More Than Just A Guided Tour

Big Blue Holidays is for the young and also the young-at-heart.

Alas! We’ve come to a conclusion of our trip to the magical island of Penang. I personally, for once, truly enjoyed the tour (or should I call it a journey?). And if it was a journey, it was definitely a long one. We’ve met Uncle Lee who makes handmade joss sticks, visited farm and cottage industries in Balik Pulau, strolled around George Town for a food hunt, spent the nights in heritage boutique hotels, and walked through a 130 million-year-old virgin rainforestStudying in Penang for 3 years, I thought I’ve explored the island to its every corner and tasted every delicacy possible. Yet, apparently, there was a lot more to discover and believe me when I say this, you will never feel content as there’s always something new every day for you to discover.

Penang is indeed The Pearl of The Orient. It has never had a shortage of locals visiting and foreign tourists coming from all over the world to experience what it has to offer. From its gastronomical delights to cultural and heritage buildings, this small island has definitely caught the eyes of the world. It’s a perfect destination for everyone –  those who want to spend a holiday with their families, urbanites going for a short getaway with friends, nature enthusiasts and foodies alike. 

Shoutout to Big Blue Holidays

By now you probably already know that UPPRE’s trip to Penang was sponsored by the Big Blue Holidays – a travel portal that offers a wide range of exciting experiences that cater to the young and the young-at-heart, be it adventurous or leisurely. Operating under its parent company Urban Rhythms Tours, Adventures & Travels Sdn. Bhd, the first online platform targets the mid to upper-income segment of internet users who purchase travel products online. Experience-wise, Big Blue Holidays certainly has a special touch where everything was very personal and every little detail was explained to ensure that it wasn’t just touch-and-go kind of trip. 

Meet Nigel Wong, the man behind Big Blue Holidays, Director/CEO of Urban Rhythm Tours, Adventures & Travels Sdn. Bhd. We asked him a few questions to know more about the company and why you should come aboard.

Instead of Urban Rhythm, what made you decide to use the name Big Blue Holidays for the website?

Oh! Urban Rhythm is the company’s name but I find that Big Blue Holidays is a more catchy name. Besides, it’s the only dot com (.com) that we could find (laughs).

How did you come out with the name?

About 6-7 years ago, it was my brother, Julian, and I who came up with the name while we were sitting around one day and thinking what on earth we should call this new platform. I am not so sure but we had come across the name Big Blue Marbles or something like that. And then, we decided that “Hey! Big Blue sounds good, why not see whether Big Blue Holidays is available or not” and voila! It was available. So, we locked it in and ever since it’s been Big Blue Holidays.

So Julian was already in the picture by then?

He’s actually been taking pictures for Urban Rhythm during the early stage at the time. He was also doing some graphic design work here and there and helping with the business as well. It was just between brothers, I would say.

How long did it take before you came out with the idea to do this storytelling kind of tour?

You see, the idea has been around for quite some time, so it’s not a new concept, in that sense. But, I suppose what we we do is we add a special touch to it by being there on the ground instead of saying “hey come to Penang and see this service and that service”. We go down to the ground and we experience it for ourselves and then we try to tailor-make it to suit our angle of the story. That’s the key difference. The other difference is that we engage partners with like-minded people. It’s mostly by chance and not by design. We find people that can relate to the places we are promoting. And that’s how we determine first and foremost, who we’re working with.

For the adventurous, the young and the young-at-heart

What is your demography?

We are angling for the millennial market in terms of how we do our demography, how we position our products, price range as well as services provided. But, that being said, our demography also includes those who are millennials at heart and that’s a big demography there.

At the moment, we cater to English-speaking market but I think next year onwards we’ll be expanding to target Chinese FIT (Free Independent Traveller) market. Their millennials are also not much different from anyone else you see today. They are easy to be handled which is in contrary to the belief that most of them are hard to be handled.

How many persons can you cater to at a time?

We can take full group tours but we prefer to keep it within the range of 6-10 persons per tour. Logistically speaking, 10 person max with their luggage and all is probably the most we can go. Ideally is 6 persons per tour. Any more than that, you wouldn’t get the same personal experience. You don’t have the opportunity to ask questions around and engage with us. Once you can’t engage, you lose the value (of the experience).

Now that you have Big Blue Holidays set up with a storytelling trail in Penang, is there any other places or city or state that you have in mind for the future plan?

We’ve already done some video shooting for Kota Kinabalu and Sukau in Sabah. We’re gonna be looking more at, say, the adventurous side. We still have a number of things that we can do in Sabah. Also, places in Sarawak are also still vastly untold. Even on the mainland, there are a lot of places for the adventurous ones like Royal Belum Rainforest, and small places in Terengganu and Kelantan that nobody has ever visited before. East side of the Peninsular is unique and of course, the West side like Penang, there’s still a lot more can be done. Of course, we have heritage cities like Malacca, and a nice old town in Ipoh. After all, Malaysia, in general, has a lot more to offer than just food. There are deeper stories in each city and we are definitely going to discover them one by one.

What about abroad?

We’ve got plans together with partners, for example, like winery tours in Tuscany, Italy, South Australia, and France. Of course, the adventurous stuff like volcanoes in Indonesia, we plan to go hiking and walking tours. Basically, wherever there’s a story to be told, we’ll definitely bring the traveller.

How soon are we going to see these stories being available to the public?

I think, within next year (2018). We’ll be putting up more and more, both locally and overseas.

Tell us more about the tour packages offered by Big Blue Holidays.

So, the packages that we do, we’re actually combining a few things together. First of all, most of our packages are activities-based. They do not necessarily require high energy but we move people quickly through an experience, letting them savour what it’s like to be part of the culture and the activities but not to the extent you get bored. But we also incorporate a lot of spaces in our products, for example, after the tour, on the regular tour, you’ll get the afternoon to yourselves to go and explore on your own because that’s part of the experience itself.

Time rage per tour?

It highly depends on the activities. It can be as short as 3days 2 nights and it can go up to 21 days.

Any other tourism services/packages that you’ll be rolling out from Big Blue Holidays or Urban Rhythm? 

Not really. I mean, Big Blue Holidays is going to be much more focused on the personal experience itself. If you are thinking about other services, at the moment, no. It’s gonna focus entirely on the experiential tours.

Been there, done that

What’s so special about Big Blue Holidays?

If we haven’t done it ourselves, we don’t tell it in our stories/videos. Basically, we guarantee whatever we tell you in our videos and our write-ups are actually what’s on the ground. We don’t necessarily do a review. We’re not doing a review. We tell the stories. And we hope when you come aboard and become part of the tours, you’ll experience it in your own ways.

Main highlight why people should come aboard and join the adventure with Big Blue Holidays?

No. 1 – We are cool, no. 2 – we are cool, no. 3 – we are cool. (laughs)

Travelling is a great thing. Sure, you can travel all by yourselves and make new friends along the way. But, sometimes, it’s always nice to have someone to show you around and explain to you every bit of information that makes it more memorable. It’s even nicer to join a group of like-minded people where you can share your thoughts and eventually, widen your circle of friends.

The Penang trip last November was definitely an unforgettable one. Thanks to Big Blue Holidays, we got to experience a real and authentic journey, and explored and gained new knowledge about the island’s diverse culture and precious hidden gems.

P/S: A new adventure awaits. Stay tuned for our next trip to Penang. 

Image via BrainyQuote

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Basir Zainuddin

Basir Zainuddin

Of coffee, music, and sea breeze. Ambivert, sometimes socially awkward.
Basir Zainuddin

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