JAKARTA, July 12: Southeast Asia is one of the fastest changing travel regions in the world.
“So why do travellers spend almost US$60 on more than two kilograms of out-of-date guidebooks, when they can get everything they need online and it won’t cost them a cent?” asks Travelfish.org co-founder Stuart McDonald.
Travelfish.org, an online travel guide to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, turns three on Wednesday. As a gift to its readers, the site has just posted guesthouse listing number 2,500 — cementing its status as the most comprehensive travel planning website to the region.
“I’ve crossed paths with travel writers working for the legacy publishers and I always walk away knowing it’s a winning solution we’ve hit upon,” says McDonald.
“A guidebook writer can best hope to read their review in print nine months after they wrote it. For Travelfish researchers, it can be as little as nine minutes — all they need is an internet cafe.”
For co-founders Stuart McDonald and Samantha Brown it’s been three very satisfying years. “We started off just the two of us, travelling widely in Thailand,” says Brown. “And now here we are with half our fourth country (Vietnam) covered and plans being drawn up for a fifth.”
Travelfish has the field covered, with up to 10 researchers expanding and updating the site at any one time.
Travelfish has grown into something more than just another guidebook on the web, says McDonald. “There’s free-PDF formatted travel guides — which users can customise for content and layout — a lively forum, sample vacation plans, photo galleries, postcards, feature stories, FAQs, maps and more.”
Even the competition find Travelfish useful.
“When I’m planning an update, Travelfish is at the top of my bookmarks,” says one travel writer for a major publisher, who would rather remain anonymous.
“Unlike other travel sites, I know that a real, independent person has been to the hotel and written the Travelfish review. I don’t need to wade through the endless PR propaganda you find elsewhere, or look at years-old photos of the only decent room in the house,” he says.
“Travelfish has no direct relationships with hotels, so it can label a five-star hotel an over-priced, overrated dump without worrying that it’s going to cost them money. It’s total guidebook independence with the immediacy of the web. I love it.”
Travelfish readers can make reservations through partner websites, but many listings cannot be booked online.
“These are family-run businesses in the back-blocks of the countryside without a website, fax or even regular electricity,” says McDonald. “If you want to read about places like that and get off the beaten track in Southeast Asia, Travelfish is your best option.”
So when you’re planning your next trip to Cambodia, Laos, Thailand and Vietnam, you can either wander down to your local bookstore and shell out US$60 for two kilograms of out-of-date research or log on to an up-to-the-minute resource that weighs nothing: Travelfish.org, the website other travel writers use.
Travelfish is an Australian company. All enquiries to: firstname.lastname@example.org
Two kilograms based on the weight of the latest releases of Lonely Planet’s Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam guidebooks. US$60 based on cost of the same titles purchased through amazon.com.