It’s been more than three years since Arival took place in Asia, but seamless connectivity, reservation technology remain key topics of interest for tour operators.
Douglas Quinby, co-founder and CEO of Arival, speaking to Travel Weekly Asia at Arival 2023, which was recently held at the Marriott Marquis Queen’s Park in Bangkok, said helping operators to grow their business and unlock the value of connectivity is the mission for the event.
Baidi Li, senior vice president commercial APAC for Go City, which sells passes for attractions and activities in major cities around the world, also talked to Travel Weekly Asia about the importance of seamless connectivity.
The company addressed the issues of cumbersome offline booking processes head-on by building proprietary technology to improve customer experience. "We spent a lot of time, money and resources to build this reservation system,” she said. Their solutions have been rolled out in other GoCity destinations like Singapore and Seoul, following its initial launch in the Thai market.
Travel in the age of content
Tejveer Bedi, head of travel and tourism SEA from TikTok, distinguished between the Age of Social that depended on a user’s connections and TikTok’s current Age of Content, in which 60% of travel bookings are made after seeing content.
"Tiktok is a trip before the trip" was an often repeated soundbite during his talk, where he reeled off case studies and figures about search behaviours even before the intention to travel to a destination has been formulated.
He attributed the success of TikTok to the entertaining nature of the platform that regular users view some 90 minutes a day. His marketing tips included trending formats like "Let’s get to the good part" videos, the use of influencers, promoting hashtag challenges to drive up user-generated content and tips on content creation ("it doesn't have to be perfect").
When asked about TikTok’s role in travel in the future, Bedi was clear. "We don’t have the intention to become an OTA at all." But he did say that there is a TikTok shop for physical products that TikTok takes a commission on. "It may come up for travel as well," though he said he didn’t know when that might be.
Bedi also debunked the idea that TikTok is only for lower-spending teen and Gen Z audiences. "If you’re marketing to over 60, don’t use TikTok, but otherwise TikTok is pretty strong and we see a lot of growth," he said, singling out high-end brands like Rosewood Hotels which has been very active on the platform.
Connections in real life
Catherine Germier-Hamel, CEO of Destination Mekong, an organisation that supports small businesses and community-based tourism throughout the six countries in the Mekong region, found that the show was a platform for reaching out to new partners. "We act as connectors between travellers and the community, between public and private, between the different stakeholders.”
First-timer Henry Beh of Kuala Lumpur-based My Indie World was enthusiastic about the opportunities Arival provided to exchange with other attendees. "It created the space for us to share information. What I like about this setting is the intimate engagement with people who are doing exciting things."
As for Arival’s Quinby, he hopes that the show will return to Asia. “Nothing confirmed, but plans are underway. We certainly would love to [organise Arival in Asia again] and there is a need in the industry. There is a lot of untapped opportunity.”