Why travel technology feels different in AsiaNewsBy Kevin May | November 4, 2011Share This article was originally published on Lee Peng cut an anxious figure as he stood waiting to go on-stage in Singapore, preparing to showcase the winning entry for Tnooz's latest THack.Despite the obvious nerves (two of his colleagues also looked rather overwhelmed by the occasion alongside him at the AV desk), moments later, Peng was standing in front of 400-odd people at the WebinTravel conference, telling them about a hack combining GDS-held booking data, live flight information and mobile text alerts.Probably only in his late-20s, early-30s at the most (sorry, schoolboy journalistic error, forgot to ask his age), Peng was suddenly and wonderfully confident as he told delegates about the rather quaintly titled WhereIsMyTravellingParent, a system whereby friends and family can be notified of a traveller they may be worried about when they arrive at an airport or hotel or attraction.Peng was the frontman for a three-person team from a company called Forecepts who had turned up at the beginning of THack Singapore at a Shangri-La resort hotel on the outskirts of the city just two days before.Over the course of 24 hours, beginning at 9am on the Sunday morning, Peng and his two colleagues built the hack from scratch.Similar to the other developers involved in THack, they stayed up all night working on the hack, and had then presented their entry almost immediately after nailing the last bit of code in front of a judging panel and about 100 other people.A day later, after learning it had won, Forecepts was back to show to the wider industry what could be achieved in such a small time frame.Peng finished his ten minutes of fame, looked humbled and young again as 400 people clapped, had his picture taken (below, centre) with his team members and Lai Hock Lim (who had guided them through the Abacus API part of the hack), and was off...What struck many of those observing the THack was a fierce determination by the Forecepts team, and every single one of the other participants at the event, to not only produce full-functioning hacks, but make them as perfect as possible.This has been experienced at the other THacks produced by Tnooz this year - but in Singapore, it felt different. That drive to succeed appeared and felt greater.Now, it is easy for someone from the UK to view exposure to a different work culture, such as in South East Asia, through a different yet hopefully not patronising prism.But as one Singaporean (who has also worked in the US) suggested during the 24-hour marathon, when asked about his views of this highly energised work ethic: "Young developers here want to be the best, they want to be noticed and appreciated. They want to create the next big thing, even if they only have 24 hours in which to do it. "The culture around IT is also fiercely competitive, which leads to huge benefits but also causes a number of challenges."Share this quote Challenges aside, this prolific and pride-led work ethic is what, according to the local guy, increasingly attracts western travel companies to the region for much of their development work - not forgetting, inevitably, the more favourable costs to do so.But there is something else about Asia and its approach to the travel industry that makes it so different for the western visitor, something which is not immediately apparent when taking part in an event like WebinTravel.It took the best part of a few days during a first visit last year to WebinTravel to nail why the region seemingly lives and breathes the industry so differently - and it is, possibly, the concept of legacy.Often in the west - illustrated by many an industry conference agenda or discussion, especially in the UK - the industry is obsessed with "how it used to be done" - which often morphs quickly into "how it should be done".This appears to almost always blamed squarely at the feet of technology, with intermediaries and suppliers bickering over the evolution of distribution, as just one example.Yet because so many established and long-standing processes were in place before the online travel explosion in the late-1990s/early-2000s, changing business culture and systems has, for many businesses, been a pain the backside.But rather than simply accept that industries evolve and therefore embrace that change, there is (still) a fight against it.Would it be safe to say that the industry has come through a monumental period in its history in a better, more efficient, more valuable shape than it was 15 years ago?Often the casual observer, especially from outside the travel sector, could certainly be forgiven for thinking otherwise if they happened to hang out at western travel conference or roundtable.Which is why Asia is, once again, such a refreshing place to hear and learn about the industry.Perhaps it is because mass tourism in the region came along far later than in the west, so the web already had achieved a foothold in the psyche of the sector and its consumers.Or maybe executives just simply don't care "how it used to be done".Travel, for example, is automatically treated as a multi-channel play - everyone is involved and can make hay, or so that is the impression."We do not worry about the old methods in Asia," says the Singaporean guy,"partly because we don't have much of it as an industry to agonise over - but, again, it's a cultural issue.""We'll let the West worry about legacy," he smirks.In short: Asia wants to be forward thinking, at least outwardly, and is determined to succeed by making the most what it sees coming next, rather than what it is using now or used to have.It is an interesting nuance between the two cultures - but one which is demonstrated so admirably and effortlessly across the industry, from developers on the ground to execs on stage at conferences.