While many of us like to travel for leisure, planning a trip can be stressful. One of the top challenges, especially for trips in Asia Pacific, is finding a credible local activity provider and making a booking easily, as many such merchants have yet to digitise their business. This inspired Eric Gnock Fah to co-found the travel experiences booking platform Klook in 2014.
“The idea of Klook started in 2013 when my co-founder Ethan Lin and I were on a trip to Nepal. We faced all sorts of challenges and frustrations comparing tour activities, prices, and even having enough local currency to pay for local experiences,” Gnock Fah tells DigitalEdge.
He continues: “Most hyper-local small travel merchants often lacked the technical expertise and capital to digitise their businesses. So before we entered the game, online booking systems and global marketing campaigns were far beyond the reach of those mom-and-pop merchants.”
This is why Klook was designed as a single platform that removes language barriers, introduces price transparency and enables travellers to make payments seamlessly and safely. “Our purpose has always been to inspire and enable more joyful experiences,” says Gnock Fah.
Shifting gears during the pandemic
The travel industry was hit hard by the Covid-19 border restrictions, and Klook was no exception. But the company took it as a sign to shift gears and find opportunities in new areas.
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“We were proud of our global set-up before the pandemic that allowed us to scale across many markets. However, we had to restructure the company overnight into a hyper-localised set-up to empower our local teams to be more autonomous and quicker on execution [during the pandemic]. This set-up put us in a great position as we built out our new engine of growth — domestic tourism — as borders remained closed,” says Gnock Fah.
Klook introduced staycations, car rentals, cruises and travel insurance to encourage domestic tourism. “This pivot proved to be successful. We surpassed our 2019 revenue in 2021 on domestic travel alone, with monthly active users exceeding pre-Covid levels. We also completed our most recent Series E funding during the height of the pandemic. We raised an additional US$200 million ($269 million), reiterating the confidence and bullishness in our business and the travel industry as a whole,” says Gnock Fah.
The pivot, he adds, enabled Klook to offer international tourists more hyper-local activities as travel restrictions were loosened too. The platform offers over 490,000 experiences (including tours, attractions and hotels) to more than 30 million visitors monthly.
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The resurgence of travel has been nothing short of extraordinary — we just had one of our strongest quarters yet, with over 300% q-o-q growth. With North Asia loosening travel restrictions, we see the light at the end of the tunnel. We’ll continue to focus on domestic and international travel, our twin engines of growth.
Eric Gnock Fah, COO and co-founder, Klook
According to Klook’s Travelsilience survey conducted last November, Singaporeans are excited to travel despite concerns such as travel costs and the possibility of catching Covid-19. One in three have already booked a holiday for this year, and 40% intend to spend more on travel.
“After two years of being grounded, travel is now an experience that people treasure more than ever before, and this is clear from our survey data. 2023 will be the Year of Travelsilience [travel and resilience], where travellers pursue travel to create new memorable experiences, despite all struggles and any headwinds,” claims Marcus Yong, Klook’s vice president of global marketing.
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In light of this, Klook will continue to upgrade its platform. Gnock Fah shares: “For example, we have just re-engineered our destination discovery feed to be powered by user-generated content from our repository of over seven million verified user reviews. We are also rolling out a new Trips feature, which allows our customers to automatically generate personalised trip itineraries that they can share easily with friends and family.”
He adds: “Additionally, Klook has been collaborating with tourism boards on multi-faceted partnerships to rebuild travel confidence and accelerate tourism recovery. These collaborations include creating engaging content to rekindle wanderlust, co-curating and co-developing new and unique experiences to cater to changing consumer behaviours, and creative regional marketing campaigns to encourage and capture consumers’ desires to travel again.”
Among the most recent partnerships are those with the Singapore Tourism Board (STB), the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Korea Tourism Organization, and Tourism Australia.
Specific to the partnership with STB, Klook has planned a series of content produced with in-market influencers/ key opinion leaders, giveaways, special deals, and five unique landing pages to enable visitors in Southeast Asia to discover and book their trip to Singapore seamlessly. Visitors can also select from more than five Klook-exclusive multi-passes that centre around attractions, wildlife, playgrounds, adventure and wellness.
“We will continue to push boundaries and strive to be the catalyst for tourism recovery in the region. We are going to go deeper to transform the experience space, creating new things for both locals and tourists to do. [This includes] bringing in well-known IPs such as Avatar at Gardens by The Bay, creating Klook-exclusive experiences, curating interesting product combinations such as themed staycations like Jurassic World x Hard Rock Hotel, and extending our coverage to more local culture and hidden gems,” concludes Gnock Fah.