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How Sitata Keeps Millions Of Travelers Worry-Free Every Year: Q/A with Co-founder and CEO Adam St. John

How Sitata Keeps Millions Of Travelers Worry-Free Every Year: Q/A with Co-founder and CEO Adam St. John

Bethenny Carl
Website Planet interviewed Adam St. John, the co-founder and CEO of Sitata, a company that helps you travel safe and worry-free by monitoring news and social media for any type of threat or disruption with their cutting-edge AI and machine learning.

We looked at how Sitata delivers real-time safety alerts in addition to personalized travel insurance offerings, safety check-ins, and chat-first emergency travel assistance that keep millions of trips protected every year for individuals and corporations alike.

What led you to start your company?

I have run into too many travel mishaps to count – from getting deathly sick, stuck in a bamboo hut on a remote island off the coast of Vietnam to less threatening events like showing up at my hotel and them not having my reservation. I realized that many of my friends and colleagues had their own travel “war stories” too, and in each one they did not have anything or anyone to truly rely on for help. In most of these situations you’re pretty much on your own.

We started Sitata so that everyone can avoid travel mishaps, but also the support they need when a mishap does happen.

We knew we were on the right track when our users started to compliment our services. In one instance, we notified a business traveler that a local taxi strike was occurring and this advanced warning ensured he was able to make his meetings by arranging alternative travel arrangements. In another situation, we helped one of our users obtain free dental work when their filling fell out, and we did it entirely through chat. After supporting our users through these tough times, word started to spread, and soon we had businesses approaching us for partnerships.

In the first two years, Sitata was only offering our real-time warnings and assistance services as a subscription, primarily to corporate travelers and holiday travelers with a heightened need for increased security. However, recently we introduced travel insurance into our protection plans which means we can now provide financial protection too.

What problems are you solving with your products and services?

Sitata was created to ensure you have a worry-free journey, whether that is a one week vacation to the beaches of Mexico or a long-term humanitarian effort in the furthest reaches of Africa. Anyone who has traveled in the past certainly knows that it can come with its fair share of uncertainties. We want to ensure you have as smooth a journey as possible.

Your journey with Sitata starts with letting us know where you’re going. To make it easy, you can send us your travel booking emails and we’ll automatically scan them and bring in your flights, hotels, car rentals and other travel plans. When you do so, your itinerary will pop up on a map for quick reference as you travel making it easy to locate and order an Uber to your hotel or Airbnb. We’ll even start to track your flights for you, and if you have delay or cancellation protection in your plan, we can provide quick compensation.

WSP Interview Sitata

Once we know where you’re going, we can summarize all of the important health and safety information that you might need to know about, saving you hours of research time.

Need to know which vaccines are important to consider? It’s just a tap away.

Wondering what the safety situation is or the local emergency numbers? We’ve got them covered.

Need to add travel insurance for financial protection before you leave? No problem, we can protect your pocketbook too with coverage against cancellations, delays, medical bills, lost bags, and more.

But the strength of the Sitata platform really shines during your travels. Our team will ensure your journey stays smooth with real-time notifications about any type of threat or disruption. New disease outbreak? We’ll let you know. If a transit strike is planned, preventing you from easily visiting the popular tourist sites, we’ll let you know. We even cover conflicts and violence.

WSP Interview Sitata

With Sitata you can also share your safety status with anyone who is concerned about your safety. We’ll automatically let them know when you have arrived safely at your destination or your hotel. This feature is very popular with backpackers and certain types of travelers who have a heightened need for additional security.

WSP Interview SitataWSP Interview Sitata

Lastly, Sitata will actively check your safety during certain extreme or high risk events through push notifications, SMS text messages, and automated phone calls. If you do need help, we can make the necessary arrangements for you to help you move to a safer location or evacuate the country entirely. For example, during the start of the Israel-Gaza conflict, Sitata warned its members about the attacks, issued automatic safety check-ins for everyone on the ground in Israel, and provided immediate support to those who needed assistance. There is no better travel protection plan available for consumers on the market today.

WSP Interview Sitata

How is your website structured at the moment?

Our main landing pages are powered by a content management system, but almost all of Sitata’s technology has been built in-house and without the use of third-party software apart from open source libraries. Our APIs are powered by an Elixir backend and our apps are constructed with Vuejs and Flutter.

Naturally, we have gone through many iterations and will continue to do so well into the future. One early mistake we made was not internationalizing our content from the beginning. As a result, when we started to add additional languages, it took considerable effort to make everything compatible.

Overall, if there is one piece of advice I could give, it would be to ensure you consider internationalizing your website from the very beginning even if you don’t plan to support additional languages in the future because your requirements could very well change.

What other tools help you run your online business?

As with other businesses, Sitata uses a variety of tools to achieve our goals. This includes communication and project management tools like Slack and Clickup through to analytics platforms and review platforms to manage customer feedback.

We’ve used Hootsuite and Social Sprout to manage social media content. We have also built internal tools to manage company performance. Increasingly, we are exploring newer AI tools such as ChatGPT and other large language models for content generation. If there is a tool that can increase productivity, we’ll generally consider it.

Since you started, what helped you grow your audience, and how long did it take to get constant business?

The travel and insurance industries are generally not known for their speed of innovation or adopting new technologies, and so our growth was originally a steady increase. However, when we launched our mobile app and became a more consumer-facing brand, growth exploded. Our growth journey involved strategic marketing across multiple channels including online advertising, distribution partners, and affiliate partnerships. A dedicated focus on conversion rate optimization and customer retention tactics plays a pivotal role in driving additional growth.

A large percentage of our growth has always been organic. As more consumers purchased our travel protection plans, word started to spread. Pretty soon corporations were approaching us for duty of care solutions whereby they wanted a solution to help protect their roaming staff. In addition, more and more travel related businesses such as travel agencies, tour group operators, airlines, and even neobanks began partnering with us to offer more value to their own customers. Since then, a big focus for us has been on ensuring we have a leading product with a great travel experience that consumers are willing to vouch for.

How are you doing today and what do you see in the future?

Sitata is a growing company. We offer travel assistance plans without insurance on a global basis and to both leisure and corporate travelers. Today, our plans bundled with travel insurance are available in a number of markets including the United Kingdom and the United States. We hope to bring our plans to a number of new geographies in 2024.

While we believe that Sitata is at the forefront of travel services that help you have a better journey, Sitata expects that the other forward thinking insurance carriers will eventually catch up. As such we do expect more brands to start to include in-destination safety warnings and other services. That’s fantastic because it will mean that more people will be able to stay safe when away from home. However, it also means that Sitata will need to continue to innovate to stay ahead and we’re excited to be able to do so.

Are you offering any partnership opportunities at the moment?

Sitata currently works with a variety of brands directly involved or adjacent to the travel space. This includes travel agencies, tour group operators, influencers from many different niches, airlines, banks and card issuers, brokers, and so on. Often these partnerships are structured as commission-based sales relationships or as affiliates depending upon the geography and type of organization that we are working with.

We welcome discussions with any brand that would like to partner with us to help keep their customers or clients safe when away from home.

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