When the Arival Team decided last year to bring Arival to Asia, even some of our biggest supporters said, “Really? Aren’t you moving a little fast?”
Without a doubt, we took a leap of faith, but we had a hunch. Okay, more than a hunch—we had a really strong gut feeling (with some data to back it up) that the center of gravity in our industry was shifting from West to East.
Lately, some of the biggest developments in Tours, Activities & Attractions have been happening in Asia, so we’re a little more confident our hunch was on track. Here are seven reasons why Asia is the next big battleground—and why we took this big leap across the Pacific.
- Travelers. Asia has more of them than anywhere else, and it’s growing heaps faster than North America and Europe. Most of their travel is within Asia, and this is driving tons of…
- Investment. To name just one example, Singapore’s Resorts World Sentosa, one of the region’s preeminent attractions, just announced a multi-billion-dollar expansion project that will be phased in by 2025. New attraction, tour, experience and activity businesses are also investing in the industry, expanding across the region to accommodate the rising traveler demand.
- Young travelers (who are doing things differently). The traveler populations across Asia skew decidedly younger (some market exceptions notwithstanding). And in all of the conversations we are having with operators and distributors across the region, the trend is clear: The classic group travel package that has defined travel across the region for decades is flat or declining, and independent, self-planned, online-booked travel is where the growth is. That’s why, for startups, there is so much…
- Venture Capital. Asia is the largest regional travel market, and the fastest growing. Klook has just raised another funding installment after a $200 million round last year, bringing total funding to more than $500 million, making Klook the most heavily funded startup in our industry. This is a sign of the times to come: a leading startup coming not from Silicon Valley, but from Hong Kong. This will happen more and more, in travel and beyond.
- Startups. Yes, Klook may get much of the attention with its huge funding rounds, but there has been a flurry of startup activity and funding. Here’s a quick hitlist:
- KKDay in Taiwan (see article)
- MyRealTrip from South Korea has raised a total of $26 million
- GlobalTix in Singapore raised $9 million last year
- Guiddoo in India raised late last year and again earlier this year
- Malaysian startup LokaLocal just raised money
And there’s more to come this year. Count on it.
- Tech. Dozens of reservation system companies have launched over the past decade to deliver accessible tech to operators across North America and Europe. Now they are setting their sights on Asia, while other local players ramp up their offerings. Singapore-based B2B distributor BeMyGuest launched Xplore, an online reservation platform designed for operators in the region, back in October 2018.
And this brings us to the last and perhaps most overlooked reason:
- Proof. It’s been one of the big questions hanging over all of the startups that raised lots of money: what’s the exit? Well, Asia is home to the first successful IPO of a distributor dedicated to our industry: Veltra, the Japan-based online travel agency (OTA) for tours, activities and attractions. Go look it up. They are profitable, their stock price has risen significantly since the IPO, and their market cap as of April 11, 2018, is just under $400 million.
We’re not alone. Others are taking notice. Indonesia’s top OTA has stepped into tours and activities, as has MakeMyTrip, the largest OTA in India. The founder of AirAsia thinks his airline will one day sell more activities than Klook. And I haven’t even mentioned China and a little company called Ctrip.