, it was awful and horrible and it impacted travel in a big way. But we adjusted and adapted to the new requirements such as taking our shoes off, being frisked, and now being X-rayed. I believe we will make similar adjustments to the SARS-CoV-2 pandemic and in particular through mandatory testing of all airline passengers. It’s an initiative I have championed called Safe Skies and when we get fast point-of-care saliva tests we will be able to test all passengers and crew on every flight. That day is not that far off and as a proof point of passenger, testing looks no further than in how international destinations are opening up such as Saint Martin, the Azores, Tahiti, Bermuda, and the Bahamas who are all either open or will be open in July to travellers who have a negative PCR test prior to departure. If we figure it out for international travel, we can do the same for domestic and believe me, we will have better peace-of-mind on a plane full of similarly tested passengers than not. And it is worth noting that if we can figure this out for airline passengers, the same would work for cruise ship passengers, concert-goers, football fans, and theatregoers.
You mentioned a few destinations that are opening up, how do you see travellers keeping with all the confusing information?
Yes, it is incredibly confusing in light of the dynamic facing leaders in these countries which is how to open back up to tourism while keeping their citizens safe. I’ve literally seen countries change their policies on a week by week basis. People need accurate and timely information in order to make a travel decision so I consulted with medical experts including a CDC epidemiologist to add SAFE-T or Smart Analytics For Educating Travelers to the app. It provides real-time updates on which countries are open, the terms of entry, and importantly, a relative ranking of where it is safest to travel while also understanding and applying each client’s risk tolerance factor. The fact is that there are a lot of places that have hardly been touched by Covid-19 and as ironic as this sounds, it may be safer for some of us to travel abroad than to stay home!
A lot of industries are affected right now with this global lockdown, if you were to give any tips for the up and coming entrepreneurs out there what would it be?
The tech industry is famous for finding opportunity and innovation through disruption. I firmly believe that my SAFE-T analytics innovation will help people adapt to the new normal and start travelling again. No matter what industry you are in, take a step back and view the pandemic as an opportunity to innovate and create new value by solving a day to day problem in your business. Create a mask with a straw hole, build apps for restaurants that allow a QR-code menu-less ordering experience, construct a service that helps exercise studios solve their live streaming IT challenges, or reimagine how large venues can rapidly test patrons. This pandemic sucks on so many levels, we simply have to do what humans do best, hitch up our pants, get creative, and move forward!
Lastly, if you were to give this year a name à la Game Of Thrones-style what would it be?
The Long Night, the episode in season 8 where the White Walkers threatened to wipe out Westeros. This pandemic has literally and figurately forced the world into a long dark night and at the beginning, it felt like the White Walkers (Covid-19) might win. We may not have our Deux ex Machina moment with a vaccine just yet, but we are now smarter about social distancing, wearing masks, and getting tested. And we are doing a better job of protecting those who are vulnerable and treatments are improving seemingly by the day.
We are a resilient bunch and travel, I believe, will help forge the path to the new normal. We are travelling being, it is what we do. If I can contribute a small bit to helping people with my SAFE-T analytics, I feel I did my part to help us out of this Long Night.
Article by Cyan Leigh