Hong Kong instant travel start-ups bring Uber-style approach to hotels and activities

PUBLISHED : Thursday, 21 May, 2015, 8:35am
UPDATED : Monday, 17 August, 2015, 10:16am

Two Hong Kong travel start-ups are providing on-demand hotel stays or activities for tourists used to booking services like Uber instantly through their mobile devices.

Last minute room booking app HotelQuickly and activity tour platform Klook allow users to book online through their smartphones and turn up within minutes of confirming their transaction.

Launched in October 2012, HotelQuickly offers users discounts on last minute room bookings in Asia with up to 60 per cent off standard rates to serve spontaneous travellers in 15 countries.

“Things have to be very smooth, people expect to have everything on demand you see all those services coming around like Uber, you want to book a car and expect it to arrive in five minutes,” said Raphael Cohen, co-founder of HotelQuickly.

HotelQuickly offers rooms at more than 6,000 hotels on its app, which has been downloaded more than 1 million times, and allows bookings in nine different languages.

The app has proven popular among mobile savvy domestic travellers in Indonesia as well as those looking for a staycation in Singapore or Hong Kong, Cohen said.

Transport and activities booking site Klook offers 20 to 30 experiences, which have been tested by its "curators", across each of its 21 locations. More than 20,000 activities have been booked through Klook since its launch in September 2014.

“I think mobile will become a really big game changer for this industry,” said co-founder Eric Gnock Fah.

“[For] activities you can book when you get there and that’s why we are the first company in Asia to launch an app where you can basically book it for tomorrow or today.”

The Klook website and its app allows users to browse, book and receive confirmations in one place rather than traipsing to a travel agent or chasing emails, its founders explained.

Both start-ups are also targeting the growing number of outbound Chinese travellers, which hit 109 million in 2014, and is expected to hit 200 million by 2020, according to brokerage CLSA.

A survey of Chinese travellers by CLSA released in January found 72 per cent of people booked travel products online, and that tastes were expanding beyond shopping.

“Chinese youngsters are looking to diversify their travel experience, they’re no longer looking for the must-do things like Disney or Ocean park, they’re looking for how they can have a different experience when they travel so they can brag about this,” said Klook co-founder Ethan Lin.

Cohen said that while HotelQuickly does not plan to enter the competitive hotel business in mainland China, the company is targeting outbound Chinese tourists.

“They tend to book a lot in South East Asia, they’re very price sensitive, so when they see a hotel for half price they go for it and surprisingly they book everywhere,” Cohen said.