17 August 2000
With Asia adopting Wireless Access Protocol (WAP) technology ahead of the West, mobile commerce is also moving along quicker.
Earlier this month, Asiatravelmart.com bacame the world’s first online travel site to offer mobile-commerce services (travelweeklyeast.com, August 7, 2000).
Registered users can now use their WAP-enabled phones to log on to trvlwap.com, and book hotel rooms.
Some 300 hotels in 100 countries are currently on the WAP list – 1,000 hotels are expected to sign up by year-end.
Asiatravelmart.com does not charge hotels for this service. “This is an additional way we are offering the hotels to market and sell their products,” said Alex Kong, chief executive
officer, Asiatravelmart.com. “It doesn’t make any difference to us from where the bookings are made.”
Transactions can be paid in multiple currencies and refunds for cancellations are possible in the form of credit points. The points may be used immediately for another product or saved for a later transaction.
Because of the relatively slow speed of transmission by WAP, Asiatravelmart.com has tried to simplify and shorten the booking process, explained Kong. For instance, users can preselect five of their favourite hotels on the website so that the search list becomes shorter. It takes about an average of two minutes to complete a booking, all within seven clicks.
After a booking is completed, a reference number is given to the user; a travel voucher and receipt will also be e-mailed to the consumer who can print it out for reference. However, these hard copy documents are not a necessity.
Aside from hotels, other products will soon be rolled out, including golfing, tours, car rentals and airport transfers. The air component is ready but awaits the airlines for the go ahead. The low-level of e-ticketing usage is one reason for its delay, said Kong.
The launch of the mobile commerce service is initiated with Asiatravelmart.com’s telecommunications partner M1, who “helped pushed this launch three months ahead of schedule because of its aggressive move into WAP technology and mobile commerce services”, said Kong.
However, Kong stressed that this is not
an exclusive arrangement and that Asiatravelmart.com will be working with other telecommunication companies to roll out this service.
Kong said it has already signed a memorandum of understanding with Hong Kong Telecommunications and will soon be offering WAP services there as well.
Meanwhile, Asiatravelmart.com is on track to materialise a turnover projection of US$60 million for the financial year ending July 31, 2001, said Kong. It is seeing a compounded growth rate of about 30 to 40 percent per month.
When Kong first entered the market in 1997 as Asia Travel Network, providing e-services to travel agents, he found that the “adoption by travel agents” to be slower than expected. In August 1999, he launched Asiatravelmart.com, a B2C site selling travel products with a B2B affiliate programme for e-partners; it has since seen “explosive growth”, said Kong.
Asiatravelmart.com is looking to close its third round of funding worth between US$10-15 million soon. It is likely to to list by the fourth quarter of this year. However, Kong stressed he was in no hurry, “We still have enough money to last us three to four years even without any revenue coming in.”
Kong said his company, whose burn-rate per month is US$150,000, will break even by mid 2001.