“The Asia travel landscape still remains robust and dynamic”

IN-DEPTH: Asia’s travel market is growing steadily despite facing tougher market conditions and a global economic slowdown, says Robert Bailey, president and CEO of Abacus International. Bailey also lists his top 5 travel trends for 2012.

By Ritesh Gupta

Asia’s travel market is growing steadily despite facing tougher market conditions and a global economic slowdown.

Technology continues to be the key driver in boosting both travel agents’ business capabilities and user end-travel experience – a trend that looks set to grow well into 2012, says Robert Bailey, president and CEO of Abacus International.

Businesses are continuing to invest into core areas of travel growth and this signifies high performance expectations over the next 12 months.

Wireless convergence and mobile innovation have played a pivotal role in this growth, as both travellers and travel managers are increasingly utilising this rising channel as a means to deliver and experience end-to-end solutions, according to Bailey.

He says market growth, anticipated early in 2011 to be on a 4-8 percent pace, has been revised now to 2-4 percent, in spite of a turbulent year for travel, including the Japan tsunami and earthquake that disrupted Asia travel very significantly. “In this value-driven economy with the enormous growth of LCCs and lowering of prices, the travel industry is becoming increasingly competitive. Travel businesses have become more savvy in adopting the newer technologies in order to retain a competitive edge, especially now in the areas of mobile and electronic transactions,” Bailey told EyeforTravel’s Ritesh Gupta.

Bailey spoke about the future of travel distribution and also listed his top 5 travel trends for this year:

How do you foresee travel distribution to shape up in 2012?

Robert Bailey:

2012 looks to be another challenging year with the economic situations in Europe and America. Japan and Thailand are also still going to be recovering from their recent events: earthquake and flood respectively.

However, if key markets like China and India continue bucking recessionary trends, we may see an increase in the demand for travel services.

Technology looks set to continue to be a key driver in the increase with mobile technology, online travel as well as social networking continuing to lead the way.

The Asia travel landscape still remains robust and dynamic, fuelled especially by the growth of mobile growth. Wireless technology continues to be integral to the constant change that travel agents and businesses experience, and has helped to transform the travel landscape to one of value and efficiency.

It is an exciting time in Asia now. As an industry we have faced a great deal of adversity, yet we still continue to grow and evolve.

With the speed of technology outpacing every industry, adoption and experimentation will be the keys to see how, who and what emerge successfully.

What according to you are going to be the main travel trends in the industry in 2012?

Robert Bailey:

1.     The Growth in Mobile – an invaluable resource in 2012 – there are always things going on in the mobile space, with leading players like Kayak now getting the hang of right-sizing the right functions on the mobile platform. In 2012, what will be interesting is to see how these players can push the envelope even further. Instead of treating the mobile platform as a down-sized version of the web, to look at building travel applications that can only be used with today’s smartphones. These apps would be able to integrate great content with the traveler’s social graph as well as location-awareness.

2.     Adoption and usage of HTML5 – even though it is part of the mobile platform, HTML5 has emerged as the preferred standard against native apps. While many apps have now been ported to multiple platforms, most of the ported apps are just copies of the original and do not take advantage of the native platform. In this case, companies may be better off building the app in HTML5 instead of going through the process of porting apps. Of course there will be applications do work better as apps, but travel is so dynamic and the user base so dispersed that it makes sense to focus on HTML5 as the standard.

3.     Tablets – 2011 saw mobile devices become the primary focus of most applications. In 2012 however, we should see some applications beginning to target tablet users. With a larger screen and increased storage capabilities, the tablet has emerged as a serious contender to replace most of the functions of the desktop or laptop for most end users. Shared capabilities with smartphones such as GPS, touchscreen and rotational view also make it more intuitive as a travel research tool.

4.     Aggregation – Travel remains a very fragmented space, but we are beginning to see more providers making their content and services available via web services. 2012 should see some interesting applications which aggregate content from a variety of sources instead of the usual approach of putting points on maps.

5.     Social Networking Sites – Social Networking Sites (SNS) have been an area to watch for some time. However, due to the lack of a compelling model, this has yet to really take off. With the increase of smartphone usage, especially in Asia, companies, including travel players will continue to find the right way to utilise this phenomenon.   


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