A professional in the IT industry uses his knowledge and passion for the dying trades to come up with a travel website focusing on novel experiences.
Khen enjoyed a lucrative IT career prior to setting up LokaLocal. — Pic by TM Info-Media
LokaLocal founder Chin Yoon Khen was set on following a conventional career route in IT — that is, until his passion for travel and photography took him down another path.
The result is online site LokaLocal. Offering rare travel experiences led by local community experts, LokaLocal allows travellers to gain authentic impressions and support local small businesses at the same time.
If, for example, one wants to eat freshly cooked local catch at a fishing village in Pulau Ketam or attend an Orang Asli mask-making workshop, it will be headed by the area’s local expert or host.
It’s possible to visit this rustic fishing village in Pulau Ketam with LokaLocal. — Pic courtesy of LokaLocal Facebook Page
All you need to do is register at the website www.lokalocal.com by signing up for an account. Then you can browse and choose from more than 400 local experiences on offer.
It also enables local experts, who will also have their own accounts, to market their services online and gain a virtual foothold in the digital world.
“LokaLocal allows travellers to experience something different, helps the local expert earn extra income and builds the economy in rural areas. And travellers can make new local friends and experience an authentic trip,” said Khen in an interview with Yellow Pages Malaysia recently.
Balik Pulau, a criss-cross of narrow roads and plantations, is best explored by riding a bike.—Pic courtesy of LokaLocal Facebook Page
The 33-year-old describes himself as a problem-solver with a tech background, having enjoyed a high-flying career at Intel and Dell as well as a crowdfunding platform called Mystartr.
Khen decided to create LokaLocal after meeting traditional artisans and tradespeople, and documenting their creations for a book. He realized that more efforts need to be made to preserve the unique skills and crafts. Among those he met are makers of bedak sejuk (rice powder used as natural beauty product), keris (dagger with wavy blade) and wau bulan (traditional kite intricately crafted by hand).
“There are so many travel agencies but none as yet focusing on authentic local travel experiences. So I cracked my head to come up with a plan to fill the gap,” said Khen.
With only five staff including himself and aided by incubator ‘sponsor’ Silltera Malaysia Sdn Bhd, the website was launched in March 2016.
By exploring local rural areas, one can appreciate sunset industries such as handmade shoemaking.— Pic courtesy of LokaLocal Facebook Page.
LokaLocal’s local experts need to provide accurate and comprehensive information on their services such as a verified email address, a mobile number, identification card number, a bank account number and high-resolution images (of their services, trades and products on offer). Also required is a high degree of integrity.
But it was tough going at first. “There isn’t much awareness (on the benefits of being online). Some of the local experts don’t even know how to use Facebook. And start-up pitching for a social enterprise is hard. It is not a ready-fit product but there is potential. I need to constantly educate them just to get the business going.”
Khen — via NB Travel Sdn Bhd (of which LokaLocal is also a part) — also oversees cuti.my, a website offering group travel packages, hotel reservations and ticketing, among others.
Giving service-oriented and on-demand travel services through cuti.my allows the generation of income and collection of big data to facilitate future business initiatives.
“More than 60% of the profit from LokaLocal comes from additional services such as the provision of additional logistics (not included in LokaLocal) for tourists. We can provide it because we own cuti.my. In turn, the travel agencies under cuti.my can benefit from LokaLocal’s experiences and special activities that will add value to their packages.”
Not surprisingly, LokaLocal has been creating a buzz in the local travel scene with novel, off-the-beaten-track experiences.
Visitors savour authentic local produce at Little India in Klang.— Pic courtesy of LokaLocal Facebook Page
And LokaLocal has also gained credence beyond the shores when it’s awarded the Social Impact Award by Mekong Business Initiative (MBI) recently.
Scaling the business is the next logical step. Among the plans are expanding the ‘local experience’ to Terengganu, working with the tourism arms of Selangor and Penang state government, and hooking up with the in-flight magazine of Malaysia Airlines, Going Places.
Ultimately, Khen aspires to position his initiatives as a major tourism company with an element of social impact initiative.
And of course, inspiring us to take the road less travelled underscores LokaLocal’s homegrown spirit. “The cities are already bombarded with tourists. I was born in Menglembu. I hope that travellers will visit the place instead of just Ipoh,” quipped Khen.
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