Valley resident Marianne Kunkin built TravelHugg as a gift card specifically for travel and travel-related expenses so that the giver could know its recipient would use the gift card for travel rather than general use. An avid gift-card user, she saw this as a void that personal need inspired her to fill. When she relocated to Phoenix, she says it was with the expectation that her close-knit family would follow. That didn’t happen, and when her daughter was born, she says, “I wanted to give a gift card to my mother that would guarantee she’d come visit me and my daughter.” No such card existed, so she put her years of experience in software development in the financial credit card space toward developing what she likens to an “iTunes for travel gifting,” and launched TravelHugg’s beta site last October.
An all-in-one card for travel, services and more — with online booking among upcoming additions — TravelHugg is a software-based, non-financial solution that is not merchant reliant and therefore offers users greater flexibility. “The system is as fraud-deterrent as the merchant solutions,” she says. Additionally, she explains, there are none of the interchanges or transaction fees traditionally part of merchant solutions. So, “From a travel provider perspective, we’ve got a software solution that lowers their cost of operation through removal of that transaction model.”
The name was created around the goal of “helping you give the getaway,” but it also evokes Kunkin’s desire — in a world increasingly dominated by virtual, social media interaction — to bring family and friends together physically for the “hug” possible only in a face-to-face relationship.
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