Becoming a tech-smart travel company in today’s fast-changing digital landscape is no mean feat, but the goal is becoming increasingly attainable.
Speakers at the Travolution Asia Forum 2018, which took place last week as part of PATA Travel Mart, shared that there is a growing pool of opportunities for small- and medium-sized players to tap on the immense amount of traveller data, which can empower them even in the face of competition from data giants like Google and Airbnb.
For example, Vietnam-based tour booking platform Triip has accrued a network of partners such as Dichungtaxi, TripRadius, Travelog and Keys China, representing a data ecosystem of more than 100 million users.
“All of these small companies decided to work together because if they don’t, they would have to spend a lot on advertising. In fact, they had already wanted to work together, it’s just that they did not know how to make the collaboration easier,” explained Hai Ho, CEO of Triip.
Richard Harris, CEO, Intent Media, echoed the sentiment with insight that travel agencies should not discount working with their competitors in co-ops to share data intelligence. This can even prevent precious data from being lost to bigger players like Facebook and Google.
He explained: “Data is power, so the relationship that you have with your customers is an incredibly important asset. You need to harness your data and make sure that your access to data is not taken away from you. Look at who you can partner with to take advantage of this asset.
“Think about models that involve some manner of cooperation with who you think is your arch-rival. This can hopefully disintermediate or prevent the platforms from taking your customer data,” he added.
Another key consideration is data security, which extends beyond privacy to reward. Ho advised that customers must also gain from sharing their data, and this can come in the form of free user services and an improved shopping experience.
While agents express an eagerness to harness and share data insights, they are still in the dark about how to do so.
Md Zahirul Alam Bhuiyan, CEO & founder of Bangladesh-based Discovery Tours & Logistic, lamented that information about inter-agency collaboration and data privacy and protection is scarce.
He added: “We cannot fight with Facebook and Instagram, but we can adjust to them and try to do something unique that isn’t possible online, such as designing multi-destination products with our customers.”