Wheel the World wants to open the world up to people with disabilities and has made it its mission since 2018 to provide travel accommodations and experiences that fit their needs, both in the United States and worldwide.
Today, the company announced two new booking tool features, including guaranteed accessibility for hotel rooms booked from its website and a price match offer.
These new features follow the closing of $6 million in what it is calling “pre-Series A” funding. Kayak Ventures led the investment and was joined by Detroit Venture Partners, REI Co-op Path Ahead Ventures, former Booking.com CEO Gillian Tans, Dadneo, CLIN Fund, Amarena and WeBoost.
We caught up with founders Alvaro Silberstein and Camilo Navarro again after covering their $2 million seed round in 2021. At the time, Wheel the World had offered travel packages to 50 destinations with experiences specially created for people with disabilities, seniors and their families — think activities like sky-diving, kayaking and snorkeling, but crafted to enable people to do them without limits.
Wheel the World now offers more than 200 destinations, including some new group tours that create itineraries for groups of eight to 10 with guaranteed accessibility, allowing travelers with disabilities to travel together and explore places like Costa Rica, Morocco and Alaska. The company also now price matches hotel rooms from other booking platforms, including Booking.com, Expedia and Travelocity.
“We have identified those details of accessibility and the rooms that have those details,” Silberstein said. “Through our operations, we can guarantee accessibility that other platforms cannot. If you find something that we didn't promise, we will give you your money back. As powerful as it sounds, we allowed that a month ago, and it's working really well.”
The concept has caught on: In the past year, Wheel the World experienced a four-fold increase in the number of travelers booking through its platform over 2021. In addition, 40% of customers booked trips through the company more than twice.
The new capital is part of a SAFE note that will be part of the company’s future Series A round, Navarro told TechCrunch. It enables the company to pursue new partnerships with destination management organizations to identify new accessible travel offerings with a goal of reaching 12,000 travelers booking through its platform by December 2024, CEO Silberstein said in an interview.
Seventy-nine percent of the company’s users come from the U.S., and the founders said over the next two years, they will focus on this audience with additional product development around customer experience in terms of booking multiple trips, places to stay and group tours. In addition, Wheel the World will continue to grow its community of travelers and offer more opportunities for them to get to know each other and travel together.
“We want to transform our product into a community-based product and help them learn how they can contribute,” Silberstein said. “We also want them to have more interaction through a referral program so users can make recommendations to other users and we can start receiving accessibility validations. Those are things that we haven't done yet.”