Interview with Klook, Hong Kong’s travel startup

Interview with Eric Gnock Fah, co-founder of Klook

1.  Tell us about Klook

Put simply, Klook is an online and mobile platform for travelers to discover and book experiences and attraction tickets. Klook has currently launched activities in a handful of the most popular destinations in Asia and will be expanding to rest of APAC soon.

Klook offers a selection of highly curated experiences, as well as well as some basic necessities of travel like airport transfer and tickets to major attractions. The platform has been designed to assist travelers in planning and booking their trip,  before they go or once they arrive with Klook’s innovative mobile booking solution.  We offer over 1200 activities from parahawking in Nepal (hybrid of paragliding + feeding giant birds) to a skip the queue Peak Tram tickets in Hong Kong.

2.  Tell us about the founder(s) and how did you get started?

The founding team are all avid travelers, despite previously working in the demanding banking industry.  The idea of Klook all started on a trip to Nepal a couple years back – we found that booking activities that we wanted to do was quite a difficult process. Operators weren’t transparent about the costs and the whole process wasn’t easy. The idea for Klook was to facilitate a booking system that would allow people to plan before they go away or when they’ve arrived at their destination. Klook was co-founded by myself, Ethan Lin and Bernie Xiong. Ethan and I were both ex-investment bankers in Hong Kong with a focus on the tourism and hospitality sector – so we were quite familiar with this space. Bernie spent his entire career in tech development and was one of the pioneers in a mobile payment startup.

3. What’s the travel-booking landscape like in Asia? 

 Travel is an extremely competitive market to be in and is very much prone to a winner-takes-all situation.  If you look at flight and hotel bookings, most brands are either owned by Expedia and Priceline, and these players are also starting to get into the activities booking space with the like of Expedia launching things-to-d0, but mainly targeting American travelers for now. Klook currently focuses on Asia, catering to the continent’s own tourists as well as inbound travelers. It is expected that by 2030 Asia will have the largest number of travelers and the largest travel expenditure. China in particular has already shown its burgeoning outbound tourism and from tourism alone China is expected to have an expenditure of 229 billion USD in 2015. For that reason Klook has made sure to position itself in the right place to capture the Chinese and other Asian markets. With offices in Shenzhen, Hong Kong and Taipei [and soon in Singapore] we are able to do this.

4. What do you think of the startup scene in HK?

Hong Kong’s startup ecosystem is building momentum quickly as investors see more success in young businesses.  Some people believe that the Hong Kong market is too small, which is true in some cases however this has its advantages for some specific sectors such as logistics and travel. Hong Kong is a bilingual community and the amount of expats living in the city makes it the perfect place to test two markets at one time. Hong Kong is also the most traveled to city in the world so it makes sense to use it as a base for a travel start-up.

5. What’s the best startup advice you received?

Hire smartly – don’t rush just because business is growing fast.  One will end up wasting more time with the process of on-boarding, training, letting go and headhunting again.

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