Taking its name from the Zulu phrase meaning “gateway”, isango! specialises in tours, experiences and attraction tickets in more than 300 destinations across North America, Europe and the Middle East.
Now it is expanding in Asia, offering new itineraries in Taiwan, Japan, China, Malaysia, and most recently, Bali. Managing director Vinay Gupta says the new experiences were inspired by the possibility of cheaper travel to Asia and clients becoming more adventurous.
“These destinations are full of culture and unique experiences. What we try to do is bring in a local aspect, whether that’s through a walking tour, a culinary demonstration or photography classes.
“We’re also influenced by the trend of extended stays, when clients visit a city for up to a month and take time doing something every day rather than rushing to experience it all at once.”
Highlights of the new product include a tour of the Pinglin Tea Plantation in Taiwan, a Mount Fuji excursion in Japan and the chance to take to the waterways of the Malaysian town of Kuala Selangor in a fishing boat.
In Bali, clients have a choice of 22 new adventures such as The Bali Safari & Marine Park, Gold Island Beach Watersports, and a Cruise & Spa tour, where they can spot komodo dragons before relaxing with a 90-minute massage. “Choosing the tours was a bit of science and a bit of art,” says Gupta.
Bali is a destination we want to focus on more. It is unique, but it’s not easy to recommend five definitive things to do. We learned more by sending our destination manager there, speaking to local travel agents and touching base with suppliers to find unique experiences.”
Back in March, isango! launched its online agent booking platform, enabling the UK trade to access its portfolio of tours and experiences. By registering via email (firstname.lastname@example.org), consultants can easily keep track of bookings, commissions and weekly reports on the isango! website.
“The online portal will now allow agents to earn competitive commissions from the wide variety of city tours, hop-on hop-off tours, attractions and days out,” says Gupta.
Looking to the future, he foresees isango! working closer with the cruise industry. “There are a lot of luxury travel agents that work with clients who want to go on a cruise and are looking for an in-destination experience. Our city tours can be tailor-made so clients can experience a day out with a local family and then come back that same evening,” he explains.
Regarding new destinations, isango! hasn’t yet confirmed anything, focusing instead on expansion in its established regions.
“There will be new tours that delve much deeper into the territories we currently operate in. For example, in Indonesia we will look at how we can go beyond Bali, and for Thailand how we can go further than Bangkok.”
For now, Gupta points to the Firefly Watching & Kuala Selangor Kampung Tour from Kuala Lumpur as a highlight and one of his personal favourites. Here, clients will experience thousands of fireflies zipping around Kampung Kuantan’s darkened mangrove swamp as well as visits to historical attractions and a bird sanctuary.
“I love Malaysia and the forest walking tours, as I’m more of a nature person. I love to be near to animals and plants. But I love the bustle of Kuala Lumpur too. It’s great taking a walk down the older parts of the city and checking out the Islamic architecture, something that not many people know about. It’s a very colourful experience.”