There hasn’t really been a dull day for local travel startup LokaLocal since their beginnings.
Throughout the past year, the team now comprised of 11 members have been hustling hard in making a mark with their name within the local travelling community.
After matching several Malaysians with the many local gems we have in our country, LokaLocal is now seeing the bigger picture of Southeast Asia and how they can play a role in it. Guess it helps that Tourism Selangor is now officially working with them too.
We recently got to sit down and chat with co-founder Chin Yoon Khen, who shared with us the travel his team has traversed through so far and the expansion plans they’ve booked ahead.
1) Coming up with new features for their platform.
Since their launch, their website has seen a few upgrades in terms of added features for their users.
One of them includes a live chat box which is meant to help their customers receive support when using the platform.
“We also added a chat messaging system to improve communication and convenience between travelers and local experts. After a tour is booked, they can send each other messages through the platform, enabling them to make enquiries or arrangements with the advantage of third-party transparency,” said LokaLocal to Vulcan Post.
If you’ve been using their service from the beginning, you’re probably most familiar with their website. That is currently their main mode of service and has been for a while but by the end of the year, they’re planning on launching their own native app.
2) Going for that personal approach.
Another trend Khen took note of was the type of engagement.
It wasn’t enough to just have products listed on their site. If they wanted to attract more people, they needed to really get down and understand what these tourists wanted to see.
“So we started publishing albums with pretty photos for people to like and share on social media. We also started our feature tour which was a good way to promote the packages we wanted to highlight,” said Khen.
When Khen told me more about the feature tour, I was intrigued.
Essentially it’s an opportunity for people who enjoy travelling to go on the tours selected by LokaLocal and get a chance to write their experience for others to read.
Alongside that, there was a photography programme to match these writers with those who could take photos for them.
“Since I used to be a photographer, I need quality photos to promote our packages. So we set up this photo programme to find people. I think it’s cool that if you’re a photographer or even a writer, LokaLocal can match you with local experts for you to write a review and take photos to be used to promote,” said Khen.
3) Working hand in hand with the gov.
Living up to the “local” part of their name, LokaLocal wanted to further their service more. So they decided to take that big step of talking to the big boys.
In April, they got official support from Tourism Selangor to work together and improve the rural tourism side. They did this mainly by engaging local experts and involving them on their platform to become licensed tour guides.
“Tourism Selangor saw our solution of bridging the gap between tour guides and the local community. They were open to our idea of having these guides follow a licensed procedure and be official,” said Khen.
I asked if there was any differences after officially working with Tourism Selangor, to which Khen said yes. Travel agencies were way more open in working with them and LokaLocal got to tap into different local agents to discover all the local hidden gems.
“In Selangor itself, every area has its own local council with a list of travel agencies and communities. This group handles their own homestay programmes to promote their own village. So we can use this network to create our own product and build good branding,” said Khen.
Tourism Selangor scored a win too, when LokaLocal helped to promote their free tour called the “Royal Klang Heritage Walk”. After putting it as a feature tour, it was sold out within 3 hours with participants coming from various countries like Yemen, UK, Jakarta, and Japan.
“When we presented the results to Tourism Selangor, they were very pleased. Even when they were giving it for free, no one really knew about it. So now we are talking with homestay owners to bring their packaged tours to our platform.”
“Eventually, we want to be an enabler in this industry and work with travel agencies as well as local experts to become the voice of the locals to the government.”
– Chin Yoon Khen
Besides Selangor, LokaLocal is now working with Penang Global Tourism to also take on homestay owners from Penang who are able to offer nostalgic kampung experiences on the island.
4) Going beyond Malaysian shores.
When talking about expansion, Khen said he saw a bright future with their eyes already set on 4 countries.
LokaLocal attended the Mekong Tourism Forum back in June where the team pitched in the MIST Mekong Innovative Startup Tourism Accelerator programme held in Luang Prabang, Laos. This event focuses on 6 countries Cambodia, China, Laos, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Thailand.
They managed to snag the Best Social Impact Award, which grants them market access into Laos where they will be working with Mekong Tourism closely for future plans. LokaLocal also shared they plan to expand into Cambodia too.
“The accelerator had already invited all their tour agencies with trusted guides there so it will be easier to approach them directly rather than finding them ourselves.”
“Winning the award has definitely cemented our stance to help our local experts improve their outreach, especially for foreign travelers. We have gotten more exposure amongst tourism players in the Mekong, which would help us as we expand into the region,” said LokaLocal.
LokaLocal has been talking with selected travel agencies and key players in Malaysia that can provide benefits in the long run. They’re also looking to participate in the K-Startup Grand Challenge 2017, which will enable them to explore the experiential tourism scene there and perhaps expand into South Korea.
“Eventually, I hope to see this platform helping Malaysia brand itself as a travel hub by reaching out to these partners and working with them. This is how we want to brand ourselves,” said Khen.
This article was written in collaboration with LokaLocal.
In celebration of our national day, LokaLocal is collaborating with Maxis where MyMaxis Deals can get RM60 off selected local experiences if you book by 30 September 2017 and travel by 31 December 2017. To find out more, you can click here.
Feature Image Credit: LokaLocal