Travel TechnologyThis, and other themes on discussion at WiT 2019, which offers a bird’s eye view of travel in 2020 and beyond

Travel companies can hold their own against super apps

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Traveloka’s Dannis Muhammad, Trip.com’s Leslie Hsu and WiT founder Yeoh Siew Hoon on shaping the future of travel in Asia.
Traveloka’s Dannis Muhammad, Trip.com’s Leslie Hsu and WiT founder Yeoh Siew Hoon on shaping the future of travel in Asia.
The categories of travel at risk are those that are very highly standardised where it’s easy to get their supply (think air ticketing) onto the super apps, or where ticket prices are very low,– Oliver Rippel, founding partner, Asia Partners

Even as super apps continue to be a force to be reckoned with in the travel space, innovative players who pay attention to market trends, understand what customers need and offer differentiated services will be able to stake their claim in Asia’s future of travel in the next decade and beyond.

This was among the themes discussed at Day 1 of WiT Singapore 2019 held at the Marina Bay Sands Expo & Exhibition Centre.

“The categories of travel at risk are those that are very highly standardised where it’s easy to get their supply (think air ticketing) onto the super apps, or where ticket prices are very low,” said Oliver Rippel, founding partner, Asia Partners during the panel “The Future Is In The Money Flow”.

“The user segment and customer profile for these super apps are quite different. Travel inherently offers higher transaction value than the likes of ride-hailing or messaging apps. When customers book travel, they are still looking for expertise, reassurance and service. It’s quite difficult when your business reaches a certain scale and optimal efficiency… we pay a lot of attention to customer service so that is hard to replicate,” said Trip.com’s global head of marketing communications Leslie Hsu who spoke on the panel “The Future Is Already Here”.

Moderated by founder of WiT Yeoh Siew Hoon, the session spotlighted two Asian brands – Trip.com and Traveloka ¬– who are shaping the future of travel in Asia.

In its drive to become a travel and lifestyle platform, Indonesia-based Traveloka believes understanding how travellers purchase travel is key to forming a tight bond with its customers.

“Travellers tend to manage finances on a month-to-month basis and are very last-minute when planning and booking their travel itineraries,” said Traveloka’s chief marketing officer Dannis Muhammad. “Because of this unavailability of cash, we’ve launched PayLater (an online credit lending feature) that enables cash-strapped customers to travel now and pay later (via installments).”

Mr Dannis also added that it pays to take note of trends such as the rise of AI, which allows the targeting of micro-personas and creating micro-experiences for the traveller.

Follow the path of the customers
The critical importance of understanding the customer journey was echoed in “A Bird’s Eye View of the Customer”, where Phocuswright’s senior director, research and head analyst Maggie Rauch shared findings from their study of The New Global Travellers.

In Asia, smart phones are increasingly preferred over laptops and desktops for researching and booking travel.

While fewer than one in five US travellers would consider purchasing via social media platforms, seven in 10 Indonesians are open to the idea. What’s more, seven in 10 Chinese have already started to do so.

Chinese and Indonesian travellers are also more likely to look at various sources for travel inspiration, visit places found via social media, share photos and videos, use social to meet locals and live stream during their holidays.

“How travel brands work with these channels will hugely determine their place in the future of travel in Asia,” concluded Ms Rauch at the end of her presentation.

Creating win-win situations
In a similar vein, the idea of collaborating with competitors as a strategy to gain a win-win situation was discussed during the panel “The Future of the Hotel-OTA relationship: Collaborative or Combative?”

While the conversation used to be about who owns the customer, it has now shifted to how best all parties can better cater to the end-consumer. Expedia Group’s senior vice president for marketing and innovation Melissa Maher shared how her company offers ways to help hotels gain access to their guests even before they check-in as well as using their solutions to help hotel partners grow their direct businesses.

While Accor’s deputy CEO Asia Pacific Louise Daley acknowledges that key points of tension such as fees and pricing will always exist between the OTAs and hotel chains, she did not reject the idea of letting Expedia get in on the in-guest experience if that was what is most beneficial for their customers.

She said: “We work very hard to convert our guests to loyal members but, at the end of the day, if we keep guests in mind, that may lead us to lend a position that is better for them ultimately. And if that means a sharing of data, we will be open to that.”



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