If you’re thinking about travelling during what’s left of this year, consider China. Not only is it one of the largest countries in the world, with a rich history that dates back thousands of years, it is also one of the most visited countries globally. In 2014, China received upwards of 128 million inbound tourists, with more than 55 million staying at least a night. The World Tourism Organisation (WTO) has predicted that China will become the world’s largest travel destination by 2020.
Of course, that doesn’t take into account the fact that China is one of the hardest countries to visit. Its tourism landscape is tricky to navigate — with communication problems, tough regulations, and opportunistic swindlers, it’s definitely not a country that will allow you to plan as you go. A trip to China comes literally with a high barrier to entry, and with pollution and a rising yuan, many tourists are getting turned off.
Jetbay, a Singapore-based startup, wants to break down that barrier. The web-based platform was created by the entrepreneurs behind 55tuan — China’s answer to Groupon — and is dedicated to helping tourists to China find quality-assured tour packages, making their experiences in China much better. To assure the safety and legitimacy of these packages, Jetbay works with both international and local providers, curating and promoting tour packages that will enhance tourists’ experiences.
Jetbay’s founders are more than aware of the problems people face when visiting China. James Tan, COO of Jetbay, shares that one of the biggest challenges international tour companies face is that they don’t have the necessary local connections, while many Chinese travel companies are not capable of reaching out to foreign travellers. But with teams based in the US, China, and here in Singapore, and consisting of engineers and business development people from 55tuan and other leading brands in China such as Kuaidi, Jetbay is ready to change this.
“Our procurement team has decades of experience working with travel operators, and bring to Jetbay only those whom they have worked with and can deliver the kind of service that international visitors desire,” said James. “We try to under-promise and over-deliver.”
Of course, the process isn’t so simple. Some of Jetbay’s toughest challenges include trying to work with the laws and regulations in China, as well as balancing the price and quality of the products and services available. With an international team, Jetbay also requires intense amounts of communication, which they tackle with Chinese tools like QQ and Google Apps for their email and documents.
The company launched its global site just a few months ago, and they have now launched their Singapore site to cater to Singaporeans who wish to see more of the Asian Giant. Users can go directly into their site to browse available tours with price transparency, a fully planned itinerary, and food recommendations. The only thing missing from the website is flight bookings, which is something they are planning for.
Being the first of many markets that Jetbay will be localising in, the Singapore site will be staffed by a local team, and be equipped with local payment options like eNETS and Xfers, a hotline, as well as deals with several partners including Deals.com.sg. The tours and packages will be tailored specifically to suit Singaporean tastes, and are each accompanied by high-resolution photographs of food and landmarks — enough to give any travel enthusiast a severe case of wanderlust.
Eventually, Jetbay will be looking to expand into more markets. They currently have 17 main markets identified, with South Korea, Japan and Russia taking the lead.
A country-specific site like Jetbay may seem odd in a landscape of TripAdvisors, KAYAKs, or Expedias, but a unique country like China needs a special type of expertise — a local connection with an international voice. It’s a very specific voice that is adamant to share that “travelling to China can be as comfortable as travelling to other great places around the world such as France or the United States”, and with a site like Jetbay, we’re tempted to believe them.