The package holiday is alive and well but suppliers that are becoming more dynamic in how they deliver them will prosper, delegates at the Travolution Asia Forum were told.
The event at the Pacific Asia Travel Mart, held in Langawi, Malaysia, in September, heard from a panel of experts discussing the evolving role of the packaged trip.
Speakers said firms that package product can be more customer-centric and have the data today to provide a more personalised service than OTAs that just provide a service for customers to self-package.
Alex Rogers, head of global partnerships at Holiday Taxis, said: “The historic package still exists, just like travel agents are still required, but dynamic packaging for us is the key.
“When margins on hotels and other suppliers are disappearing so people starting to create their own packages is really key. That’s what we are seeing globally.
“Interestingly, ancillary products like car hire and transfers are still not being cross sold within the path, they are still seen as single products. It will be interesting to see how that will evolve in this market.
“What we are increasingly seeing is more tailormade packages created in that digital environment where millennials are after those unique experiences.
“So packages are developing again into something that creates a unique experience and trying to do that in a digital environment is a challenge.”
Ivan Cintado, APAC vice president sales and marketing for destination guides and data provider Smartvel, said technology is allowing traditional operators and other established players like airlines to compete with disruptors.
“This is enabling not only disruptors but tour operators that have decided to switch their mindset and have a more technology-based approach.
“Who would have told us twenty years ago airlines would sell you a hotel, activities, a restaurant, give you recommendations about what you want to do.
“This is already happening. They are taking on the role of what the traditional tour operator would do.
“Tour operators probably used to think with this disruption new players would come in and take their customers away.
“But it has been proven those that become more dynamic have a competitive advantage against those that just bundle because as a customer you have a specific reference to who you are purchasing from and trust from the client.”
Jillian Farrell, director of business development at Continuum, a global innovation design company, agreed trust is vital when selling the full package and said that comes from firms that understand customer desires.
“Most of the time when it’s leisure travellers are looking to spend more time with their family, to relax, so the convenience of a package helps them do that more easily and spend less time on organising the trip.
“If it’s business they are looking to get somewhere on time, they are looking for the quickest ways to get them home to their family.
“You are looking for those really emotional drivers from the customer and then asking how do we do that whether it be through the packages or partnerships.
“People care about experiences. How are you creating one that feels the same throughout the trip when you select a partner?
“It comes down to trust. If you are going to do more package deals, how are you building that trust with the customer in travel?
“Provide that seamless experience and drive trust. How are we selecting partners in the right way, and build more trust beyond what we are doing just make more revenue.”
Angeline Tang, regional director – leisure travel and partnerships, Asia, for Avis, agreed that working with partners was vital.
“We are happy to work with partners which is an important component of the business that we do.
“But at the same time we also want to speak to our customers to create that brand awareness so that when they come to our partners they will be choosing our brand as opposed to others.
“Customers have different needs, some really prefer all-inclusive, others prefer to pick and choose what they want.
“We have also seen that Asians, especially in some specific markets like Japan, Korea and China, tend to look for ready-made packages or all-inclusive which they buy before they arrive at the destination whether it’s packaged by us or through an intermediary.
“Which is why we always look for intermediaries, we love them just as much as we love ourselves, as long as we know what the customer’s looking for.”
Cintado claimed due to modern data analytics and the availability of insights into customer requirements we are living in the easiest time ever to be customer-centric.
“We are in a position to do things based on analytics to make decisions on rather than having a guess based on experience. We can create a package as we go. We can see what’s happening in destinations.
“Travel has about a 5% conversion on average. Some people will say that’s very little. Other people will see there’s a huge opportunity with the 95% of people you are not connected with.
“There are different ways and strategies where you can be very positive and say what do I need to do to get that business.
“From my point of view working in technology we are in the easiest of eras. You just need to keep yourselves updated so you don’t stop running the race.”
Rogers added that he thought things were both easier and harder. “It’s all platform based so it comes down to what is the platform capable of.
“We work with 1,500 OTAs around the world and the capabilities of the various platforms to give the customer what they want is so varied.
“Some will just say here’s the flight click here, here’s the transfer and not make any differentiation to the customer based on data, based on their intent. They’ll just offer everything they’ve got.
“We know the intent, they want to offer a personalised experience but the technology they use does not support that.
“It’s easier for the OTAs because they have got the data and know the customer intent and have the most advanced technology.”
Farrell said while it was important to focus on the customer it was also vital to involve employees who are responsible for creating the experiences they value.
“In travel many if not all components we are selling are service, so what your employees are doing is just as important as your customer experience.
“At Ungawa [Farrell’s family’s rainforest zipline experience operator based in Langkawi] we are offering language classes to employees so they can offer a better experience.”