“The travel industry is so big, it is very easy to go the wrong direction,” says Sam Xu as he reflects on his journey setting up his travel startup, Travelog.
Travelog, a one-year-old Malaysia-based company, is experiencing a phenomenal growth in revenue of more than 700% from January (RM90,000) to October (RM650,000) this year.
Travelog was founded by Sam, a 33-year-old serial entrepreneur, and his 35-year-old partner Kelvin Liu. Both Sam and Kelvin are from China. Nonetheless, the duo only met when they were both attending college in Malaysia about ten years ago.
Sam saw a business opportunity in the travel market when his friends from China sought for his help to book hotels and activities for their trips to Malaysia. At that time, there were not any easy, centralised ways to do that online. Sam was intrigued, did further studies on the opportunity, and realised that the potential is indeed massive.
As Sam mentions earlier, the travel sector is enormous but it is also extremely fragmented. Hence, to truly capture the opportunities, one must carve a niche for oneself. Upon deciding to venture into the travel market, he and his team experimented with a few business models, including one that resembled Airbnb but for trips. All attempts failed but one.
Cheap, Safe and Happy
Traveller’s behaviours are shifting rapidly with many of them seeking for more personalised, unique experiences. Catching the wave, Sam formed Travelog in October 2016 to fully focus on offering only handpicked hotels and travel packages to Malaysians who are looking for a short getaway, ie a 2-day-3-night trip to a neighbouring state on a weekend.
What has really caught on is Travelog’s flash sale model, where the company offers travel deals with the cheapest prices (up to 70%) at a limited time. They run short “flash sales” every week, with each round lasting about ten days. It is the first in Malaysia, and it is really gaining traction.
From October 2016 to August 2017, Travelog’s website recorded about 250,000 monthly active visits and its Facebook page has had more than 1.2 million followers with 30 million people reached each week. Most important of all, in just short 10 months, Travelog made RM4 million in revenue.
These are impressive numbers. Apart from offering travellers the cheapest deals, Sam attributes these favourable outcomes to the company’s ethos to put customers’ experiences above all — from booking trips (the team typically responses to customer phone calls immediately, and replies to email, Whatsapp, Facebook Messaging within 24 hours) to experiencing the trip itself (Travelog only picks one-of-a-kind, quality deals. They rarely settle with the conventional travel service providers).
Travelog believes that booking a holiday should be an exciting, enjoyable and stress-free experience. They want their customers to feel safe and happy.
Typically, the Travelog team will not feature any deals until they know that they have secured the lowest price. Travelog manages to convince travel service providers to give them the most competitive price by building relationships and educating them on how Travelog works and how they are different from other online platforms, such as Agoda and Booking.com. Though Travelog generally does not compete with them as Travelog’s target audience is not the business travellers.
There is also another catch for service providers that join the Travelog network. The Travelog team prides itself on its digital marketing capability. As such, Travelog is able to help the travel service providers in its marketing efforts.
In its next phase of development, Travelog has in plan to expand into Singapore, Thailand and Indonesia, starting in early 2018.
The team is also working on a platform where travel service providers can post and manage their own products within Travelog. In other words, it is a Lazada for travel. They aim to roll this out in February 2018.
Currently, Travelog is featuring 500 travel packages. By the end of next year, the team is optimistic that they are able to increase the packages by 10 times.
Travelog is currently raising a total of US$1 million for the company’s expansion plans and technology capability enhancement.
For more information, please log on to www.travelog.com
Featured Image: The entire Travelog team at their office.
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