The Singapore-based startup opened its website for business in July 2012.
The APAC potential for peer-to-peer rentals
Airbnb has popularized peer-to-peer rentals among consumers and ¬†investors, but the phenomenon is global, and Travelmob one of the newest players.
Rachel Botsman, co-author of What’s Mine Is Yours: The Rise of Collaborative Consumption, estimated that the consumer peer-to-peer rental market has the potential to grow into a $26 billion sector.
Asia Pacific (APAC) is, of course, one of the fastest growing regions for tourism and may be ripe for the growth in peer-to-peer rentals.
According to the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), international arrivals into the region grew by 10% year-on-year in March 2012, led by Southeast Asia, which saw a 15% increase in visitor numbers compared to March 2011.
China is producing 25 million new people classified as ‚Äėmiddle class‚Äô each year, and Indonesia will soon reach 60 million of its population deemed to be middle class.
Q&A with co-founders Fuad and¬†Kirtane:
How is the way you are solving this problem more special or effective than previous attempts you or the market has seen before and how different do you have to be to succeed?
Maintaining a regional dedication to delivering a leading social stay marketplace in Asia Pacific and tacking hard-to-solve problems in the region like payments and localisation.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
Travelmob offers quality, affordable local accommodation options ‚Äď with a specific focus on Asia Pacific. Travellers seeking an alternative to the traditional hotel can find quality, affordable accommodations, which enable them to experience local living and hospitality.
Travelmob facilitates the booking process for Guests and Hosts via a safe messaging platform and payments that is timely and secure.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
Word-of-mouth from our own community ‚Äď A traveller‚Äôs decision-making process is often influenced by recommendations from friends and other travellers. We believe that our own customers are the best way to spread word-of-mouth awareness.
As such, we engage our community in the region regularly to gather their feedback and continuously work towards delivering a great user experience.
In addition, travelmob has not only built a transparent review system where Guests and Hosts can share their feedback on a recent stay.
We‚Äôve also integrated with popular social networks such as Facebook, Twitter and Pinterest, so users can share their favourite listings and experiences with their friends.
What other options have you considered for the business and the team if the original vision fails?
It was a tough decision to make the jump from a comfortable well paid corporate job to starting one‚Äôs own business ‚Äď but once we did so, there was no looking back and certainly no Option B.
We are growing steadily and are focused on moving forward to achieve our mission of being the leading social stay marketplace in Asia Pacific.
What mistakes have you made in the past in business and how have you learned from them?
There have been many lessons learnt not only from doing my own business before but also working at global companies. Having a strategic focus and a solid team that works well together are definitely key in any business.
We have a great and dynamic team at travelmob with an average of 10-15 years of experience in the Internet sector and we’ve been able to apply our experience to turn things around pretty rapidly and make adjustments so that we get back on the right path whenever we make mistakes.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
There is nothing wrong per se. However, we see the concept of collaborative consumption as a new and emerging trend that will have tremendous impact (and benefits) to the travel and tourism industry as a whole.
While the ‚ÄúSocial stays‚ÄĚ market is fairly developed in the US and Europe, its relatively new in Asia and we saw an opportunity given our background and expertise in the region to provide a superior, localized experience ‚Äď both for property owners who are keen on hosting and global travellers visiting Asia Pacific.
Before weighing in, let’s quote¬†insights from Tnooz’s guest commentary: Standby: Time for Asia to lead the global travel technology revolution.
In her piece Siew Hoon Yeoh, editor/producer of WIT-Web In Travel, mentioned her recent discussion with the co-founder of Travelmob. Her conclusion:
“Plenty of content is out there from owners with second or third or fourth homes in an increasingly affluent Asia, where property play is as second nature as the roll of a dice.”
But she also cautioned that the regulatory frameworks, especially for taxes, vary widely across the region. In the case of Internet sales, the rules are in flux.
We’d second those considerations.
We like how Travelmob has six languages for users, with only one of those being English.
(Digression: Why are North American startups so parochial, with the first major OTA only discovering Spanish language search yesterday?)
Also, the Asia-Pacific region has adopted mobile much faster than North America and Europe, yet it’s not clear what the mobile strategy is.
Another cautionary note:
Airbnb also ran into trouble when it was taken by surprise by negative news stories regarding the “rare bad apple” customers who are destructive of host properties.
In May, the California company introduced an insurance guarantee. But Travelmob hasn’t yet adequately addressed such risks.
Its revenue model has been proven in other markets– a service fee on actual bookings, and no listing fees.
One hopes wonders if this pricing structure reflects localized market research. Pricing structures that work in one part of the world don’t always work elsewhere, of course.
A final question is about Travelmob’s split-market approach. Right now, it aims to draw a large portion of its business from consumers outside of the Asia Pacific region.¬†Is it a risk to split the marketing efforts in too many directions?
To help differentiate it from competitors, Travelmob has come up with “experience tags” (explained in the company’s promotional video, posted below). These serve as ways to sorting content thematically, an innovative idea.