Hot Seat

Stephen Emge

American Stephen Emge has nothing really to do with teaching English in Thailand, but he's come up with an internet-based idea that just might appeal to a few teachers in Thailand and help them earn a little 'money on the side'

Q

Hi Stephen. Welcome to the ajarn hot seat. Your website is called 'Ragged Passport'. Briefly, what's the concept? How does it work?

A

Well, Raggedpassport is a website that connects people who are away from home with local people that can help them find and do things with as little hassle as possible. If you have local knowledge of a place you can use that knowledge to not only help others but make money by charging for the services you provide. As a traveler I can search raggedpassport by country, category or language to find a local person to help me out.

Q

This isn't a totally new idea is it? I'm sure I've seen something similar before. Is this whole 'concierge' idea a relatively competitive market?

A

As you know there are many travel websites out there offering travel advice and help but its from a distance. They aren't actually there picking you up at the airport or showing you the best places to shop or eat. They're behind a desk or computer already writing another outdated guide for you to purchase.

Also, if you do in fact find a concierge service on the web they probably specialize in only one thing or place and still don't provide an in-person service so I think this is an original idea.

Q

You saw teachers in Thailand as having good 'concierge' potential . What were your reasons for that?

A

As a habitual traveler I've made my way around the world a bit and where ever I went there were always English teachers living there, many for extended periods of time. They often spoke more than one language and knew as much about a city as any local. The perfect fit!

Q

Are you going to promote Ragged Passport to other teachers around the world?

A

Absolutely. But not exclusively teachers, anyone could make a business out of helping people away from their homes and not just in the tourism industry. If you have a look at some of the over 40 categories of service listings I have on my site you'll see listings to support such things as Movie Location Scouts, Real Estate, Antiques and Animal Shows and more.

Q

Sorry to be nosey, but how do you intend to make money yourself out of Ragged Passport?

A

Well, at first I'm just going to see if there's interest in this idea. I have a few spots for advertising on the site and that may help pay for the overhead of running the site but it's not really about that. I just want my idea to work!

Q

So let's see if I've got the concept clear in my mind? You live in Leiden in Holland and funnily enough, I was there only last month while on holiday with my wife. If I contacted you and said I was going to be in Leiden for one night only and wanted to go to the best bars and clubs in town, you could act as my guide?

A

Exactly. You could read a ton of guide books but until you show up you never know how accurate they are and then it may be too late. I know which streets to miss and which ones have that undiscovered treasure that only locals know about. I could meet you at the airport, arrange for your transport to the hotel and then show you the city!

Q

And we would have to agree a price for your services of course?

A

That's important. Ragged Passport has nothing to do with what a concierge charges their customers and we don't want any of it. That's between them and the customer. If they overcharge then they won't get any business. If they don't set the price up front then the customer may not pay or simply walk away. There is also a rating system on the site and concierges with the higher ratings show up at the top of all lists. It pays to be friendly and professional!

Q

If someone came to Thailand and wanted to engage the services of a Ragged Passport concierge, what do you see the typical services that the concierge could offer?

A

There are all types of travelers - some more independent than others but we all like to get settled after getting off a long flight as quickly as possible and not feel like we've been welcomed to the country by being overcharged or chased down by the taxis or driven around in circles. The first impressions are the ones that last and meeting people at the airport is the first of many services. Arranging for bus and train tickets is another. I may even need help trying to find a teaching job! The possibilities are only limited by the concierge.

Q

Isn't there the possibility - especially in a place like swinging Thailand - where the concierge might be asked to provide more than just a tour of the temples (nudge nudge wink wink) We're all adults here. It could get a little messy couldn't it?

A

Well, people are people and that is most likely to happen. Raggedpassport's policy regarding things of the wink-wink nature are strict and we will remove any concierge account that is less than family friendly. There is more than enough culture and beauty in the world for a concierge to help show travelers without going down that road.

Q

I suppose your dream is to have thousands of concierges all over the world, covering every possible city in every country?

A

I think it would really help people be more comfortable traveling and give them the ability to see the true nature of a place rather than the in-your-face commercial stuff that we can accidentally fall into.

Q

You do realize this could put Lonely Planet out of business?

A

Evil smile.

Q

I should have asked this earlier, but where did you get the whole Ragged Passport idea from?

A

I'm glad you asked, Phil. I was working in Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam and I started going to this gym to work out. My diet was pretty low protein at the time and I wanted to fine some protein powder to help supplement my diet. I normally don't mind a challenge but for something like this I just wanted it, no hassle. After 3 days of scouring the city (and its a complicated place) I gave up. I mentioned it to a Vietnamese colleague and he got it for me that afternoon. Incredible. Local knowledge is king!

Q

Is this your first internet-based business venture?

A

I'm a programmer by trade and I've written a lot of web-based stuff but this one is for me and involves travel which is definitely my passion.

Q

Good luck with it Stephen. It certainly sounds like a fun business to be in.

A

Thanks, Phil. I can't wait to see what people come up with! Good luck to you too! And of course if anyone in Thailand fancies becoming a concierge, then go to http://www.raggedpassport.com/ and sign up. It's as easy as that.

Read more Hot Seat interviews



Featured Jobs

HR Office Administrator

฿28,000+ / month

Bangkok


Pre-school Teacher at International School

฿90,000+ / month

Bangkok


Passionate, Experienced Music Teacher

฿50,000+ / month

Bangkok


School Nurse

฿25,000+ / month

Rayong


NES Teachers (Lat Krabang and Bangkok)

฿40,000+ / month

Bangkok


Full-time Native English Teachers

฿47,500+ / month

Bangkok


Featured Teachers

  • Adryan


    Indonesian, 43 years old. Currently living in Indonesia

  • Chris


    American, 65 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Bien


    Filipino, 25 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • Precious


    South African, 38 years old. Currently living in Vietnam

  • Anas


    Syrian, 44 years old. Currently living in Thailand

  • John


    Filipino, 29 years old. Currently living in Philippines

The Hot Spot


Contributions welcome

Contributions welcome

If you like visiting ajarn.com and reading the content, why not get involved yourself and keep us up to date?


Teacher mistakes

Teacher mistakes

What are the most common mistakes that teachers make when they are about to embark on a teaching career in Thailand? We've got them all covered.


Renting an apartment?

Renting an apartment?

Before you go pounding the streets, check out our guide and know what to look out for.


The dreaded demo

The dreaded demo

Many schools ask for demo lessons before they hire. What should you the teacher be aware of?


Can you hear me OK?

Can you hear me OK?

In today's modern world, the on-line interview is becoming more and more popular. How do you prepare for it?


Will I find work in Thailand?

Will I find work in Thailand?

It's one of the most common questions we get e-mailed to us. So find out exactly where you stand.


Need Thailand insurance?

Need Thailand insurance?

Have a question about health or travel insurance in Thailand? Ricky Batten from Pacific Prime is Ajarn's resident expert.