Travel buyers aiming to
improve online booking tool compliance in the Asia/Pacific region continue to
face fragmented supply and cultural barriers, according to panelists speaking in
August during the Global Business Travel Association's conference in Denver.
While online travel overall
is growing in the region—PhoCusWright estimates 30 percent to 40 percent growth
this year, reaching a total of about $51.6 billion—corporate online booking
specifically remains low. Expedia estimated that at most a quarter of business
travel in the region is booked online, and noted that it is much more common
for domestic flights than international flights.
Travel buyers who want
to start or expand online booking in Asia/Pacific ought to look at each country
individually rather than the region as a whole, according to Concur senior
director of segment marketing Christopher Juneau. "If you are focusing on
domestic or international, your approach may be slightly different on a country-by-country
basis," he said.
In Singapore, for
example, where virtually all travel is international, the content unavailable
in global distribution systems is growing as low-cost carriers expand. Those
carriers often provide the only scheduled availability for certain routes.
While corporate cards are prevalent in Singapore, the country recently has
introduced one-time PIN numbers required for online bookings, said Carlson
Wagonlit Travel vice president of global sales for Asia/Pacific Mike Bezer.
The bigger challenge,
however, lies in the cultural attitude toward online booking policies, he said.
there are very few mandates, and it still is the culture of travel arrangers
and personal assistants," Bezer said. "The main struggle to getting
adoption is the culture of 'I don't to this myself, I have someone do it for
As such, online adoption
targets hover around 10 percent for the region, Juneau said, well below goals
set in many other parts of the world.
In China, however,
online adoption generally is around 60 percent, at least for domestic flights.
Within the country, there currently is only one GDS, Travel Sky, through which
all tickets must flow, and it is not possible to offer international bookings through
online booking tools, Bezer said. Booking other components of travel also is
difficult. Hotel content, particularly in secondary and tertiary cities, is
Dean Fowles, principal
of global sourcing for services, travel and expense management for
multinational mining group Rio Tinto, said he is looking at a tool that will
book flights, but travelers still would have to book hotels through Sabre GetThere
or an agent.
"There is potential
if you have a lot of domestic airline transactions," Fowles said. "If
you are still looking for something else to be a part of that tool, like hotel
or rental car, it’s not going to happen."
CWT's Bezer noted that
online travel tool Ctrip has begun to delve into the corporate
space. Ctrip combines online booking for domestic flights with a massive call
center that handles international flights and hotel reservations.
"If you have a lot
of domestic travel, they are a partner you should consider," he said.
generally is low in India as well, Juneau said. Most corporate travel in the
country is domestic, and it is dominated by two LCCs, Indigo and Spice Jet,
that do not list content in GDSs. Hotel content outside of the top tiers
generally is not in GDSs, either.
opposite of what is observed in many markets, is the high cost of online
booking tools in India, with offline booking significantly cheaper, Bezer said.
"Sometimes the ROI does not justify it," he said.
In Japan and Australia,
online adoption rates for domestic bookings are high, about 60 percent, though
adoption for international bookings has been difficult in both countries, Juneau
said. In Australia, international net fares are not all loaded in GDSs, and in
Japan, loading and displaying those fares was prohibited altogether up until
this past April.
As buyers form online
booking strategies for the region, they also should be mindful of the growth of
mobile technology, particularly in such countries as Singapore with low
compliance, according to the panel.
"If you walk around
the streets in these countries, everyone is on iPads or mobile phones,"
Bezer said. "In many cases, mobility is going to leapfrog what we
understand as online booking tools."