In the dynamic landscape of the travel industry, one company has emerged as a pivotal force, revolutionizing the way customized journeys are designed, managed, and delivered. Lushu Technology (Chinese: 路书科技), a leading provider of comprehensive solutions for the travel sector, is on a mission to empower travel professionals and elevate the travel experience.
Through its flagship SaaS product, Lushu Cloud Customization Travel Workspace, commonly referred to as "Lushu Cloud," the company has transformed the way travel agencies and independent studios tailor their offerings to clients. With a focus on technology, talent, branding, and marketing, Lushu Technology has solidified its position as a driving force in the industry.
In an exclusive interview with EqualOcean, Lushu's founder Cheng Xiaoyu delves into the company's journey, its unique positioning, and the strategic elements that have propelled it to the forefront of the sector.
The Journey Begins
Lushu Technology embarked on its journey in 2014 when the concept of personalized travel experiences was still in its infancy in China. In the interview, founder Cheng Xiaoyu shared the company's early vision and journey. "Our primary goal has always been to empower travel service providers," Cheng remarked. Unlike conventional travel platforms that directly offer travel services, Lushu Technology set its sights on enabling these providers to offer customized solutions.
Cheng explained that Lushu Technology introduced a revolutionary idea in 2016 with the launch of Lushu Cloud. This platform standardized the customization process, offering a range of tools and features to streamline itinerary editing, manage evolving client demands, enhance customer experiences, and build internal databases. Lushu Cloud quickly became the go-to solution, garnering the attention of thousands of travel agencies and independent studios both domestically and abroad.
Customization with an Edge
Distinguishing itself from other players in the market, Lushu Technology positioned itself as a platform-centric company rather than a conventional business entity. Cheng emphasized that their core identity lies in empowering the industry from the shadows. "We stand behind the scenes, providing the means for travel professionals to excel," Cheng stated.
Highlighting the company's unique position, Cheng elaborated on the competitive edge that has allowed Lushu Technology to stand out in a fiercely competitive landscape. The founder attributed their success to three key factors:
1. Resolute Platform Positioning: In contrast to competitors, many of whom straddle both B2C and B2B models, Lushu Technology remains steadfast in its platform identity. By solely offering empowerment tools and eschewing direct customer service, the company ensures users have a clear, focused experience, leading to trust and engagement.
2. Technological Excellence: Lushu Technology's commitment to technological innovation is evident through its highly user-friendly and efficient interface. Cheng noted that while imitations of their interface are common, competitors often struggle to replicate the seamless user experience and interactive design that underpins Lushu Cloud.
3. Data Empowerment: Having pioneered the establishment of a global network of partnerships with over 70 tourism boards, Lushu Technology excels in collecting and curating data. This invaluable network empowers users with access to up-to-date, authoritative resources that cater to every travel need.
Exemplary Case: Customized Travel Leading Industry Transformation
The customized travel industry was once led by individual entrepreneurs with overseas educational backgrounds. They aimed to provide travelers with more personalized and high-quality customized travel experiences. However, these entrepreneurs often found themselves isolated within the industry, facing challenges such as resource scarcity and a lack of information. Lushu Technology provides an innovative platform that connects these entrepreneurs, allowing them to draw strength from collaboration and communication.
An impactful case, etched in the memory of Cheng Xiaoyu, involves a female entrepreneur from a third-tier city. Having studied abroad and harboring a passion for both travel and coffee, she opened a coffee shop upon returning to her homeland, providing travel consultation services alongside. However, she felt a sense of solitude and confusion within the industry. Through Lushu Technology's online academy and innovation camp, she found like-minded peers, engaging in the exchange of experiences and the collision of ideas with fellow entrepreneurs. Ultimately, not only did she find partners, but she also co-founded a successful customized travel company in Wuhan with her classmates. This transformation propelled her from a small workshop-style individual operator to a professional company, a success story that continued to flourish even amidst the challenges posed by the pandemic.
Brand Building and Channel Expansion
Founded during a unique juncture, Lushu Technology emerged during the boom of the internet era and amid structural adjustments within the travel industry. Introduced in 2016, their customized travel system has evolved over more than a year, establishing itself as the industry's leading platform. Early adopters of their system recognized its potential for enhancing efficiency, significantly reducing itinerary planning times from half a month to a mere day. While traditional players in the tourism sector took longer to transition from awareness to acceptance, Lushu Technology's user-friendly system facilitated smoother market education.
Through brand building and channel development, Lushu Technology engaged proactively in content marketing and participated in various exhibitions, thereby earning respect and trust within the industry. Nevertheless, they encountered challenges during their promotional efforts. It is noted that at the outset, some traditional industry practitioners held unfavorable impressions of internet-based companies. By effectively conveying Lushu Technology's enthusiasm and original intent for the industry, they secured the trust and confidence of many quarters. The company's provision of an easy-to-use and efficient system, which reduced the time for customizing travel itineraries from half a month to within a day, greatly enhanced industry practitioners' efficiency and facilitated their embrace of this innovation.
Challenges and Endeavors: The Original Aspiration to Empower the Industry
Cheng Xiaoyu recounted a series of challenges that Lushu Technology had encountered since its inception. Initially, the company's team returned to China with aspirations of developing a freemium tool, only to realize the difficulties of executing this in the domestic market. Chinese users were not accustomed to paying for tools, posing a dilemma for the freemium model. However, faced with this challenge, they decisively abandoned their original plan and refocused on the B2B market, concentrating on empowering the industry.
Another challenge arose in 2017 when numerous competitors emerged, compelling the company to maintain competitiveness amid fierce rivalry. Yet, it was precisely due to the B2B nature of their business, characterized by longer conversion and cooperation cycles, that Lushu Technology gained recognition from business partners and solidified its position in the competitive landscape.
International Collaboration and Technology-Driven Exploration: Navigating the Global Market
Cheng Xiaoyu emphasized Lushu Technology's collaborative ties with overseas tourism bureaus and travel agencies. She highlighted that the company had established official partnerships with over 70 countries, spanning more than 8,000 destinations. This collaborative approach addresses various needs across the tourism industry's value chain, from source markets to destinations, and from distribution channels to receiving agencies, thereby achieving globalized tourism services.
Furthermore, She stressed that trends within the global tourism market are shifting from focusing on the entire globe to regional markets. This evolution presents new challenges for their business development. However, they are addressing this by expanding into the global market through multilingual versions of their system, adapting to this new challenge.
Future Outlook: Empowering New Technologies and Global Expansion
Cheng Xiaoyu conveyed that in the forthcoming three years, Lushu Technology will closely monitor the developments of new technologies and new media. She noted that short video platforms like Douyin (Chinese: 抖音) and TikTok have become integral to people's lives while emerging technologies such as AI are increasingly pivotal within the travel industry. Lushu Technology plans to integrate new technologies with content, tailoring suitable offerings for diverse markets. She also referenced their successful collaboration with Rokid, an endeavor that showcased their active exploration of new partnership models.
Looking ahead, Cheng Xiaoyu confidently stated, "The major trend of the future is 'Go Global, Go Digital.'" Lushu Technology will continue to expand into global markets, leveraging new technologies to enhance users' travel experiences.
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