Tech trav­els in Viet­nam

In­no­va­tive start-ups un­lock tourism po­ten­tial in the South-East Asian coun­try.

The Star Malaysia - - Focus -

WHAT’S the best way to ex­plore a city from a lo­cal point of view?

For Vu Thai An, the CEO of a tourism start-up in Viet­nam, it’s trav­el­ling with lo­cal peo­ple.

About five years ago be­fore start­ing her masters in Manch­ester, An took a tour around Viet­nam as a back­packer with two Cana­dian friends.

Dur­ing the trip, she re­alised there was a mar­ket for help­ing for­eign back­pack­ers to avoid tourist traps and ex­pe­ri­ence true Viet­namese life.

Most tours and in­di­vid­ual trips don’t of­fer this ex­pe­ri­ence and cost more than nec­es­sary with re­stricted sched­ules.

An nur­tured the dream of con­nect­ing for­eign tourists with lo­cals in Viet­nam while she was com­plet­ing her mas­ter’s de­gree, and when she re­turned a year ago, she made that dream a re­al­ity with Viet­namese and Bri­tish friends by set­ting up Tubudd, a dig­i­tal plat­form con­nect­ing trav­ellers and lo­cal peo­ple.

Like search­ing for ho­tels on book­ing plat­forms, trav­ellers can find lo­cal tour guides on Tubudd’s web­site and app, known as “bud­dies”, who meet their travel in­ter­ests and bud­gets through a few sim­ple clicks.

Each buddy pro­file gives tourists a brief in­tro­duc­tion of the guides and their rat­ings.

Bud­dies are not re­quired to be pro­fes­sional tour guides but must pass strict se­lec­tion rounds with the two most im­por­tant cri­te­ria be­ing a for­eign lan­guage and knowl­edge of the city they are from. A lot of young peo­ple across Viet­nam who are pas­sion­ate about trav­el­ling and will­ing to show their coun­try to vis­i­tors have be­come bud­dies. Now Tubudd has a net­work of over 400 bud­dies across 15 prov­inces and cities.

“Many young peo­ple in Viet­nam are good at for­eign lan­guages but don’t have the en­vi­ron­ment to prac­tise what they have learned. Tubudd of­fers them op­por­tu­ni­ties to earn ex­tra money while at the same time sharp­en­ing their for­eign lan­guage skills,” An said.

An es­ti­mates that for­eign tourists trav­el­ling with lo­cal guides can save up to 80% of the costs com­pared to how much they would spend on pack­age tours or self-travel.

Ac­cord­ing to An, her start-up’s ad­van­tage is tech­nol­ogy, fol­low­ing a trend in which tra­di­tional tourism is switch­ing to tech­no­log­i­cal tourism.

How­ever, the 27-year-old en­tre­pre­neur does not want tourists to rely too much on tech­nol­ogy.

“Now in the tech­nol­ogy era, trav­ellers de­pend on GPS and Google to search for tourism in­for­ma­tion. Tech­nol­ogy is re­plac­ing peo­ple. I want to make use of tech­nol­ogy to con­nect peo­ple. I want tourists to put their smart­phones and in­ter­net aside and have di­rect con­tact with other peo­ple to get to know about lo­cal cus­toms,” she said.

Young Viet­namese tourism busi­nesses are mak­ing use of tech­nol­ogy in the dig­i­tal era and learn­ing how to con­nect re­sources to­gether to cre­ate in­no­va­tive tourism prod­ucts to un­lock the po­ten­tial of Viet­namese tourism.

Part­ner­ing with air­lines and ho­tels, Tago gives tourists a varie- ty of op­tions for hol­i­day pack­ages each of which con­sists of a flight ticket and ho­tel at the best prices. Af­ter book­ing their trip on Tago’s web­site, tourists can de­cide on their plans by them­selves with­out be­ing re­stricted to a sched­uled tour.

“Tago en­vi­sions chang­ing the way Viet­namese peo­ple book their trips. In­stead of search­ing for flight tick­ets and ho­tel rooms on sep­a­rate web­sites, they can find ev­ery­thing they need in one place. It is con­ve­nient, time-sav­ing and gives cus­tomers bet­ter prices than book­ing each ser­vice sep­a­rately,” said Trinh Dinh Minh, Tago founder and CEO.

Minh be­lieves that tech­nol­ogy could help boost the ef­fi­ciency of the tourism sec­tor by two to three times.

When tourism ef­fi­ciency im­proves, it un­locks hid­den po­ten­tial, he said.

"Global on­line travel agen­cies (OTAs) now dom­i­nate Viet­nams on­line mar­ket. Viet­namese OTAs need to de­velop their busi­ness mod­els to com­pete with in­ter­na­tional OTAs and pro­tect the do­mes­tic mar­ket.”

Ly Dinh Quan, founder and CEO of Song Han In­cu­ba­tor and as­pe­cial­ist in en­trepreneur­ship eco-sys­tems, said the ad­van­tage of tourism start-ups is not only tech­nol­ogy but also in­no­va­tive ideas.

“In­no­va­tion in start­ing up a busi­ness is us­ing in­tel­li­gence to ex­ploit re­sources. Viet­nams tourism re­sources are im­mense hu­man re­sources, fes­ti­vals, his­tory and na­ture. Tourism start-ups know how to take ad­van­tage of these re­sources and turn them into a profit with the as­sis­tance of tech­nol­ogy,” he said.

But start-ups should not de­pend too heav­ily on tech­nol­ogy and should, at first, make use of cre­ativ­ity to ex­ploit these re­sources,he added.

“Viet­nam has a va­ri­ety of lo­cal tourism prod­ucts but why have many of them not been in­tro­duced to the world? The rea­son is our re­sources are un­con­nected.

“Viet­namese tourism start-ups are con­nect­ing re­sources to cre­ate stream­lined pack­ages,” he said.

“I be­lieve that new start-ups that ap­ply­ing tech­nol­ogy com­bined with tra­di­tional tourism prod­ucts will help the coun­try’s tourism in­dus­try soar.”

Con­nect­ing re­sources: Young Viet­namese tourism busi­nesses are tap­ping into tech­nol­ogy to boost the coun­try’s tourism in­dus­try.

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