Hai Ho is the founder of Triip – a global blockchain travel platform that enables travelers to enjoy amazing private tours passionately crafted by handpicked local tour guides.
Human Asia eagerly spoke to Hai Ho.
What is Triip and how did your initial background build it?
Hai Ho: Triip is a blockchain travel platform. We are operating in 227 countries with over 1.3 million hotels, 6000+ local guides and have been profitable with just US$858,000 in funding from industry veterans and venture capitals. With its roots in the sharing economy, Triip enables passionate locals to become Triip Creators, i.e., create their own private tours to share their passion with others, earn money and make new friends – while offering travelers one-of-a-kind local cultural experiences with real people.
Before starting Triip, I have had 10 years in building many startups. Those valuable lessons have helped so much in the process of building Triip.
Who are your competitors and how do you distinguish yourself from them?
Hai Ho: Triip is the only decentralised hotel and unique local tours booking platform in the world at the moment. While Airbnb took the centralised approach to grow new local tours and accommodation, we did the opposite.
After four years of operations in 227 countries, we have found three key problems with the sharing economy model or the Peer-to-Peer platform.
- Tour Approval and Dispute Settlement: An inefficient process. Like Airbnb, Uber and Grab, Triip has now encountered the bottleneck problem when it comes to approving new tour listings. Even a US$31 billion giant like Airbnb is in fact still approving new homes and experiences manually. And every time there is a dispute, the company is relying on expensive, full-time staff to resolve the matter. Airbnb is also struggling to add new local experiences to their platform due the costly process. Traditional methods, such as acquiring a tour guide license from a tourism board may qualify a person’s knowledge, but not the quality of their service.
- Customer Acquisition: Monopolized by inefficient middlemen. We either have to wait for months or even years to be listed on TripAdvisor or pay thousands of dollars on Google Ads to be seen by travelers. It increases the cost of customer acquisition for tour operators, local guides, and hotel owners and reduces transparency which in turn can lead to fraudulent transactions.
- Cross-border payment: Still not massified and costly. Currently, we cannot pay our local guides in 100 different countries instantly. Payment processors and other fintech middlemen are taking a significant margin. Our 3-day-after-tour escrow model ensures the quality of service, but it is not the best option for local tour guides.
These lessons pushed our team to the edge of technology to rebuild our platform of 100,000+ locals around the world into a complete, decentralized and automated sharing economy platform.
What are the most interesting features on Triip that you want users to know about?
Hai Ho: By using blockchain, Triip gives local guides, travellers and hotel owners a sense of ownership of the platform. Through decentralization, Triip can give back true meaning to the sharing economy model. Tokenization creates benefits for the community and token holders, thereby aligning user incentives toward the further growth of the Triip network. We can accelerate user participation by giving everyone in the network the opportunity to earn tokens through referral programs and arbitration.
Because every member virtually owns the platform via the TriipMiles token, it helps each member to treat Triip as their own business, not just another source of income.
For example, here are a few use cases of Triip platform:
1. A millennial traveler with a low budget
Alex is a global traveler. He has spent three years on the road. He would love to book a hotel at a really good price, or even try unique local experiences. However, the problem is that he does not have much money.
Alex needs to find a way to earn money while travelling. It is not easy to find a job on the go. Therefore Alex joins the Triip.me community to work for TriipMiles. All he has to do is help to verify new local guides in the city he is travelling in during the day. This way, he can enjoy a free unique local tour and earn extra TriipMiles. At night, Alex becomes an Arbitrator solving dispute cases on Triip.me. Then he starts using his TriipMiles through our ecosystem to pay for hostel rooms and local food tours on his journey around the world.
2. A retired tour guide from World’s Tour Guide Association
Johana has been a tour guide for almost 50 years. She is now retired with her family in the countryside of Washington DC. However, her knowledge of being a guide is still there. She is comfortably reviewing 7-10 newly created tours on Triip at home daily. It takes her around 15-30 minutes to finish reviewing one tour. She receives TriipMiles for the work, but gifts her TriipMiles to her grandson who is living in Asia at the moment.
3. A young group of students offering free walking tours
Helen and her friends are from Pacific Asia Travel Association (Malaysia) Taylor’s University Students Chapter. They decided to participate in the Malaysia Travel Entrepreneur Challenge 2017 which was organized by Triip.
Helen and her friends designed a free walking tour around her hometown, Kuala Lumpur. The group does not need the income from the tour but the knowledge they can gain about operating a real-life business.
However, there were many customers who canceled the tour last minute because the tour was free. Helen subsequently found out that she can use TriipMiles tokens as a deposit. Travellers who have TriipMiles can deposit for a free tour in advance via a smart contract. If they cancel last minute, Helen will still get paid in TriipMiles tokens for the time spent arranging their tour. If the tour proceeds, the smart contract will return the TriipMiles deposit with a small amount deducted for gas fees.
This kind of deposit process would not work without leveraging the power of blockchain, smart contract, and the TriipMiles token.
4. A new tour company wants to acquire customers
Local Delight is a new tour company offering foodie tours in their city. Like every other tour company, they submitted their tour info on TripAdvisor. The form is simple without any proper guidelines on how and when their tours will be listed. Local Delight has been waiting for 2 months without any word from the TripAdvisor team.
They shared their concerns on Tour Operators United group on Facebook, hoping to find a solution. Local Delight found out that many other tour operators share the same issue. TripAdvisor’s approval process is like a black box. Nobody knows what is going on inside.
Local Delight turns to Google Adwords to promote the keywords “local food tour”. It costs them $4/click due to heavy competition from local restaurants, hotels and other big tour companies.
Finally, Local Delight buys TriipMiles from the exchange to use the referral system. They reward Triip’s referral community $5 worth of TriipMiles for every successful booking of a $50 local food tour. Local Delight only needs to pay for every paying customer they get. It is a much faster process than TripAdvisor and a less expensive option than Google Adwords.
5. A 5-star hotel needs photography tour for their guests
Le Meridien Hotel in Saigon starts a new marketing campaign. They want to improve the in-house experience for their VIP guests to compete with Airbnb and other 5-star hotels. Instead of hiring a full-time photographer, Le Meridien uses Triip’s API to show photo tours from top-rated local photographers on Triip.me to their guests. Guests can pay via fiat money through the API and choose the photographer that suits their style. Le Meridien Hotel saves the cost of hiring a full-time employee.
6. A crypto traveler
James is an early adopter of Bitcoin and an ICO investor. He usually attends most of the blockchain conferences around the world. He saw Triip.me accommodation offer at one of the blockchain events in Hamburg. Triip.me not only gives him the same price from Booking.com (his usual hotel booking site) but also accepts BTC/ ETH. Since there are no other big hotel booking sites accepting cryptocurrency, James decided to use Triip.me to support the bold move. After James made the booking via BTC, to James’ surprise, a local blockchain evangelist offered a free Blockchain tour in Hamburg via Triip platform. James enjoyed his surprise tour so much so, that he and the local tour guide remain friends after the conference ends.
When James flew back to Tokyo, his crypto wallet received an extra 8% rebate from Triip.me. Now, James is an investor in Triip.
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Tell us more about the profit sharing system with Triip members.
Hai Ho: Triips takes care of its local experts through the generous compensation model. We have disrupted the global tour industry practice of giving less than 10% of the booking price to compensate the guides, and provide a compensation model where Local Experts retain 90% of the booking price, while Triip takes only 10% instead.
With the new decentralized platform, Triip simply gives 100% fee from travellers to local tour guides via TriipMiles, thanks to smart contracts automating transactions that bypass commission-based platforms, financial institutions, and currency denominations. We only charge a tiny amount for gas fees.
Currently, Triip is paying around 7% for financial middlemen like:
- Financial Institutions Fees (3%) – Paypal, Stripe, Visa, and Mastercard charge flat fees for managing transactions.
- Foreign Transaction Fees (2%) – A transaction usually requires different denominations. As a result, foreign transaction fees are charged for transactions made outside the country where the user credit/debit card was issued.
- Currency Conversion Fees (2%) – Currency Conversion Fees are the result of the Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC), a fee charged to see the transaction cost in your preferred currency denomination. DCC rates tend to be worse than traditional rates, but some platforms are known to charge the currency conversion fee unbeknownst to the user.
As the TriipMiles tokens will be used for all transactions, there are no foreign transaction fees or currency conversion fees, and all savings are passed back to the hosts and guests holding the tokens.
What are the biggest challenges encountered so far?
Hai Ho: We started Triip with little funding US$835,000 in the last four years. Some other competitors with $2 million to $3 million funding have died. We have found way to keep the company alive until today. It is not easy at all to bring our services to travelers worldwide with almost no marketing budget. Thanks to blockchain, we are crowdfunding from the traveler community to fund for our journey in the upcoming token sale.
Hai Ho, please tell us a little about yourself and what you did before building Triip.
Hai Ho: I called myself a high-impact founder with 12 years experiences in building products and startups. I am always inspired to build companies that solve real world problem. Triip is an impact company that committed to the UNWTO Code of Ethics in tourism. I choose to build companies to solve Sustainable Development Goals by the UN.
I accidentally started my first online community with 500,000 members in 2006 when I was in 2nd year at the University at Buffalo. Since then, I realised the positive impact of building an online business. In the past 12 years, I have built many tech startups from social network, mobile healthcare hardware, baby app, social mobile gaming app, to ebook app before starting Triip.
I am a frequent speaker at global travel conferences in Bhutan, Europe, Japan, China. I won the first prize for World Travel Forum Lucerne 2015, and APEC O2O Competition 2016.
At heart, what is your passion?
Hai Ho: I am a User Experience designer at heart. With the background in communication, I have always doing my best to deliver the best experience for users. Travel is all about designing an unforgettable experience.
What are your goals now and beyond?
Hai Ho: My goal is to truly share the power of our platform to our community members. I believe a true sharing economy platform should be decentralised.
Both Triip and Airbnb are currently adopting expensive centralized operation processes. Every new experience is vetted by a small team within the organizations. This centralized approach increases tour quality in the beginning, but as the organization grows, it will slow down the growth of the platform as well as reduce transparency like what happened to TripAdvisor.
We have learnt this lesson the hard way in our four years of operating. For products like Cars or Homes it is easy to qualify what is a good car or a clean home. However, qualifying a great tour guide is a very different story. Traditional tour guide certificates can only qualify the knowledge of a particular person.
Peer-to-peer ratings help Triip measure their quality of service. However, to verify a new local tour guide on Triip’s platform, it takes at least 7 days of intensive and costly internal operations. In the early days of Airbnb Experiences, the cost of preparing each local experience for listing was more than a thousand dollars. This is why Triip has adopted its new decentralized approach to make the process transparent. Our public protocol will be open-source for everyone to use and improve.
If Triip is successful in our ICO, not only it helps more locals around to improve their income but also helping Triip to save the ocean by reducing plastic bottle via our SaveYourOcean project.
What is the one piece of advice you would like to give to aspiring entrepreneurs?
Hai Ho: The only motivation to build a company should be your personal growth and positive impact to the world. We don’t need another social network, we don’t need another camera app. We need clean ocean, safe food and breathable air. I do wish more entrepreneurs to solve SDGs.
You can visit Triip at https://www.triip.me/
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