Triip wants to bridge local people and travelers to create rich experience
Travel is supposedly all about memories and the experience people have in-resort. But nowadays travellers are armed with more information beforehand than ever before.
There are plenty of websites in the web (too many, perhaps?) that publish information about a destination, service or a travel product. But nothing can beat the knowledge from local people.
Triip, a Vietnam-based startup, provides a platform that connects local people with tourists.
The site acts is a portal in which a user can list a tour guide/itinerary, describe the tour, mention the cost, date and availability. Every product posted on the site is moderated by Triip before it appears.
Then, a traveler can browse through various tour guides/itineraries in Triip and book it.
The startup is self-funded, and has a team of eight in which five are founders:
- Hai Ho – Principal: Serial entrepreneur, product and marketing guy. In charge of Software Product for Misfit Wearables in Vietnam before starting Triip.
- Ha Lam – Growth: Mrs travel. Founder of Saigon Hotpot – volunteer tour guide group in Ho Chi Minh since 2006.
- Khoa Hong – Engineer: ACM-ICPC World Finalist. Serial app builder.
- Linh Pham – Engineer: Was a PM at Quick Solution.
- Tung Tran – Finance: 6 year experience including international exposure in KPMG Singapore, Credit Lyonnais Securities Asia and local M&A advisory firms.
On why he started Triip, co-founder Hai Ho says:
“Seven years ago, Ha Lam – one of our team members founded a volunteer club for students to offer free travel guide for visitors in exchange for English speaking training. The club grew slowly into ‘Top 10 things to do in Ho Chi Minh city’ on TripAdvisor and Ha became a professional tour guide too. As a tech entrepreneur, I asked myself what I can do to bring tech into travel and create value to local tourism. The idea of Triip sparked in my mind.
“Then I shared the idea with two of my engineer friends who were frustrated by all travel apps that they download before they went to Singapore. None of the apps really helped them. So, we joined hands and founded Triip as a mobile app. But soon, we realized that we needed a web-based platform before moving to mobile app since many local experts do not have smartphones.
“We built prototypes of Triip, showed it to travellers and local experts. All of them loved it. Then, we started to refine it everyday and finally released the beta version in February 2013.”
Q&A with Ho below:
Describe what your start-up does, what problem it solves and for whom?
Triip simplifies and localizes travel experience. Triip provides access to an unlimited variety of travel inspirations offered and guided by the locals and through that helps preserve different distinctive cultures.
Triip is not about money making. It is about connecting people, about sharing experience, about socializing travel. At Triip, we aim to be different with unique local experiences and unmatched customer service.
Why should people or companies use your startup?
Tourism is a continuously growing economy with more and more competitors fighting for the tourist dollar.
In this search to differentiate travel opportunities, many companies are aiming to offer unique experience to travellers.
Mass tourism still works well for cultures that have a group tour mentality (for example, large Chinese tour groups are commonly seen in Bali) but mass tourism is losing its appeal when it comes to a more sophisticated sector of the tourist demographics.
Those travelers who want to travel in group, but with a rich local experience are the type of customers that Triip is targeting.
Other than going viral and receiving mountains of positive PR, what is the strategy for raising awareness and getting customers/users?
For us, our product is the first key. We already have customers from our offline channels in two biggest travel destinations in Vietnam: Ho Chi Minh and Danang city.
Once these travelers experience Triip service, they will go back to their home countries to become tour guide. At the same time, they will leave us good reviews on TripAdvisor too.
Also, in Vietnam we have great advantage to do SEO as compared to other places. SEO will be our second key to get customers.
Last but not least, we are in the verge of releasing a “Wikipedia for travel” to all travellers.
How did your initial idea evolve? Were there changes/any pivots along the way? What other options have you considered for the business if the original vision fails?
Our initial plan was to launch Triip in mobile. Then we realized that mobile adoption has its own time limits. So we decided to build a web-based platform first.
In the past four months, we have interacted with hundreds of travellers and tour itinerary creators to understand what it takes to build a great tool to create new tours.
If the original vision shows slow adoption, we have plans to enter the market by providing high quality travel products that are made in Vietnam.
Where do you see yourselves in 3 years time, what specific challenges do you hope to have overcome?
We aim to cover Asia in three years time. We hope we can satisfy 98% of our customers daily.
What is wrong with the travel, tourism and hospitality industry that requires another startup to help it out?
We now live in a world that changes more quickly than ever. Within moments, entire sectors of tourist activities can be shut down without warning.
For example, after the 9/11 tragedy in New York City, the entire tourism sector died instantly in Egypt. Tourists have flocked to Egypt for centuries and within hours of the disaster, hardly a tourist could be seen anywhere in the country.
During the SARS epidemic, the tourism industry in South East Asia suffered greatly. It took few years to recover to pre-SARS numbers.
These examples show tourism is a very fragile market in this day and age. But, Triip, with its potential global coverage, is much less affected by a single isolated event.
Community-based travel startups are always interesting. Triip could be seen as an Airbnb for travel/tour guides. On that note, recently we noticed that Airbnb was allowing users to sell tours and activities.
In Triip, there is something for everybody. Anyone possessing knowledge about a place can become a tour guide and list their itinerary/tour plan in Triip for a price.
So, the market size that Triip is looking at is huge. Triip estimates it to be 600+ million travelers contributing to a $400 billion market.
Triip has a simple and neat user interface with lot of white space, that makes it easy to navigate around the site.
In Asia, this space is not so crowded as other social travel marketplaces. But, there are companies increasingly to looking to target the sector.
For example, there is an Indian startup which is working on something similar to Triip (watch out for TLabs soon), but it is solely focused on its local market.
Triip takes a commission from every sale that it makes, remaining amount is given to the local tour guide.
The potential for Triip in Asia is huge, given the fact that countries like India are rich in diversity, with many cultures and regional languages spoken.
When the Triip platform grows in terms of number of tour guides available and number of travelers buying it, the challenge will be addressing the quality of tour experience and ensuring trust among travelers.
Will Triip be implementing any trust score for tour guides, how will Triip ensure that the experience promised is delivered – these are the aspects that we have to wait and watch as they grow.
Another question is, when big players in the community based business (like Airbnb) decides to venture into tours and activities business, how will startups like Triip react?
Karthick was general manager for Tnooz in Asia until September 2014.