Service is value added. For example, the hotel has equipment and, with the awareness of people with disabilities, will be more than happy to provide more services and products.
Even though many venture capitalists have repeatedly lamented that tourism entrepreneurship has no story to tell, but from time to time someone will unveil a new hole and expose new market demand.
A robin travel agency that offers accessible travel products and services is one such startup. Since its inception in mid-2017, they have opened up nearly 40 disabled people and group tours at home and abroad, serving over 1,000 disabled people. For many of the group members who have lower limb disorders and visual impairments, the robin took them to complete the first trip in their lives.
But in the vision of founder Xie Haijun, the robin needs to go further and become a professional barrier-free travel brand. Although she has a rich public interest and charity background, she is not a public welfare person with a lot of blood. “Charity can’t really incite anything. To change the reality of the difficulty of traveling for people with disabilities, it is still necessary to rely on the power of business.”
When it comes to business considerations, the combination of disabled people and travel may be eye-catching, easy to start, and easy to attract partners, but how to establish a long-term, industrialized business model that can bring benefits to other players in the travel chain. Is the challenge of the robin.
In March 2018, the Robin completed millions of angel rounds of financing. Barrier-free travel is a blue ocean market, but how can a startup open this market, attract and compete with players in the industry chain? Xie Haijun shared the original intention and ambition of the robin.
First think about the business model
For the Chinese tourism market with a total tourism revenue of nearly 6 trillion yuan (2018 year-round), barrier-free tourism is still a new term. According to the sixth national census, the total number of disabled people in China exceeds 85 million.
However, in China, the reality of the difficulty of travel for the disabled has made most people ignore the tourism needs of this huge group. Compared with the well-established barrier-free tourism facilities, access and system industries in Japan, Europe and the United States, it is quite difficult to find a travel agency that can form a group to receive disabled people. It is also a rare thing for a wheelchair person to go out alone. .
Everything related to barrier-free tourism in China is blank, and the market is still in a vacuum. This discovery made Xie Haijun, who was studying social enterprise in the UK at the time, find an exit.
From the university, Xie Haijun has participated in public welfare and community activities for disabled people. After graduating from university, she has been working as an employment program for disabled people in NGOs (public welfare organizations). After studying abroad, she can say that she has never left a group of people with disabilities.
She immediately asked a friend in the country for a simple market research. In a survey of 100 people with disabilities in different ages, including the first, second and third tier cities, 68% of them have a strong desire to travel. This kind of willingness corresponds to the option of “must travel once in this life”. .
Xie Haijun said: “At the time of the New Year’s Day, I contacted four or eight people in the questionnaire to talk about communication. When the other party talked about tourism, it is not to relax, to see the world, but to go. Dreams. Some of them have not gone downstairs for three years.”
All of these have made Xie Haijun firmly believe that there is a strong market demand for barrier-free tourism. But the real determination to create a robin and make a barrier-free travel brand is not based on the impulse to help these people dream. The matter of traveling with disabled people is only a public good, or a business model that works: different motives will affect how far the robin can go in the future.
“I really collect this market data well, business model, follow-up industrialization chain is thought of, and then determined to do this.” In the NGO project, Xie Haijun’s docking is the major companies The Social Responsibility Department, she has not left the business context.
In July 2017, Xie Haijun returned to China to register with Robin Network Technology Co., Ltd., looking for an office and building a team. The founding team has only 5 people, which corresponds to the functions of product operation, team leader training, communication and design.
She recalls that she never thought about running a travel agency first, but instead intended to make a lighter model, similar to a platform for resource docking and integration. She believes that the advantages of the robin are the understanding of the barrier community, the professionalism of the service barrier group, and the corresponding social relationship resources.
“But after grinding for a month, when we took the lead, we found that there was no travel agency or outdoor group that had the ability or the willingness to provide travel services for the disabled. On the other hand, this is a new type of segment, which requires a professional organization in the early stage. To establish standards and education markets.”
It is also a custom tour with group tour.
Operating a travel agency is starting from scratch, and the development and customization of barrier-free travel routes are also from zero to one. From July to October 2017, in the first few months of the establishment of the Robin Company, one of the things that Xie Haijun repeatedly did was to step on the line in Guangzhou, Beijing, Shanghai, Thailand, etc., and customized more than ten times in the field experience. The line comes out.
“In the beginning, we felt that the three-day group could be finished in one day, but the three-day regiment really had to step on three days.” Xie Haijun said that the development of the first few routes is the most difficult. One of the most prominent problems is the general lack of barrier-free equipment and barrier-free access in hotels, restaurants, and attractions. This requires them to detour the road and find a feasible route design.
For example, the flyover is very convenient for ordinary people, but the group members who are in wheelchairs cannot climb the bridge; when choosing a hotel, the basic requirement is to have barrier-free ramps, elevators, and the door width of the guest room and the width of the bathroom door. There is a standard for the bed height, and there is enough space in the bathroom to turn the wheelchair.
In order to make the journey as safe and considerate as possible, Xie Haijun took her two friends when she walked the first wheelchair line. The couple suffered from different levels of lower limbs, and they had to rely on wheelchairs for daily life. Suggest improvements.
There are also many specialities in the matching of disabled people with group tours. For wheelchairs, the number of places visited a day will be controlled within three. Accommodation is generally based on four-star hotels. The barrier-free facilities of hotels, homestays and apartments below Samsung are incomplete and have relatively few options.
Xie Haijun said frankly: “I know that there is no special feature, but there is no way. The first point of our line is available, otherwise it will be useless.” Overall, in the choice of attractions, hotels, restaurants, there is still Barrier facilities are the primary consideration.
Specifically, the requirements of different barrier groups are quite different. At present, the robin is also maturing to the operation of the visually impaired group.
Xie Haijun introduced that the visually impaired people generally hope that the hotel rooms are smaller, the layout is square, and there is no need for too much space design. It is also not advisable to add too many pure scenic spots to the attractions, but to highlight the elements that can be touched and experienced, such as hot springs, water parks, and video games. In addition, the team leader needs to have professional oral imaging skills to accurately describe the orientation, environment and shape for the blind.
Similarly, when planning the visually impaired line for the first time, Xie Haijun also gathered more than 20 people with different visual impairment levels to ask for advice. They designed the route by themselves and chose the route of Conghua Hot Spring for two days and one night as the first experience. .
This year, the robin has also joined the type of travel for the elderly in barrier-free tourism. According to the statistics of the National Bureau of Ageing in 2018, the number of elderly people is 241 million. The elders facing the robin are mostly elderly people over the age of 70. They also rely on wheelchairs, and they have difficulty in communication and a higher level of service.
The robin’s dedicated line covers wheelchairs, visually impaired, hearing impaired, and the elderly. Forty destinations include eight foreign routes in Southeast Asia, the United States, Europe, and Japan. The hotels and cars in most domestic routes are directly collected by the robin, while the foreign attractions, hotels, and dining arrangements are mostly organized through the organization. The team leader only needs to take care of the group members.
The “human” factor is difficult to replicate
If the previous line development and planning is the polishing of the robin in the supply side of the product, then the leader’s service in the process of getting out of the group is the link that best allows the guests to have a goodwill and trust in the brand.
“If there is something in the robin that I can’t discard, it must be the leader.” Xie Haijun described the importance of the team leader in each mission. Each line of the robin will be equipped with one or three team leaders according to the number of the group. They not only have to undertake the work of ordinary tour guides, but also have sufficient coordination ability. The core is the ability and awareness of people with service disabilities.
The robin leader is not only responsible for the professional protection knowledge and equipment operation of the disabled, but also to fulfill the duties of daily care, but also have sufficient coordination and empathy to take care of each group member in the details. .
In addition, the team leader will arrange ice-breaking activities to guide everyone to interact and integrate into the group. For this group of people who are limited to wheelchairs and limited space on weekdays, group tour is actually a rare social opportunity. “This kind of service is not standardized. Every time it is sent out, it is like a family trip. Finally, when we are at the airport, we are all crying.” Xie Haijun said.
Correspondingly, the robin recruiting and training for the leader has strict requirements. The background of people with service disabilities is the foundation, and then retraining is required, including 72 hours of theoretical professorship and practical training. After the training, not only through the interview written test, but also out of the group exercise, complete the task assessment, in order to get the leader card. The robin has now trained more than a dozen professional leaders.
In terms of fees, the cost of a robin with a group tour will be slightly higher than that of an ordinary group tour of the same destination. Take the Hulunbeier 6-day tour as an example. The robin platform charges 3,499 yuan/person. Ctrip has the same grade package, the same number of people, but the more classic Hulunbeier 6-day tour fee is 3035 yuan/person. In addition, the leader’s fees will be paid separately by the group members in the form of a tip.
Generally speaking, the maximum number of robins is no more than 20, and there are also family members or escorts with disabilities, and the accompanying staff must pay the same fee. In the early days, more than 50% of people with disabilities will carry family members. “But then the proportion is also decreasing. First, family members see professional services and begin to feel relieved. Second, they are encouraged by the independent travel partners in the group. influences.”
The Robin Travel Agency now receives more than 1,000 people and the Rebate platform has a repurchase rate of 35%. There are no other online channels besides the self-operated website and the WeChat public account. The main methods of communication and access are still through word-of-mouth recommendations between communities.
“There are not a lot of social activities for people with disabilities, so there is a lot of time on the Internet every day. In the roaming organization theme group of the Robin organization, it is active every day.” Xie Haijun said that the disabled people depend on the community. The degree is actually very high, they have strict boundaries in their hearts, and they are more convinced of the experience of friends with disabilities.
For this reason, the robin has not been vigorously promoted in the market, but is focused on operating existing users. After each trip, the group members who need it will join the WeChat group of the Robin organization. There are currently more than 1,000 people in the group. The usual robin staff will also collect travel requests, send accessibility-related issues, and initiate discussions.
Robin is a social enterprise
“The first barrier-free travel agency in China”, this is the positioning of the robin in the media exposure this year.
The expansion of the influence of the robin is what Xie Haizhen is happy to see, but what she wants to do from the beginning is not a travel agency. To be exact, the industrialization of barrier-free tourism and the promotion of barrier-free travel environment reform are the logical deployment of Xie Haizhen at the beginning of his business.
“The outside world’s positioning of the robin is a travel agency, but it doesn’t matter, because this is the first step in our landing. You throw so many things from the beginning, people don’t know what you are going to do.”
While the travel agency business continues to move forward, the robin has not stopped extending other contacts in the barrier-free travel industry chain. In April of this year, Robin and China Life Insurance Co., Ltd. jointly developed the first travel insurance product for the disabled in China. What is rare is that there is no age limit for this insurance.
On the accommodation, the robin is also trying to cooperate with the road passengers to adapt the barrier-free homestay to provide professional standards and training, so that the barrier-free facilities can also be promoted in the homestay to provide more affordable accommodation products for the disabled.
In addition to the group tour, Xie Haizhen believes that there are a large number of obstacles for people who need to travel. She and her friends co-authored the first domestic travel guide book for disabled people, which is being published. In the development of derivatives, many requirements were extracted from the process of serving the disabled, and the robin was also designed to create barrier-free accessories. For example, a hotel with a Braille bath bottle.
Back to the operation of the travel agency, Xie Haizhen is very clear, “the understanding, cultivation and product design of the community is difficult for us to copy.”
But she has completely different concerns about the scale of travel agencies. “I am also entangled in whether or not to establish channels on Ctrip. I am afraid that if you continue to pick up the group, the travel agency has done too much business. The entire strength of the company is placed on the travel agency, and it is difficult to turn around.”
Part of this idea stems from the fact that it is not her original intention to operate a travel agency, but in a brand new market, someone needs to take the lead and establish standards. On the other hand, in Xie Haijun’s vision, there should be no travel agency that specifically distinguishes people with disabilities.
“It should be said that the future Robin travel agency is gone, and our purpose has been achieved. Because this existence is itself deformed,” she said.
From such a complaint, it is not the consumer, but the travel agency. Exporting standards, products, training leaders, certifications, etc. to ordinary travel agencies; growing into an authoritative barrier-free platform, providing training, certification, derivatives, etc. to hotels and attractions in the tourism industry chain.
In Xie Haijun’s cognition, barrier-free facilities are first, and with the equipment, people’s understanding of the barrier-free concept will be possible. “Services are value-added. For example, hotels have equipment and, with the awareness of people with disabilities, will be more than happy to provide more services and products.”
More importantly, people are made aware that the robin may be out of charity and out of her own mission of “accessibility”, but barrier-free tourism does have huge market potential and strong demand.
For Xie Haijun, the future challenge lies in how to develop this market healthily and reasonably. Let the business see the existence of this part of the population, see the consumption potential and market demand, take the initiative to provide services, fulfill social responsibilities, and then create a compatible environment. “It’s more effective than making a lot of public welfare activities in promoting barrier-free travel.”