While Khim Maland was training as a tour guide for Siem Reap’s historical sites, he noticed there was something missing in the tourism industry.
Looking to ease the process of tourists booking directly with qualified local tour guides, he decided to work with childhood friend Lim Seng Tong in creating a new tour guide platform to change the industry.
Officially launched last month by Matong Co Ltd, Maland and Seng Tong spent six months developing Guide Direk, which is now available on Apple’s App Store and Google Play.
He explained that the website is where users can connect with guides, while the app is for use by guides only,
“Guidedirek.com is an online platform where both local and international tourists can book their own independent tour guide in Cambodia. At the same time the Guide Direk app is an integrated platform where local professional tour guides can register to become members,” said Maland, who is now a qualified tour guide himself.
Guide Direk also offers information on diverse attractions and activities, allowing tourists to partner with the most appropriate guide for each excursion.
“Tourists can be flexible and choose who is best to accompany them throughout the trip. The app also benefits tour guides based on three core values; it cuts down poverty by finding more customers for local guides, it widens opportunities for the guides, and it enables a fair trade system in the Cambodian Tourism sector,” Maland said.
Maland, an International Relations graduate who also sits on the board of directors at STEM Cambodia Organisation, left Phnom Penh for Siem Reap in August last year to learn more about Cambodia’s rich history and train as a tour guide.
In collaboration with his childhood friend Seng Tong, the 23-year-old then decided to research how to integrate IT into the tourism industry, deciding upon Guide Direk in January this year.
“We built a preliminary version of Guide Direk and we tried to approach many organisations, including government ministries and banks. Now we are working on upgrading our system to the 2nd edition,” Seng Tong told The Post.
Guide Direk allows registered tour guides to set and manage their own prices, profile and biography, and also allows flexible work hours.
“We don’t earn profit from tour guides by taking commission, but we make it through subscription fees after a three-month free trial period has ended,” said Maland. “We are trying to get qualified tour guides to ensure that they meet tourists’ requirements.”
While the pair is tapping into the Fourth Industrial Revolution, that is set to see many things automated and digitalised in Cambodia, Maland believes in the importance of having a human behind the technology.
“We need a person to explain experiences and historical perspectives in order to create an immersive tour. Cambodia is rich with history, culture and customs that international tourists need to know. We appreciate that the tourism industry is digitalising, but sometimes we need humans to interact with tourists to get the full experience,” he said.
Maland and Seng Tong said they have already signed up a number of tour guides with many more waiting to register.
“Tour guides are waiting on a long list to gain verification. Some registered guides don’t know how to use the app platform and we need some time to work closely with them,” said Seng Tong, Guide Direk’s Chief Operations Officer.
The Guide Direk app is also going to evolve with a number of new features set to be added in the coming months.
“We will add calls, messages or instant chats. This will allow tour guides and their clients know each other well before they work together,” said Maland.
In early July, the Ministry of Tourism launched a tourism app called Kingdom of Wonder to promote the digitalised tourism sector in Cambodia.
The app provides tourism information on destinations, maps, flights, events, restaurants, accommodation and domestic transportation.
Visit www.guidedirek.com for more information and to be connected with local tour guides. Tour Guides can also download the Guide Direk app on Apple’s App Store and Google Play.