Shaping the future of travel

Four industry experts tell us where the tourism industry is headed as fierce competition, smart design and a growing wave of eco-consciousness continue to transform the travel landscape

Creative collaboration in changing times

Dean Schreiber, CEO of Oakwood and managing director, Oakwood Asia Pacific

The hospitality industry as we know it is now being disrupted. Like Charles Darwin’s discovery in the 1800s, the theory of evolution dictates the survival of the fittest. In our evolving industry, top players’ success is based on numbers – occupancy rates, guest satisfaction scores, employee retention and returns on owners’ investment. In order to stay ahead and relevant, we must adapt to our guests’ changing expectations and needs.

As travel becomes an essential part of life, be it for work or leisure, the definition of a good night’s stay has changed. Guests now expect emotional and sensory experiences beyond physical comfort. Service innovation and technological enhancements will determine the success factors because hardware alone is no longer sufficient to justify guest satisfaction and loyalty.

The new generation of travellers seek customisation and localisation. They are hungry for authentic, immersive experiences with a visually appealing identity, and hence partnerships with local experts differentiate the guest experience.

At one of our properties, Oakwood Premier OUE Singapore, an innovative staycation package with Singapore’s first micro-distillery, Brass Lion Distillery, offers guests interactive DIY gin cocktail experiences and a personalised gin bottle as souvenir. Inspired by the traditional Guéridon tableside service, evening cocktails and canapes can now also be delivered to each guest’s apartment. Club guests no longer have to make a trip to the lounge for cocktails and canapes. It is about pushing boundaries and shifting the paradigm for other traditional hospitality services.

Technology is increasingly integrated into everyone’s daily lives. As a natural extension, we will have to look at incorporating smart home technology into our residences of the future. Oakwood’s vision for the next generation of serviced apartments involves collaboration with key partners such as McLaren Technologies, Bang & Olufsen, Electrolux, La Bottega, Luzerne, Nespresso, Samsung and Serta.

With McLaren Technologies, for instance, we have the ICE Mobile app that is available for download on the Apple App Store or Google Play Store. This allows guests to check out information on the property they are staying at and its neighbourhood, or the city as a destination, helping them to plan their stay before they arrive. With Samsung and Lumas Galerie Singapore, the collaborative plan to “digitalise” art will enable our long-staying guests to take with them their favourite art pieces when relocating to their next work assignment.

Travel decisions are now dictated by lifestyle needs and personal preferences. All of us in the hospitality industry must evolve and adapt to maintain our market leadership.

Harnessing power of crowdsourced marketing

Jens Thraenhart, Executive director, Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office

The Mekong Tourism Coordinating Office (MTCO) has leveraged collaboration with industry stakeholders and the use of crowd branding to promote travel to the Greater Mekong Subregion (GMS).

The GMS comprises six countries that are linked by the Mekong River: Cambodia, Laos, Myanmar, Thailand, Vietnam, and parts of China (Yunnan Province and Guangxi Zhuang Autonomous Region).

The strategy of the MTCO, which was established as the secretariat of the GMS Tourism Working Group of the six member governments in 2005, over the past five years has been built entirely around contribution, collaboration, and stakeholder engagement. Financed through member country contributions, the MTCO had to create a different model in order to execute and implement the action plan set out in the 2015-2020 Experience Mekong Tourism Marketing Strategy.

By unleashing the passion of our stakeholders active in travel and tourism in the Mekong Region, from private sector players to the public sector as well as residents and travellers, and have everybody engage and contribute just a little bit, it will provide a multiplier effect on our resources to remain competitive against other tourism boards, which have more funds and manpower.

With this in mind, the MTCO launched a multi-phase strategy over five years, starting with engaging industry contributors and businesses, followed by activating advocacy of travellers using collaborative public-private partnerships.

Firstly, The Mekong Tourism Contributor Program allows any tourism professional, travel organisation, and content creator to contribute articles and stories, as well as documents, which are made available for free download on the e-library at In return, contributors receive their own page on the official website, promoting their services to the industry. This very quickly transformed the website into a trusted hub of information about travel and tourism in South-east Asia.

The second phase of the strategy was to engage businesses and promote responsible travel by driving inclusive growth, social impact, gender equality, and poverty alleviation in a tangible and measurable manner. This was done by creating the Experience Mekong Collection (EMC), which after two years of operation now features almost 350 small responsible travel businesses and social enterprises in six categories (stay, taste, do, shop, tour, and cruise) in all six countries. The nomination process is open to everybody, and integrity is ensured by the Mekong Tourism Advisory Group which is made up of sustainable travel professionals. Every year, the EMC honours one business per country for its innovation as Experience Mekong Showcases.

In the third phase, the MTCO decided to spread the word of these responsible travel businesses via storytelling. Research has shown that the most effective way to tell stories is by motivating travellers to share their experiences on social media to inspire others.
To build a framework in which businesses would motivate travellers to share and tag experiences on social media with limited resources, a public-private sector collaboration framework, Destination Mekong, was created with UNWTO Affiliate Member Chameleon Strategies as a lead contributor. Their social commerce and marketing automation system, ENWOKE, is used to aggregate shared visual content from photos and videos and link users automatically back to the business of the experience being shared as well as to run micro social media contests to entice visitors with prizes.

These contests effectively drive content sharing from the business that increases the likelihood of exposure of the experiences leading to more sales. The more businesses there are running social media contests, the more content is shared on social media. And the more the Mekong Region and its destinations are promoted via visual content, the more potential future travellers are inspired to visit the region.

In essence, over the past five years, the MTCO has developed a collaborative marketing and capacity building ecosystem to drive sustainable tourism and inclusive growth in the region.

However, this strategy has also transformed the traditional destination management model to an inclusive crowd-marketing model, which leads to a sustainable brand fuelled by authentic experiences created and delivered by small responsible travel businesses and shared by real travellers to inspire the world to visit the region in a responsible manner as conscious travellers.

Awakening to conscious travel

Nick Lim, Managing director Asia, The Travel Corporation

As the travel industry tries to cope with disruption from OTAs, it is important to reflect on what consumers really want. Travel companies should have a clear distinction between both the distribution and consumption strategies.

Digital platforms have become crucial in how consumers research and purchase travel products but the consumption of services for travel companies is when travellers arrive for their holiday.

It is critical that the line between these two realms are not blurred and clear plans have to be developed for the entire customer journey, starting from booking a trip to delivering authentic experiences.

Upfront Analytics, a global market research firm conducted a survey with Generation Z and millennials and while 60 per cent of Gen Z want to make the world a better place, only 39 per cent of millennials were similarly motivated. The study describes Gen Z youths as cultural conscious individuals who embrace inclusiveness and individuality.

As a company that has been helping young travellers discover the world since 1962, Contiki trips have always had a wide range of cultural experiences. With 350 trips across six continents, the team has seen how travellers’ expectations and behaviour have changed over the years.Ten years ago, many travellers were seeking fun-filled holidays where they could simply relax on the beach. Today, there is an expectation shift where Gen Z travellers now seek deeper experiences that allow them to have a first-hand perspective of the local culture in the places they visit.

We believe that cultural consciousness will drive next generation travel, as well as our own direction as a travel company. The commitment to sustainable travel and tourism isn’t new for Contiki – it’s all part of making travel matter, supported by our Contiki Cares initiative and working with the TreadRight Foundation to support key projects globally. The mission of Contiki Cares and TreadRight is to protect people, wildlife and the planet.

At Contiki, we asked ourselves: “How do we stay relevant?” With the core mission to stay authentic, we explored ways to engage with Gen Z and make them our collaborators instead of customers.

We have evaluated and overhauled our entire product offerings to introduce brand-new conscious travel experiences that have been handpicked especially for travellers aged 18-35 years.

Contiki has always worked with local suppliers as much as possible, and we are constantly reviewing our experiences on trips to make sure we’re providing incredible experiences that are also sustainable in the long term. Travel companies can choose to work with and learn from respected experts to ensure they do it right.

Our goal is to add conscious experiences to every trip by 2021 – it’s all about supporting our travellers to tread lightly, giving something back to the communities visited and gaining a fresh perspective.

Driving change for connected mobility

Angeline Tang, Regional director – leisure travel & partnerships, Asia, Avis Budget Group

The world is moving into an era where personal mobility is connected, shared and ultimately, autonomous. With rapid technological advancements, we are looking at a future where connected cars will not only be connected to a user’s mobile app but also a fleet-wide platform and third-party services, revolutionising the entire rental experience.

Consumers are constantly looking for more on-demand services to get from one place to another, including bikes, scooters, vans, cars they drive, cars driven by others, and someday, even cars that drive themselves. The race to win the future of mobility is occurring at every level of the mobility industry. In order to enable the distributed on-demand fleets of tomorrow, it will require a truly global company that is deeply experienced in fleet management, has a scalable technology platform, and experience building products and services around consumers who embrace mobility as a service.

As a leading global provider of mobility solutions, with more than 70 years of experience in worldwide fleet management, Avis Budget Group is committed to innovation and reinventing the rental experience. We strive to deliver personalised, streamlined and an efficient rental experience for consumers through innovations such as the reinvented Avis App. Members of our free-to-join and award-winning loyalty programme, Avis Preferred, can also benefit from even more innovative features on the app, including the ability to bypass the rental desk altogether.

Paving the way to connectivity with the goal of a fully connected fleet, we have been investing in our own platform and initiatives that enable us to offer services such as Fleet Management as a Service (FMaaS) and Data as a Service. As an established mobility company, our access to technology and data has allowed us to acquire deep expertise in global fleet management. Avis Budget Group also joined forces with Amazon Web Services to become the first car rental company to host our platform on their Connected Car Cloud service.

In the new era of connected mobility, connectivity will not only improve the customer experience but also services and operational efficiencies for providers, with real-time feedback. At Avis Budget Group, connected cars have greatly improved our fleet management capabilities with the data collected. Critical data such as mileage, fuel level, vehicle condition and service needs shared automatically when the vehicle is returned has allowed us to provide more cars for our customers where they needed them.

It is crucial for car rental companies to evolve in order to meet the changing needs of customers. Avis Budget Group is completely engaged in this shift and has been taking numerous steps to ensure that our business meets the present and future needs of our customers and partners. We will continue to build on our core experiences, data intelligence and expand our global footprint in order to help drive the change in mobility and move the industry forward.

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