A quest to simplify holiday bookings online led Aaron Sarma to launch Touristly in March 2015 as a travel portal offering tours, attractions, activities and restaurants in the Asia-Pacific region.
Aaron recalled: “I saw a business opportunity in creating a platform that would help holiday makers to plan their holiday itinerary as well as book tours, attractions and activities.”
The Malaysia-based portal also provided travellers with tools to curate their holiday itinerary in one place and then share it with friends on social media.
In April 2017, AirAsia’s acquisition of a 50 per cent stake in Touristly provided Aaron with the necessary resources to scale up the startup’s offerings through the RM11.5 million (US$2.9 million) deal. The platform has since grown to serve 78 destinations in Asia-Pacific with over 13,000 bookable tours and attractions.
The deal with AirAsia also saw Aaron working more closely with Tony Fernandes, group CEO of AirAsia. Seeing how popular video sharing had become on social media platforms and how integral smartphones had become in people’s lives, the company decided that creating visual reviews of holiday experiences was the way forward.
In May this year, the company rebranded as Vidi, an abbreviation for Visual Discovery and also Latin for “To See”. It also marks the next phase of growth where focus will be on engaging users and building communities through a product that is both visual and social.
The Vidi mobile app, which was soft launched in June, allows users to make immediate bookings while creating videos of their holiday experiences and sharing them immediately through the app.
Likening the app as a travel companion for modern travellers, Aaron said: “It is another tool for millennials, which form a majority of our current database of users. Research shows that 30 per cent of time spent on the Internet is used watching videos. Vidi will create engagement and return visits. Reviews of places are currently text based, and sometimes there is conflicting information. With videos, travellers can see and hear for themselves what the place is like from peers who had been before them.
“Our business model remains the same. We do not make money from the videos, but only from booking the tours, attractions and activities we sell in the app.”
Marketing for this app and the Vidi portal is mainly done through AirAsia’s Travel 3Sixty inflight magazine and digital touchpoints within the LCC’s portal.
By 3Q2018, the app will also be available in simplified and traditional Chinese, Bahasa Indonesia and Malay.
When asked how he saw the company five years from now, Aaron replied: “We hope to incorporate new technologies such as virtual reality and augmented reality. We also intend to grow tours and activities beyond Asia-Pacific, to also include Europe and the US. We have already started looking for partners whom we can work with. At the end of the day, our mission remains the same. We aim to be the platform that helps travellers discover and book amazing experiences to see the world.”