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Hundreds of the travel industry’s most forward-thinking executives will gather for our first Skift Forum Asia in Singapore on May 27. In just a few years, Skift’s Forums — the largest creative business gatherings in the global travel industry — have become what media, speakers, and attendees have called the “TED Talks of travel.”
Focusing on top marketers, strategists, and technologists in the APAC region who are defining the future of travel, Skift Forum Asia 2019 will take place at Equarius Hotel in Singapore.The Forum will feature speakers including CEOs and top executives from AirAsia, Booking.com, Genting Cruise Lines, Jumeirah, Oyo, Rakuten, and many more. The following is part of a series of posts highlighting the speakers and touching on issues of concern in Asia and beyond.
John Wroughton Brown’s appointment as CEO of online travel agency Agoda last June came with a mandate from parent company Booking Holdings to grow the brand outside of Asia.
Agoda has tapped its non-hotel accommodations as a way to spearhead that growth. Over the past year, the online travel agency has ratcheted up the marketing and discounted offers available on its site for holiday homes, condos, and apartments, among other options — directly taking on Airbnb in the process.
More tourists to Asia are opting to stay in privately owned apartments, Brown told Skift last summer, even when five-star hotel rooms are available at unseasonably low rates. Agoda is betting that trend will continue in other markets.
Agoda CEO John Wroughton will be speaking at Skift Forum Asia in Singapore on May 27.
Skift Editor’s Note: This interview has been edited for clarity and length.
Skift: Your approach on alternative accommodations is so interesting. What percentage of properties on Agoda are not instantly bookable and why? What is your vision for the booking experience in the future in terms of prioritizing instant booking?
John Wroughton Brown: Our approach is to provide our travelers with the widest selection of hotels and unique or alternative accommodation options globally that they can book easily, securely, and at the best prices.
For that reason, the majority of our bookings do come from instant-book properties; that said it is quite normal, particularly in Asia and China, for some property partners to only offer “book on request” (BOR) — because they don’t have the inventory management systems or they list their properties on multiple sites, for instance.
In this regard, we are very similar to other players in the market like Airbnb, which has a large proportion of properties as BOR. Of course, ultimately, we would want to shift those partners to ‘on demand’ bookings to satisfy the preference of our customers here in Asia and worldwide. We are already doing this through market managers on the ground and building inventory tools like calendars, and such like.
Skift: Atop your homepage I see one Hotels + Homes tab and another for Agoda Homes. What’s the difference between the two, and why aren’t all the lodging choices together so the user can get full choice?
Brown: We created the Agoda Homes tab to make it quicker and easier for travelers who already know that they are looking for alternative types of accommodation to traditional hotels when they begin their search. This might be because they are looking for somewhere unique to stay such as a treehouse or castle, or because they are traveling in a group and know they would require additional facilities like a kitchen or more space. Under the Hotels + Homes tab customers can see our full extensive list of accommodation types, while the Agoda Homes tab search pulls results for what we define as non traditional hotels, and this includes bungalows, houses, villas, and apartments.
We are rapidly expanding our Agoda Homes portfolio as well as other feature filters to help make it even easier for travelers to find accommodation to suit their needs.
Skift: AirAsia has visions of being an online travel agency? Are you shaking in your boots?
Brown: Not shaking, no. This is one of the world’s most competitive businesses, we face competition from all sides. We know Tony – he’s a great entrepreneur and businessman. But Agoda has been succeeding, fine tuning the business, its technology, and winning customers with our great prices and accommodation choices for years. That’s not going to change.
Skift: Very early days, but what are you learning in tests with selling homes through your Grab partnership?
Brown: It’s great to be working with Grab. Our funnel just went live from the Grab Home screen in the last few weeks, so it is really just the beginning and we are only just starting to understand what customers want when coming from that entry point. With the right inventory, and price, which we have, and a productive platform with two great customer facing brands, I am sure we’ll come up with some interesting and innovative concepts to test.