Many travel agents in Indonesia remain unwavering in their beliefs that there is still room for growth in the offline space, even as the country's tourism chief warns of competition from OTAs and emerging players like Airbnb and Uber in an increasingly connected digital landscape.
“I would like to warn the travel companies in Indonesia that if you all do not transform your business to the digital platform, I assure you that one day your customers will leave you,” said Arief Yahya, Indonesia’s tourism minister, at the opening of ASTINDO Travel Fair in Jakarta last weekend.
Astindo Travel Fair. Photo: www.astindofairjakarta.com
"You have little choice. Even (some) big international travel companies have gone bankrupt because they were too late in anticipating the customer behaviour,” he cautioned.
For travel companies, especially the smaller ones, that lack resources to digitalise their businesses, Arief said they have available to them the Indonesia Travel Exchange, a free online platform belonging to the ministry, while ASTINDO members can utilise the ASTINDO Hub platform.
Despite the growing trend of customers booking online, Rudiana, director of sales of WITA Tour and ASTINDO board member, thinks it’s still a long way to go before Indonesians will “embrace the digital world totally”.
“Many Indonesians, including the haves and digital savvy, still like to rely on travel consultants for their trips. They find it troublesome to search and compare products online themselves,” he added. “What we need to do in Indonesia is to become digilog, maintaining our analogue system and embracing the digital system at the same time.”
Royanto Handaya, CEO of Panorama Tours Indonesia, said: “I believe that the number of outbound travellers who book through (offline) travel companies will continue to grow, as travellers, apart from the affordable prices, seek seamless experiences.”
While OTAs provide instant confirmation, travellers still need consultants to change bookings, hotels or even their itineraries during a trip, Royanto added.
Furthermore, travellers flocking to travel fairs and queueing to buy holiday packages is a sign that offline travel consultants are still in demand, according to Royanto.