Travel has been a passion since a solo bicycle trip around The Netherlands while only 11 years old. After that taste of adventure, more bike trips followed around Europe. Working various jobs after school and on the weekends, interest in business soon took over from classroom learnings. Early years working at a neighbour’s TV, doing everything from selling to delivering, laid the foundation for an entrepreneurial future. Using money earned to travel further, Willem boarded his first flight ever and made his way to Jakarta. It was love at first sight for Asia. A job at NBBS Reizen, a student travel organiization specialized in airline and train tickets, was the first introduction to the travel industry: the connection was made between making a living and pursuing his passion for travel.
The move to Asia came when being offered a job at NBBS’s travel partner in Thailand in 1987, its successful “Visit Thailand Year”. The job, working alongside the eccentric owener of the company, proved to be the convergence of love for travel, Asia and entrepreneurship. Willem has not looked back since. The early 90’s was an era of pivotal changes for the region and the opening of opportunities. The US lifted its Vietnam trade embargo. 1993 was the year of the UN-led elections in Cambodia and Laos was slowly opening its doors to tourists. Willem founded Khiri Travel at the end of 1993 with the vision of a one-stop travel company for Thailand and “Indochina”. With the moral and financial backing of friends, the company moved from a humble non-air-conditioned shophouse in Pratunam to a hotel room in Banglumpoo.
Today Willem is the engine behind the Khiri Group, with 17 offices spread over Thailand, Myanmar, Cambodia, Vietnam, Laos, Indonesia, Sri Lanka, the Maldives and the USA.