Entrepreneur

COVID-19: How Travel Startup Klook Is Gearing Up For Business As S'pore Eases Travel Bans

Back in April, Hong Kong-based travel startup Klook announced that they were laying off staff, putting some employees on temporary leave and implementing a company-wide reduced work week to cut costs amid the pandemic.

In addition, all three of the company’s co-founders will be foregoing their pay until this Covid-19 crisis blows over, and its leadership team has also taken voluntary pay cuts.

Fast forward to today, Klook is now focusing on recovering its business and has embarked on efforts to empower merchants to navigate through this challenging period.

In this interview, Sarah Wan, Klook’s Southeast Asia marketing director, shared with us how the firm plans to ease back into business as global market conditions gradually improve and as travel bans get progressively lifted.

Expanding Into Local Experiences Based On Successful Pilots

Based on the search data in April across Asia Pacific (APAC) and Europe that Klook shared with us, about 60 per cent of the total number of searches are related to domestic experiences,

This indicates that interest for domestic experiences is on the rise.

Most notably, in markets where recovery is on the mend such as Taiwan and Australia, about 80 per cent of searches were purely domestic in April. Hong Kong observed a similar trend, with 70 per cent of its total searches solely on domestic experiences.

Based on these gathered data, Klook piloted a curated list of local, unique experiences ranging from outdoor tours and activities in South Korea and mainland China in the same month.

The response was very positive, with the number of bookings in South Korea and mainland China increasing by almost two-fold and four-fold month-on-month respectively.

To add on, as international travel has yet to resume, Klook has launched a new home-based experiences initiative called Klook Home in 14 markets within APAC and Europe.

Starting with local experiences (home-based experiences; weekend things-to-do within the city, and domestic travel experiences), we aim to capture local demand first and will launch offerings based on intra-regional travel corridors as global market conditions gradually improve and travel restrictions ease.

– Sarah Wan, Southeast Asia Marketing Director, Klook

The initiative will be rolled out based on the unique needs and conditions of
each market.

Klook is positive that such home-based activities will appeal to markets with stay-home regulations such as Singapore and the Philippines, while markets that have eased stay-home orders such as Taiwan and Hong Kong will be interested in Klook’s list of local activities within the city or other cities.

So far, there are almost 200 home-based experiences on Klook Home such as Do-It-Yourself (DIY) craft and cooking kits, online workshops, as well as free virtual tours.

Image Credit: Klook

Specific to Singapore, they have seen significant interest towards offerings such as DIY meal kits, DIY bubble tea kits and flower arrangement courses.

It’s safe to assume that many Singaporeans are whipping up their own home-cooked meals, satisfying their boba needs as standalone bubble tea stores are still closed islandwide, and taking up a new hobby to curb their boredom as they are confined to their own homes.

Screengrab of Klook Home / Image Credit: Klook

According to Sarah, there has been much interest in the free virtual tours that take users across continents for exclusive interactive tours of famous landmarks like Casa Batllo in Barcelona and even popular filming locations like the Old Royal Navy College in Greenwich, London.

We observed almost 225,000 views across the globe for our first-ever virtual interactive experience — Casa Batllo in Barcelona on June 30.

– Sarah Wan, Southeast Asia Marketing Director, Klook

This is not surprising as individuals around the world are craving for travel and missing their favourite landmarks while on lockdowns, and virtual tours are the next best thing they can get.

New Product Categories Such As ‘‘Outdoors’ and ‘At The Sea’

Klook has also recently launched new product categories such as ‘‘Outdoors’ and ‘At The Sea’ on the platform, which focuses on outdoor adventures.

According to Klook, even before COVID-19, adventure and outdoor activities bookings surged globally by three times and this is expected to continue in 2020 as travellers seek the outdoors to avoid large crowds.

As the focus on physical distancing increases, travellers may also be looking to avoid high density areas. There has been an upward trend in online searches for outdoor activities such as cycling, kayaking and hiking.

– Sarah Wan, Southeast Asia Marketing Director, Klook

They have also launched a private car rental page last month to cater to travellers who prefer to explore the open road in small groups.

Sarah said that with the increased emphasis on hygiene and public health and safety, in markets where domestic travel has started to resume, they are working closely with local merchants to implement a higher standard of sanitisation across local attractions, theme parks and tours.

For example, in Thailand, the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT)
launched a certification for merchants to meet enhanced health and safety standards.

We worked closely with the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) and our merchants to ensure that they received the certification.

– Sarah Wan, Southeast Asia Marketing Director, Klook

Bringing Offline Travel Operators Online

In Taiwan, Klook partnered with the local governments of Tainan and Pingtung in March and May respectively to help traditionally offline merchants digitise their offerings.

In addition, the company rolled out Klook Partners Hub, a resource centre to help merchants keep up to date with the market situation and access best practices and insights from the travel industry and Klook’s platform.

We are able to leverage our global network to share insights and best practices from early re-opened markets with other merchants in different regions.

– Sarah Wan, Southeast Asia Marketing Director, Klook

It is also launching Klook Academy that will offer workshops and webinars touching on a wide range of topics that can help their businesses, ranging from marketing to operational excellence.

Second Phase To Target Regional Travel

All of these measures are just the first phase of Klook’s “global multi-stage recovery approach”, according to Sarah.

Klook aims to capture local demand first, followed by offerings based on
intra-regional travel corridors, as global market conditions gradually improve and travel restrictions ease.

As a business, now is the time to go back to your roots – what this means is that you have to address the pain points of your users, especially in this new environment.

The travel industry must adapt, innovate and even reinvent how travel is done. If they do not, they will risk falling behind.

– Sarah Wan, Southeast Asia Marketing Director, Klook

As travelers across the globe increasingly seek more hyper-local and unique experiences, the curation of local experiences for domestic travelers will help pave the way in providing a wider range of offerings for both intra-regional and overseas travellers in the future.

Featured Image Credit: Klook

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