With Japan having reopened this fall, most Asian countries now allow free movement of inbound and outbound travelers. But travel companies in the region have had to adapt to China’s ongoing closure.
In the panel “Around Asia: Hello, New World” at The Phocuswright Conference, key players in the industry discuss their observations and predictions for the region, including autonomous vehicles, electric aircraft and fintech taking off.
Timothy Hughes, vice president of corporate development at Agoda, says one challenge stems from Asians’ heavy use of chat.
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“Nobody wants to call anybody - let alone use our call center,” Hughes says. “So we’ve had to spend a lot of time and money on how to do synchronous and asynchronous chat with our customer care teams.”
Agoda also began issuing its own virtual credit card payments, so they don’t need to go through a third party, and it has ramped up local payment options.
“If you’re not a fintech company in travel, you’re missing something,” Hughes says.
Kei Shibata, co-founder and CEO of Venture Republic Group, says he is bullish about the India market.
On his Trip101 website in Singapore, “We have users from 200 different countries now, and the biggest surprise this year is that India actually moved up to the second (spot) after the United States.”
Shibata says the traditional metasearch model is “broken” because there are so few online travel agencies for a metasearch to scan.
“We are taking a little different approach. We are actually doubling down on content, and then the content can send a more powerful message to the users. They can understand the story of, let’s say, the accommodation,” Shibata says.
Mary Li, CEO of Atlas, says booking should be an experience, just like travel itself.
“Travel in the future should be a fun purchasing process,” Li says, noting that the travel agencies that thrive will be those that understand the local culture, know how to communicate with people and add value to the travel “purchasing experience.”
Watch their conversation with moderator Siew Hoon Yeoh, founder and editor of Web in Travel.
Around Asia: Hello, New World - The Phocuswright Conference 2022