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On a mission to serve the Mekong Region: The story of Baolau

June 28, 2018 Trade Events No Comments Email Email

Baolau celebrates five years of activity and 2018 seems to be the year of the great leap forward.
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The story behind Baolau

The project was born in 2011, while one of the co-founders, Alberto, was living in Japan. Having received a scholarship to study and research, he had the opportunity to learn about information technologies applied to public transportation in the country. Travelling himself extensively inside Japan by train, he also became familiar with the native online route planning services. Alberto, who had previously visited Vietnam and had experienced the difficulty of travel planning, thought that the same technology could apply to other countries, especially in Southeast Asia.

After graduating, Alberto returned to Vietnam in 2013 and proposed the idea to his colleague, Miguel. Together, they founded Baolau, after the term “bao lâu”, which means “how long does it take?” in Vietnamese. It took them a year to design the algorithm to calculate routes, aggregate data from multiple transport providers and develop the website www.baolau.vn. Originally, the search engine was intended to find itineraries and provide information of schedules and prices to travellers visiting Vietnam.

In 2015, Baolau took a step further and pioneered the concept of online ticket booking for trains, buses and ferries in Vietnam. A year later, the platform integrated ticket booking for flights in Vietnam, offering domestic and regional connections to Cambodia, Lao PDR and Thailand. In 2016, the company continued its international expansion by integrating train, bus and ferry services in Cambodia. Domestic and regional bus routes in Laos followed.

In 2017, Baolau entered Thailand after the announcement by State Railway of Thailand to introduce the use of electronic train tickets. The team listed the timetables and fares in the platform and connected with SRT system for ticket booking.

The same year, the company received investment to purse expansion in the Greater Mekong Subregion by adding regional flights in Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos and Thailand as well as international flights to Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia.

In 2018, Baolau reaffirms its commitment to support the use of public transport in the GMS by adding flights and bus routes in Myanmar as well as in Guangxi and Yunnan provinces in China.

Leading multi-transport travel search in the GMS

This year marks a new stage in the company development. Having completed the expansion to the six GMS countries (Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand, Myanmar and China), Baolau becomes the largest multi-transport travel search and booking engine for the Greater Mekong Sub-region, with an unmatched coverage of 150 transport providers, over 500 destinations and nearly 1,000 transportation hubs including airports, bus and rail stations and ferry ports.

“We have built a technology that allows travellers to find their way and compare prices and travel times simultaneously for all means of transportation in the Mekong region: flights, trains, buses and ferries,” indicated Alberto Moreno, Co-founder and CEO of Baolau.

The online service aggregates information from multiple sources and calculates transport routes between cities in real-time. It even combines multiple legs with different providers when non-direct routes are not available or are more expensive. All in one website.

At present, the travel search engine lists 50 regional airlines serving the Greater Mekong Subregion, more than 50 bus operators, 10 ferry companies, and 14 national and private railway companies, including Vietnam Railways, Cambodia Royal Railway, State Railway of Thailand and KTM in Malaysia.

In the near future, the platform expects to cover the rail networks in Myanmar as well as in Yunnan and Guangxi in China. “With Baolau providing a one-stop solution for the transportation problem in the GMS, we aim to facilitate travel and connectivity in the region and promote tourism in secondary destinations,” added Alberto Moreno.

Facts and figures

Baolau booking engine records a monthly average of 15,000 tickets only in Vietnam, its biggest market, followed by Thailand, Cambodia and Lao PDR. The integration of additional transport providers and routes as well as entering new markets such as Myanmar, China and Malaysia will translate into a further growth of these numbers.

Geographically, the largest source of traffic comes from Southeast Asia (over 50%), with other users connecting from Europe (25%), North America (6%), Oceania (5.5%), Northeast Asia (3.5%) and the rest of the world. Within Europe, Germany is the largest source of users followed by Spain, the UK and France.

The website is available in English, used by 70% of the customers, with the rest of the transactions carried out in other languages: Spanish, French, Chinese (simplified and traditional) and Japanese. As the online service is intended to serve local travellers as well, the team added Vietnamese and expects to include more languages represented in the Mekong Region.

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