In today’s fast-paced digital environment, online travel players are facing pressure from multiple fronts – from travellers, to suppliers, to new players – underlining the need for reinvention to remain relevant. From shifting market dynamics to evolving travellers’ expectations, disruptive business models are blurring the lines between online travel players and emerging technologies like machine learning and data analytics are taking root.
Amadeus is among the players that have been focusing on delivering content and technology to support these new business models so online travel players – whether that be online travel agencies or travel start-ups – can focus on their investments in customers and marketing. And it has spoken with the industry across Asia Pacific and collated five trends online travel players will need to respond to in order to remain competitive and to anticipate the potential disruptions of the future, or risk being overtaken by more agile competitors.
Online travel’s growth seems unstoppable. It is gaining momentum, growing five times faster than offline, with regions like the Asia Pacific outpacing other regions by 25%. However, this fast-paced digital environment has its own challenges. With mounting pressure from travellers, suppliers and new players there is a constant need for online travel companies to reinvent themselves to stay relevant, explains Amadeus.
Consolidation is also on the rise and big online travel agencies (OTAs) have become mega brands. Other OTAs are also diversifying their core businesses beyond airlines, apartments, hotels and vacation rentals, to tours, activities, restaurants, food deliveries and ridesharing. And innovation continues to spark growth and change across the sector.
“Online travel players need to respond to these changes and leverage emerging technologies to create personalised moments that matter to the consumer,” says Sebastien Gibergues, vice president online travel, Asia Pacific at Amadeus, and where he believes the company can make a difference.
“We are focused on delivering content and technology to support new business models, so online travel players can focus on their customers. Our OTA solutions and dynamic approach to merchandising and virtual interlining allows online travel companies to offer more choice and flexibility to deliver unique travel experiences,” he says.
Amadeus has identified consumers, competition, content, connectivity and consulting as the key developments that will make the online travel market in Asia Pacific an exciting one to watch in the coming years. In more detail it highlights how each of the five advancements are shaping the online travel landscape in Asia Pacific:
Consumers are mobile-first – “mobile is no longer a platform; it’s a way of life. Younger generations of travellers are accustomed to searching and viewing content on their mobiles first when booking travel. This brings new challenges for online travel companies to create a closed-loop, one-stop shopping platform. And while consumers have more power through direct access to content, they’re now spoiled for choice and express a need for trusted curation of content”.
Competition and the quest for scale – “customer loyalty, acquisition costs and the ability to connect directly with travellers mean greater investment in technology. Fragmentation of content and shrinking airline and hotel margins are adding more pressure on the revenue per transaction. As a result, the competitive landscape is evolving – consolidation is on the rise, big travel agencies are becoming ‘mega’ and small ones are covering niche needs for travellers. Local start-ups are defeating ‘the giants’ through innovative solutions that focus on localisation as well as personalisation”.
Content chaos across the industry – “Consumers are flooded with options for just about anything. While this myriad of possibilities provides a huge opportunity for online travel companies, it is also causing content fragmentation. The challenge is how to aggregate and normalise travel content from multiple sources so it can be searched and compared by travel sellers and travellers. We imagine a world where NDC and traditional technology such as EDIFACT will sit alongside each other for many years to come”.
Connectivity is coming of age – “While online travel companies have been tiptoeing around personalisation for some time, we’ve reached a tipping point where the relationship between the traveller and brand becomes real-time and relevant. The headline makers – AI, machine learning and blockchain – are starting to bear fruit, with experimental upgrades and personalised interactions to unlock new revenue streams in marketing, merchandising and voice search optimisation”.
Consulting with big data – “Online travel agents get access to thousands of data points, which gives them unique insights on travelling. However, the challenge lies in defining and measuring this data in real time and then getting this data and insight to the front line – on digital channels or to sellers – where it can impact the customer. We’ve seen several successful partnerships between agencies as a way to offer data-driven insights that help travellers know the optimal travel plan for their vacation, places to avoid and the best hotel to stay while on holiday”.