Chilling by the beach

The travel industry is on an upsurge, making up about nine percent of the global GDP, according to Forbes. The increasing affluence of the middle class and relaxed visa rules are helping to drive this growth. But another factor is playing a big role in driving innovation and boosting this burgeoning sector – travel tech.

Over the last decade, we have seen the rise of many web- and mobile-based travel service platforms. Some of these startups have blossomed into mega companies, offering an assortment of services (some, only made possible through technology), becoming indispensable tools for millions of travellers.

US-based travel guide platform TripAdvisor, which operates in 45 countries  covering 4.5 million accommodations, experienced 2.5 billion visitors and gained US$1.246 billion in revenue in 2014. US-based home-sharing platform Airbnb has had two million listings in over 190 countries, garnering US$900 million in revenue last year.

Also Read: China’s Ctrip eyes Indian travel market with US$180M funding in MakeMyTrip

But the scope of the travel industry’s needs is broad, and a few smaller startups have risen up to tackle these unique pain points. Here are five Asia-based ones that you need to check out.

1. Voyagin (Japan)

The Japan-based online travel discovery and booking portal Voyagin — acquired by Japanese e-commerce giant in June 2015 Rakuten — helps travellers book museum or show tickets, curated tours or activities based on their preferences, and private guides, with the aim of creating a unique travel experience compared to traditional group tours. Some of these experiences include paragliding in Okinawa, fishing at Miyako island, and more off-the-beat stuff such as spending one day on an uninhabited island in Okinawa’s ocean.

Users can also sign up as hosts for travellers, offering their own unique experiences to earn a little income on the side.

Currently, its services are only available in Asia, spanning seven countries including Indonesia, Singapore, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Vietnam, Japan and Thailand. It claims to have processed more than 30,000 users to date.

2. TakeMeTour – Thailand

Founded in 2014, the Thailand-based online marketplace wants travellers to experience the country through the eyes of its citizens. So it matches travellers to one day tours designed by locals (or what TakeMeTour terms as “local experts”).

Also Read: Malaysia’s Khazanah, Yahoo Japan invest in travel search engine Skyscanner

Currently, it is only available in Thailand, covering 33 destinations, and has over 6,000 registered local experts on its platform.

3. Tripviss (Malaysia)

Launched only last year by Founder Jacky Chan, this online marketplace connects tour operators with travellers, offering more than 2,000 tours in 150 cities across 50 countries.

What is unique about this platform is the kind of categories available. In addition to the usual adventure tourism and diving trips, it also caters to the religious tourists – offering Umrah and Haj tours.

4. KKday (Taiwan)

Launched in 2014, the Taiwan-based startup connects travellers with local experts and tour operators to provide specialised tours. Operating in 53 cities across 170 countries, it offers over 3,000 different kinds of tours. You can opt for a balloon ride in Turkey for around US$200, or a ticket to see a Lakers game at US$80.

5. Pytheas (Singapore)

The four-year-old startup wants to help tour operators innovate their business model through technology.

Its product, Travel Cloud, is a cloud-based business platform, allowing clients to manage sales and customer engagement across all web, mobile and social media platforms.

Image Credit: Shutterstock

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