By Chen Ming | The motivation of KKday is very simple: to experience a local’s way of life. In fact, many will agree this is the core idea of traveling, but it wasn’t possible just 10 years ago. Back then, most Asian travelers would choose only packaged tours that catered to all tourists, young and old, meaning that personalized experiences like kimono dress-up or Thai cooking classes were never within easy reach.
The Story Behind KKday After being in the online travel industry for almost 20 years and having founded two listed Online Travel Agencies (OTAs) in Taiwan, I was able to witness the surge of trends that were forging together and making KKday possible.
With the rise of mobile web and devices, traveling has become a lot more spontaneous without relying on tour guides. Google Maps tells you how to get around and Yelp offers the best local restaurant recommendations. If you don’t know how to communicate with locals, don’t worry, you have the Google Translation app.
The second is the rise of low-cost airlines. Passengers no longer have to rely on travel agencies to book their flights for a better price; they can book their flights directly on a low-cost airline’s website.
The third trend is the upsurge of lodging and accommodation booking websites like Agoda, Hotels.com, and Trivago that undermine traditional travel agencies’ position in a traveler’s arrangement-making.
The last is the rise of social media and growing population of millennials. For the younger generation, the biggest priority for traveling abroad is how ‘Instagrammable’ the destination is for the pictures they take not just to look back on the memories of their trips, but to share their unique and intriguing travel experiences with their friends and followers.
With these four game changers coming together, we could see the growing trend of self-guided travel. Although it is easy to book flights and hotels online, an easy platform was lacking for tour planning and in-destination itineraries. That is what we are going after: the ‘tours and activities’ market.
We hope through a collection of highly curated experiences, KKday is able to provide travelers an avenue to find exciting off-the-grid activities and book them easily through us, making ‘travelling like a local’ easy and accessible.
Expansion And Challenges As a startup entrepreneur in Taiwan, the biggest advantage and challenge are the same for me: talent. Don’t get me wrong, Taiwan has top talents with high work ethics: from engineers, marketers, to designers and social media experts. Also, the younger generation are passionate team players who can contribute a lot to teamwork.
However, as we expand our business to 11 countries across Asia-Pacific region, the biggest challenge lies in talent recruitment. We believe that locals know best about their people, places and the language. Therefore, we insist on recruiting local people to run their markets. That is why we cannot rely only on Taiwanese talents, we need more local talents to join us. And we need A LOT – not just a squad, but an entire army!
Furthermore, it is important for us to make sure that our services can cater to local markets. With the use of AI and big data, we analyze and predict the next big travel trends in different regions and thus optimize marketing resources to always stay in-tune with the local markets.
Booming TravelTech Industry One of the most exciting things happening now in TravelTech is the fast-growing need for tours and activities packages. While people are used to booking hotels and air tickets online, almost 80% of the transactions for in-destination tours and activities are still happening offline. There is a substantial room for new technology platforms like KKday to digitize suppliers’ inventories and this is why many bigger players like Airbnb and Expedia are coming into the game.
However, three things make an in-destination TravelTech stand out. First, prompt and convenient services are TravelTechs’ best feature. Booking tours and activities has become more spontaneous with technological development. For instance, through the use of API integration and QR code redemption, KKday users can book a ticket last minute or on the spot, and get confirmation within seconds, redeeming the e-vouchers easily by mobile phones.
Second, the ability to provide personalized itineraries with the use of data. TravelTech companies now have access to a vast database of users’ behavior. We can analyze customer trends and present them with tailor-made recommendations for the next trip.
Last but not least, the ability to build up a brand identity and cultivate brand loyalty is crucial. Being in a rather fragmented market with many players, we noticed the lack of brand loyalty among customers. Building a unique identity that sets us apart from the rest is essential.
Global Brand, Local Touch The startup scene in Taiwan is very vibrant, and we are seeing more and more startups with a global business vision in mind. In addition, the time is ripe for talents to join. More young Taiwanese people are turning to startups or becoming entrepreneurs with ideas and technologies that can make a difference.
Aside from growing our business in our current markets around the Asia-Pacific region, we are also looking to expand into the United States and Europe, focusing on the Asia-travel segment. However, to excel in the global startup scene, we need more incentives and government support to attract foreign talent and investors to make Taiwan a promising Asian startup hub.
Remember that there is no such thing as ‘heroes shape time’, but only ‘time makes heroes’. A hero is a product of his time. This means you always need to be on the lookout for the trends in your industry.
With that being said, if you are certain that starting up a company is what you want to do, then start it early. Immerse yourself in that industry and accumulate knowledge and information of that field. As a result, when the wave comes, you are equipped and ready to surf.
About The Author Ming Chen is the founder and Chief Executive Officer of KKday. He has devoted himself to the online travel industry since 1999. He was one of the co-founders of eztravel.com.tw, which was established in 2000 and later acquired by Ctrip Inc. He also co-founded startravel.com.tw in 2003 and brought the company public in 2008. In 2010, Ming took the role as the General Manager of ezfly.com and led the company to become a TPEx-listed company. With over 16 years of experiences in the online travel industry, Ming Chen is undoubtedly a prominent entrepreneur with a solid foundation in the field.