With requests for commercial networking opportunities to be included in Very Local Trip’s personalised tour itineraries becoming more popular, Maxime Besnier launched My Local Fixer, a bleisure-focused platform for customers who want to add value to their vacation time.
For nearly a decade, Very Local Trip has provided individual tour experiences, initially in Bangkok but now in other cities throughout South-east Asia and beyond. The concept is simple: the company’s team (Local Friends) creates a day of activities based on the client’s profile and list of interest.
The Local Friend is the company’s upgrade of a traditional tour guide, a term the founder has erased from his vocabulary.
Besnier shared: “Our Local Friend backgrounds are all highly varied. We have journalists, bloggers, photographers, artists, artisans, and expatriate wives and husbands working for us. But what they have in common is that they are all passionate about their interests, enthusiastic communicators, and hyper-curious urban explorers.”
By matching a client with a Local Friend who shares the same interests, it turns the average holiday into an enriching field trip researching how the individual’s hobbies and interests are represented in a new location.
“The guests (don’t) have to change their plans to suit us; we fit the tour around them,” he explained.
The itinerary is also completely flexible, so, for example, if a guest needs to run an errand, which can be overwhelming in an unfamiliar city, the Local Friend, can use their local knowledge to turn a mundane task, like mending a zip or fixing a shoe heel, into a fascinating peek into a different culture.
The evolution of Besnier’s core concept of providing curated cultural experiences, such as shopping, meeting local artists, or discovering the best local street food, by the company’s Local Friends after a one-on-one consultation was an organic process.
He said: “The line between business and leisure travel has been blurring for a while; and with the pandemic causing more people to work from home than ever before, the blur between work and social spaces became even more significant.
“I’d noticed an increase in agency requests and customer interviews, and realised that Very Local Trip was already creating bleisure experiences for clients. For one client, we organised a two-day itinerary; one half devoted to cultural pursuits, and the other was a full day visiting textile factories we had selected that matched their commercial interests. They went home with five new contacts, exactly in their core business – so it was a great added value for them.”
He added: “For most of our customers, rest and relaxation is the reason for travelling, but while they are there, why not take the opportunity to do a little business?
He leverages on his business connections in Thailand to find the right people to organise these experiences, something which DMCs may not be able to provide due to not having the right networks or resources.
The next few years will be busy for Besnier as My Local Fixer builds a footing in Thailand. At the same time, Very Local Trip continues to expand its presence in Asia, with operations in India, Japan, Cambodia, and Malaysia gaining velocity after Covid-19 stalled travel.
The company’s new launches in Australia and New Zealand are also proving successful.
Yet, Besnier is never content, and has eyes on another territory – the Philippines.
“From a logistical perspective, it’s not the easiest place to navigate, and it’s hard to find a good DMC in the Philippines, so there is plenty of potential for success there. (Most) crucially, my wife and my son are from Pawan in the Philippines, and it would mean a lot to them if we develop more experiences there and spend more time in their home country,” he explained.