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Author: Julia Lin, Translator: Athena Chen, Editor: Yunchieh Tsou

Since 2014, there has been an influx of low cost carriers into the Taiwan market, resulting in the cost of a flight abroad being lower than taking a trip down South from Northern Taipei on the high-speed railway!

According to numbers from the Ministry of Transportation, low-cost carriers have flown more than 3 million travellers in the year 2015, and growing at an annual rate of 41.2 percent. Low cost carriers are now a new option for those in Taiwan, heralding a new era in leisure travelling and fundamentally changing the way we travel.

Ming Ming Chen has been in the online travel agency business for 17 years, since 1999, and has managed Taiwan’s top travel sites EzTravel, , garnering an unique outlook and insight to Taiwan’s developing tourism industry.

Chen explains that for a traveller hack in the days, their “flight, hotel, and itinerary” were the three key elements that relied wholly on the travel agency to book and plan. As convenient as it was, there was little flexibility and customization to it.

When low cost carriers came to Taiwan, the Taiwanese realized how amazingly cheap a plane ticket could be, plus you could also conveniently book hotel rooms on international booking sites such as agoda, booking, and airbnb, “so once the consumer had dealt with their flight and hotel, all they needed was to plan an itinerary,” Ming says.

And because of this insight, Ming has since founded KKday in late 2014, officially launching the site in early 2015. The main service of the site is to provide travellers with a variety of “destination tours”, giving them full control over their travel plans as independent travellers.

Since its’ launch in 2015, KKday now has a total of more than 6,000 travel experiences for more than 35 countries and 174 cities. These include car rental and airport pickup services, local tours, tourist spot tickets, cultural experiences, unique dining, all available to shop at one stop online at KKday. Most importantly, many of these packages come at a cheaper price than the official websites.

Apart from lowers costs of KKday, it also runs giving back to consumers the commission offering from the suppliers. This also plays an important part in lowering the prices of the tour packages featured on KKday.

Ming explains that “Travelling is something that is very personal, and I can see the demand for ‘tailored travel experiences’. Through our e-commerce service we can meet the demand, and by taking out the middleman (travel agencies), we save our customers even more on the costs of travelling.”

Looking Overseas and Positioning as a Global Platform

KKday has quickly become Asia’s largest destination travel site, since it went online less than two years ago. Boasting close to 500 thousand likes on Facebook, its revenues having been steadily growing month after month. Its overseas revenue takes up almost half of total sales number, with Japan and Korea taking the top spots.

KKday has offices in Japan, Korea, Hong Kong, Singapore, and Malaysia. It plans to open up new locations in Thailand, Indonesia, Philippines, and Vietnam.

It is part of Chen’s mission to “put up local tours of all parts of the world on our site, and sell to a global audience” as the travel business is already a transaction that crosses borders. Keeping this in mind, KKday has always positioned itself globally, and vowed to move beyond just servicing the local Taiwan market since the day it was founded. It has been signing contracts with suppliers all over the world, providing local travel experiences, and also collaborates with large local brands as well, in an effort to gain recognition for the KKday brand as well.

“The funding we secured was a big boost for us to expand overseas,” Ming explains. With an initial startup capital of 1,680,000 USD, they have recently managed to close an A round funding of 4,500,000 USD at the beginning of 2016. They plan to continue their conquest of the overseas market.

Looking to Japan as an example, where the local travel industry is quite conservative, the Japanese tend to stick to local brand names that are familiar, so it has been quite a challenge for KKday to try and enter the Japanese market. KKday hopes to find a strategic partner in Japan willing to invest and work together, to better their chances.

For the moment, KKday will still focus on Southeast Asian countries, as there is a higher penetration rate of low cost carriers among Southeast Asia travel routes, coupled with a higher percentage of English and Chinese speaking population, thus making it a top priority for the team.

After that, they hope to expand heavily into Japan, and after taking Northeast Asia, they will set their sight on the China market. “China is a huge opportunity, but we will not make any brash moves to enter, before understanding what the market is like there,” Chen also adds that with Google and Facebook as two of their primary driving forces of business, which are both not available in China, it will be a while before they can understand the working mechanisms of WeChat and Baidu.

Since its inception less than 2 years ago, KKday has successfully become Asia’s largest “Destination Travel Site”, rewriting the local travel industry in this process. This proves that Chen’s initial outlook and insight of focusing on planning the “itinerary” and not the traditional route of flight and hotel bookings was a strategy that paid off, fulfilling the demands consumers at large.

The next step for KKday is to continue to branch out to other countries and travel experiences, signing on even more unique and distinctive “themed tours”, such as: travelling Japan in an RV, Hokkaido on Motorcycles; specially themed “experience travels” such as: visiting Korea as a Kpop “trainee”, or touring Japan’s “Ninja School”.

Chen has ventured into places that many of his competitors would not dare to, whether it’s setting up a site dedicated to selling tour packages, or allowing customers to rate their tours directly on site. Chen also aspires to touchdown in the States and going public on NASDAQ. If that were to happen someday, this would definitely mark an incredible milestone for them.

中文連結:百分百客製化、划算價格的體驗行程!KKday 造出東南亞最大旅遊平台──專訪創辦人陳明明