Having just spent three months based in its Asia offices, Sebastien Gibergues, Head of Leisure and Online Travel at Amadeus, is better able to appreciate the different way the Asia online travel market is developing compared to Europe and the US.
“I also spent a lot of time in the US previously and then the US was driving dynamics of the business but over the past two to three years, a lot of innovation has developed in APAC.”
Gibergues and I were discussing the Amadeus latest market report on Online Travel 2020: Evolve, Expand or Expire which calls out four trends – The rise of Mega Online Travel Retailers; Introducing Digital Tour Operators; The rise of more sophisticated Mobile Travel Retailers; and The new Travel Marketplace.
We started our conversation with the fourth trend because this is where Asia has led the way.
“Asia has leapfrogged in this trend and it’s creating these truly merged marketplaces which didn’t exist before. Ctrip is probably the first of these travel marketplaces and then you had these e-commerce players setting up travel verticals – Fliggy (formerly Alitrip), Rakuten (Japan) and Tmon (South Korea) are examples. And now you have Paytm in India entering the market.
“They are not meta-search, not OTA. It doesn’t exist outside Asia. Alibaba’s investment in Paytm – that’s bringing these models outside China.
“My bet is Ctrip and Skyscanner will bring this merged marketplace to the global market.”
In a recently-released White Paper, Skyscanner set out its vision for the future of airline distribution and the changing role of metasearch within this. The paper, authored by the metasearch engine’s CEO and Co-Founder Gareth Williams, sets out Skyscanner’s intention to transition towards becoming a marketplace in which travellers can shop for a rich array of air fares with a seamless process from start to finish across any device.
Williams argues that the evolving technology landscape, with the increasing consumer preference for mobile, and evolving click-tap platforms such as chat bots, has blurred the lines between what can be considered a ‘direct’ air ticket purchase.