Four travel industry veterans with over two decades of combined experience in destination management have come together to rebuild Thailand’s tourism industry in a manner that will benefit new or smaller travel sellers, local tourism workers, and the wider community.
The product of their vision is Tripseed, a destination operator and distributor that specialises in curated tourist experiences across Thailand which support locally owned businesses and communities.
Itineraries feature opportunities – some of which are exclusive to Tripseed – for travellers to engage with natives, learn local cultures and traditions, and have their spend channelled directly to local communities.
An example is the Cooking with a Local Family tour in Chiang Mai, where travellers will interact with the Yong ethnic group; partake in various activities with the people, such as making flower bouquets; visit a Yong cultural museum; and join a local family for a home-cooked meal.
As well, a tour to a lesser-known, rural village puts travellers on a unique mode of transport known as etak etan and brings them around to fruit orchards and various craftwork houses for activities, such as mud cloth production and silk weaving. Revenue goes directly to members of the community.
Ewan Cluckie, founder of Tripseed, told TTG Asia: “Communities like these have few other means of income, so working with the villagers to create (tourist) experiences introduces a vital additional revenue stream for the community. It is about getting the money to where it is most needed in the most direct way possible.”
Cluckie, a marketing professional with travel and hospitality experience, is joined by partners Suphawadi Cluckie, a German language specialist who previously oversaw the German inbound market for one of Asia’s largest DMCs; Narissara Wongmahawan, a ground expert in northern Thailand, with experience in leading operations for a key industry player; and Richard Ludwig, who led critical product development for two of Asia’s largest DMCs.
Tripseed also achieves an environmental regeneration goal, as a tree is planted for every customer that travels with the company. The programme is enforced through Plant with Purpose, an organisation with 35 years of experience working with local communities to reverse deforestation through a sustainable, pro-farmer approach.
“We were very careful about our choice of partner here, as it needed to be environmentally sustainable and not just a tree farm, but also provide jobs and income. So, it’s a win for the planet and a win for the local community,” commented Cluckie.
For smaller travel sellers Tripseed supports, services are available to help them market and compete more efficiently. Dedicated account managers ensure equal access to highly personalised service for agents and operators of all sizes, while in-house marketing agency, Tripseed Studio, provides partners with marketing know-how.
“We’re trying to even the playing field for smaller travel sellers,” said Cluckie, who noted that competition is stiff in a marketplace dominated by big players.
Another critical direction of Tripseed is to improve equality in tourism employment. One of the normalised discriminatory hiring practices that the company is determined to break is the different set of employment terms for local and expatriate staff. A common feature of this is unequal annual leave terms, revealed Cluckie.
“It is very common for local employees to be given the minimum annual leave required by the government, which is six days after one year of service. In contrast, expatriates are given around 20 days of leave from their first day of employment. It would take a local employee 15 years of service to (get the same leave days as) their expatriate counterparts. At Tripseed, everyone is given 20 days of annual leave,” he said.
He added: “This is just one example. In our industry, we are always discussing responsible tourism in the context of climate change and wildlife protection, and even gender and racial discrimination, but there has been a failure to give local employees a voice and address their concerns when they face discrimination of their own. It is our goal to lead by example and deliver an alternative to the status quo that provides a greater level of equality for local employees.”
In line with Tripseed’s promise to “grow travel back better”, the company prioritises partnerships with suppliers that “align closely with our own values”. Such suppliers are given preference in Tripseed’s marketing and sales pitches.
However, Cluckie takes a practical view on this and acknowledges that the tourism landscape is very diverse and it is impossible to only work with suppliers that share the same beliefs.
“The big part of our promise, and the key word on which we focus is ‘grow’. For our partners, our suppliers and even ourselves, our belief is that we should be better than we were the day before, whether that means driving more of our profits to offering better wages for our staff or providing resources and solutions to suppliers so they can operate in a more conscientious fashion. As long as our partners are willing to constantly improve, we feel there is value to the relationship,” he added.
With Tripseed’s official launch just days ago on November 1, Cluckie said it is hard to define how the marketplace is taking its presence. The company will, for a start, specialise in Thailand as a destination and work with agents and operators in the UK, Germany and the US.
Ahead of launch, Tripseed operated some tours for Thai travellers, which Cluckie said drew strong praise. The customers have gone on to become “strong advocates, raising a lot of interest in our upcoming Tripseed affiliate programme”, which is an agent monetisation platform to give independent sellers a route to grow into an established travel retailer.
“(The affiliate programme) is in tune with our goal of helping new travel businesses grow and flourish,” he said.
Positive word of mouth has also generated interest from the UK, the US and Germany, and many agents have reached out to Tripseed to learn more.
To raise awareness, Tripseed is offering a 11.11 special offer on November 11, targeting agents in its key markets. Agents are eligible for 11 per cent off their first three confirmed bookings made between November 11 and January 30, 2022 when they subscribe to Tripseed’s newsletter and connect on LinkedIn and Facebook.
“This is to celebrate our launch, and also the gradual reopening of Thailand, but also provide a way for agents and operators to try out our services at very little risk,” he said.