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The Insider Secrets & Story of Hong Kong traveltech startup Klook Discovered

An interview with Eric Gnock Fah, President & Co-founder of Klook (Part 1)

Ever since I used its WiFi egg on my first solo trip to South Korea, I became a fan of this travel tech startup. It is my great pleasure to interview Eric Gnock Fah, President & Co-founder of Klook Travel.

From WiFi egg to reserving a ticket for Universal Studios Osaka, it has always been a pleasant and seamless experience using the platform. I kept wondering, how does this company seem to know exactly what I want? It is because Klook came from their own travelling experiences.

“The idea of Klook came from a trip to Nepal a few years ago where all the inconvenience of planning and price comparison lead my co-founder, Ethan Lin, and I to wonder if there could be an online platform that can resolve the pain-points we experienced as free independent travellers,” Eric said.

Founded in 2014, Klook is a Hong Kong-based travel tech startup that offers travellers a simple way to discover and book attractions, local experience and services at an exclusive price. While other online travel agencies offer flight and hotel reservation services, Klook takes care of travellers’ in-destination needs, offering travel activities from local transportation, attraction tickets, to day tours and outdoor excursions.

Biggest challenge when starting up Klook

Although they had a great idea in mind, Eric said it wasn’t smooth sailing for them when Klook first started. As a marketplace, building the supply of activities was one of the first challenges for Klook.

“The travel activity space is a lot more segmented compared to hotels and airlines. The need to communicate with more and wider arrays of suppliers to form direct partnerships was challenging in the beginning,” Eric said. “However, partnering directly with suppliers also brought a longer-term competitive advantage, which includes having better prices, a seamless integration for better user experience, and higher efficiency for suppliers.”

Like any other new business, it is hard to get the idea off the ground. “Back in 2014, there were only few travel service providers who knew about our platforms. We were literally knocking on their doors cold, hoping to form partnerships,” the co-founder said.

“Patience, persistence and perspiration make an unbeatable combination for success.” Napoleon Hill

To overcome the challenge, Eric said it is crucial to stay persistent. Besides staying well-prepared, it is also of vital importance to create your opportunities. Eric and his partner did whatever it took to talk to potential partners, which included reaching out to partners cold, leveraging connections for introductions, and running offline promotional events to draw attention.

Marketing strategy of a travel marketplace

Klook offers close to 30,000 attractions, tours and activities in over 120 destinations worldwide. How does Klook devise a marketing strategy and online presence?

Localization beyond language

Localization is the key to going global. With users from over 50 nationalities, Eric says it is important to reach out to customers in their own language and adapt to their culture. From the language adaptation to copywriting and special offering, Klook varies its presentation on the website or app in different countries.

While local marketing teams provide feedback on the trends and preferences in different locations, the business development team at Klook respond accordingly and accommodate these preferences to cater to each market’s lifestyle and interests.

“Localization is not only about language, it’s about creating experiences that truly fit in local markets’ needs from content, offerings, payment method, to user experience design,” Eric said.

Content marketing

Quality content attracts users and generates leads for Klook via social media channels and organic search. Besides providing a wide variety of attractions on the platform, Klook creates high-quality content like online travel guides, photos and videos. Content marketing helps Klook build brand awareness and generate leads. On the other hand, Klook partners with online influencers including bloggers, vloggers and Instagrammers to reach a wider range of audience.

Technology investment to better user experience

Klook raised close to US$60 million in Series C funding in October 2017, and plans to invest this capital to power its travel technology development. In particular, they plan to adapt AI to offer better search and booking experience in various areas.

Smart search

Klook wants to enable visual and vocal search to cater the needs of spontaneous travellers, allowing them to search for activities using pictures or vocal commands in the future.

Smart recommendations

With over 1 million monthly bookings on the platform, Klook has an advantage on getting insights from customer behaviour. The startup plans to make use of their data sets and offer more targeted and curated recommendations to users.

Advice to aspiring entrepreneurs

Dream Big Start Small

Every entrepreneur dreams about making it big, but that doesn’t mean you have to start big. In fact, in order to scale, Eric said people need to keep their focus on doing one thing, and be great at it.

“We’ve never lost our focus as we only do one thing: we are a travel activities booking service. This mindset allows us to fully concentrate on what we do and continuously optimize our services, which is really how Klook has got this far today.”

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