“We want to make travel services accessible to everyone”

What is your opinion of the country’s tourism industry?

Bangladeshis are adventurous and hence continue to explore whenever they get the chance.

Whether it’s a group or a single person, people are always eager to explore the unknown realms to see more and learn more.

That’s why traveling is part of our culture.

The tourism industry in our country contributes around 4.4% of the country’s GDP as people spare no expense when it comes to food and travel.

However, our tourist attractions are not fully utilized.

This is because the industry could not yet fully reap the benefits of digitalization.

With the onset of the pandemic, it has become more evident that people are increasingly turning to digital services.

Thus, the government and other stakeholders must work collaboratively to create an inclusive ecosystem based on the power of digitization and internet facilities.

With internet penetration increasing day by day in our country, it will now be easier to reach more travelers.

Our neighboring countries benefit from their tourism sector, which contributes significantly to the economic development of these respective countries.

At present, the digitalization of the tourism sector is of paramount importance and could help this industry to become a robust sector in the near future.

How do you view the online travel agency (OTA) segment?

When we talk about OTA, the first thing we need to consider is consumer behavior.

In this fast-paced world, consumer behavior is constantly changing and more and more travelers are planning their trips digitally.

For example, when planning a trip, what device do you use? Definitely, it’s your phone or your laptop.

People are less interested in going directly to agents these days.

According to research conducted by Statista, computers are now the most popular channel for travelers around the world when it comes to planning and booking vacation destinations.

This underscores the fact that travelers are now more open to the prospect of an online travel agency (OTA) when crafting their travel plan.

Thus, more and more travelers are interested in OTAs to benefit from travel-related services.

It is encouraging to see that the government as well as industry insiders are making efforts to help this segment grow.

With the easing of restrictions related to the Covid-19 pandemic, where would you place the estimated number of Bangladeshis traveling abroad?

Due to Covid-19 restrictions, there has been a huge drop in traveler numbers, both domestically and internationally.

However, things have started to turn the corner and travel restrictions have been eased in many countries.

Since the restrictions were lifted, we have seen that the number of travelers has increased almost 20 times.

Some people are still hesitant to travel abroad, but I hope the situation will improve very soon.

There is a good chance that outbound travel will increase in the coming days, which will help this industry to experience steady growth just like other industries.

The Minister of State for ICT Division, Zunaid Ahmed Palak, recently pointed out that only 20% of the country’s travel market has been explored, while the remaining 80% remains untapped. How can ShareTrip help?

We have a large potential tourism industry.

To tap into its full potential, we need to reach everyone, even someone in the farthest corner of the country.

ShareTrip is already working with the a2i project of the ICT division to empower the most remote regions of the country.

We want to make services related to domestic, inbound and outbound travel more accessible to everyone.

This is where Startup Bangladesh Limited’s investment in ShareTrip will play a major role.

In this regard, the development of travel knowledge is important because our potential customers must have the skills and knowledge to seek such services online.

ShareTrip tries to teach consumers how they can get more and more services from the comfort of their homes using their phones.

Tell us about the Startup Bangladesh investment you received recently.

Startup Bangladesh Limited, the flagship venture capital firm in the ICT division, recently invested in ShareTrip worth $50 million to bridge the gap between offline and online travel services.

We are the first travel technology company to be funded by government-backed venture capital.

ShareTrip, in line with Vision 2041, will strive to bridge the existing gap between offline and online travel services to create a holistic and inclusive travel ecosystem on the Internet.

To attract foreign investment, what do you think local startups should focus on?

Considering the global market, travel is a $7 trillion industry while this industry is expected to grow to a $7 trillion market size by 2023.

To reach this estimated growth point and grow further, startups need to attract foreign investment.

To attract investment, local startups need to focus on improving their product development, expansion and not to mention customer experience.

Satisfied customers will speak for you and help you grow your base.

Instead of always keeping your attention on glamorous ads and gimmicks, startups should set ambitious goals, work hard, and try to set the right standards while working towards the goal.

Through these, startups can portray themselves as long-term players in the ecosystem, moving towards sustainability and, ultimately, long-term profitability.

Such a practice will help develop a healthy ecosystem and once you have a robust ecosystem in place, more people will feel interested in investing in this industry.

What are ShareTrip’s future plans?

If I look at how we started our journey, no one believed that we could become the biggest OTA in the country.

Again, we have proven that your vision can come true if we work hard and follow the right path.

Today, we’re not only the largest OTA in the country, but we’ve also made our space one of the best in the total travel space.

Now we feel that just being in this position is not enough for us.

We don’t want to remain a dominant player in the ecosystem, rather we want to rise to a height where ShareTrip will be the first and only choice whenever anyone thinks of travelling.

To achieve this, we will work together with all other stakeholders, including our hotel partners, tour operators, airlines to name a few.

Helping the local hospitality industry grow is one of our top priorities right now as there is great potential for growth in this segment.

ShareTrip wants to help the local hospitality industry grow and reach its potential.

After conquering the local industry, we want to expand our operations globally, at the same time make inbound tourism more important and create a niche market for our tourism industry.

We want to bring the beauty of our country to the world stage and compete with other leading OTAs like Agoda and booking.com to offer the most convenient and lucrative travel solutions.

We already have a foot in the door and now we just need to step through it with the right strategy and confidence and explore the many opportunities that lie ahead.

Willie R. Golden