IMWT spent last week at WIT and ITB Asia at Marina Bay Sands in Singapore. We learnt a lot during our visit and even taught too, speaking about the power of content in customer acquisition and insta-gratification. Check out our slides on the Power of Content here. ITB is Asia’s leading travel trade show, while WIT is Asia Pacific’s largest online travel industry gathering. It brings together global and regional leaders to discuss the future of online travel.
This years theme was “Reimagine”. WIT has challenged the online travel industry to do things differently and ask these critical questions:
- If I were to relaunch the business I have today, what would it look like?
- If I were to start a new business today, what would it look like?
- If I were to close my business today, would anyone shed a tear?
- What can I do to change that?
There’s never been a better time to reimagine if you are at the intersection of travel and technology.
The headlines coming out of #WIT2016 certainly stuck to the theme.
What Made Headlines at WIT + ITB Asia
Current Threats to OTAs
Google in Direct Competition with OTAs
Unarguably the biggest news to be discussed at WIT and ITB Asia was Google Flights, which has recently unveiled a new feature that tells you when the price of a flight is expected to rise and allows you to track flights by email to see how they fluctuate. The biggest concern for competitors however, is the introduction of a booking button that enables users to complete an entire booking through Google, putting them in direct competition with OTAs.
Chatbots to Replace Online Travel Agents
But Google Flights isn’t the only thing worrying online travel agents, advances in artificial intelligence are a big threat to OTAs. Chatbots are currently being used to test and track what users are searching for but a big concern for online travel agents is that AI’s could completely replace their work. While such advances are believed to be 5-10 years away, the bots are coming. For more, read the Role of Chatbots in the Travel Experience.
Accor to Bring the Neighbourhood into the Hotel
CEO of Accor Hotels in Asia-Pacific, Michael Issenberg, announced at WIT, that they are looking to use their “real estate” in a better way. The aim is in “bringing the neighbourhood into the hotel”, using a “thin digital layer” applied to under-used assets. For more information see tnooz’s account.
MakeMyTrip Acquires its Biggest Rival, ibibo
India’s largest and oldest travel company MakeMyTrip has finally acquired its top competitor, ibibo for an undisclosed amount, to officially become the biggest market player. Goibibo.com and redbus.com will be added to MakeMyTrip’s portfolio. For more information see here.
Tujia Acquires Ctrip’s Homestay Business
China’s Airbnb-like, Tujia is shaking things up and announced that it is integrating with Ctrip and Qunuar’s homestay businesses. Tujia stated “the homestay channels of both Ctrip and Qunuar’s web sites and apps, along with their operation team and the entire business, will be merged into Tujia.” Also adding that the partnership “symbolises that the market has exited the start-up stage and moved into the growth stage.” For more click here.
More Players Moving into APAC
KAYAK Moving into APAC in 2017
Another big announcement to come out of WIT was from KAYAK CEO Steve Hafner, who stated KAYAK would be moving on APAC in 2017 after the brand, which has a dominant stake in North America, missed out on investing in the region. Hafner said that certain elements needed to be in place before the move, including a greater supply of local product from hotels and airlines. For more click here.
Booking.com to Move into APAC
Booking.com is heading to APAC, wanting to replicate its success in Europe. Already attempting to steal a section of Expedia’s market share in the U.S., Booking.com’s fellow Priceline Group hotel booking service Agoda already has a share of the APAC region, and Booking.com wants to follow in its path. For more see here.
Big News from the U.S.
Airbnb Fighting for Survival in Biggest Rental Market in U.S.
While Airbnb continues to progress against the hotel industry, its progress in the biggest rental market in the U.S., New York, has ground to a halt after its eleventh-hour attempt to stop a law that will fine residents for illegal short term stays failed. New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed a bill earlier this week, allowing short term renters to be fined up to $7,500, threatening Airbnb’s operations in the state. For more click here.