The recent release of TNMT.com’s report on The State of Travel and Mobility Tech in Asia indicates that the APAC region is one of the most innovative in terms of travel tech. The report goes on to predict that the travel industry and mobility tech sector across the globe will look to emulate APAC’s model due to the high amount of digital acceleration, necessary in a changing, and challenging TNMT industry.
Beginning in 2010, extensive investment in Southeast Asian travel and mobility tech, is partially responsible for this trend, as it led to several unicorns, such as Singapore’s Grab and Indonesia’s Gojek. These giants’ significant presence in the region has added both stability and confidence in the economy even during COVID-19 months. With $80 billion USD already invested in Asian travel technology in the past ten years, the industry has enjoyed some stability, allowing for much-needed adaptations this year that might have otherwise been difficult to obtain.
Digital acceleration means innovation
Digital acceleration, and the utilisation of technology to quickly adapt a business venture to changing circumstances are amongst the primary trends shaping travel and mobility tech in Asia in the last year. Technical innovations are gaining momentum, with enhanced services from existing platforms reaching new markets and customers. Some of the changes and upgrades include the use of live streaming and the offering of local attractions.
We explore how technology is the best way to save the travel industry
Live streaming is a sales technique wherein merchants or apps “go live” to demonstrate the advantages of a particular product or service. Their on-camera representatives may take questions in real-time, as they are submitted, leading to a two-way conversation between the expert and the consumer. Live streaming fulfils the social aspect of sales that are often missing in eCommerce and online research.
In the travel and mobility sector, using live video technology has become incredibly innovative. During the pandemic, it has come to entail travel agents “going live” from other parts of the world that are currently on lockdown or undergoing travel restrictions. This service offers “previews” of sites that are interesting to tourists. Trip.com executive chairman James Liang has live-streamed once a week from various provinces in China during the COVID-19 lockdowns. His streams have gained $294 million USD, mostly in pre-sales of travel products in China. Trip.com has now expanded its usage of live streaming to cover sites in Southeast Asia including a successful Singapore live show. Alibaba’s travel subsidiary Fliggy has also started streaming to boost its business during the pandemic. Its “hosts” visit from European tourist sites that even locals near the destination are currently not allowed to visit.
Another sector trend used by some APAC companies is the partnering of a larger unicorn with a smaller startup to try to absorb costs and combine services. The online adventure site Klook, for instance, is partnering with Grab to offer local attractions to nearby users. In essence, Klook and Grab now allow residents to act as tourists in their own cities and countries, offering destinations suitable for tourists with a variety of interests. Both large attractions, such as Legoland Malaysia and smaller companies are partnering with Klook to encourage Grab users to take advantage of the local entertainment options while travel outside of their country is not possible.
In a further adaptation to the COVID-19 restrictions and indicative of the major mergers that are occurring between local unicorns and multinational entities, Marriott International has also partnered with Grab. Their combined efforts allow users to make contactless payments, order delivery of food and beverages, or other activities that entail touch-free services during “staycations” in the hotel chain.
Unicorns sustaining Southeast Asia’s TNMT
Southeast Asia’s travel and mobility tech industry growth is funded and sustained mainly by its largest unicorns. Grab once again makes news headlines as it has started working with startups in other countries in Southeast Asia. One such example is their tie-up with Lazada in Vietnam as they support each others’ services. Moreover, in September, Grab and Gojek were reportedly exploring a merger facilitated by Japanese funders, SoftBank.
Meanwhile, the Indonesian all-in-one travel site Traveloka raised $250 million USD in July, indicating that it, like Klook, is focussing its efforts on domestic travel and short trips. Traveloka will likely continue to help sustain the many companies that are linked together through its app during these uncertain times.
Despite the considerable challenges faced in 2020, it appears that the Asia Pacific region will continue to sustain its travel industry. The sector’s sustained success is somewhat buffeted by a ten-year trend of investment in its startups and the tendency of unicorns to utilise digital acceleration to remain nimble and focused on their customers. Both the pre-travel sales-generating live streaming trends and the re-focusing on local attractions will help keep the TMNT industry going as it nears the end of COVID restrictions thanks to a new era for the travel and mobility tech sector.