COVID-19 pivot: Travel unicorn Klook sees jump in staycations

Spring 2020 was gloomy for Klook. As countries closed their borders and went into complete or partial lockdown, the SoftBank-backed travel platform saw its revenue plummet by as much as 90% through March and April. The World Travel and Tourism Council said in April that the coronavirus could put up to 100 million jobs in the global travel and tourism at risk.

But in the dark times, opportunities were also bubbling up.

Six-year-old Klook enables travelers, primarily from Asia, to discover and book overseas experiences ranging from Napa Valley wine tastings to staying with a farming family in Cambodia — a bit like Airbnb Experiences. It then takes a cut from each transaction that happens between the customer and activity vendor.

Before COVID-19, the startup, which crossed the $1 billion valuation mark back in 2018, was seeing 30 million monthly user sessions a month; by April, the figure shrank to 5 million. The constraints on people’s movement across the world, which is the foundation of its business, forced Klook to quickly rethink product offerings.

“At the end of the day, we are in the business of fun things to do. There are things to do at home, as well as local things to do when people could travel,” co-founder and chief operating officer Eric Gnock Fah told TechCrunch over a phone interview. “Now [the pandemic] is giving us an opportunity to add a new aspect to it.”


Cooped up at home, people around the world turned to cooking, handcraft and other domestic projects as an outlet for entertainment and creativity. Klook responded to the demand by offering do-it-yourself kits for making bubble tea, macarons, candles and more — and delivering the material to people’s doorsteps. For people who were still eager to see the world, Klook partnered with landmark sites worldwide on online virtual tours, amassing close to 660,000 views in its first two livestreamed experiences.