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St. Pete startup uses artificial intelligence to find, book wellness travel • St Pete Catalyst

Before the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic, wellness travel was the fastest growing segment of travel – people looking for a retreat, a wellness vacation, or an active experience.

Amid the pandemic, wellness travel has become one of the largest online travel searches, and a St. Petersburg-based travel agent is among the beneficiaries of this trend.

Vacayou Wellness and Active Travel is North America’s first and only central marketplace for wellness and active experiences, said CEO Muirelle Montecalvo at Tampa Bay Wave’s TechWomen Rising Pitch Night. Vacayou is one of 13 women-owned companies participating in the current Tampa Bay Wave TechWomen Rising Accelerator cohort.

“Ninety percent of people plan their wellness trip online, but 70 percent book with traditional travel agents because it’s a fragmented, convoluted market. There is no such thing as a trustworthy resource and in all honesty you just can’t find it, ”said Montecalvo.

Muirelle Montecalvo

The company uses artificial intelligence in its search functions and has teamed up with well-known national and international travel brands.

“We’re bridging the range of wellness travelers, the retreats, resorts and active travel companies, and those high-yield travelers who are trying to find them too,” she said. “We believe that people who travel for their wellbeing will be calmer, more productive, more successful, and overall happier in life. Our mission is to create a healthier global community through wellness and active travel.”

Wellness trips, which are at the interface between the tourism industry and the wellness industry, are growing rapidly and are expected to be a $ 300 billion market in the US alone by 2022.

Vacayou achieves a turnover of 15 to 20 percent on all bookings. It also offers opportunities for marketing and placement fees, sponsorship and branding, and corporate wellness benefits, Montecalvo said.

The IATA (International Air Transport Association) accredited company has a strong social media fan base with 120,000 social followers. There is also a magazine with articles from fitness bloggers and influencers. Vacayou is also working on partnerships with corporate wellness initiatives, Montecalvo said.

Montecalvo leads a team that includes Ryan Schneider, who is Vacayous President. Ben Jennings, operations manager; and Matt Blackmon, chief talent officer. They have been with some of the top travel brands in the world and together have over 60 years of startup and travel experience.

Vacayou also has an advisory team that works with the company on a daily basis, she said.

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