April Cuenca, CEO of mobile travel app TripKada, could not forget the first time she went on a backpacking trip to Mount Pulag. It was a trip marked by many other firsts: her first backpacking experience and her first time going on a trip without her family (she was with a friend and some adults who were friends of her friend’s parents). “That was just a very surreal experience that opened my eyes to what places we have in the Philippines,” she reminisces.
For April, the experience of that trip was the beginning of her involvement in travel, not just as a traveler herself, but also as someone working within the travel industry.
More than just being a traveler
As many can attest, traveling to different destinations can be an exciting and pleasant experience. But getting into the travel business itself is another matter. Like any other business, overcoming the challenges that allow startups to grow and succeed can be overwhelming. April knows those challenges all too well.
Her first travel business venture was a simplified reservation management system that small travel operators and hosts could use. It was a neat concept that managed to win in a competition for tech startups. But winning was just half of it. “We had to actually run the business (by ourselves) and we ended up burning more than we could fathom, [even] just educating people what the internet is. That didn’t work out,” she recalls.
Despite the setback, she remained firm in her advocacy that every Filipino should explore their own country not only for them to appreciate better what the Philippines has to offer. For her, it was also as a way to help develop impoverished communities that have something to offer.
It was a realization she made early on, going back to her first trip and being exposed to current events happening in the country shortly afterward. “I learned that tourism was a way to create an inclusive kind of growth,” April related. “When you bring in tourism, so many people have jobs, that creates the need for better schools, better roads, better healthcare facilities,”
Bringing travelers together
After more than a year in the first venture, April and her team decided to make some necessary changes, which resulted in developing a better platform. That platform was the foundation of TripKada, launched in August 2016.
A portmanteau of the words “trip” and “barkada,” TripKada was conceived as a platform for joining trips organized by fellow travelers. “Think Uber pooling for trips,” April explains. “So instead of booking everything yourself and trying to get everybody to go with you, you can instead go on TripKada, find a trip that you like, and just book a slot. You can simply join a group, meet new friends, split the bill, and tick off [an item in] your bucket list affordably and conveniently.”
More than a year later, TripKada has proven to be a successful venture. Despite the challenges, the site has helped people explore the country and experience something different, from meeting Whang Od in Kalinga to hiking Mt. Apo in Davao.
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Bringing TripKada overseas
April is eyeing introducing TripKada to other parts of Southeast Asia like Indonesia, Malaysia, Vietnam, and Laos. She believes these countries have the same challenges as the Philippines when it comes to tourism development “Five years from now, people will know TripKada comes from the Philippines,” she declares.
For the meantime, April is focused on improving tourism at home through TripKada. “If they look at the Philippine map, most people can only identify five places. And yet we have so many islands, so many provinces where you can experience so many things,” she relates. “Our main objective is to get more people to travel and experience the Philippines as affordably as possible. The more people that we get to travel, the more that we [can help] the communities [to develop].”
“I want to make sure that we’re able to get a large percentage of Filipinos to travel, even once or twice, that’s fine with me. [We just want them to] go out and explore,” she adds.
The journey begins by heading over to Tripkada’s website at www.tripkada.com and choosing your dream destination. And if you want to make your dream destination your home as well, you can check out Avida’s developments across the country at www.avidaland.com.