May 2, 2018

Asia is a great observatory for travel trends as well as being an experimental playground for innovation.   According to the World Tourism Barometer, Asia Pacific has been the fastest growing region in the world for international tourist arrivals between 2005 and 2014,. A report from Mastercard expects that Asia Pacific will continue on this growth […]

Asia is a great observatory for travel trends as well as being an experimental playground for innovation.   According to the World Tourism Barometer, Asia Pacific has been the fastest growing region in the world for international tourist arrivals between 2005 and 2014,. A report from Mastercard expects that Asia Pacific will continue on this growth trajectory by growing at an annual rate of 6% between 2016 and 2021. The number of visitors in South-East Asia is growing faster than anywhere else in the world.

Asia is not just a great place to travel. Its population is also traveling a lot more. Chinese tourists made more than 130 million trips and spent US$115 billion while travelling in 2017, according to a report by China Tourism Academy (CTA).

At Innovation Is Everywhere, we monitor trends in travel in Asia for some of our clients.  Here are some of the most inspiring innovations we’ve seen in China, Hong Kong and Singapore at every step of the travel experience.


1)#PLANNING : Tailored Itineraries Are Replacing Packaged Tours

While package tours have been the most popular way to travel in Asia for years, there is a growing trend towards customized travels.  Ctrip, the largest online travel agent in Asia and the second largest in the world, launched a new service for customized travel in january 2016.  Users just need to complete a simple form with the destinations they are interested in, their dates of travel, their budget, and any other specific queries.  In the next few minutes, they will be contacted by one of Ctrip’s 4,000 personal travel consultants who will design a customized itinerary for them. Today, Ctrip has become the biggest customized travel platform in Asia, with an increased user demand up to 120,000 per month since the service’s launch.

Caption: Ctrip Customized Travel offers tailored itineraries designed by experts for Chinese travelers


2) #BOOKING :  Upcoming End of OTAs and Commission Fees?

Blockchain technology could mean the end of the Online Travel Agent (OTA) business model. While this is not Asia-specific, one of the startups working on that comes from Singapore.  GoEureka has announced that it will be launching an online hotel booking platform at the end of 2018. The platform will be built on top of the Ethereum platform — an open software platform based on blockchain technology that enables developers to build and deploy decentralized applications.

GoEureka’s ambition is to remove hefty commissions paid by hotels to OTAs which have been eating into their margins, establishing itself as a transparent partner for the hospitality industry.   Beyond the hotels, the value proposition to customers includes a re-booking feature that ensures customers always get the lowest price.


3) #PAYING : Credit Scoring Is Changing The Way We Pay

Getting a loan to travel has become a common thing in China. Travel marketplaces such as Ctrip or Qunar are helping travelers to pay for the trips with short term loans and installment options.  

China’s social credit score system is also set to impact the way Chinese people pay for their trips. For example, Alipay’s users with a good credit score have some privileges: at hotels, they don’t have to pay a deposit, receive automatic checkout and have  payments done only after their stay. Alibaba’s travel platform Fliggy has also partnered with Xiaozhu, the Chinese version of Airbnb, to offer the same advantages to rentals as well. Alibaba calls this the first “credit living post-pay system”.  

Caption: Sesame Credit is Alipay’s credit scoring system and gives access to certain privileges when paying for your trips with Alipay

Alipay also helps you save for your dream vacation with the new feature Travel Deposit. After setting your destination, duration, and date of travel as well as the number of travelers on Alipay, the system will show the sum you have to save per day. It will also automatically transfer the sum to Alipay’s mutual fund Yuebao, offering greater convenience to the user.  


4) #STAYING : The Tourism Industry Needs To Adapt To The Connected Traveler

Today’s traveler is connected.  Buying a SIM Card is often the first thing a traveler would do when arriving at a new country.  

The Hong Kong startup Tink Labs saw an opportunity as early as in 2012, and launched the “Handy” smartphone; which has helped 18 million global travellers across 70 cities stay connected for free.  Tink Labs’ s self-branded Handy devices were first rented to customers at Hong Kong International Airport to help them avoid expensive roaming charges. But it later changed tack to target hotel guests.

Beyond offering free internet access and calls, Handy provides portable access to hotel services, such as the concierge, or details about the property’s restaurants and spas.  The smartphone is pre-loaded with travel guides written by an in-house editorial team as well as apps including Facebook and Openrice. The average user spends 113 minutes on the device each day where a third of users are business travellers. With its global reach,  Tink Labs is aiming for a valuation of more than $1 billion, which would make Tink Labs the first unicorn from Hong Kong.

Last November, WeChat launched the CityExperience Mini Programs.  Mini Programs are like mini-apps within WeChat, that can be accessed by simply scanning a QR code.  They are designed specifically to help consumers access information and services on the spot, which make perfect sense in a traveling context.  These CityExperience Mini Programs have partnered with local tourism boards to offer a platform for local attractions and merchants. Its digital guide and maps help Chinese outbound tourists navigate cities and learn about a city’s culture and history.  Comprehensive information in the guides enable Chinese tourists to explore different attractions, shops and restaurants through photos and audio guides, making it a truly immersive experience.

Caption: CityExperience Mini-Programs can be accessed by scanning a QR code on WeChat

Caption: WeChat CityExperience Mini-Program in London

Ctrip also launched an interesting service in January 2017 : its global SOS system.  A Chinese traveler can use this button on the Ctrip app, which comes with a WeChat group number as well, to contact Ctrip in case of an emergency (natural disasters, medical help, loss of valuables).  Ctrip leverages on over 5,000 contacts in destinations worldwide and is cooperating with insurance companies and Chinese embassies to provide that service.

Caption: Ctrip’s SOS Global system is service giving  Chinese travelers assistance in case of any emergencies encountered during their trip


5) #LOYALTY : Partnerships Will Lead to Better Rewards

To improve customer loyalty, travel platforms, hotels and airlines are building partnerships to extend their loyalty programs and offer better rewards.   Fliggy inked a joint-venture with hotel chain Marriott in August 2017, while Ctrip just signed a memorandum of understanding with Accorhotels to develop joint loyalty programs.  

Mafengwo, a popular Chinese  user-generated travel guide platform with 80 million monthly active users, has partnered with the luxury retailer DFS. which has  Users who book tours on the website would get a coupon to be redeemed in its duty-free shops in 17 major airports and 18 downtown malls across Asia.

Another interesting development to extend the value of loyalty programs and offer more rewards is led by Singapore Airlines. The airline has been working on a Proof of Concept in collaboration with KPMG Digital Village and Microsoft to launch a digital wallet for loyalty, utilising a private blockchain, via its KrisFlyer frequent-flyer programme. The company is now signing up retail merchant partners, initially in the Singapore market, and should launch the wallet in 4 months. The blockchain will be accessed only by merchants and partners.

Connect with us to get more insights on travel innovations in Asia, or come with us to a learning expedition to meet the innovators in travel in Asia !