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Ex-Silicon Valley engineers want Filipinos to go gaga over Traveloka

/ 05:12 AM December 08, 2017

Poch Ceballos—Leo Sabangan II

To enable mobility.

Such was the vision that ex-Silicon Valley engineers Ferry Unardi, Derianto Kusuma and Albert Zhang had for Indonesia, which drove the entrepreneurs to put up Traveloka, an online booking platform for flights and hotels, in 2012.

Since then, that vision has expanded to cover six more countries in Southeast Asia, with the Philippines as its latest market, says local country manager Poch Ceballos.

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“We realized that there’s an almost P3-trillion [travel] industry in the Philippines, and in 2016, it grew by 20 percent from 2015. With that kind of growth, and that kind of money, we think we can offer something to that market,” Ceballos says.

Established in the Philippines last year, Traveloka allows travelers to book both flights and hotels on its website or mobile app. Back in 2012, Ceballos says there were hardly online booking services that offered both in one platform.

Their system has about 300,000 hotels and 100,000 flight routes all around the world.

“We like to offer as many options as possible to the consumers. If you want a five-star hotel, we have it; and if you want a really cheap hostel for P300 a night, we have that as well. We even have six-star resort locations,” says Ceballos. “We partner with as many airlines as possible, big and small, just to make sure that you get the flight that you want at the time that you want.”

He also assures users that Traveloka offers the most competitive prices, thanks to a diligent team who negotiates with hotels to get the best prices available.

“And because we want to enable mobility, we don’t really mark up as much; in fact we don’t have any booking fees, and we don’t have hidden fees. One of the things that a lot of Filipinos found before Traveloka is [other platforms] start by offering a really low price, but then after each click the price slowly becomes higher and higher,” Ceballos adds. “That best price [feature] comes from an insight that most Filipinos, as well as Southeast Asians, don’t like to be baited and switched. We are value seekers.”

More than just a booking platform, however, Ceballos says that Traveloka has evolved into a full-blown online travel agent of sorts, thanks to its collection of articles which aim to inspire travel.

“I’d like to think that we speak to the market in a language they understand. We’re very active on social media—Facebook, Instagram—and we offer really good information. When you go to our site or download our app, it’s not just about getting a flight or a hotel. We have a lot of blogs. If you want to know how to get your passport for the first time, we have [an article on] that, or if you want to know how to renew your visa for this country, we have that as well. You want to know the 10 best restaurants in BGC? We have that,” Ceballos says. (A new site, explore.traveloka.com, is devoted to providing users with travel tips and information.)

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With such features, Ceballos says he hopes for Traveloka to achieve what he believes would be a “key win”: To convert the Philippines’ offline travelers and make them online customers.

He believes Traveloka makes it easier for such users to avail themselves of the company’s services thanks to the multiple payment channels it offers, which include pawnshops and convenience stores.

“When you look deeper into the [Philippine travel] market, you also realize that a lot of it is still offline. The problem with offline is, well, a number of things: One, it’s just harder. You have to call a travel agent. Information is also harder to get from travel agencies, so you end up paying a bit more. Whereas if you book online, all the information is there, and you can travel on your own terms,” says Ceballos. “We’ve barely scratched the surface of the local travel industry, and we believe it will grow, and we want to be part of that growth.”

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TAGS: Albert Zhang, Derianto Kusuma, Entrepreneurs, Ferry Unardi, online booking platform, Poch Ceballos, Silicon Valley, Traveloka
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