Baolau, described as a “multi-model travel search engine”, is a Vietnamese travel search engine founded by Spanish expatriates Alberto Moreno and Miguel Garcia.
Baolau aggregates and lists the details such as dates and times of train, car and plane departures, as well as provides online booking service. Also, one can search and compare flights of different domestic airlines: Vietnam Airlines, Jetstar and VietJet Air. Considering that foreign tourists extensively use public transport to move around the country, but face a language barrier, Baolau.vn offers multiple language options including English.
Moreno explained, “Baolau.vn provides domestic and international visitors an opportunity to search and plan their travel more conveniently, so that they no longer have to think in advance while travelling by plane, bus, car, train or ferry. They just need to find Baolau.vn and then select and book a convenient way.”
A recent deal Baolau.vn recently concluded a deal with Click1Bus, a Vietnamese bus ticket booking portal. This new deal lets the site publish schedule information and online bookings for Mai Linh, one of the major transport companies in Vietnam. This will be in addition to listings of flight, train and ferry information already available on Baolau.
However, this deal puts Baolau.vn in competition with VeXeRe, a Vietnamese bus ticketing site. Moreno, though, does not look at this as a problem. Since buses play a major role in the Vietnamese inter-city transportation, he feels there is a need to contact different private firms operating on regional and national bus routes and evaluate their support for online bookings.
How the idea emerged
“Baolau operates similar to other transport search engines available in many countries in Asia. I lived in Japan for three years while I was studying a Master of Engineering, and I found this kind of online information services (e.g. Hyperdia, Jorudan) to be very useful and convenient for people using the railway network, whether it is in real-time or in advance, to plan a trip,” said Moreno.
After graduation, Moreno sought employment in Vietnam and realised no such service catered to the Vietnamese market. With most Vietnamese travelling by public transport — airplane, train, bus and ferry — Moreno saw the opportunity to organise and consolidate all the information of schedules and fares of different means of transport in one place.
Moreno had first come to Vietnam in 2007 on a one-year programme for the Spanish Embassy, which gave him the opportunity to explore the local market. During this time, he studied the potential of its tourism and transport sectors, as well as its language and culture.
Baolau.vn is also in the process of negotiating with other bus companies to include them in the transport search engine. This will allow users to compare their ticket fares, akin to the way domestic airline tickets are compared. The company is also officially co-operating with Vietnam Railways, looking to bring schedules and fares online, to promote Vietnamese railway transportation.
With the growth in tourist traffic year-on-year, the state-owned railways provide a high-volume and low-cost transport solution for inter-city transportation. With 108 stations and running from the north to the south, it connects all major cities within Vietnam, from Hanoi in the North to Saigon in the South.
Asked to comment about the difficulties of dealmaking with Vietnamese companies, Moreno shared, “Negotiating with local companies in Vietnam is quite challenging, especially when you fail to talk to them in their own language and try to approach with innovative ideas. Most of the transport companies still have the mentality of the traditional market, selling physical tickets and getting paid in cash. They don’t really understand the benefits of participating in e-commerce or doing online marketing to get more customers.” He concluded saying that in the face of all this, Baolau.vn has been fortunate to find partners willing to disrupt the travel industry in the country.