5 tips for taking your online travel business from strength to strength in APAC

It isn’t easy starting up and staying on track but David Chambat, chief executive of Villa-Bali has some tips

With 90% of startups failing within five years of inauguration, steps need to be taken to ensure continued success. Here are our 5 top tips:

Tip #1 - Audit your success

Before thinking of expanding your business, ask yourself: ‘why does it work today?’ Being introspective and clarifying the processes that led to early successes will help you to prepare for growth. At Villa-Bali.com, among the things that contributed to our early success were a good website, an updated blog, clear communications channels and informed travel consultants. The reality is that it’s not enough to say you can do something; you have to have processes available to you to ensure that you can do it at any given time. Formalising your actions will allow you to replicate in other departments or destinations.

Tip #2 - Develop global systems

Once you’ve identified what worked, put the systems in place. In any business, there is a phase where you know the ins and outs of the business - the people, the numbers and so on. At this stage, you probably won’t need advanced systems. However, the moment you start gaining traction and increasing your customer base, you have to be able to share more information globally. It’s not possible to develop internationally if you don’t have the necessary tools in place to support your growth. Before bookings increased exponentially, requests at Villa Bali were done manually. This was a slow inefficient process and prone to errors. For this reason, Villa-Bali.com developed inter-villa.com, to help manage the availability and reservation calendar for booking villas. What had been a manual entry system became an automated process and allowed for a smoother customer experience for clients. The IT department then developed Fox, and inquiry and reservation system for booking villas. These two major systems enabled Villa-Bali.com to replicate a business that was streamlined, optimised and efficient.

Tip #3 - Hire the right people and delegate

To keep functional costs low, in the early days most entrepreneurs create and run their businesses with very few employees. However, while this ‘one-man show’ can be useful, it can also hinder growth. When you replicate your business, you need to be able to delegate work to managers and to empower them. It’s not possible to scale if everything relies on the capabilities of one person. Therefore, you need to hire people you can trust to do your job for you. Incentivising staff with decent pay packages can also be an important factor. If you’re confident in your team and vice-versa, growth will be significantly easier!

Tip #4 - Be passionate

It’s natural to put more effort in your starter project because fear of failure is, I find, a great motivator. But in order to succeed you have to be able to put the same energy and same passion into any new destinations of your business. Being equally dedicated to all your projects can be tough. For example, we’re very focused on Villa-Bali.com, our first destination, because its 90% of our business, but we’re working hard on having the same level of engagement with our other projects - SriLanka-Villa.com, Samui-Villa.com, Villa-Phuket.com, and Seminyak-Villa.com. 

Tip #5 - Dont be complacent

The biggest threat to the expansion of your company is complacency. When you shift focus from your core business to multiple projects, you can risk losing that core business to the competition. When others see what you have accomplished, they may want a piece of the pie. My top tip then is to stay alert, to look for innovation and never forget the core rules and systems that brought you success in the first place.

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