Hong Kong travel agent hopes to win back mainlanders with 50 per cent discounts on coach trips in Asia using CoachnVan app

PUBLISHED : Friday, 27 November, 2015, 2:26pm
UPDATED : Friday, 27 November, 2015, 8:23pm

A Hong Kong-based travel agent has launched an app to help travellers book coach trips in the city and elsewhere in Asia as a fall in mainland Chinese tourists is hurting the local industry and economy.

Launched earlier this month, CoachnVan claims to offer trips with savings of up to 50 per cent in Hong Kong, Macau, Taiwan, Korea and Thailand. It also lets customers personalise their routes.

The brainchild of Hazen Tang, founder of HS Travel International, who has almost 30 years’ industry experience, the app is designed to help people save time and help companies replace lost business, according to the company.

“Inbound tourism [from China] in Hong Kong has had quite a big drop since last year, so the demand for coaches is much less,” Tang said.

“It has created a good environment for us to develop this business as most of the suppliers are more hungry than before.”

Some coach companies in Hong Kong have reported business is down by almost a third this year, Tang said.

In October, the city saw its weakest growth in visitor numbers since 2006 for the “golden week” of vacation time linked to China’s National Day celebrations. Numbers were up just 2.3 per cent from last year.

CoachnVan’s app lets users select point-to-point, hourly or tour package coach options as well as the type of vehicle they prefer. After making their choice, they get a quote from the app.

Although to designed as part of the emerging peer-to-peer economy, the app differs from car booking apps like Uber as it is a way to connect businesses to consumers, rather than individual drivers to passengers, said Tang.

Trips are usually booked days or weeks in advance, unlike Uber’s on-demand nature, he added.

A one-way journey on a 28-seat coach from Hong Kong International Airport to nearby Kowloon costs HK$500 (US$65), a comparatively low price even for a pre-booked car.

Tang, who also owns a coach company, said he could achieve these discounts by connecting travellers with coaches that would otherwise be idle at that time, such as school buses with set schedules.

He expects the company’s revenue in its first year to reach HK$100 million.

Hong Kong regulations mean the company will not be able to offer its van service in the city, unlike its other locations, but all vehicles and drivers comply with the city’s laws.

Tang said the app’s target market is families travelling with children or the elderly who want to create their own tours.

The app is also being marketed to schools and corporations.