Local experiences pave way to greener pastures

LokaLocal’s founder Chin Yoon Khen aims for nearly double the number of listed activities this year

A substantial funding injection from South Korea venture capital firm BonAngels will enable LokaLocal, a Malaysian travel technology start-up, to ramp up its product range and fuel its expansion goals.

The experienced-based travel platform currently lists more than 800 activities throughout the country, ranging from paddy harvesting and cooking classes to traditional lantern and shadow puppets making. Small tour operators can also list their day tours, or two- or three-day itineraries on LokaLocal.

LokaLocal’s founder Chin Yoon Khen aims to grow the platform to 1,000 listings this year

With the funding boost, LokaLocal’s founder Chin Yoon Khen hopes to grow the platform’s stable of activities to 1,000 by the end of this year.

Part of the funding will also be invested into a merchant solution to enable sellers to easily track their daily and monthly sales activities, as well as to provide quicker responses to enquiries and booking confirmations. The website will also be upgraded to provide a better user experience.

LokaLocal was established by Chin in April 2016, an idea born after the documentary photographer turned photographs of local artisans into a 500-page full-coloured book titled Traditional Trades in Penang.

Chin saw a growing demand from tourists seeking unique local experiences, leading to the launch of LokaLocal with a focus on matching traditional artisans as local guides for travellers. These cultural and heritage experiences are marketed creatively on the website through professional photographs and videos.

Some of the locals featured in his book project are now experts on LokaLocal, providing workshops for tourists interested to pick up skills such as joss stick making and batik painting.

“More than 80 per cent of sales comes from the local expatriate community living and working in Malaysia, as well as tourists from the US, Australia and New Zealand,” he shared.

“Most are between the ages of 25-34, and are looking for authentic local experiences and opportunities to make new friends.”

And although LokaLocal is not the first nor the largest digital tours and activities marketplace, Chin believes there’re merits to standing on the shoulders of giants.

“These giants have helped build the ecosystem faster, helped to educate suppliers on how to be good local experts, and how to market their business,” said Chin.

“We believe we have an edge over the competition because we are homegrown, and who knows Malaysia better than a native?”

Update [April 14, 12.45]: Details on how the company intends to grow and improve the platform in paragraphs three and four were amended to reflect the company’s current plans, which were revised between the time of interview and when the article was published. Specifically, plans are now to grow the listing to 1,000 instead of 1,500, and the website will be upgraded to provide “better user experience” rather than faster loading time.

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