Singapore is pumping. The city was packed last week for the Travel Rave series of conferences – around 10 all told – and hoteliers are having the time of their lives, charging like wounded bulls with budget properties costing more than S$200 a night. Iconic Raffles was around S$650. Good money if you can get it with some properties running a year-round occupancy of 95%.

Anyway, I attended Web In Travel, which offered good networking and some insights into what’s happening in the regional online travel scene. The major takeout is that the Asian travel industry is in a good place with European and US turmoil a world away.

Clement Wong from PhoCusWright says Asia Pacific is now the world’s 2nd largest travel market, overtaking the US with Europe still well in front. Wong says India will be the fastest growing AP market over the next couple of years.

Not surprising when you consider its massive population and the fact that, according to Amit Saberwal from MakeMyTrip, current internet penetration in that country is at just 8.5 per cent.

But for many conference punters, jaded by incessant talk of China and India, Indonesia is most definitely the “new hot country”- it’s big (230m population) kind of exotic with some great growth stories coming out of sector pioneers who have made the leap.

Graham Hills, GM for in Indonesia, says the way local consumers use technology is “still in the communication phase but I think e-commerce will come soon”.

Online penetration rates across the region are growing fast but still low by western standards. Australia, NZ and Japan are clear market leaders on this front.

Mobile is the buzz but transaction rates are barely above zero. There was no distinction between smart phones and tablets.

A session on deal sites was pretty tame, despite expectations, although it did throw up the odd insight such as when a Singaporean hotelier revealed that virtually no-one who bought an ultra cheap “daily deal” package at his property came back.

“I have to admit a very, very small percentage of repeat business from these customers,” said Mohamed Yusof, Director of Business Strategies, Royal Plaza on Scotts.

Repeat business has been claimed as a business benefit by the controversial deal sites. The counter argument is that deal buyers are only loyal to price – not the product.


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