WIT Europe: Rebooting the Asian Travel Market

WIT Europe: Rebooting The Asian Travel Market

The Travellanda team recently attended the first ‘WIT Europe’ which was held in the magnificent Tate Modern art gallery on 30 June 2016. It was an amalgamation of talks and discussions from some of the most knowledgeable travel professionals in the business. The theme for the conference was ‘Reboot Asia’ and according to their website, WIT Europe had four objectives and it absolutely delivered on all and more;

  1. To get travel brands in Europe to think different about Asia
  2. To help travel suppliers in Europe grow their Asian business
  3. To help travel brands in Europe expand their footprint in Asia
  4. To learn from Asia-based leaders, businesses and entrepreneurs

Most people in the travel industry are already aware that Asia is a big market, but what we learnt the other day was that it could possibly be bigger than most expected. Some of the figures presented by Morris Sim, CEO & Co-founder of Circos Brand Karma showed that online travel gross bookings in 2016 for the Asia Pacific region was a staggering US$137 Billion. Compared to the U.S. which is US$162 Billion (Source: Phocuswright). This just goes to show that Asia has huge buying power in the travel sector and is great news for those travel agents working in the region.

WIT Europe: Rebooting Asia

The share of this market by region was quite a shock too. We learnt that since 2002 to 2016, China has grown from 1% to a fantastic 41%. Japan’s share has dropped from 43% to 24% and Australia & New Zealand also fell from 34% to 11%. As expected, India is on the rise, but perhaps not as high as we might thought. India climbed from <1% up to 7%. I think we all knew that China was such a huge market but seeing these statistics was very interesting. Interestingly, Louise Daley, Executive VP & CFO of AccorHotels Asia Pacific told us that in all AccorHotels in all countries, China is the biggest source market.

WIT Europe: Rebooting Asia

Yeoh Siew Hoon, Founder of WIT showed us statistics that outbound China is more likely to book mid-scale hotels/resorts at 3 star level and that Thailand is one of their most popular destinations. Although the market seems to be mainly booking using desktop with only 33% and 19% adopting mobile web and mobile apps respectively.

Amongst the many insightful items Roy Graff, MD of Digital Jungle presented about marketing to China is that we must remember that that Facebook, Google and YouTube will not work. If you want to reach the masses you need to learn about WeiBo, WeChat, Youku and Baidu, just to name a few.

Japan, as a source market is also fascinating. Kei Shibata, CEO of Venture Republic informed us that in 2013 the country spent US$127.6 Billion per year on travel. Compared to the entire ASEAN region which spent only US$102.6 Billion. Considering the population difference it shows that Japan is a big market for travel. He also went on to say that 50% of outbound travellers book tour packages compared to only 13% individually arranged trips.

WIT Europe: Rebooting Asia

Another Asian market to watch is South Korea. Min Yoon, CEO of TideSquare explained that outbound travel escalated to 21% in 2015 and that the top travel agencies only have 13% market share. This shows there is still plenty of room for competition. Meta search is still in its early stages in South Korea so there is much room for growth as the country adapts to this style of booking. Last minute bookings are popular there, along with Tours & Activities. Marketing has to be adapted for South Korea, just like most other Asian markets. Their most popular search engine is again, not Google, instead they prefer to use Naver. Mobile app for chat is KakaoTalk, but thankfully your social strategy doesn’t need to change too much because Facebook is widely used.

Korean smart phone penetration is 84% and 40.3% of customers mostly use mobile when shopping, although travel shopping is a bit slow off the mark with only 22% mobile purchasing being adopted so far.

WIT Europe: Rebooting Asia

Over the past few years, the Korea/Japan inbound/outbound has turned around, possibly due to currency exchange rates. Since 2013, inbound from Japan has decreased, and outbound to Japan has increased quite considerably.

Amongst the many things we learnt, one main point is that you cannot treat Asia as one market. There are a lot of similarities, but there are such great divides in the way the different countries do business and how we should market to them. One of the topics at the WIT event was Mobile & Innovation and it is so clear that you must devise different strategies for different regions, at least where China, South Korea and Japan are concerned.

The way we do marketing to these regions are all slightly different, but it seems that as always, ‘Content is King’ and utilising brand ambassadors and influencers is the key to success in some of these markets. Creating emotional connections and personifying the brand/product is going to give you the edge when capturing conversions. Morris Sim, later went on to say that Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality are two very powerful technologies that will be very popular for marketing travel products.

One other key take away when doing business in Asia we learned was that being on the ground is very important. Localising a business is never an easy task, understanding the culture and traditions will certainly give you an edge. Having local offices will most likely benefit greatly and in many cases finding a local partner will be very useful to help make a successful business.

Overall, the event was a real eye opener and provided a comprehensive range of valuable information. We absolutely recommend it to anyone who is thinking of attending any future WIT events. The next one is in Singapore in November so check out their website for more information.

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