As the world’s largest tourist pass provider unveiled its Bangkok pass, Go City's CEO Jon Owen is placing his bets on China and the rest of APAC.
“There was a little white lie,” Jon Owen says grinning, referring to the launch party of Go City Bangkok, a multi-activity app-based pass that gives users unlimited access to approximately 30 activities in the Thai capital.
The launch party was actually a relaunch. Go City first entered the market in November 2019, mere months before Covid shut down international travel. Owen describes the move with deadpan irony as “impeccable timing”.
His commitment to expanding in the Asia Pacific region remains undeterred. Given that the brand is the clear leader in many markets in North America and Europe, “the next logical market to go for is the APAC region,” he said.
Focus on China
The forced shutdown was a blessing in disguise. “We’ve used the pandemic to do a much better job in Mandarin, with a really good Chinese social team. [We have] much better execution in our app in the Chinese language.”
He is confident that China presents the most potential. “Once China opens, that’s a big source market for Bangkok. We’ll work with Trip.com too from the trade side.”
Working with Trip.com and their local partner Jupiter Legend in a market like New York is crucial for the Chinese outbound market, but 70% sales the company’s sales still go through Go City’s own website. “It’ll be an important sector, so much so that we’re building the product in two flavors if you like, with both English language tours and Chinese language tours,” says Owen.
Expansion in Asia
Go City is planning to offer city passes for attractions in Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur, Seoul and Hong Kong next year. Photo Credit: GettyImages/Torsakarin
In the next year, Go City has plans to open in Tokyo, Kuala Lumpur and Seoul and reopen in Hong Kong.
Owen recognises that there is still a lot of work to be done. “We need to grow our customer acquisition capabilities and translate a totally different UX, structure and layout of the app to get the right information to customers in a way that they are used to.”
He also points to product extensions, like adding Pattaya or Phuket attractions to the Bangkok pass.
He singled out second-tier cities in APAC that are ripe for passes like Kyoto, Osaka, Busan, Manila, and Jakarta. “There is a long road map ahead.”
Something for everyone
In Bangkok, the pass currently includes 30 partner attractions, a mix of walking tours, culinary experiences, a river boat cruise, day trips and other activities, as well as attractions like the Mahanakhon SkyWalk, Thailand’s highest observation deck.
“I think Bangkok could probably support 45 or 50 attractions,” says Owen. Among the activities he’d like to add are rooftop bars, day trips outside the city and more language-specific tours for Chinese customers.
He hopes to reach 100,000 passes a year sold in Bangkok by the third year of operation. If APAC source markets come back strong, “we could be ahead of those figures.”
On the question of pricing, Owen is also very frank. “We don’t know what the value proposition is going to be,” he says. “We reserve our right to flex pricing quite a bit in the first three months, and when we see what people want to do we can set the price appropriately.”
Travellers with the Go City Singapore pass prefer visiting the zoo than Universal Studios Singapore. Photo Credit: Mandai Wildlife Group
On average Go City passes offer 20% savings for the customer “which is enough for us to make a little money, drive a lot of volume to the attraction and give the customer a good experience.”
Dawn Jeremiah, Go City’s vice president of marketing and e-commerce APAC gives an example of the need to assess demand before settling on a price. “We thought that the number one attraction in Singapore would be Universal Studios, but that was not the case. It’s actually the zoo. What we think is not usually the case.”
Benefit for attractions
Owen says that Go City gets big discounts from attractions, “but the reason it works for them is that we can demonstrably drive incremental volume.” In addition to increasing volume, Owen points to effective marketing to international and long haul markets that attractions can’t necessarily reach on their own.
Narun Wiwattanakrai, executive director of Siam Wellness, one of the largest wellness groups in Thailand which has made five of its Let’s Relax spas available on the pass, concurs.
“We need to shift our marketing efforts into European and US markets,” says Wiwattanakrai, citing the on-going absence of travellers from China, Hong Kong and Taiwan. “So Go City I believe is a good partner where we can attract new foreign customers and build brand awareness.”