WEGOGO connects travel hosts with Chinese travellers on WeChat

A Singapore and Shanghai-based travel startup has created a business platform on WeChat to enable global tours operators and travel hosts to connect with mobile-savvy Chinese consumers.

Founded in January last year, WEGOGO has launched its services to businesses in Gili Islands and Singapore so far. It is slated to launch in China by the third quarter. Described as a “social discovery AI (artificial intelligence) travel platform for sophisticated Chinese travellers,” WEGOGO focuses on the use of AI to match users with relevant travel hosts, marketing their services directly to them. It uses contextual cues (such as a user’s search history) to model their unique ‘digital imprint’. This information can then help to predict what type of ‘experience’ a traveller is likely looking for. By doing so, WEGOGO hopes to connect smaller tour operators with the booming Chinese outbound travel market (with 200 million outbound travellers predicted by 2020).

“We’re trying to build a platform for understanding the Chinese traveller… anyone (an operator, a guide) should be able to tap into this and make yourself more relevant,” said Wong Toon King (TK), chairman of WEGOGO. It is an attempt to “level the playing field” between smaller operators and bigger players, as strategic advisor Reene Ho-Phang highlighted the reality that many local hosts do not have “the muscle and technology to aim at a global market”.

WEGOGO is backed by a group of private investors led by Wong, who is the managing director of FarSight Capital, and has provided the startup with US$500,000 in angel funding.

WEGOGO Platform | Startup | WIT

WEGOGO will not solely rely on AI to identify what users want. To address the shift in Chinese traveller preferences from being ‘destination-centric’ to ‘experiential tourism’, it will create video content to engage consumers on an emotional level.

Richard Tan Boon Piew, co-founder and COO, emphasised the importance of using storytelling to encourage consumers to go out and discover these unique places.

“We need to go in and find the story to tell… different operators can express their love for that they do. We’re trying to find gems, we don’t need a laundry list of operators.”

WEGOGO also has a “Pathfinders Programme” where bloggers and influencers share their experiences on the platform.

Registration is straightforward and free for travel hosts. Then they are issued a QR code that directs consumers to their micro-site.

Travel hosts can also take charge of their own marketing and promotions on WEGOGO, communicate with prospective customers directly, and conduct all payments online via WePay.

Therefore, virtually every stage of travel (with the exception of ‘experiencing’) can occur within the realm of WeChat.

WEGOGO earns a service fee from providers, but the initial sign up is free. They also use sponsored content.

One critical consideration is how WEGOGO plans to provide quality assurance and a sense of security for its customers, especially as the number of businesses on the platform increases.

Ho-Phang suggests that it can largely be left up to the operators who sign on to WEGOGO, as they are able to share tips and important information with customers before they travel. “This is their area [of expertise]…so they can inform travellers what to look out for.”

Mak believes that the existence of a rating and review system can help customers make their choices. “We can also give some providers WEGOGO verification,” Tan added.

While there are over 630 million users on WeChat (and counting) in China, one potential stumbling block could be how aware international travel hosts are of the social networking app in the first place, as WeChat has struggled in its efforts to go global.

Wong remains optimistic that hosts will readily adopt WeChat once they understand the benefits of WEGOGO for their business.

Source: WEGOGO connects travel hosts with Chinese travellers on WeChat

Southeast Asia Grows Faster – PATA

In 2013, visitor arrivals to Asia reached a total of 385 million with a collective growth of 5.5% over the previous year, dominated by Southeast Asia’s growth of 10.5%. Despite a continued drop of China’s arrivals (2.5% in 2013), arrivals to Northeast Asia reached 243 million, nearly one-third of Asia’s total.Image

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The Rise of the Young Asian Traveller

pata logoUnderstanding the travel habits of ‘Asian millennials’ is essential to understanding the business, family, or senior traveller of tomorrow. That was the message from the PATA seminar, ‘The Rise of the Young Asian Traveller’ which was held March 5 at ITB Berlin. In a panel moderated by Peter Jordan, PATA In-house consultant, the audience heard from Pyung-sup Shin, Executive Director for Overseas Marketing of the Korea National Tourism Organization on the successful 2012 ‘Touch Korea Tour’ campaign and how it drew interest from thousands of potential young visitors from around the world. High-value Asian students studying in Europe were the focus of comments by Thibault Ruffat, Head of European Tourism for ChicOutlet Shopping. He emphasized that it was not just young Chinese visitors who were shopping in Europe, but Indonesian and Korean tourists too. Charlie Ballard, Director of Research for TripAdvisor, described how according to the company’s research, travellers from the Asia Pacific region were highly attracted to specific cultural attractions and the possibility of having fun. He also described how domestic travel was still high on the agenda for many travellers in Asia.

Ivy Chee, PATA Regional Director – East Asia, told the audience that PATA will continue to build its ‘Next Gen’ initiatives. Currently, 11 PATA Student Chapters have been established in Asia. The PATA Face of the Future award recognizes rising stars of the travel industry. In addition, the Association has launched the PATA Internship Associate Programme.

PATA is currently collecting data on the travel habits of young Asian consumers through an online survey, available online until March 21, 2014. The survey is available to complete in English, Chinese (Mandarin), Japanese, Korean and Thai. Participants can enter a draw to win great prizes, sponsored by Tourism Malaysia and Aloft Hotel – Sukhumvit 11 Bangkok.

The report on young Asians’ travel habits will be released this April.

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