Have you ever thought of taking a holiday where locals whisk you around their home town to give you a taste of their lives? TakeMeTour is a Thai online marketplace that does just that. It matches travellers, looking for a local experience, with local experts who list their own hand-crafted trips on the website.
Launched in November 2014, the site has become the first Thai-owned matchmaker to become a significant player in a market that had previously been dominated by international agencies. DEALSTREETASIA caught up with website co-founders Amornched Jindaz-apiraksa and Noppon Anukunwithaya. Edited Excerpts.
What made you start this business?
We used to live abroad and our friends and family often asked us to give them tours of where we were staying. That’s where our idea came from. At first, we started by matching Thai people who live abroad with Thai visitors. But we found it difficult to control what happened, so we thought of providing an opposing service. We matched Thai people who would like to be local guides with foreign tourists. And that is a start of www.TakeMeTour.com.
You launched during last year’s political and financial crisis in Thailand. How did you cope with that?
We can say that that provided us with the need to lift ourselves up to a high target! So far, we’ve already had more than 900 people register with us and there are more than 100 interesting deals on the website. Deals are different from normal tourism programmes, because we draw one up for an interesting idea – such as activities like teaching visitors to cook as local people do at home, walking and eating tours, or even boxing classes.
What is the next step?
We are talking to some investors at the moment in order to raise funds. We expect to close the deals in a few months. The proceeds will be used to support our expansion plan, focusing on marketing activities and promoting our website. We currently have local experts in 20 provinces. We aim to have them in every province in Thailand this year, as well as expand to other Southeast Asian countries, such as Vietnam, later on.
So far, we have not focused on the number of tourists who have struck a deal with local guides. But we would like to boost brand awareness among deal owners and tourists. After that, we can promote our website and attract more locals to offer services nationwide. This will enable the number of transactions to increase rapidly. Within two years, we expect to have 3,000 transactions per month.
Does the sluggish economy affect your expansion plan?
To be honest, it does not impact on us much. According to the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the number of non-package tourists has not declined since 2011. In this sector alone, the country recorded 14.2 million travellers in 2011, surging to 15 million in 2012 and 19 million in 2013. We project our company’s revenue will be $370,000 this year, raising to $1.5 million in 2016.