Livestreaming is taking off and travel companies are taking note, albeit mostly in China for the time being.
If the growth statistics are to be believed - the industry is expected to be worth $70 billion by 2021, with growth of 99% in hours watched from April 2019 to April 2020 - then travel marketers are right to give it some attention.
Livestream proponents claim it is an engaging medium that has the ability to capture all demographics, and it is already translating to transactions.
In addition, as travel companies draw back from Google advertising, livestream is being seen as a cheaper, more engaging form of distribution.
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During last month’s Phocuswright Europe 2020, Sarah Wan, Southeast Asia marketing director for Klook, cited it as the technology she is most excited about.
"We are really seeing livestreaming accelerate in China. It's here to stay and there's a race for brands to catch new eyeballs.”
In recent weeks, Klook unveiled its Klook Live mobile tools enabling users to connect directly to accommodation and tours and activities suppliers.
During the Phocuswright Europe event, Wan said that compared to Facebook Live, the company is seeing twice the amount of conversions from its own in-app livestream.
She added that new revenue has come in from livestreaming and the company is now learning how to “ramp it up.”
Eyes from the East
Trip.com Group has also entered that race for new eyeballs.
Recently, a Macao livestreaming event, hosted by the group’s chairman, James Liang, was watched by more than 5.7 million people and generated sales of $9.6 million.
It’s Trip.com LIVE show, launched during the pandemic as a regional experiment to give viewers a taste of what they might be missing, has evolved into a new model for the travel industry, says the company.
The event is now broadcast in Japan, Singapore, Korea, Thailand and Hong Kong.
The company claims the weekly events receive audiences in the tens of thousands and average weekly sales of $5 million worldwide.
During the group’s recent earnings call, Trip.com Group CEO Jane Sun described livestreaming as helping the company to “accurately capture demand amongst our mid to high-end customer base.”
She also said products sold via the channel are averaging at about $1,700, adding that more than 60% of customers made repeat purchases in one or more events.
And the company says the events not only help to build interest in travel, leading to cash for suppliers, but they also build back trust in the travel industry.
Daniel Mayer, co-founder and CEO of livestreaming platform BeLive, agrees that the channel is a great way for travel and tourism companies to build trust and brand awareness.
He says that it has been “mission impossible” for small players and startups in the industry to acquire new users, but livestreaming can change that.
“Big companies have been suffering big losses in revenue, but small and medium travel agencies have been able to find small opportunities to keep going. One of the advantages they have is knowledge.”
Mayer says livestreaming offers authenticity, with viewers able to see brands presenting products and services in real time with other members of the community bringing an added perspective.
He adds that livestreaming is the next phase in the online world, which has gone from brick-and-mortar to everything available online.
“When you’re looking at a website you’re asking if the photos really represent the destination. Livestream is about gaining the social proof in real time and so gains more confidence from the user.”
A sea change in consumer engagement
While there are many free solutions out there such as YouTube and Facebook, which recently enabled providers to stream their own content and services, Mayer says that applications such as BeLive provide additional functionality including the ability to sell during the live event.
Clearly Mayer is a convert. He doesn’t believe the industry will go back to “boring websites.”
“We’re watching a huge change in how users are consuming travel," he claims.
Travel is not the only industry to look at the potential for livestream: Other retail industries are experimenting with the medium.
Alibaba’s luxury retail arm, Tmall, sees livestreams as a “compelling digital tool to bridge the digital and physical space.”
Taobao, another brand in the Alibaba stable, recently partnered with the Swiss Tourism Board and Sino-Swiss Economic and Culture Center to broadcast a two-hour a live tour of Switzerland that drew an audience of 1.25 million.
Similar events have been held, involving Fliggy and its Cloud Live Tourism campaign, focused on landmarks such as the Palace of Versailles in France.
If the old adage of looking East to see where innovation is still stands in these turbulent times then it’s a good moment for travel brands to look at livestreaming.