“For anyone thinking of venturing into business to become an entrepreneur, my advice is: just do it! If you overthink it, you might not try.” – Noelle Daly, Mobility Mojo
As a part of the CAST project, we have been supporting creativity driven innovation in tourism and, more recently, have sought to mobilise a response to the impact of COVID-19 in this space via our creative solutions CAST hackathon, which took place in July. We are now conducting a series of interview-based case studies to examine how businesses are coping with the current situation. Our third interview, directed by Creative Business Network, EBN – European Business & Innovation Centre Network & WestBIC is with Noelle Daly from Mobility Mojo.
In the 1990s, Noelle Daly co-founded Spinal Injuries Ireland, a support and service agency whose mission is to assist people with a spinal cord injury and their family members to engage fully in society. Even though she had built up a large library of suitable travel and holiday destinations, adding more places to the list continued to be very difficult. In fact, the main problem was linked to the lack of specific detailed information on accessibility.
Then, in 2015 she decided to start her own accessible travel business. The initial idea was to develop a user generated website and app with accessible places to stay, eat and transport from the information she would gather. During a ‘start your own business course’ hosted by New Frontiers, Ireland’s national programme supporting early-stage entrepreneurship, she met her now business partner Stephen Cluskey who had also started a business in accessible transport. They decided to join forces and applied for the Competitive Start Funding through NDRC’s Female Founders programme.
In October 2017, Mobility Mojo were the runner-up of the ESB Spark of Genius Awards at the Web Summit in Lisbon. While talking to many international tourism companies there, they realised that if they wanted to scale and truly make accessible tourism inclusive and mainstream, they would have to work with already established lodgings and enable them to show how accessible they are and, in that way, appeal to a far wider audience.
“This was the pivot, this was the real beginning of what Mobility Mojo has become today”, recalls Noelle Daly, Co-Founder and Chief Operating Officer. While most companies source the information from people who reviewed places with good or bad accessibility, Mobility Mojo have developed the world’s first self-audit toolkit for hotel accessibility. Designed to help hotels worldwide meet the growing demands of the senior and accessible tourism markets by delivering an inclusive and welcoming experience for guests with accessibility needs, as well as their friends and families. Have a look their inspiring video!
In the beginning, the barriers were understanding who the team was to approve and purchase technology products within the hotel industry. Access to international markets and finding the right salespeople based in countries they were concentrating on turned out to be difficult too. However, their opportunity lies in the fact that accessible tourism was, and still is today, the largest yet most underserved market in tourism. Take, for instance, travel for business, holidays, sports events, conferences, family gatherings, etc. People want to travel both locally and internationally and that is why businesses should embrace accessibility.
According to the World Report on Disability 2011, more than 1 billion people in the world (about 15% of the world’s population) live with some form of disability. Disability can be temporary or permanent, but it is an issue that affects all of us at some point, especially in the light of ageing population. Barriers to travel and tourism for persons with disabilities are often underestimated, whereas they have huge repercussions on the economy. As described in the UN Sustainable Development Goal 11 “Make cities and human settlements inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable”, accessibility should become a central element of any responsible sustainable development policy, not only for people with disabilities but for the whole of society.
“We are unique because we work directly with hotels, helping them to capture and display their accessible features on their own websites. This solution is a real win-win for both guests and for hotels”, underlines Noelle. Mobility Mojo’s primary focus is on hotels because that is where the real pain point is. If you arrive at your accommodation but you cannot get into the bathroom, it is going to be a disaster. If you cannot get into a pub or restaurant, it is a nuisance, but it is not an insurmountable problem.
Boosting Customer Confidence for a Safe and Seamless Tourism Experience
As we all know too well, the hotel industry has been devastated by the COVID-19 pandemic. Hotel companies have seen occupancy rates plummet to unsustainable levels forcing many to close their doors. Right now, hotels in many territories are struggling to survive, they are laying off staff, and shutting down all extra expenses. With very few or no bookings on the horizon, they are not able to pay for projects that are not deemed absolutely essential. Thus, access to this market has been severely curtailed.
Doing nothing was not an option though. Thus, Mobility Mojo have re-solutioned their product and developed a product to support the hotel industry during the pandemic and boost customer confidence. To this end, they have developed a ‘Hygiene Audit’ toolkit to help hotels display their checklist including photos in a standardised way on their website within a matter of hours of audit completion. The iframe popup is always live. As hotels add hygiene improvements to their checklist, their reputation and trust also improve. Having the ability to update their cleanliness protocols in real time across all their hotels will prove vital as these guidelines continue to evolve.
“Customer trust is paramount once travel restrictions begin to lift, hotels must have procedures in place to assist and reassure their guests that their venue is safe to visit and adheres to official hygiene guidelines and government approved cleaning/sanitising protocols”, explains Noelle.
Mobility Mojo’s office is located in the Digital Hub, a vibrant incubator of digital content and technology enterprises in the heart of Dublin’s Liberties which provides mentoring advice for companies. Due to COVID-19 restrictions, they have also been able to avail of a reduction in rent. Mobility Mojo has received grant funding from Enterprise Ireland’s Competitive Start Fund (CSF) which aims to accelerate the growth of start-up companies that have the capacity to succeed in global markets. They have also benefitted from feasibility grant and HPSU funds and Social Entrepreneurs Awards.
To better organise teamwork and help their team be more efficient, they rely on a couple of practical solutions: for example, they use Salesforce for their CRM system, Microsoft Teams for their daily communication channel and Zoom for international calls.
“For anyone thinking of venturing into business to become an entrepreneur my advice is just do it! If you overthink it, you might not try. There will always be challenges, so don’t be afraid to tack sideways for a while just as long as you stay afloat. It’s hard work and will take all your time but the most important thing is to have fun”, concludes Noelle.
For the coming months, Mobility Mojo will continue collaborating with hotels groups to build and roll out their new hygiene product across their chains quickly, cheaply, and efficiently. Their mission has always been to make the world accessible to everyone: “Hotel Accessibility Made Simple”, as their slogan has it. By repurposing their technology, Mobility Mojo want to remove the fear and anxiety by helping hotels highlight their hygiene procedures and to give customers confidence to travel again and support the rebuilding of the tourism industry.
To learn more about the company, visit https://www.mobilitymojo.com/.