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We will start with regular reports several times per week from Beijing and Singapore, and look for us to add cities around the world shortly. Gateway Beijing and Gateway Singapore, for example, signify that the reporters are writing from those cities although their coverage of the business of travel will meander to other locales in their regions. Read about the series here, and check out all the stories in the series here.
In trying to cope with the difficulties its tour guides have in dealing with last-minute bookings, Asia-based tours and activities startup Triip.me is doing something most competitors don’t do: It is adding lodging choices to its app and website.
In an affiliate deal with Booking.com, Triip will let customers book hotels or apartments along with tours.
“Eighty-five percent of guests book air tickets and rooms first,” says co-founder and CEO Ho Viet Hai. “They then go to our website or to the hotel desk to see what’s available at the last minute and that has made it hard for the local guides to accept bookings.
“So we’re redesigning the whole Triip website. We want to provide the room [from Booking.com] for the traveller so we know when they are checking in and out and will present them our tours when they book the room. Before, they would go to Booking.com for a room, then start three to five conversations with Triip. We’re giving them the full service now.”
Rentals with Tours or Tours with Lodging?
The pairing of lodging and tours is much in the news these days as Airbnb goes beyond short-term rentals and launches Trips. Obviously a much smaller company, Triip, which is processing 10 to 20 bookings per day, matching local guides with travelers, is doing the opposite, adding lodging to trips. It currently offers 6,000 local guides in 660 cities, mostly in Asia.
Founded in 2013 in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam, Triip attracted some $500,000 in funding in a seed round led by Gobi Partners in early 2016. Triip has amassed more than 6,000 local guides in 660 cities since its debut.
“This is not just a simple API integration,” Ho says, referring to adding lodging options from Booking.com. “Rather, our product team is executing a vision to make travel and tour booking more seamless.”
Ho says Triip 6.0, which will be launched early this year, is driven by a pattern of last-minute bookings by customers that has made it difficult for guides to accept assignments.
“Full service is more or less the goal of every company,” Ho says. “Look at TripAdvisor – it has flights, tours, hotels, restaurant bookings.”
Donating to Communities
At its core, though, Triip intends to remain true to its mission of engendering a positive “local impact” in communities, he said. To encourage guests to book trips, Ho says Triip will give back to customers five percent of the eight percent commission it collects from Booking.com. Customers will have the option to donate to a social organization where they book their trips, use the money to buy tours or simply keep it.
Many of Triip’s guides are women living in low-income countries and are gaining access to the global sharing economy for the first time, according to the startup.
Triip also intends to help guests choose hotels that reflect local cultures when they book rooms.
Ho believes the pairing of Booking’s accommodations with Triip inventories is an answer to making hotel stays more indie.
Home-sharing platforms such as Airbnb may be the ones that are losing their indie-ness, Ho said, citing Triip’s own research that shows Airbnb users are finding fewer houses and homestays, and have less-frequent or no contact with the local hosts. As a result, indie and super travellers (serial travellers who crave deeper immersions into a destination) are migrating back from home-sharing platforms to hotels.
Yet, they still crave unique, local experiences and want to help create positive local impact, he explains.
“We do not see ourselves as a direct competitor to platforms such as Airbnb. Instead we see ourselves as an enhancement to traditional lodging,” Ho said.
Aside from guaranteeing lowest price room rates and giving back a percentage of commission for tour purchases, Triip will also offers free international phone access through Flexiroam and honour travellers’ reward status achieved on other websites if they provide proof.
How Many Unique Tours Can a Company Have?
One of the challenges for Triip now is to “ramp up” its authentic, local trips, and to show why the peer-to-peer tour model is viable given the fact that so many other companies in the sector in other parts of the world have transitioned away from the business.
Its inaugural Global Travel Entrepreneurship Challenge, which saw the Pacific Asia Travel Association as one of the sponsors, some 7,000 people worldwide participated in a contest to create the best authentic trips in lesser-known aspects of a destination.
Of the 7,000, 300 tours qualified for inclusion in Triip, including the grand prize, which was awarded to Emre Kanik from Seoul for his tour that takes travellers back to 20th century Seoul, and Bella Wong, who won the FWD Best Local Expert in Hong Kong for her Taste The Weirdness of Hong Kong tour, including partaking in turtle jelly and snake soup, followed by cupping and petty person betting (get the petty boss out of your life through this traditional bet).
At a time when trips are widely seen as the final frontier for online players, Triips is taking is making a bet with its lodging move.
Based in Singapore, Raini Hamdi is a business journalist and has been covering the Asian travel trade and the hotel industry for more than 20 years.