Travel agencies in the Asia Pacific region are continuing to invest in new technologies, despite the uncertain economic climate, according to Abacus International’s President & CEO, Robert Bailey.
Speaking to Travel Daily at the Abacus International Conference in Seoul, Bailey revealed there was “no obvious correlation between the downturn and sales”, following the last few years of economic uncertainty, and that demand for Abacus’ tools and solutions remains high.
Bailey added however, that there was still a certain level of resistance within the Asia Pacific market to the adoption of new travel agent technologies, largely due to the personalized nature of the region’s service industry.
“There is a high-touch, high-service expectation among customers in Asia – not only in travel but in all areas,” Bailey said. “The travel booking process [in Asia] is still fairly conservative, and in many cases the old processes still work well.
“The biggest challenges we face are education and change management. We want to move them into a more integrated and connected community, with professional tools, automation and business management. It’s not a simple switch,” he added.
But while the global economic situation may not be having a direct impact on agents’ adoption of new technologies, Bailey suggested that there was an indirect impact. The decline of the older commission-reliant travel agent business model and the low-cost nature of the online model are, he said, “pushing people to make a decision”.
The result of this conflict appears to be the emergence of new hybrid business models, combining online and offline services. Companies such as Rajakumar in Indonesia and Ctrip in China for example, are offering online search and booking options with payments largely taken by call centres. Bailey also noted the fact that India’s largest online travel agent, MakeMyTrip, has recently started investing in bricks and mortar agencies.
But whatever business model agencies choose, Bailey stated Abacus’ aim was to help “professionalize the industry and boost productivity”, which can only have a positive effect on Asia’s travel economy.