Last week more than 500 creators and sellers of tours, activities, and attractions assembled in Bangkok from across Asia and around the world for the inaugural Arival Asia Pacific. Here are six things we learned about the in-destination industry in the region and what they mean for all of us worldwide.
Think Asia is behind? Don’t think that way for long. Reservation system adoption, distribution connectivity, and online booking may be trailing the U.S. and Europe, but it won’t stay that way. Asia Pacific is the largest regional travel market, it’s the fastest-growing, and its consumers are already way ahead—they’re shopping, booking and paying on mobile far more than their Western counterparts. Traveler expectations in Asia are forcing operators and distributors across the region to catch up, and fast.
Distribution like nowhere else. With nearly 50 online travel agencies (OTAs) and thousands of offline distributors operating in the region, nowhere is distribution more dynamic, and more complex. Consolidation will be inevitable, but in the meantime, operators must develop strategies to manage major global OTAs, regional specialists, B2B wholesalers, DMCs and more.
Pricing is out of control. Literally. The most talked-about issue at Arival was rampant discounting by resellers and operators’ limited ability to rein in such practices. It’s a widespread operator complaint that extends across online and offline (traditional travel agency) distributors. Many operators pin their hopes on the much-discussed idea of MSP, or minimum selling price. But implementation and oversight will be easier said than done meaning that some distributors are selling tours and attractions for less than the operators and less than their own costs to gain market share.
Operators are distributors and distributors are operators. Across the region, larger players and DMCs are aggregating tours, activities, and attractions and distributing them to global distributors. At the same time, they are operating their own tours. The lines between operator and distributor are increasingly blurry, making distribution more complex than other regions.
Tech from the West wants in. More than 90% of operator attendees at Arival were from Asia, but nearly half of attendees from OTAs and reservation technology companies were from North America and Europe. This is telling: As online distribution and technology adoption in North America and Europe matures, the global OTAs and reservation system companies are eyeing Asia for their next wave of growth.
Our industry can have a real social impact. The inspiring talks from Lien Nguyen of I Love Asia Tour, Achi Thamparipattra of HiveSters, Raj Gyawali of Socialtours, and more made plain the power and potential of our industry to have a real, tangible impact on local communities. Creators and sellers of in-destination experiences have enormous opportunity to help alleviate poverty, preserve the environment, empower women and micro-entrepreneurs and support local communities and cultures—while also building successful, profitable businesses.
It is still very early days for the in-destination industry in Asia, but it’s clear that much of the future of our industry will be defined here, in Asia Pacific. Indeed, that future will be written by many of the people who attended Arival in Bangkok.
As we ponder all of the incredible entrepreneurs we met and the talks and ideas that inspired us, the whole team at Arival has never been more excited about the opportunity ahead for everyone involved in the Best Part of Travel.
See you at the next Arival in Orlando, Florida!