Planet Holiday Plans to Remain an Asia Insider

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Planet Holiday is an insider in Asia and they are particularly knowledgeable about hotels and travel in the region and spend a lot of time answering members' questions and correcting misconceptions. As the region has blossomed as a destination for Westerners, the role of counselor and information dispenser has grown along with it. Planet Holiday has been part of the local scene since starting in a very modest way in Phuket back in '97, when the whole online experience was new, and when Asia travel was only for the more adventurous. Kenny has presided over quite a blossoming of the region as a destination for Westerners, as operations have expanded internationally. And the role of counselor and information dispenser has grown along with it.

Asia is still a bit of a mystery in many ways and we still find ourselves a little shocked sometimes by the questions

Kids ask the darnedest questions. And so do Western travelers to Asia, according to a recent interview with Mike Kenny, founder of online travel website PlanetHoliday.com.

"The fact that we are an insider in Asia, and are particularly knowledgeable about hotels in Thailand means that we spend a lot of time answering our members' questions and correcting a few misconceptions in general, along the way."

Planet Holiday has been part of the local scene since starting in a very modest way in Phuket back in '97, when the whole online experience was new, and when Asia travel was only for the more adventurous. Kenny has presided over quite a blossoming of the region as a destination for Westerners, as operations have expanded internationally. And the role of counselor and information dispenser has grown along with it.

"Asia is still a bit of a mystery in many ways and we still find ourselves a little shocked sometimes by the questions," he said. "We were asked by one of our members if they should cancel their holiday at the Hong Kong Hilton (HKK Hilton), because of the Tsunami in Thailand. We had to refer them to our online maps to reassure them there were two different oceans. But we enjoy that personal stuff. It's very much who we are. We're set up to make dialogue easy."

The dialogue is due to the fact that if you book with Planet Holiday, you automatically become enrolled in their rewards program, and become a Member. Members can chat online with 24/7 operators in several languages. And what do they chat about?

"Often serious stuff that needs to be addressed. The troubles in the Deep South, for instance. Again, we show them that the Southern border region is far from the Andaman tourist region, but we don't want to sound nonchalant about it. Travelers should always be made aware if any situation exists that might affect their travel plans, and we give them the facts."

And has it affected business so far?

"From our perspective there has been no effect," says Kenny, "Most frequent travelers are unconcerned, and the newer ones who stay informed seem to be following suit. It doesn't hurt that Phuket Hotels and the region are looking better than ever after the Tsunami and there are terrific special offers ongoing. For instance, the Kata Beach Resort Phuket for US$51/night and the Club Andaman Beach Resort Phuket for US$46/night. They expect us, as a local insider, to be on top of this sort of special deals."

Much of the online chat with customers is about reassuring them in some small way.

"We have customers checking into 4 and 5-star Bangkok hotels like the Davis Hotel Bangkok, worried if they'll be able to get online, or communicate with the staff. They don't realize how technologically advanced Bangkok is and how cosmopolitan it has become, like many other major Asian cities. We try to keep tabs on which languages are supported at the major hotels, in order to answer questions like this."

Says Kenny: "We've always welcomed our customers’ questions, however odd. It was a big part of being small and local. And as we get bigger, we'll be global and local. It's an important part of the Planet Holiday personality and something we will never want to change."

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