Skift Take

The opportunity that Southeast Asia presents for the travel industry is boundless. Time to capitalize on it.

As a global market with the highest social media consumption, Southeast Asia with its aspirational middle class presents tremendous opportunity for the travel sector.

Discussing the technology shifts driving the region’s return, Shirley Lesmana, chief marketing officer of Traveloka and Amit Saberwal, founder CEO of RedDoorz, in conversation with Sean O’Neill, Skift’s senior hospitality editor, at the Skift Global Forum in New York on Wednesday, spoke about how the mobile-first market with a 100 percent smartphone penetration is shaping the travel industry in the region.

There is a tall expectation towards digital products, said Lesmana. “The pandemic has not just accelerated the penetration, but has heightened the expectation for digital products.”

And of course if the region houses the top markets for Instagram and Facebook, the expectation would be products that are seamless, “Even before the pandemic, the Asian consumers are accustomed to a connected lifestyle, so that’s the theme or expectation for travel products as well. Consumers want everything on a single platform,” Lesmana said.

Comprising a population of 600 million young and highly ambitious people, Saberwal preferred to call Southeast Asia, “the most incredible and exciting region in the world today.”

Commenting on Traveloka’s pivot from a travel price comparison search engine to a travel and lifestyle app, Lesmana said, while people would typically travel twice or three times a year, the pivot helped them to make consumers keep coming back and increase their stickiness, resulting in 100 million downloads.

“Payments is one of the key infrastructure that we need to solve in Southeast Asia since it is the last mile and probably the most painful touchpoint from the consumer’s perspective,” she said, adding that Traveloka has ben working tirelessly to make the payment solution even more seamless.

Saberwal, who prefers to call his company an asset-light one with many hotels in smaller formats, said he doubled the property count during the pandemic.

“We get 75 percent direct bookings with no performance marketing,” Saberwal said, adding that since consumers are loyal to supply, they’ll figure out a way to come back.

Understanding the diversity of Southeast Asia’s landscape, travel companies need to maintain a balance between world-class solutions and local personalization, Lesmana said.

December 13-15, 2022
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Tags: asia monthly, coronavirus recovery, online travel, reddoorz, sgf2022, skift global forum, Traveloka

Photo credit: Amit Saberwal and Shirley Lesmana in conversation with Sean O'Neill at Skift Global Forum. Neil van Nickerk / Skift