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Start-up's quest to localise Vietnamese travel

Update: August, 25/2013 - 22:32

Hai Ho, co-founder of triip.me, is the brain behind the Vietnamese start-up that allows anybody with a tour idea to create their own package and sell it to interested tourists. Triip.me is a platform for connecting people eager to experience local culture with those who can meet these needs through specialised tours. Ho told Le Thu Huong of his ambitious aim to localise travel for all visitors to Viet Nam and his goal of one day expanding to the whole of Asia.

Inner Sanctum: How did the idea of launching triip.me get started?

It stems from our own travelling experience in many different places, the difficulties in arranging our itinerary, the challenges we faced finding the activities we love and the endless quest to experience local cultures in the most authentic way.

Seven years ago, one of our co-founders founded a volunteer club for students to offer free travel guides for foreign visitors in HCM City in exchange for English language training. The club grew slowly into the Top 10 things to do on TripAdvisor in the city. As a tech-entrepreneur, I asked myself what could I do to bring technology into travel and create something valuable for local tourism. The idea was sparked.

With two other friends, who are engineers, we founded Triip as a mobile application. But soon after we realised that we needed a web platform before moving to applications, since not many local experts have smartphones.

Triip simplifies and localises travel experience. Triip provides access to an unlimited variety of travel inspirations that are offered and guided by locals, and through that it helps preserve different distinctive cultures.

Trip is when someone goes by themselves. Triip is when you have an extra local expert to guide you. The truly local experience created by the traveller and the local expert is called Triip. The extra "i" refers to the local tour guide, the Triip Creator.

Inner Sanctum: How does it work? And since its official launching in February, what's the current scale of the site now?

We currently have more than 1,600 registered users. We operate in six countries, which are Viet Nam, Myanmar, Laos, Cambodia, Thailand and Indonesia. The market is big enough, yet close enough for us to monitor the quality of services. We have 225 qualified triips on our site, chosen from about 1,000 submitted triips.

Generally, anyone can submit a tour that he or she thinks is interesting to Triip. Then there are three rounds of screening. We screen the application form, review the triip and also have volunteer travellers test the tour in advance.

There are three rounds of screening. We screen the application form from local experts. We review the triips that they created. Normally, this is the hardest part because you can really tell who is who through the quality of the content. Then we have volunteer travellers/ambassadors to test the tour in advance.

The potential customers, aka tourists, will pay Triip for the tour. We are bootstrapping now. We keep 10 per cent of every successful booking for the tour guide. Since July, we have customers weekly and it is growing fast.

Inner Sanctum: What have been some of the most impressive tours and do you have any future plan to expand the site?

The most impressive triip is the one who gets booked the most even though the triip is quite simple. For example, it's about seeing the best part of HCM City by night, having fun and enjoying the city like a local. HCM is a non-sleeping city, just like Hong Kong and Singapore, which means you can literally wander around the whole city and enjoy both the hustle and bustle and the emptiness; the upbeat and the silence; the devil and the angel of the city by night within a few hours.

We're adding 15 new triips every week. Currently triips in Malaysia and Indonesia are growing. We will fully cover Southeast Asia in six months. If the triip is nothing like it's listed, travellers will get a refund. We have also created an Iphone application called Wiki Triip for travellers to read and understand more about the places they're about to visit. The application covers all destinations in the world. We're focusing to grow strong in Southeast Asia for now and eventually expand to Asia. — VNS

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