10 April 2017
Travel Service at your Fingertips
Klook Travel founders Eric Gnock Fah, President and COO, originally from Mauritius; Ethan Lin, CEO, from Taiwan; and Bernie Xiong, CTO, from the Chinese mainland, were travel buddies who found that booking flights and hotels for their trips was easy. The hard part was the time-consuming process of planning the itinerary.
Their solution was an app and web-based platform that was picked up by angel investors. An initial US$1.5 million in seed funding enabled the entrepreneurs – all aged under 30 at the time – to leave their corporate jobs in investment banking and IT, and join the ranks of Hong Kong’s growing band of young start-ups.
Established in 2014, Klook last month raised an additional US$30 million in Series B funding, led by Sequoia Capital China. Existing investors, including Matrix Partners and former Tencent executive-backed Welight Capital, also participated with follow-on investments. The recent injection of funds will further Klook’s global expansion efforts to offer one-stop booking for travellers to enjoy experiences ranging from attractions, tours and activities to local transfers, dining experiences and shopping.
Mr Gnock Fah said the service offers everything from basic travel needs to hard-to-find experiences, enabling users to buy tickets instantly at discounted prices.
“For example, you could book a Hong Kong Airport Express ticket, or rail connection in many cities, without having to line up for it.
“We also help travellers to discover their destination, offering popular attractions and sightseeing experiences, again at a discount, and with instant confirmation. There’s no queueing at the ticketing counter – you simply scan the QR code sent to your phone and you slip through.”
Klook has a team of more than 200 staff, including experienced travel journalists and gourmet dining writers, based in eight offices across Asia, whose job is to scout out the best travel experiences.
Its platform covers more than 80 popular destinations in Asia and beyond, providing over 10,000 attractions, tours, and activities. Last year, the company helped travellers book a record five million trips.
The service is free for users, with Klook earning a commission from the providers once a booking is made. “Previously in this space, there were too many middlemen,” Mr Gnock Fah explained. “By dealing directly with the service providers, we are able to offer a discount.”
International Travel Hub
Hong Kong was an ideal place to launch the business, he said, because so many travellers pass through the city. “Hong Kong is still consistently the number-one place for international travellers,” he said.
It’s also a convenient launchpad to popular destinations in Southeast Asia, which is where Klook began. With the latest round of funding, the partners expect to triple the number of destinations on its platform by the end of this year.
Klook investment backers, who include some of the world’s leading venture capitalists, have every confidence.
“Scale advantage is a prominent element in the travel industry, especially within the highly fragmented in-destination sector,” said Neil Shen, founding and Managing Partner of Sequoia Capital China. “With combined strengths in transaction and community, Klook has become a proven leader in Asia. We’re happy to join the company on this exciting journey going forward.”
Another investor praised the start-up’s operation. “Ever since our initial investment, the Klook team has demonstrated great business judgment backed by sound execution,” noted David Zhang, founding Managing Partner of Matrix Partners. “Having witnessed the rapid growth of the business, we are convinced that Klook has firmly established itself as the clear winner in this space and we’re pleased to continue our support.”
Long-haul Markets Next
Looking ahead, Klook will broaden its scope of operations beyond Asia to meet the spending power and growing appetite of Asian travellers. The company is confident that as travellers make more mid- to long-haul journeys out of the region, there will be a significant demand to access everything a destination has to offer on one consolidated platform.
“We are proud of our achievements in the attractions, tours and activities segment, and we are now expanding the spectrum of our in-destination offers,” said Mr Gnock Fah.
Besides building a bigger portfolio of experiences and services, Klook is also developing the largest collection of travel videos in the industry. From original content to exploring new formats such as 360 or virtual reality videos, the Klook team will focus on creating an engaging discovery and booking experience on all of its platforms.
CEO Ethan Lin said that through these innovations, Klook is shaping the way people discover destinations and customise itineraries.
“Over the past two years, we’ve been tirelessly reinventing the supply chain and innovating our user interface to create a seamless booking experience for millions of users,” said Mr Lin. “Now with a few clicks or taps, the travel services you need and the activities you seek will all be at your fingertips.”