Skift Take

The surge in adoption of new practices and technologies could be the silver lining for travel firms determined to come out on the other side of the coronavirus crisis.

For Thailand-based peer-to-peer travel platform TakeMeTour, leveraging its core strength as a tech-driven online activity marketplace could prove to be a lifesaver during the coronavirus storm and a ticket to its long-term survival.

As the global pandemic imperils the world economy and tourism, TakeMeTour CEO and co-founder Amornched Jinda-apiraksa sees “good opportunities” in pivoting the local travel marketplace towards providing consultancy and technical development services to other business verticals.

“Tech is our key strength,” he explained, “so we are utilizing the resources we have to generate new income by taking outsourced projects from others to build up a marketplace for them. We have the know-how and can help to shorten the learning curve for others.

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“This is becoming a key revenue generator for us during this time,” he said, sharing that TakeMeTour currently has a majority of its team working on platform-building projects outsourced from other businesses for the time being.

“Our business is unavoidably severely affected. With zero bookings, we are cutting costs and looking at generating new income streams. While we are maintaining the core business, we have to diversify the business model,” said Amornched.

TakeMeTour is Thailand’s largest local travel activity platform, with over 1,000 local tours across 65 cities in Thailand and Cambodia.

The travel outfit is currently in discussion with the Thai tourism authorities to use its platform as a channel for crisis-affected travel industry workers to sell their handicrafts or home-made food, instead of competing with the masses on Southeast Asia’s popular e-commerce sites such as Shopee or Lazada.

Travel Roots Not Forsaken

While a majority of its team is temporarily focusing on its tech consultancy hustle, Amornched is keeping an eye on recovery of Thailand’s tourism-reliant sector, which he believes will make an earliest comeback by this year-end.

“At the same time we are maintaining our core business because we believe it will come back. We are keeping some team members to onboard local travel products, but it’s not a priority now as it will not generate immediate revenue for us during the crisis.”

What the millennial boss is certain of is a pent-up demand for travel that is steadily building up, but industry players, including TakeMeTour, would have to grapple with likely changes in the visitor source markets to Thailand in the wake of Covid-19.

While English-speaking travelers from the Western markets were a core target for TakeMeTour and its local experts, Amornched does not believe that these demographics could sustain business when the Thailand tourism emerges on the other side of the crisis.

“Signs are obvious that the Thai domestic market will be the first to recover. The East Asian markets of China, Japan and South Korea will likely form the first wave of recovery from the international markets, while Europe and the Western world will probably take a longer time to return to Thailand.”

For this reason, TakeMeTour is now onboarding tours that can be sold to a domestic audience. But it’s not a case of translating products into a different language, he stated, because the Asian and domestic travel preferences vary significantly from the western markets.

A visit to a fresh market, for instance, is far less likely to excite a Thai tourist than a foreign visitor, he noted. “We need localization, not translation.”

Meanwhile, Amornched is hopeful that TakeMeTour’s pool of 25,000 local experts, many of whom were working full time as travel guides prior to the pandemic, could make use of the coronavirus downtime to prepare themselves for eventual recovery in the tourism sector. This could include picking up a third language or brushing up techniques to take better photos.

“We’re quite sure we could tide over this storm,” he remarked. “Meanwhile, we’re not seeing a way out of this crisis but a way to survive it.”

Tags: coronavirus, online booking, thailand, travel tech

Photo credit: A boat ride through Bangkok's canals with a local expert from TakeMeTour. TakeMeTour