Jun 2, 2014
As the travel industry starts to mature and new disruptive forces enter the fray, are you – and your business partners – ready to pivot?
In a world where many travel brands want to drive more direct business, how do you choose the right partners? Whether it’s Google, Expedia, Skyscanner or Groupon, one pressing question is this: how are they going to assist or hinder your efforts in the fight to win the next billion Asian customers? By 2030, tourists from Asia will lead all regions of the world in total departures and travel expenditures. So yes, it’s a booming market and there are huge opportunities – as well as some significant challenges.
Over the past month, we’ve been talking to some of the speakers who presented at EyeforTravel’s Travel Distribution Asia last week. They helped us to identify some emerging trends in the region. Let’s now take a closer look.
1. Ready to pivot? Are peer-to-peer and villa rentals the next big thing? Is this a tipping point in online travel?
Sean Seah, MD of Groupon Travel thinks so. “I think we’re at a pivot point. What I call travel 1.0 – the OTAs, search engines and pretty much metasearch too, which has been around for ages, have matured,” he says.
In APAC, specifically, this is a whole new segment, which could seriously shake up and disrupt the distribution model.“
In 2014 and 2015, the whole peer-to-peer model, like Airbnb and vacation rental space, like HomeAway, will be huge and that is going to make it even harder for travel suppliers like hotels to play the game, as these other guys are going to be just as good,” says Seah.
In Asia, there are still huge opportunities to run villas – especially for groups and families – in, say, Phuket and Bali
“The OTAs have brought transparency to the hotel space, but there is absolutely no transparency in the market for villas,” explains Seah.In other words, they are hard to find, very few are doing it and nobody has – as yet – gained critical mass. While, things are changing though this represents one of the greatest opportunities in APAC.
2. Mobile: it’s massive and it’s mainstream
For Skyscanner’s Andy Sleigh, General Manager, APAC you simply can’t succeed in APAC unless you understand mobile and are prepared to take advantage of mobile growth in a region, where around a third of the 4-billion strong population have access to the mobile internet.
“We take a mobile first approach – it’s a no-brainer when your mobile traffic more than tripled as ours did last year,” he says.
Says Traci Mercer, Vice President, Market Management – Asia Pacific at Expedia Lodging Partner Services: “Mobile is massive, mainstream and the marketplace for travel is – Now!”
With mobile as the mainstream medium, Mercer says Expedia will be considering what the next ‘well’ is for new customer acquisitions. Watch this space.
3. Where next for wearables…and the smart TV?
For Mercer the big question is: “As we play this forward [the fact that mobile is now mainstream], what do wearables and smart TVs do to commerce online?”
In APAC, Mercer points toa leapfrogging of the PC in favour of smartphones and tablets or ‘phablets’ and this, along with the emergence of low cost carriers, is creating a larger middle class and creating an abundance of new travel consumers. Of course, when it comes to wearables, we aren’t just talking Google Glass, and there is plenty of room for innovation on this front.
4. Keep it clean, simple and transparent
What KAYAK has seen through continued growth in 2013 is that there are similar user preferences across its various regions, and if we are speaking of integrity, it’s important to be transparent too.
“Consumers across all regions prefer a simple, intuitive and clean user interface, comprehensive search results, a fast response time, transparency in pricing, and a seamless multi-platform experience,” says Debby Soo Vice President – APAC.
KAYAK believes it is able to take its widespread and deep experience with consumer preferences in the US and apply those lessons to markets like Europe and Asia.