By Highways and Byways
Reinventing experiential travel with TripGuru
By Khadija Azhar
While most travel brochures are littered with luxury resorts and popular tourist attractions, globetrotting millennials are itching for more unique experiences that offer just as much fulfillment as relaxation.
Hong Kong-based tour booking platform TripGuru harnesses local knowledge to provide customers with one-of-a-kind travel experiences in 40 different destinations around the world. Positioned at the nexus of their business model is an appreciation for personal connections, and a vision to empower local communities that are often exploited by the industry.
Since founding in 2015, the platform has received support from Betatron’s accelerator and recently raised a Series A funding round backed by Catalyst Ventures. With over 30,000 successful bookings and US$1 million in sales, the company has cemented partnerships with travel giants Expedia, Airbnb, and TripAdvisor.
Co-founder Sebastian Renzacci breaks down the startup’s journey and how it’s carving a space for itself in the industry.
What is TripGuru’s founding story?
I encountered several challenges traveling alone through Asia during my corporate days. Suppliers were offline, and they always required a minimum number of participants.
My business partner Francesco and I saw there was a huge market opportunity with rising demand in travel experiences. Personally speaking, I always wanted to be an entrepreneur. My grandfather and father were entrepreneurs, as well. I would say it’s in my blood.
Why did you choose to headquarter your business in Hong Kong?
Over the last few years, the government started giving the right attention to Hong Kong’s startup scene. We gained access to government support, incubation and acceleration programs, and our first angel investors. Some would say we were at the right place at the right time.
TripGuru’s business model revolves around personalization and forming social connections. Why are they so important?
Today’s consumers are looking more and more for experiences that are unique and make them feel connected to the destination, local culture, people, and food.
We personalize our products as much as possible, creating itineraries based on data and trends about the target market and curating travel groups based on demographics that have proven to work. You don’t realize it when you’re on our tours, but we did all the work behind the scenes, so you have a great day.
How does technology help TripGuru achieve its mission?
Our vision is to make booking tours as simple as booking tickets to the movies. We want to make the experience seamless and bring in the technology to reduce cut-off times, so you can book a tour a few hours before it starts.
We’re also developing an app for our tour guides that will be connected to our reservation system. This helps you to track them in real-time like you would do an Uber or Grab driver.
What trends do you see emerging for the travel industry in the next decade?
I think travel will be even more affordable and logistically accessible thanks to new routes, infrastructure, access to data, and money. I see a future with fewer obstacles in terms of immigration and visa processes. Everything will be digitized.
New destinations and markets will emerge, as well. People don’t just want to go to Paris or Bangkok anymore. They want to go to what are currently tier two or three destinations.
I think solo travel will also increase by a lot thanks to more access to information, and social networks to connect with people in different places. Finally, more instant, on-demand services like TripGuru.