- [email protected] Palace finalist aims to fill missing link between flight and hotel bookings
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KUALA Lumpur-based startup incubator and accelerator Tune Labs has made a “strategic investment” of an undisclosed amount into travel planning platform Touristly.
This comes in the wake of Touristly being a finalist at [email protected] Malaysia, organised by Tune Labs in partnership with The Duke of York and AirAsia. The travel startup will get to pitch at the global [email protected] event at St James’ Palace in the United Kingdom in December.
Both AirAsia and Tune Labs are part of the Tune Group. In a statement, Touristly noted that the Tune Group and AirAsia have links to the hospitality, telecommunication, financial services and other industries.
The startup is in the midst of incorporating its platform with several companies in the Tune Group including AirAsia’s Travel 3Sixty, Tune Hotels, Tune Protect, and AirAsia BIG, which it said would help it optimise the travel planning experience for travellers and holidaymakers.
Touristly has attracted a “significant amount of interest,” having been offered three to four term-sheets within a month of going to market, claimed founder and chief executive officer Aaron Sarma.
“Instead of raising money from a third-party investor and paying to acquire customers later, we decided to go with Tune Labs because it offers significant value that you can’t get from just raising money,” he told Digital News Asia (DNA) in Petaling Jaya recently.
“The tie-up with AirAsia was a natural fit for the company as the next step after booking flights and accommodation would be the planning of the itinerary,” he added.
Touristly’s journey with AirAsia had begun In March – before it took part in [email protected] – when its platform was integrated with AirAsia’s BIG loyalty programme, allowing members to earn ‘BIG points’ when they use the travel platform to create and book their holiday itinerary.
The travel platform will next integrate with Tune Hotels to provide on-ground concierge services.
Plan of action
According to Aaron, he explored the idea of Touristly with experienced Internet investor Jeffrey Saw in the third quarter of 2014, and the two of them invested some money to get a team to develop the beta.
Shortly after this, C.K. Wong came in as angel investor. The company then raised its first seed round with Netrove Ventures in December 2014, for a “mid six-digit range,” Aaron said.
The Touristly portal went live in June 2015. Aaron wasted no time in looking for a second round of funding – this pre-Series A from Tune Labs – as he knew they needed to raise enough money to develop a bespoke platform that could not be bought off the rack.
Touristly acts as a one-stop centre for travel planners, allowing them to search, plan and book on-ground activities at their destinations with a few clicks. It is training its sights on those who travel in large groups, making it ideal for families consisting of different age groups – from adults and seniors to children.
Aaron said the idea itself came when he experienced the hassle of planning a family holiday using multiple platforms.
What makes the platform unique is that it calculates the rates of the activities based on the number of travellers and even differentiates them by age group.
“For example, there are different attractions that offer different price tiers for senior citizens, adults and children. We factor all of that in the background so customers can focus on planning the trip and see how much they are saving,” he said.
Other platforms have been trying to crack the market by taking the travel agent approach – booking flights, hotels and on-ground activities – but end up being the master of none, he argued.
“We just want to be very good at one thing and that is on-ground activities. If we are very good at it, we can work together with players like AirAsia and other merchants.
“That has been our objective from Day One,” he added.
The missing link
Touristly offers 7,000 deals in over 70 destinations and is working to grow its base to shadow AirAsia and AirAsia X’s 120 destinations.
Based on a report by the World Tourism Organisation, travellers spend 40% of their budget on on-ground activities, which is about US$860 billion. In Asia, the market is estimated to be worth US$100 billion.
All this points to a big opportunity for Touristly as AirAsia flies 55 million passengers across the region.
Aaron says the average transaction on Touristly is between RM800 and RM1,500 (about US$200 and US$370). Considering that some flight tickets cost below RM1,000 (about US$250), it goes to show just how much today’s travellers are willing to pay for quality experiences.
“The single highest transaction we received came from a Singaporean family that went to Tokyo for a holiday a few months ago,” shared Aaron.
“Their basket of goods amounted to S$6,200 (about US$4,600) and this was just for on-ground activities mind you,” he added.
The customer even returned to book a second trip a few weeks later, this time to Seoul.
Aaron claimed that Touristly has recorded 8,000 trips planned by users to date. “We aimed to make it a fast and seamless experience so that people can plan a trip in just 10 minutes,” he said.
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