The WHL Group is a private company incorporated in Hong Kong and operated by a team from Australia, Brazil, South Africa, the USA, UK, and Vietnam. The business (an OTA for emerging economies) is the original business of the WHL Group and started life as a development project in the Mekong region (a project operated by the IFC, part of the World Bank Group) trying to find new ways to get travel product from the developing world online and able to be transacted just as it is in the West. We ended up (after several false starts) with the franchise type model we have today and which we have developed for scaling most of our businesses . With this model we have local partners in the destinations who do all the things best done locally (including working directly with the local accommodation providers and with travellers) and does all the things best done centrally (technology, web marketing etc.). In March 2006 WHL was spun off from the IFC as a private company.

In building the network of local partners we continued to work with local suppliers of accommodation and tours to help them improve market access and build a more sustainable future. We have done this by providing innovative market access technology/solutions directly to small and medium scale (SME) accommodation providers, tour operators, transfer companies, restaurants and activity providers. WHL has worked closely over the years with groups like the IFC, World Bank, Inter-American Development Bank, the EU, the South Pacific Tourism Organisation, Pacific Trade and Invest and others, and is regarded as a leader in SME development in tourism.

Leveraging from the WHL Group’s core assets (a global network of local travel professionals) and sophisticated technology which all partners use to run their business, we started in 2009 to launch specialist branded products. The first was Urban Adventures, a day tour business (a joint venture with Intrepid Travel launched in late 2009), followed by Green Path Transfers (March 2011). Also, in late 2010, we launched Lime&Tonic, a concierge service and member site focussing exclusively on restaurants and leisure activities. All these companies are built around local operators who own and operate the businesses, and all of them are active in supporting the local communities they operate in, as well as offering unique experiences for travellers. The WHL Group has been a trailblazer in terms of opening up the long tail of tourism and bringing unique local product to market in partnership with local providers. In late 2011 we formed Hotel Link Solutions, a JV with Tourism Holdings (one of Australia’s largest travel technology companies) with the intention of leveraging the joint skills and experience of the WHL Group and Tourism Holdings to develop best of breed technology and delivery models for SME accommodations globally. A tool developed to train our franchisees to understand the needs of SME accommodation providers (our digital HealthCheck) has also now been launched as a free service.

The WHL Group today has evolved to become in effect a travel incubator …albeit with a couple of unique attributes. First is that the group has developed very deep domain expertise in working with small and medium scale tourism operators in both the developed world and the developing world. This SME sector has special needs, not only in the products they use (low cost, integrated, easy to use) but also in how you sell to and support them. You effectively have to be local in every market serviced. Second, most technology development and support is now done by a wholly owned subsidiary in Vietnam (our Tadidi company). Vietnam has a large pool of highly skilled IT professionals we can draw from, and today we boast the largest travel technology team in the country. Vietnam has a booming tourism sector and SME market so is a great test environment for the work we do.