A GATHERING of industry insiders from far and wide converged in Singapore for the TravelRave 2014 industry event in pursuit of intelligent discourses on the booming travel industry last year.
Organised by Messe Berlin, the trade event hosted 744 exhibitors from 73 countries and regions.
The event saw a 14% increase in buyers compared to the previous year and 8,000 visitors from 90 countries.
Following a key concept focused on during the travel conferences held in Singapore, the fifth edition of TravelRave played upon “hybridisation” with an arrangement of business and leisurely activities through the newly launched RaveOn! Tours 2014.
In addition to hybridisation in regard to technology and the hospitality industry, topics of the numerous travel conferences, emphasised “digital natives”, emergent markets as well as trends involving individual travellers in business and leisure.
Among the series of events held at Marina Sands Bay and Suntec International Convention and Exhibition Centre were Web in Travel (WiT) conferences, ITB Asia panel discussions and tradeshow, Aviation Outlook Asia (AOA), as well as the TravelRave Leaders Gala at the Victoria Theatre and Concert Hall.
Japan, originally the largest global business travel outbound market in Asia Pacific (Apac), has been overtaken by China, which increasingly outpaces the rest of the region revealed Global Business Travel Association Asia Operations vice president Welf Ebeling during the ITB Asia opening key note.
According to the latest GBTA Travel Business Travel Index figures, China is poised to surpass the United States in the business travel market by next year.
While Asia Pacific is expected to generate close to 40% of the record US$1.18tril (RM6.3tril) in total of global business travel spending last year.
Other markets to look out for are India and Indonesia with a projected annual growth of 11% to 14% growth within the next five years.
“The second-fastest growth market in Asia is India, which equal to China showed, a 16% growth in the first decade of this century.
“Over the last 15 years, India has worked its way up the rankings of major global business travel markets from number 24 in 2000 to the world’s 10th ranked market in 2013 and expected to become the 9th largest business travel market in five years.
“In Apac, there are a number of countries showing high growth in terms of business travel spend including Vietnam, the Philippines, Bangladesh and Sri Lanka.
Ebeling likened the business travel management in Malaysia to that of Thailand, with most of the travel spending from Malaysia coming from the corporate rather than leisure sector.
In a debate between independent and subsidiary low-cost carriers, AirAsiaExpedia chief executive officer Kathleen Tan said she believed that the relevant issue remained that the consumers were the winners in this battle between independent or subsidiary LCCs and full-service carriers.
“However, I think the independent LCCs win because full-service carriers creating an offshoot of the main carrier to compete with independent LCCs mean that they are still competing for the same slice of pie as the their FSC counterparts,” said Tan.
While AirAsia Bhd commercial head Spencer Lee Teck Loong suggested the need to find new segmentations in the field by looking out of the box, at lesser-known areas.
“We need to understand the pulse of the market, using the data only as a guideline,” said Lee, citing the airport in Bandung, Indonesia as an example of a small relatively unknown airport that boomed over time.
The recent inclination toward utilising social media platforms may reasonably justify preparations within the travel industry for a move online.
According to travel market research company PhoCusWright, Online Travel Agencies are at the centre of rapid changes across Asia Pacific, as gross bookings in APAC grew 12% year on year in 2013 and will rise to 58% over that by 2016.
Additionally, 62% of domestic-only travellers from China plan to go overseas within the next three years.
Weissmann’s understanding is that, “Hybridisation is becoming the norm. Convergence has already occurred as a mass specialisation could really only be done best through the web.”
Juddani speaking on behalf of his company’s online presence said, “We are not offering the specialised service online, that’s where the travel agent comes in.
“Eventually we want to move to be able to cater to people like a traditional travel agent,” said Juddani.
While the gap separating e-commerce and online travel sourcing, from regular methods of payment and booking travel arrangements steadily begin to blur, becoming more complex and harder to define.
Weissmann brought up the issue in data collection due to consumers not knowing how to differentiate between online and offline booking.
“A big part of that gap and difference had to do with perception because their point of first contact may be different with how their transaction; consumers don’t necessarily know the distinction,” he said.
By 2020, Generation Y will account for half of the corporate travellers in APAC, with movement in China towards travelling solo making up 39% of travel alone, as 79% source information from the internet.
At the Fifth Travel Asia Leaders Summit and ITB Asia opening address, the one thing for certain about millenials is that there is no certainty as the one-size fits all module and packages no longer cut it.
STB assistant chief executive Neeta Lachmandas in the ITB conference mentioned that among the challenges faced, there would be a shortage of 8mil jobs in the next 15 to 20 years, a crucial period digital natives will have to overcome in Asia.
“Asia presents tremendous opportunity but also challenges that will need to be overcome.
“Identifying millenials as a homogenous group is a myth, so the key focal point is how we can create a millennial workforce that can take advantage of this opportunity,” said Neeta.
Options for consumers abound from the point of researching for travel packages through traditional or online methods, to their flights via Full-Service Airlines or Low-Cost Carriers, as well as their accommodation and stay in the chosen destination.
Travel Rave will run from Oct 19 to Oct 23, this year.