We soar high when we are connected
Tourism meets technology: Beyond ASEAN borders | 27 June 2014
The growth of Asian travelers is accompanied by technological developments that make travel more convenient. This makes the possibilities of digital travel endless. This was the general idea shared by the experts who participated in one of the track sessions of the 2nd Asian Business Conference – Strengthening Connectivity: Tourism meets Technology Beyond ASEAN borders last 27 June 2014 held at the Global Distance Learning Center of the Asian Institute of Management, Makati City.
Digital travel in Asia, according to Mr. N.R. Narayana Murthy, the Executive Chairman and Chief Mentor of Infosys Technologies Limited, is characterized by inexpensive broadband services and free WiFi hotspots available to the public. This is reinforced by the availability of economical cloud services, convenient social media platforms, and affordable smart phones.
These were reflected in a study Google conducted among 11 Asian countries for both business and leisure travelers. According to Ms. Charly Atienza, the Industrial Manager of Google, results showed that 87% began their trip planning on search, and 38% visited hotel comparison and booking sites. Likewise, Murthy cited that the existence of mobile apps such as Uber, an app that connect passengers with drivers of vehicles for hire, emphasizes the facilitating role of technology that makes traveling easier.The IATA Global Passenger Survey 2013 generated similar results as presented by Atty. Roberto C.O. Lim, Country Head of the International Air Transport Association (IATA) in the Philippines. The results highlighted that travelers want choice, service, and connectivity. As far as connectivity is concerned, respondents prefer online check-in over manual check-in; reusable permanent bag tags; real-time luggage tracking; more interaction and timely information from airlines via mobile devices; and availability of WiFi in airports. However, according to Mr. Victor Jose Luciano, President and Chief Executive Officer of Clark International Airport Corporation, even if we have these technologies, tourists would still have to pass through airports, most of which cannot catch up with technological advancements. Hence, airport improvements are imperative together with the creation of sophisticated travel applications.
Although digital technology has been present, a problem still exists. According to Lim, since travel agent distribution technology is based on pre-Internet data transmission standards and technologies; and airline website technology is based on XML and Internet technology, “this creates an information and product gap between the airline website and the travel agent channel. With rising demands in digital travel, the importance of technology in tourism has increased. Hence, according to Murthy, there is a need “to create an ecosystem where technology can interact with humans.”
In response to the demand for advanced technologies in digital travel, Google continues to find ways to enhance users’ travel experience. According to Atienza, the first step is to look at a traveler’s complete journey – from dreaming to researching, to booking, to the experience, and then sharing the stories. Second, Google takes a look at the many unique products they have and try to leverage them at each step of the way, to simplify the consumer journey for travel, whilst bringing value to our users and partners. The aim here is for Google to provide their users with useful and delightful services throughout all phases of travel – dreaming, planning, booking, going, and sharing.
Complementing the emerging digital technologies of Google, Lim stressed the need for travel agent to have access to the entirety of an airline’s product offering as available in airline websites. Hence, the New Distribution Capability (NDC) was introduced. According to Lim, it is a travel industry-supported program launched by IATA for the development and market adoption of a new, XML-based data transmission standard. “It will enhance the capability of communications between airlines and travel agents and will be open to any third party, intermediary, IT provider, or non-IATA member, to implement and use.” Stakeholders will benefit from product differentiation, access to full and rich content, and transparent shopping.
Given these emerging trends and the ASEAN ICT Masterplan 2015, Mr. Monchito B. Ibrahim, the Deputy Executive Director of the Department of Science and Technology – Information and Communications Technology Office, stressed the need to address the issues of cybersecurity and privacy. That is, to ensure secure transactions, the ASEAN region needs to have the necessary infrastructures, tools, and specific focal groups to handle the security of online transactions. Panelists also agreed that education is about seeking the optimum way to gain knowledge and using it to make the world a better place. Similarly, according to Chef See Cheong Yan, the Culinary Head of Enderun Colleges, education can keep stakeholders abreast about technological platforms.
If technological developments will remain to be rapid, according to Lim, 80% of global passengers will be offered a complete suite of self-service options by year 2020. As accentuated by Mr. Jose Mari Mercado, President and Chief Executive Officer of the Information Technology and Business Process Association of the Philippines, “people connection can only be strengthened if there is technology behind it.” Most importantly, “technology is not a threat but a tool to enhance people connectivity.” According to See, technology help equalize the playing field, human intervention will give value added and will make things better. Amidst all these, according to Mr. Rogelio Umali, the Head of Mobile Apps and API Innovation Program of SMART Communications, we have to recognize that “technology works for us, but we do not realize it is working for us.”
The session was organized by the AIM Dr. Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism for the 2nd Asian Business Conference. It was sponsored by Summit Media’s Entrepreneur Magazine. Approximately 80 participants from the government, private sector, and academe from the travel and tourism industry attended.
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