Published: 19 Mar 2008：Markets in Asia have been leading the way in technology adoption, be it mobile or Internet penetration.
Some of the countries in the region benefit from being amongst the most advanced mobile infrastructure in the world, not only in terms of network speeds and handset features. Experts acknowledge that since residential PC-based Internet broadband penetration in these markets is typically low, mobile can provide an ideal means for people to self-book and manage their travel. So "online" travel can somewhat leapfrog the regular Internet to mobile.
As both the developed and developing markets in Asia show a strong focus on the role of technology, and telecommunications in particular, to what extent travel suppliers and intermediaries are receptive to mobile as a channel for information and booking?
"Mobile distribution channels can be viewed the same as the Internet and many channel providers are rushing to take control of the device with real time movies, chat rooms, web servers etc. I see it as an information channel that tourism and destination bodies can tap into as well as a service for the airlines to offer schedules and ease of check in with bar codes and the like. Air Asia has already offered a mobile booking service and is looking at refreshing this as the new technology appears. We see it as another convenient cost effective channel that offers our services across a broad market segment," according to Air Asia X´s CEO Azran Osman-Rani, who was here in Singapore for EyeforTravel´s Travel Distribution Summit Asia 2008 conference.
Peter Smith, VP eCommerce, Amadeus, who along with Osman-Rani, spoke during the same session (The Asian Travel Distribution Climate – Sunny or Cloudy?), acknowledged that the travel industry has realised the role of technology and is working towards making the right technology available to the right travelers.
"Airlines can further explore the benefits of technology and take advantage of new generation solution in order to keep up with the changing travel environment, with technologies such as Web 2.0, which is set to play a pivotal role in the travel industry of the future," said Smith.
From another GDS´ perspective, Brett Henry, Vice President Agency Marketing, Abacus International, pointed out that the online sector is growing fast with compound average growth rates of around 49% (EyeforTravel) over the recent years and within this, a plethora of new channels including mobile devices, are available for travellers to book and update travel.
"Much of this innovation represents enhancement to the travel buying and travelling experience rather than a fundamental change to the underlying distribution structure. Travel is an emotional buy and in Asian cultures, the travel agents will continue to play an important role as the traveller´s advocate and expert resource – especially for the time-poor travellers who cannot afford the time to research all the options and requirements of travel," he said.
When asked whether the trend in Asia is following that of Europe and the US to drive more transactions reliably as well as more relevant to the customer, Osman-Rani said its a global phenomenon and not one that is likely to slow in the distant future.
"I think the both continents can be seen as leading the way in the online environment and airlines should take note of what is on the horizon. Asia is a fast adopter of technology and will progressively take on anything that is new and saves time and money," he said.
In terms of issues related to travel distribution, on how to reduce cost of content collection to enable effective distribution choice, Osman-Rani content should the domain of the destination, Internet is a portal of distribution and it´s not the airlines business to either sell the destination itself or drive the emotional triggers to travel.
"That is the responsibility of the tourism bodies local governments and business (in conjunction) with the airline. The airline can offer the volume of traffic and platform to experience, educate and enlighten as a partner with the above mentioned destination bodies, a symbiotic relationship is where the real business is driven and in turn allows costs to be equated across all parties. An easy equation for keeping costs low," he said.