ACE Startup Feature – TravelBuddee

Travel Made Better

Founder Janice Chua took a passion for travel and turned it into an online business that connects independent travellers with private tour guides.

In early 2016, Janice Chua was travelling in Thailand with a friend. They booked a private tour to Ayutthaya, a historical city and UNESCO World Heritage Site located about an hour outside Bangkok.

“We paid about $120 for the private tour. While chatting with our guide, we were shocked to find out that he was making a measly 400 baht ($16) for spending almost the entire day with us,” revealed Janice.

The entrepreneur in her worked quickly and the idea behind, an online marketplace for peer-to-peer travel services, was born. The platform went live just months later, in November 2016, but this belies months of intensive preparation.

“I can’t stress how important validation is. I sounded out tour guides and travellers to get their take on the idea, to find out if they would actually use such a platform. The process also allowed me to build a preliminary community of users, by getting guides and travellers to register their interest ahead of time,” she explained.

Once the idea was green-lighted, things took a technical turn.

“I’m no technie myself, so I knew that to get the startup up and running, I needed an IT partner. I’m lucky to have found someone who shares my vision, and has the technical expertise to turn it into reality,” said Janice.

On her part, Janice takes care of the business development side of things — growing the community in its four focus markets of Cambodia, Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam.

“As an avid traveller myself, and having engaged the services of many local guides, I believe that guides play a huge role in the travel experience. Good guides are storytellers; they let you in on the history and culture of a place beyond the facts of an attraction and that can make all the difference. I interview every guide before welcoming them to because I think that besides being a licensed professional, they also need to be proficient in English — the language barrier, especially in Asia, can make or break the experience,” she said.

“At the same time, travellers are becoming more sophisticated. They’re looking for more than a cookie-cutter tour, so I think private tours, where they can customise their itinerary and really interact with their guides, will continue to grow in popularity. We’ve also made it a point to design such that travellers review profiles and choose a guide that they’re comfortable with — not someone assigned to them by an agency.”

This value proposition seems to be gaining traction among guides and travellers alike. In the six months since has come online, it has already seen over 10,000 visitors from over 10 Asian countries. Its blog is also quickly becoming a go-to travel resource with more than 1,000 subscribers to date.

For Janice, the focus is now on stabilising the business and growing the community. To do so, she hopes to deepen her understanding of the industry from the inside out — by becoming a fully-fledged tour guide herself!

Did we pique your interest about TravelBuddee? Check out the peer-to-peer travel community at today!

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