KakaoTalk is South Korea’s top mobile messaging app, and Talksong is an app that evaluates users’ singing ability. Meanwhile, Somnote is a memo app that is essential for office workers. On top of their huge popularity, these applications share another thing in common. They all received the Korea Mobile Award by the Ministry of Science and ICT, as they were chosen as innovative apps. This year, as in previous years, the ministry evaluated countless applications and selected “MyRealTrip,” an online travel platform, as an app representing Korean mobile services. Let’s meet with the company’s CEO, Lee Dong-geon.

MyRealTrip was founded in 2012 when I was a senior in college. As the name indicates, it is an agency that offers travel arrangement services. We focus on activities that travelers can enjoy in a particular country. For example, they may watch a musical performance or a sports match, or go to an amusement park. They can conveniently make reservations for the tickets by using this mobile app.

MyRealTrip leads a new paradigm in the tourism industry. In the past, travel agencies mostly offered group tours and decided on everything themselves. But these days, many travelers prefer to move around a particular city or country freely. Lee went to Germany as an exchange student when he was a junior studying business administration at Korea University. While traveling neighboring countries, he detected changes in travel trends. After returning home, Lee created an online tour platform that links tour guides with travelers. If a tour guide in a country posts a tour program on the website, individual tourists can select the itinerary and pay for that.

A number of tour agencies around the world mostly sell airline tickets, accommodation, or package tours. But we focused on hands-on experiences that tourists can enjoy in countries they are traveling. This is what differentiates us from other companies. About 40 percent of tour guides are professional guides, while 60 percent are not. For example, an architect in Barcelona created an architecture tour program featuring the theme of Gaudi. In another interesting example, a chef invited travelers to his place and provided them with a cooking class.

The app provides customized programs to be enjoyed only locally and therefore allows tourists to have unique experiences. They can enjoy a backstage tour of a musical offered by an on official from Broadway in the U.S. or draw a sketch while traveling in Paris with an art student. The service offers around 12,000 items in 530 cities all around the world, including Rome, Paris, Osaka and New York. The travel itineraries are prepared by local guides themselves. Early this year, the company released another distinctive service.

Previously, users had to apply for a certain program two to three days in advance. For those who can’t wait and want to use a tour program right away, we launched an instant reservation service. If they select a program on the service, their reservation is made immediately. Thirteen percent of our reservations are made in this way, with travelers reserving a program on the very day they use it. The immediate reservation service is enjoying great popularity.

So, users of this instant reservation service don’t have to make a reservation in advance. Individual tourists find this service very convenient and enjoyable. MyRealTrip figures out what travelers really want and provides innovative services, and that’s why the company is growing fast.

We receive more than 3,000 reservations per day. The number of users’ reviews reaches 600 to 700 each day, with the total number of reviews so far amounting to 130-thousand. Our monthly sales have surpassed 5 million US dollars. This kind of app is rare in Asia, as it is an emerging industry. I believe it is the largest such business at least in Korea. We have received investment from various venture capitals such as Primer, BonAngels, Smilegate Investment, Capstone Partners, Mirae Asset, IBK Capital and Altos Ventures. Their accumulated investment is about 11 million dollars.

In 2016, MyRealTrip’s sales increased a whopping 700 percent from a year earlier. When it was first created in 2012, very few were interested in individual tourists. But the company has explored the unknown market and widened the scope of the tourism industry to become one of the best applications. But that’s not the end. It plans to expand its service areas even further.

This technology-based company is responding quickly to ever-changing trends. There are numerous large tour agencies, but I’m sure we have great potential. Until this year, we have focused on an app named “Tour and Activity.” We’ll start selling airline tickets in the first quarter of next year so individual travelers can purchase the tickets and accommodation using the app. Now we’re concentrating on individual tourists.

MyRealTrip dreams of becoming a company that travelers first think of when planning individual trips. With this goal in mind, it is constantly developing high-quality content.