Booking Holdings, Airbnb and the Expedia Group have formed a regional lobby group called the Asia Travel Technology Industry Association, but it would appear there is something missing.
No Asian-owned companies are listed as members on the ATTIA website, while the entire association executive is drawn from the most senior public affairs ranks of Booking.com. Airbnb, Agoda and Expedia:
- President – Choo Pin Ang, Expedia Group’s Senior Director for Government and Corporate Affairs
- Vice President – Mike Orgill,VP Public Policy Airbnb
- Treasure – Daniel Gelfer, Director of Global Government Affairs at Agoda
- Secretary – Kees Jan Boonen, who heads up regional public affairs for Booking.com
The question is why go down this path without genuine local representation?
Sure, the OTAs listed all employ people in the region but all are effectively run out of the United States, where the big decisions are all made.
It can’t be criteria.
ATTIA says its “member companies operate in the travel and tourism sector in Asia Pacific, with technology and innovation at their core.”
There’s plenty of those in Asia and yet ATTIA has only four members who “are coming together to serve as a resource and catalyst for closer collaboration and information-sharing for the development of aligned industry/government priorities for travel and tourism in Asia Pacific.”
Top of the agenda for what is effectively an OTA lobby group, is getting a seat at the table with governments as travel policies are reshaped during and after the COVID emergency.
Choo Ping Ang said that current uncertainty and inconsistency around pre-travel and arrival protocols, as well as health and hygiene expectations across borders, makes it hard for the industry to plan forward and ramp up quickly.
“A framework that articulates agreed criteria for cross border travel-flow in the region could help simplify a complex challenge for governments, industry and travellers.”
“ATTIA believes governments should work multilaterally and in close collaboration with each other and industry to unlock international tourism revenue in a safe and secure manner.
“The outcome would be a framework to allow industry to align, plan forward with confidence and drive tourism recovery. This could include:
- “A set of internationally recommended health and hygiene guidelines for the accommodation sector to set expectations for governments, bring clarity to industry and allow for implementation at scale, in order to build consumer trust and confidence in travel.
- “Agreed and transparent criteria between governments and industry when considering or planning for open borders and intra-regional ‘travel bubbles’, including a set of simple steps offering clear information, and which endorse rigorous pre-travel COVID-19 testing, and over time, agree on traveller vaccination evidence requirements.
“The end goal is safe travel, safe citizens, better understanding of protocols by all and smoother guaranteed travel experiences for consumers.”
He urged Asian governments to leverage the ability of ATTIA members.
“If we work together, we can present a unified post-pandemic position on rigorous travel criteria for Asian nations on the global stage, unlock access to much-needed revenue and employment in the region, and ensure Asia’s digital tourism economy continues to grow and thrive for the benefit and well-being of its citizens,” Mr Ang concluded.
All well and good, but in an era where cultural appropriation is so not woke, ATTIA’s message would have more resonance if it actually embraced the regional industry it claims to represent.