HOTELS & TOURISM | Staff Reporter, Singapore

This platform sends tourists to secret trips

This surprise travel company books your flight and accommodation, but here’s the catch, you only know your destination once you’re already at the airport.

Spontaneous travellers are in for a surprise as travel website Anywhr (anywhr.co) adds a little more thrill to the usual getaways.

Launched in January 2017, Anywhr offers a fresh approach to travel - it is the first and only surprise travel company in Asia that lets travellers book trips to destinations that only get revealed when they arrive on the airport. This Singapore-based start-up is becoming a go-to choice for adventurous and spontaneous travellers that have visited all the usual tourist destinations like Phuket, Bali or Langkawi, and want to explore fresh places around the world that they themselves would not have been able to discover on their own.

“Right now we're focusing heavily on technology and product, and looking to raise a round of funding soon to supplement the functions in our roadmap,” says Zelia Leong, co-founder of Anywhr who started the company with fellow co-founder Felix Tan. Both are former Rocket Internet executives that headed marketing, product and operations roles.

Part of Anywhr’s next growth steps is to hire more so-called trip curators who will plan and decide the trips of travellers that book on the website.

“We send you on trips where you'll discover your destination only at the airport,” says Leong on how Anywhr stands apart from other traveling agencies and booking platforms. “We also promise not to send travellers to over-travelled destinations such as major big cities, but instead to uncharted destinations with hidden secrets that not many foreigners know of.”

Bringing authentic travel experience
Whilst travellers may seek excitement, being thrown off to unfamiliar places without any survival guide is not an appealing prospect. This is where Anywhr steps in with a holding hand: It provides a handcrafted travelogue, which is a personalised guide that includes recommended activities and local tips.

Leong and Tan saw the need for Anywhr due to the polarising effects of social media where travellers are easily swayed to visit the most popular destinations. For the co-founders, this tends to limit options and leaves many other great places undiscovered.

“As avid travellers, we realised that people are often recycling their holidays, travelling to the same destinations and doing the same things repeatedly. The crowd also follows the latest social media trend on travels and 'Top 10' lists in destinations, following a checklist that all their friends are doing as well,” says Leong.

“We want to bring the authentic travel experience to the majority, and show them that travelling is more than just 'queueing for that famous restaurant' or 'buying the souvenirs everyone else at the office is getting.’”

As a start-up, Anywhr had its fair share of growing pains. Leong recalls a time when the service was just launched and the pair could barely keep up with all the logistics that such surprise escapades entail.

“In order to meet the promise of having all travelogues delivered 7 days before their trip, we once travelled by public transport from Dhoby Ghaut to Jurong East to Choa Chu Kang, Yishun, and Aljunied in one evening to hand deliver travelogues to our travellers,” says Leong. “I had to cycle home after midnight in a dress once we were done, because I missed my last train.”

But she reckons that the hard work is part of the start-up’s mission to put back that spark of excitement in traveling, especially for those with no time to plan or have no idea where to go.

“Travel is about discovering the people, the place, yourself, and seeing things with fresh eyes and gaining new experiences,” says Leong. “We help frequent travellers discover new places they never knew existed, and new travellers to embark on their globetrotting journey when they do not know how to start.”

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