The travel market is constantly experiencing change. Find out how Xuan Tinh Herfort, founder of Stevie-winner Indochina Travels, has learned to compete with major online booking platforms while meeting the growing demands of discerning travelers.
In May 2019, the founder and director of Indochina Travels, Xuan Tinh Herfort, received a Gold Stevie Award for Entrepreneur of the Year in the Leisure and Hospitality Industry category in the German Stevie Awards. Her company, a travel operator specializing in guided tours of Asia with a focus on the Indochinese Peninsula, also won a Bronze Stevie for Company of the Year in the same category.
But what brought the successful Vietnamese businesswoman to Frankfurt? And what’s her recipe for success in the ever-changing travel sector?
“Love at First Sight”
Xuan Tinh Herfort first came to Germany in 2002. After completing her economics degree at the University of Hanoi and gaining some professional experience, the young Vietnamese entrepreneur grabbed her backpack and set out on a European tour, where she would also stop in Germany. She still describes her encounter as “love at first sight.”
She was so impressed by the land of poets and philosophers that she decided to apply for a scholarship from the Federal Ministry of Economic Cooperation and Development as soon as she returned to Hanoi, and it wasn’t long before she was accepted onto a 14-month program with stages in Munich, Berlin and Frankfurt.
And of all the places, she was captivated by the Main metropolis. This is where she teamed up with Euvibus GmbH in 2004 to found a consultancy firm that took care of business interactions between German and Vietnamese companies and held events in Germany on behalf of the government in Hanoi. This also involved organizing business trips, which laid the foundations for her next business concept: Indochina Travels.
Since 2008, Herfort has been creating and selling tour packages to South-East Asia from her office in Frankfurt, putting German holidaymakers in touch with her homeland. Her company has become one of Germany’s leading tour operators for Indochina.
The Changing Face of Travel
The travel market is characterized by constant and sometimes rapid change. Medium-sized companies like Indochina Travels have to face competition from major online booking platforms while meeting the growing demands of discerning travelers. That’s why Indochina Travels has developed numerous innovations over the past two years to improve the experience of its direct customers and B2B partners.
“The behavior and demands of travelers are constantly changing – and they’re often highly diverse. For example, if you book a hiking trip to the Alps this year, you might be looking for a luxury beach holiday in the Caribbean next year”, explains Herfort. However, one incredibly important trend is the growing digitization of the sector, which is a tremendous challenge for smaller tour operators looking to compete against the major companies. “We see this trend as a challenge, but it’s also a great opportunity for our company. We’ve made quite an effort over the past two years, including the relaunch of our website and the introduction of a tour operator system to automate the booking process and improve our customer experience in the B2B sector”, says Herfort.
The relaunched website (www.indochinatravels.com/) allows the company to clearly and attractively present its wide range of package deals, which can now be booked in just a few clicks. Customers can check the availability and prices of over 300 different tours before making a quick and easy booking. The website came in second place at the Hessian Website Awards in September 2018 for its innovative design and presentation.
Authentic Trips with Exceptional Service
“We find it very important that our trips are authentic”, says Herfort. That’s why the company handpicks all accommodation and meticulously plans its itineraries.
The company is supported by Indochina Pearl, an inbound tour operator founded specially by Herfort in 2010. It’s based in Hanoi with offices in Cambodia, Myanmar and Laos. What else makes Indochina Travels so special? “Indochina Travels is one of the few tour operators in Germany with its roots in the region. We work with our own local subsidiaries to purchase and operate the trips”.
The businesswoman also appreciates her employees’ personal connection to the travel destinations. “Each of our trained advisors has traveled around Indochina on many occasions or even lived there!”, continues Herfort.
The ingenuity of Herfort’s business idea is reflected by her company’s sustained growth. In November 2018, Indochina Travels moved to a larger office building directly opposite the famous Goethe House; its relocation was necessary, as the company had steadily increased its workforce to 17 people and wanted to continue growing in the years to come.
A Businesswoman with Heart
Outside the work that she puts into her own travel brand, Herfort also acts as the Director of Indochina within the Diplomatic Council, a UN-recognized NGO that promotes international understanding through successful business diplomacy.
As part of her role, Herfort is committed to improving the education of disadvantaged children in Vietnam. Her company makes regular charitable donations in the Indochinese Peninsula. “We see ourselves as sponsors of the region. We support low-income families and promote the education of children in poorer countries. We’re constantly looking for partners to achieve our goals together. We’re also working hard to protect and preserve Hạ Long Bay”.
In 2016, Herfort was recognized by the City of Frankfurt as an “Outstanding Person from a Migrant Background”. Within the travel sector, the 40-year-old has also chaired the Committee for Travel Operators at the asr Alliance of Independent Travel Traders and currently sits on the advisory board at the Travel Industry Club (TIC).
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