Destination unknown

Miss Zelia Leong (above, left) and Mr Felix Tan want to share their passion for travelling with users of their travel booking service Anywhr.
Photo: The New Paper

Researching destinations is a prerequisite for most travellers, but two local travel enthusiasts are seeking to change that.

Zelia Leong and Felix Tan, both 25, launched Anywhr, an online travel booking service that only informs travellers of their holiday destination a week in advance, or on the departure day itself, if they want the "full element of surprise".

Miss Leong, who once backpacked across Europe, told The New Paper that this gives the trips an element of authenticity.

She said: "We want to share the passion of being a traveller, and not just a tourist who ticks off a checklist."

On the "mystery tour", flights and lodgings will be booked on your behalf, and you will be given a list of suggested activities to do at the location.

During the booking process, travellers choose a theme, their budget and travel dates.

There are three themes to choose from - adventure, getaway and experience.

An "experience" trip would see you staying near local cultural hotspots, while the "getaway" trips take you to relaxing locales. "Adventure" trips will "take you to locations close to adrenaline," said Miss Leong.

Travellers with specific requirements can highlight them during the booking.

They will be worked into the customised travelogue, an eight-page long guide featuring activity suggestions and places you can visit.

The guide will be mailed to you a week before the trip with $30 in the currency of the destination country.

The money is meant to cover transportation costs from the airport to the hotel.

ELEMENT OF SURPRISE

Although travellers can open the package earlier, Miss Leong suggests they open it at the airport for an element of surprise.

For travellers who fret about details, she said an e-mail would be sent three days after booking. The e-mail includes recommended essentials to pack and the departure time.

Travel enthusiast Darren Ng, 42, told TNP: "I think the service is great for people who like surprises or are strapped for time to plan."

But he added that he prefers to plan his own trips.

Miss Jaclyn Seah, 32, said Anywhr may be useful for people who are overwhelmed by the travel market.

But she has some concerns.

Miss Seah told TNP she is worried about going to a place she has travelled to extensively.

And what about countries that require travel visas?

Anywhr will not send you to countries that require a physical visa, such as Russia, said Miss Leong.

But for countries where you can apply for an online visa, such as Australia, Anywhr will do it for you.

Another concern is knowing how much to pack.

Miss Leong explained that there is an option during the booking process which allows travellers to notify them of countries they do not want to visit.

As for packing, she said travellers can base that on their length of stay, adding that a list of essential items will be included in the e-mail.

Both Miss Leong and Mr Tan are holding full-time jobs and manage Anywhr in their free time.

Miss Leong works in marketing for an Internet company and Mr Tan is a chief operating officer in another start-up.

So far, the pair have spent $320 on the start-up.

When asked about their motivations, Miss Leong said: "We want to share the passion for travelling."

Mr Tan hopes their users can view this as an option whenever they plan to travel.

He added that the response so far has been positive, with more than 12 bookings and three confirmed trips in their first week of operations.

They currently do not earn any money and are not keen on advertisements on their site.

Instead, they are planning to create partnerships with hotels and airlines in hopes of getting a cut from the discounted prices.

leeganjp@sph.com.sg


This article was first published on Jan 17, 2017.
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