Spencer Hewson, April 20, 2021
COVID - 19 has cost the global tourism industry $935 billion, according to Forbes. BILLION, with a B. This week's Spotlight features a Pagecloud Pro, who used the collapse of the travel industry as a catalyst to expand his web development and environmental charity initiatives.
Markus Daase of Swiss Digital Solutions is one of the earliest adopters of Pagecloud - he has been with us since 2015, before the platform was even launched. He shared his perspective on topics as varied as how the platform has developed over the past six years, as well as how COVID has affected his work in the travel industry and how the pandemic could actually be helping reefs around the world.
To start things off Markus can you tell us about yourself, your company, and your background?
My name is Markus Daase. I used to be a logistics manager before I moved to Honduras on the Caribbean, where I opened a dive shop with a boat and 17 employees. While living in Honduras I got into the travel industry. When I moved back to Switzerland six years ago, I was looking into how I could build websites for my own businesses. I wanted to build about 10 websites. The average cost here in Europe, if you hire a developer to build your website, is like 180€ per hour so 10,000€ to 15,000€ per site, which is just a huge amount of money that I didn't want to spend. I decided I would find a way to build the websites myself. I was willing to learn everything. I was looking around and suddenly I saw a Facebook post from TechCrunch about Pagecloud’s launch, and that pre-launch customers would get a discount. I took a big risk and I purchased 10 websites from Pagecloud before the product was even launched. I had no clue how it was going to turn out but I’ve been thrilled with the product since day one.
I’ve been using Pagecloud to run several businesses over the last six years. Mainly, my travel agency and my tourism marketing firm named HON Tourism Marketing. We did a lot of vacation planning where we helped European customers plan vacations to Central America, especially Honduras, Guatemala, Nicaragua and El Salvador. We have an office in Honduras, where we organize all the mainland tours, jungle tours and Mayan ruins tours. We have nine dive resorts on several islands and sell dive vacation, beach vacation, snorkeling vacation, stuff like that. That's my travel agency business.
With COVID hitting the travel industry hard how did you adapt your business?
Last year, when COVID started, the travel sector collapsed, so we lost every trip we had booked. I was fortunate that while running the travel agency I was working on web design with Pagecloud and hoping to one day do web design full time. The pandemic gave me a push and I created Swiss Digital Solution. I specialize in 360 degree photo and videography, landscape drone shots and underwater photography.
The business idea is to create 360 degree virtual reality tours in videography and photography for different industries. I chose this focus because I wanted to become unique in how I sell my travels to Central America. When the customer wants to buy a trip anywhere, they can log in them self and download files, or before the pandemic I could meet them with a nice freshly brewed coffee from Honduras and show them on the VR goggles!
Imagine you're flying through the jungle, you can see the animals like tigers running and then you fly over the Mayan ruins, then on to the islands, before diving into the water into the reef system. We have the second largest coral reef in the world in Honduras. It's a beautiful untouched reef where you can see sharks and all kinds of fishes and underwater creatures. We can create this flight with our drones and 360 degree cameras!
I invested in this videography equipment so my travel customers could see what they were going to get when they purchased a trip with us. However, last year when traveling stopped, I started to create virtual reality tour websites for other companies. The first project was a cosmetics store. Now you can go to their website, and virtually go into the store. You can click through the store as if you were walking through it. You get welcomed by the store owner, a little video plays, you can see products on the shelves and put them right into your basket, and at the end, you just checkout and your purchase is delivered to your home.
You mentioned the reefs in Honduras, and I know that you've worked with a charity and built their site. Can you talk a little bit about that charity?
Yes, absolutely. The charity is called Roatan Reef Restoration and we support Bay Island Reef Restoration. There are many places in the world where the reefs are being destroyed. Thailand, for example, has millions of people who go diving and snorkeling while wearing sunscreen that comes off in the water or who physically touch the reef. This stuff damages it. This is happening all over the world. Actually in Thailand, it's remarkable since they have no more tourism, all these reefs are growing back. They have 10s of millions of fish coming back, because there are no more tourists damaging the reef. I really hope everyone will learn something from this and restrict how many people can visit the reefs each day. Once COVID is over and everything starts from zero, they really have a chance to make a positive change.
However, in Honduras, it's a little bit different. We have no or almost no coral bleaching, which is really good! The problem in Honduras is more about the food. A lot of locals rely on the reef because it brings in fish. Since the pandemic has shut down travel there is less work, so people have turned to fishing to provide for themselves. They will go spear fishing, where they're running on the reef or walking on the reef to get their nets. The problem is that a lot of fish are gone because they cannot reproduce as fast as they are being fished. We have some organizations, one is the Roatan Marine Park, which helps to preserve the reef system, they make sure no one is stepping on the reef or overfishing.
Roatan Marine Park asked me to build them a website where they could ask for donations and get the word out. I'm very thankful Pagecloud became one of the donors and discounted their website to help them start growing and make a difference.
That's a great cause! We are happy we can support you. Can you reflect on your six years building with Pagecloud and highlight the biggest feature advancements you’ve seen?
The first and biggest advancement was the start of Pagecloud! I remember the advertisement from TechCrunch announcing a platform where I could create my own website, and have complete freedom. The freedom Pagecloud offers is great not only for me but for my clients, because I can tell them to draw an outline of what they have in their mind and then create exactly that. I couldn't do that with other platforms like Joomla or Wix, those platforms were just too restrictive.
The first day Pagecloud went live it took a couple of hours until I could login and start designing but right away I could build a website that looked good. Pagecloud was very basic in the beginning but it was still a huge invention. At that time, it was fantastic.
Pagecloud has grown since then, especially in the past two years. The recent features have been the biggest improvements for Pagecloud. I mean, Auto and Manual Layouts, Sections, Columns, grouping functionality, etc. Now I pretty much know Pagecloud by heart. I know what I can do and if I don't know you have a great support service.
I will say besides the recent features, the second point that makes Pagecloud outstanding is its customer service’s reaction time. In these six years I’ve been using Pagecloud, I have never felt like ‘damn, I sent a question and I didn't get the answer.’ Your team, from day one to today has had a really fast response time. I work with other SaaS companies, so I know the industry's average customer service and it's not as good as you. We're talking about sometimes two or three weeks for a response. Most companies I get an answer within 48 to 72 hours, which is fine, but that was never the case with Pagecloud. Your team, no matter who I was talking to, always had an answer and always had a solution or a workaround, so I was never disappointed
I'm so glad to hear that, it means a lot, I'll pass that along to the rest of the team. Where do you find your inspiration at the start of each project?
I have to understand my customer and what they’re looking for. I named the company Swiss Digital Solutions for a reason: our clients have a problem and we have digital solutions! We don’t only do websites, we do social media, content creation, marketing, e-commerce integration, and so on. I have to talk to customers and understand their ideas to get my inspiration. From there I can help them solve their problems!
If you have digital problems that need solutions contact Markus through the Pagecloud Pro Program
While bright spots during the pandemic can seem few and far between, Markus Daase is an example of how perseverance and a willingness to learn and adapt can lead to new opportunities and positive impacts.
What do you want to learn from our future spotlight features? Send us your questions on Twitter, Instagram or reply in the comments! If you enjoyed this interview check out last week's Spotlight that featured Concert Series Director Carson Becke.
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