26 June 2008
Hitting The Highway(HKTDC Gifts, Premium & Stationery, Vol 03,2008)
From basic necessities to gadgets and specialised equipment, the market for travel mates is seemingly endless
Everyone loves to travel to exotic, exciting and interesting destinations, but the further afield travellers roam the more handy helpmates they seem to need.
The key to success when it comes to providing these useful items is ensuring that they are not only compact, lightweight and durable but also highly functional.
For example, Hong Kong company Genius Link Int'l Ltd helps travellers communicate with its series of eight talking translators, among which is the Voice Travel Mate (model TRV-343).
"It is compact and user-friendly," explains Project Director Benny Pang. "Imagine if a traveller has a headache while travelling in Japan and wants to buy aspirin at a convenience store, he or she simply searches for the appropriate sentence in the Voice Travel Mate and presses the 'voice' button to ask for the product."
The Voice Travel Mate can cross-translate and speak in 12 or 15 different languages, depending on the model. "The language selection is based on popularity, and includes English, French, Russian, Japanese, Korean and Mandarin," Mr Pang says.
He says that the Voice Travel Mate sells to big-name customers in Western Europe, Turkey, the US, Canada, Australia, Japan and Russia. "Customers can request their own brand names," Mr Pang adds.
Genius Link's products are also sold as premiums, such as gifts to students who enrol in language lessons. "We provide innovative and quality products, timely delivery and professional services as well as competitive prices," Mr Pang claims. "We also offer a 15-month warranty period ex-factory."
Taking a different view is Alot Enterprise Co Ltd, which specialises in optical products such as binoculars, telescopes and spotting scopes. "Most are designed for outdoor activities such as hunting, hiking and camping," explains General Manager Catherine Mok.
The company also offers a series of compact binoculars particularly appropriate for general tourists such as model VWDN3 0825, which is compact, water- and fog-proof and boasts a rugged body design. "In fact, some of our products are sold at airport outlets," Ms Mok adds.
Alot Enterprise is a China export pioneer in this industry, Ms Mok claims. "We started in the 1980s, so we have plenty of experience," she notes. "We are specialists in production engineering, and our own R&D team develops new products, which we patent," she adds.
As well as the US, Alot has many clients in Europe, and produces items under customers' own brand names in both markets. "Our busiest time of year is different to many manufacturers - we gear up for the hunting seasons in the US, which starts in May/June, and Scandinavia, where it kicks off in August."
Another company focusing on hi-tech travel accessories is Coda Holdings Ltd, with watches, digital compasses and UV meters among its product lines.
Marketing Executive Jim Cheung says the company is targeting the outdoor sports market with watches such as the WSK-2, which offers a ski mode. "This allows users to record how fast they are skiing," explains Mr Cheung. "It takes into account the degree of the slope and height, thanks to the altimeter function, and then calculates the speed."
The similar WSK-1 model also incorporates a barometer. "This measures changes in air pressure, allowing users to predict weather conditions for days to come," Mr Cheung adds.
Coda has more than 30 years' experience in the camera field, so is very familiar with electronic components, he claims. "We can satisfy big clients, and we offer excellent warranty on our products," Mr Cheung avers, noting that all electronic watch components are sourced from Switzerland.
"We produce high-quality watches at a reasonable price, so we are competitive with the big brands."
Coda's major market is the US, but the company also exports to Europe and Southeast Asia and is looking to expand these markets, says Mr Cheung. "As well as using our own Coda brand in all markets, we also produce under customers' own brand names."
Back to basics
More traditional down-to-earth products are the domain of Chi Kuan Mfy Ltd, which produces first-aid and sewing kits aimed at the premiums market. "We have been producing the first-aid boxes for 10 years now," says Director Lovise Li. "They are intended for travel, so are light and compact."
Chi Kuan provides customers with a list of components from which to choose, including adhesive tape, bandages, absorbent cotton, surgical tape, cotton swabs, bandage buckles, safety pins, stainless steel scissors, alcohol prep pads, pill bottles, plastic pincers, tweezers, paper masks, PE disposable gloves, latex gloves, personal information sheets, triangular bandages, gauze pads, emergency blankets and sewing kits. "If customers request special items, we can source these for them," Ms Li reassures.
Some 60%-70% of Chi Kuan's customers are in the US. "They are mainly marketing promotion companies looking for premiums," Ms Li explains. "We are on the US Food and Drug Administration register for first-aid products, and fully comply with all its requirements."
Hong Kong companies producing travel mates are certainly flying high - and will continue to come up with handy items that are good to go when travellers hit the highway.
TEXT BY ANN WILLIAMS