In the digital age, booking travel is pretty easy for consumers when it comes to getting to a destination or finding a place to stay. In fact, options and innovations abound, with plenty of ways to customize the trip.
But once the traveler is on the vacation, figuring out what to do and where to go can become something of a challenge. One can, of course, become their own travel agent, spending the weeks and months before a trip researching and booking activities – or they can hand off that job to an actual travel agent. And depending on the type of lodging one has chosen, there may be the option of tapping the hotel concierge for suggestions.
But when it comes to sketching out the activity itinerary for a trip, it’s never quite as point-and-click simple as the flight and hotel booking experience.
Founded in 2014, Hong Kong-based Klook aims to change that by making it just as easy to book trips to amusement parks, tours, train travel, dining reservations or specialty local activities (think scuba diving and parasailing) as it is to book flights and hotels.
“A lot of people thought this was a very niche sector, but it is proving to be a very valuable industry, [and] we’re glad to be the leader,” Klook COO Eric Gnock Fah noted in an interview.
Despite the increasing number of competitors, it is indeed an industry of which Klook proudly considers itself the leader, he noted. Booking.com added activity bookings recently, as did TripAdvisor and Airbnb. There are also other startups with similar offerings, like Peek, Culture Trip and Headout.
Klook is the best capitalized of the startups, having recently attained unicorn status and having raised nearly $300 million in venture funding thus far. As their marketplace has become more crowded with competitors, the small firm has been in expansion mode, opening offices in New York, London and Amsterdam in the last year or so, with an eye toward more openings in 2019.
“Our focus now is global expansion, especially within the U.S. and Europe, where we see the most potential for new growth and expanding our value proposition,” Fah said. “There is still plenty of growth in Asia and we are going to pursue it, but if we want to really be competitive in the travel vertical, we have to think about the global stage.”
The aims of the global push, he noted, are varied. They want to better expand their offerings for their rapidly growing Asian customer base, which is increasingly looking for a greater host of destinations and opportunities. Klook is also invested in bringing Western travelers to Asia, where they can tap into the company’s ecosystem of activities and services.
Taking on the world – literally, in Klook’s case – is not a job for the faint of heart: There are a lot of moving pieces, and Fah noted the platform can only stay ahead as long as it has the activities consumers want – and makes those activities easy to book with a click.
That is the firm’s central value proposition: Klook replaces an uncertain process that involves waiting in line, exchanging currency and possibly having to order something in a foreign language with a certain process, no currency exchange and no unnecessarily confusing interactions. It’s not just about giving customers what they want, he pointed out – it is about giving customers what they want in the way they want it.
And the opportunity itself, he noted, is too tempting to miss. The market for travel activities will reach $183 billion globally by 2020. As of today, only about one fifth of those bookings come from mobile or web channels.