South Korea has one of the world's most tech-savvy, social media using, smartphone-enabled, superfast broadband connected populations.
We Are Social's mega-meta-research, Digital 2016, has South Korea in the top five for most metrics.
Yana Trip is a tours and activities specialist whose founders live and breathe in this tech-dominated country. It has identified a few trends which is it hopes to exploit.
More Koreans are looking to travel internationally, are looking to do this independently rather than be shepherded by a guide, and are more interested in bungee jumping than beaches.
On the other hand, tours suppliers around the world are making their inventory accessible.
Yana Trips directly contracts with not only aggregators but also suppliers and is building up inventory around the globe.
Before the Q&A with CEO and founder Yana Cho, here she is presenting a 60-second introductory video.
What problem does your business solve?
Free, individual and independent tourists (FITs) are a fast-growing segment across Asia as more travellers look to take tours which reflect their own personal tastes. But there are two issues as we see it - it is hard for Asian FITs to get access to tours provider, while those channels which do exist have a complicated distribution structure.
We think Yana Trip addresses both these - we try to simplify unnecessary distribution processes through direct contract with provider and we offer local tours and activities on five continents through our network and work in multiple languages - Korean, English and Chinese.
Names of founders, their management roles, and number of full-time paid staff?
Founder & CEO: Yana Cho has work experience in tourism over 15 years and she is studying for a master’s degree in Tourism.
CTO: Sungil Choi is a high qualified developer.
Currently we have six full time staff.
We are a Travel Startups Incubator (TSI) portfolio company. We get a subsidy for promotion from the Korean government and from Hanyang University. Also we keep looking for early stage investment.
Currently we get 10-20% sales commission on tours through our platform (B2C) and wholesale (B2B) channel. We also looking at ways for customers to be able to use the site to book air, car, and hotels through partners.
Why do you think the pain point you’re solving is painful enough that customers are willing to pay for your solution?
Travellers often get confused while looking for local tours or activities and what they need is an an easy booking flow, as well as diversified offers. We think customers will come to our site because we satisfy both these needs. And because we only work with trusted suppliers we are confident that we can build trust and loyalty with consumers.
We belong to three incubators.
1) Travel Startups Incubator
2) Creative Tourism Venture & Incubation by Korean Tourism Organization in Korea
3) Center for Incubation in Han-yang University in Korea
We have been building up with 1,500 worldwide suppliers and such as CityPass, Grayline, Citysightseeing, Big Bus, Papillon, Cirque du Soleil, Warner Bros., Go Car, Balloon Rides, Aj Hackett, Taupo Bungy and Book Dubai etc.
We participated in Start-up Awards at Eye For Travel 2016 in Las Vegas.
When looking at APAC, it is easy to get blinded by the scale of the opportunities and amounts of money knocking around China. Korea is just outside the world's top ten economies so is an outbound market worth paying attention to.
In terms of the specifics of how well or not Yana will do over time, a lot will depend on its competitive set. TripAdvisor - and by extension Viator - has a South Korean site as do other global OTAs such as Expedia.
The huge and not-so-huge Chinese OTAs are also interested in the tours and activities market in Korea, and there are some local players active as well.
It looks like a tough market to crack. But across APAC, travellers are becoming more confident travellers, both in terms of where they go, what they do and how to book. Somewhere in there is a sweet spot for experiential travel sites and Yana is in a good place right now to take the next step.