“Major online travel agencies don’t care about the customer, they only care about the money”. This is the thought that inspired Vietnam’s newest online booking agent, Innaway.
Founded by Christian Ki (CK for short), Innaway is a platform for midrange travellers to choose from hand picked accommodation meeting the customers’ needs, and supplying easy-to-talk-to hosts.
The service is founded on four major principles; super fast booking, handpicked with love, a host you can reach anytime, and an exclusive community. The aim is to take away 75 percent of the customers booking time by handpicking hotels from the wide range of hotels available (around 1,052 in Hanoi alone).
All of the hotels Innaway associate with must fit the specific quality criteria that they expect from their hosts. Travellers are encouraged to speak with the hosts before, during and after their stay to ensure they are satisfied at all times, and to comment on the accommodation after their stay on the Innaway community platform.
“Unlike Airbnb, hosts associated with Innaway do not cook or clean for you, but they are there to coordinate all your needs,” explains CK.
To do this, the traveller can send messages back and forth with the host. The aim is to keep the customer happy throughout the booking experience, the stay and the after-stay experience.
A few years ago, CK founded his own travel agency in Vietnam called Insight Frog. Along with this, he was the co-founder of ClickSpace; two successful businesses. When he decided to start working on Innaway, he wanted to commit all of his time to his new project so he dropped his company, and sold his shares in ClickSpace. Having founded and worked with successful businesses in Vietnam before should work to his advantage when trying to get Innaway to take off.
The main online travel agencies that dominate the market work on a commission based salary starting from 20 percent. The more bookings they get, the higher commissions they receive. On top of this, the more the hotels pay the agencies, the higher ratings they get on their websites.
According to CK, these booking engines don’t care about the customer at all, only about the money. It’s here that he saw a gap in the industry.
To keep customers happy, his platform is open and honest, and is never shut off to comments or feedback. He takes a much lower commission from the hotels to begin with, and instead “chooses to work and grow with them”, helping each other and keeping the customers happy so as to build a return-customer base.
Competing with the Best
But how will this service stack up against the likes of Booking.com, Agoda.com and Airbnb?
For one, these websites host thousands more properties on their sites. This could work to Innaway’s advantage. Having hand-picked each hotel, it makes it easier for the potential customer to find what they want.
It could also be a hindrance when customers outside their target audience must go to the major booking sites to find what they want; all of which have filters available to find the facilities, locations, prices, and ratings the customer wants.
To combat these issues, from April last year Innaway ran a trial using a Squarespace website and PayPal. This trial was successful and gave the founders a good idea of how well this business would perform in Vietnam. They plan to launch the website innaway.co (not .com) in mid April, and from then, users will be able to browse and book from the website.
Lead photo by Sasha Arefieva