If we were to hand you a wad of cash to go on a crazy, extreme adventure this year—where’s the first place that comes to mind?
If your answer is anywhere outside of Southeeast Asia, this startup challenges you to reconsider.
“Southeast Asia is blessed with great climate all-around. The temperature of rivers and sea waters are perfect to jump in anytime, we’re home to many species of flora and fauna. We can go outdoor almost every day!”Ken Lau, founder and CEO, Adventoro.
This is what Ken Lau, the sole founder of Adventoro, a platform for booking adventure based experiences all around SEA, told us.
At the moment of writing, Adventoro lists 1,600 tours and activities across 6 SEA countries. This includes Malaysia, Singapore, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, and Thailand.
Exploring The Unexplored
Like most great beginnings, Adventoro was initially an idea born out of sheer frustration.
“Adventoro started from planning an adventure for my friends. We contacted a local operator in Gopeng for a white water rafting activity, but it took them more than 10 days to confirm the trip,” said Ken.
“I thought that there has to be a better way to manage this.”
And Ken was right. After building a Shopify site in about a week, Adventoro had already started generating a few thousands’ worth in sales a month.
All of this was in 2016, when Adventoro was run by a small team, and only on a part-time basis.
In 2017, Ken took the dive full-time into Adventoro and began exploring the SEA adventure scene.
When asked about his take on the traditional way people book adventure based experiences (one way being Airbnb), Ken explained that they want to bring something fresh to the table.
“As far as I know, Airbnb focuses on consumer-to-consumer (C2C) adventures. For us, we try very hard to not go down this path,” Ken explained.
“Our guides need to be licensed, and ours are generally geared towards outdoor-ish activities compared to Airbnb’s urban-centric ones.”
Currently, Adventoro curates their listing of adventures in two ways: either by researching potential licensed operators (those who provide these experiences), or through word of mouth from existing ones.
Once a connection is established, the operators need only share information and images with them. Everything else, including content building and marketing, are handled by the team.
He mentioned that there are challenges that arise while listing operators around countries like Thailand due to the language barrier, but they are usually solved once the Adventoro team pays them a visit in their office.
Above all, Ken stressed that all of their adventures are vetted thoroughly for customer safety.
“We do quite a bit of desktop research about finding the right adventure. We have been approached many times before (by operators without a proper license) but decided against it, even if there is a demand for that activity,” said Ken.
All of their guides are equipped with the necessary knowledge and skills in the event of emergencies, and they also send as many of their own members to experience the tour itself as much as possible.
Despite the digitisation of their platform, Ken still understands the importance of personal touch.
“This is why we offer the concierge service, where customers can call or WhatsApp message us. A large percentage of our customers still do contact us prior to booking a tour,” added Ken.
Journey Across The ‘SEA’s
Some of their most popular experiences include Mount Kinabalu hiking, Langkawi island activities, and Cameron Highland activities.
According to Ken, places that are “good for Instagram” do pretty well too.
“Approximately two-thirds of our customers are in-bound into Malaysia (hailing everywhere from Australia to Japan). They’re mainly millennials between the ages of 20 to 36, and seek unique adventures that are IG-friendly,” explained Ken.
Ken’s drive for Adventoro even led the startup to bag awards from Mekong Innovation Startup for Tourism (MIST) in 2018.
“Still, we are focused on increasing our inventory in SEA, and to introduce adventures from other countries like Myanmar and Cambodia to the platform,” he explained.
When asked about future plans for the next 2 years, Ken stressed the importance of exposure above all, saying, “Right now, we’re focused on establishing ourselves as the go-to platform for adventure tourism in the region.”
“We have done it well in Malaysia and hope to replicate this across the whole of SEA.”
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Featured Image Credit: Adventoro