ITB Asia Daily Report – Day 1
Mr. Raimund Hosch, CEO of Messe Berlin, said he was “very satisfied” with the growth of ITB Asia 2010, which opened in Singapore on October 20.
Mr. Raimund Hosch, CEO of Messe Berlin, said he was “very satisfied” with the growth of ITB Asia 2010, which opened in Singapore on October 20. He explained that at the height of the economic recession in 2009 many travel companies had their marketing budgets for 2010 slashed.
Dr. Martin Buck, director, Messe Berlin (Singapore) described the growth as “solid and organic.” He told the opening press conference there were 720 exhibitor organizations this year, up from 679 last year and that 64 percent of all hosted buyers were top-level decision-makers this year, up 17 percent on last year.
EGYPT AS OFFICIAL ITB ASIA 2010 PARTNER COUNTRY
Egypt is the official partner country for ITB Asia 2010. Egypt is on target to reach about 15 million visitors by year end 2010, driven by 18 percent growth January to September this year. Last year Egypt attracted around 12.5 million visitors.
Mr. Hisham Zaazou, First Assistant Minister, Ministry of Tourism in Egypt, said, “We want sustainable growth in Asia. We envision very serious steps to be taken by Egypt in Asia.”
Egypt is marketing itself globally with the tagline “Where it all begins.” Mr. Zaazou told the media that in the first nine months of 2010 the Asian markets performed very well “without exception.” He said that visitors, for example, from South Korea were up 60 percent, Singapore 30 percent.
“Asian Markets are among the most favoured tourism markets for Egypt, and we are always looking for opportunities to attract more tourists to the jewels of Egypt,” said Mr. Zaazou. “It is our pleasure to participate in large scale events such as ITB Asia and promote Egypt as an emerging international holiday destination.”
During ITB Asia, Egypt will promote specific attractions such as Luxor – the “the world’s greatest open air museum” – the ruins and temple complexes at Karnak, and new luxury cruises on the River Nile on board the MS Darakum.
I AM JAPAN AND I AM COMPLICATED
Japan is undergoing a renaissance in inbound and outbound travel. However, the Japanese market remains complex, technologically fast changing, and divided, especially demographically.
These were some of the vexing observations about Japan put forward by leaders of Japan’s private sector travel companies during the ITB Asia Web in Travel session on October 19 called, “My name is Yuki-san and I like to travel.”
There is a resurgence in travel demand among Japanese women, said Mr. Yoshinori Nishihara, regional director of sales and accounting management at Pegasus Solutions. However, the trend is particularly apparent among women in their 30s and 40s and among women in their 60s and 70s. The older ones, said Nishihara, are “enthusiastic and aggressive to travel – but where they travel depends on how much money they have.”
The stronger yen has driven an increase in Japanese outbound which is currently up 10.8 percent year to date. The problem is the younger generation in the 20s and 30s. “A large percentage haven’t travelled in the last 12 months. Young people don’t have the appetite to travel because they play (digital) games,” said Mr. Sam Ohta, president of Ohta Publications in Tokyo.
Indeed, the panelists said there was a trend to virtual travel replacing real travel. Japanese men now spend more time taking virtual girlfriends on holiday than their real ones.
The trend is typified by a social gaming site such as colopl.jp, where games are centerd around destinations. Tech-savvy young Japanese gamers visit destinations virtually. However, colopl gamers who actually go to the destination (in the real world) earn points that they can take back and use in the virtual game.
Any effort to get younger Japanese people traveling again needs to be simple and fun with a strong entertainment value, said Mr. Kei Shibata, president and CEO of Venture Republic in Tokyo.
For all the social media and gaming proclivities, around 24 percent of Japanese travelers seeking information on Expedia, still call the call center. Once they make the call, the conversion rate is high, around 50-60 percent, said David Asahara, director of North Asia for the Expedia Affiliate Network.
The “trust” factor is important he said, especially if it can be sweetened with loyalty points.
And take note, Japan doesn’t necessarily follow the social media precedents set elsewhere. Facebook only has 2.3 percent market share in Japan, compared to 56.2 percent in the United States. However, Japan has embraced Twitter with a passion, with Twitter’s market share now 16.3 percent compared to only 9.8 percent in the United States.
Because of the fragmented and complex nature of Japan’s travel sector, the panelists said that they did not see Japan creating an online travel agency model that could be easily exported outside of Japan to other Asian markets, let alone globally.
Japanese people usually have a reputation for not speaking their mind. However, Yoshinori said that there was a definite new trend for Japanese travellers to write critical and sarcastic remarks on travel review sites such as TripAdvisor.
IMPORTANCE OF CONTENT AND EMPOWERED TRAVEL CONSUMERS
Web in Travel (WIT) 2010 – a large part of the new ideas and “conference” element of ITB Asia – has attracted over 350 attendees and 80 speakers this year. WIT represents the largest, most diverse and highest level gathering of travel industry professionals in the Asian travel distribution, marketing, and technology sector this year.
Web in Travel (WIT) organizer, Ms. Yeoh Siew Hoon, gave an overview of deliberations from October 19 sessions of WIT. Many speakers at WIT identified the primacy of high-quality content as an important force to drive business. However, the door has to be open for user-generated content, too.
Ms. Yeoh said that the “new grammar of the age is audio-visual – people need to touch, feel, and see content.” Great content builds trust. “Therefore, creativity is needed at all levels and reviews are becoming more important.”
With more and more travelers carrying smart phones, travelers are even flying to a destination and booking hotels after they arrive. In Japan, 20 percent of all domestic flights are booked on mobile devices. However, if people become too pre-occupied with digital devices and games they relegate the importance of travel. Thirty percent of Japanese people aged 20-30 haven’t traveled in the last 12 months.
Airlines are now calling themselves media companies. AirAsia, for example, has nearly one million fans on Facebook. It can now specialize in one-on-one marketing communications with a committed audience.
ITB Asia has embraced mobile devices. Visitors to this year’s show can download a free guide to the event on their mobile phones. After the success at last year’s ITB Asia, the ITB Asia Mobile Guide again offers the entire show at one’s fingertips, including a list of exhibitors, a floor plan, and information on press conferences and sightseeing in Singapore. The ITB Asia Mobile Guide, provided by GIATA & TOURIAS, will make it easy for ITB Asia visitors to find their way around Suntec. It contains the program of WIT-Web In Travel 2010, the Associations Day program, as well as a list of ITB Asia events, presentations, and receptions.
EGYPT TO SURVEY ASIAN TRAVEL TRENDS
Egypt plans to embark on a survey to study the trends and requirements of the Asian market as part of its plan to increase arrivals from the region.
“We believe MICE and adventure travel has great potential to appeal to Asian visitors, but we need to have an in-depth study of Asian travelers so we know the specific needs of Asian visitors,” said Mr. Hisham Zaazou, first assistant minister of the Egypt Ministry of Tourism, during a press conference at ITB Asia 2010 on October 20.
“Egypt is no longer just a destination known for its cultural attractions. It is now multifaceted destination. These days we have very good MICE facilities not only in Cairo, but also in Luxor and other destinations in the Red Sea area,” he added.
Mr. Zaazou said that Egypt was considering increasing its presence in the region by opening tourism offices in addition to existing offices in Beijing, Tokyo, and India. Although no decision had been made yet, Malaysia was a possibility as it had the advantage of direct flights on Egyptian Airlines.
Mr. Zaazou expressed his happiness with Egypt’s partnership role as Official Partner Country for ITB Asia 2010. He said that he hoped to continue the partnership in Berlin in 2012 and possibly, ITB Asia 2012 as well.
ISSUES FACING ASSOCIATION CEOS IN MEETINGS SECTOR
ITB Asia turned its focus on association meetings in the travel sector during Association Day, October 20 in Singapore. In the session called “Conversation with Association CEOs,” association leaders shared the challenges they face with membership recruitment and retention, financing and engaging stakeholders, as well as government bodies.
Dr. Caroline Hong, CEO, Australasian Society for Ultrasound Medicine (ASUM), said that competition was a major challenge. When membership is not compulsory, getting people to join can be difficult especially when there are many medical meetings organized regionally and internationally, not only by various professional associations but also private-sector companies.
There is also competition among medical colleges for speakers. “Keynote speakers often receive many invitations, and some tend to wait and see which is the best offer before accepting your invitation,” said Dr. Hong.
With conferences accounting for 30 to 40 percent of ASUM’s activities and revenue, this aspect takes up much time and attention.
The challenge for others like the International Association of Public Transport (UITP) is different because it comprises direct members and is not a federation. There are members at different stages of development and with different aims, national and sector transport associations, and even competition among stakeholders where traditional modes of city transport are now up against new models.
Ms. Helga Severyns, senior director of UITP, said associations that organize exhibitions are up against commercial outfits that are able to organize shows due to over-capacity of venue space.
To compound funding challenges, many regular sponsors’ budgets have been cut – some by as much as 50 percent – whereas they are getting double the number of sponsorship requests and so have to select them carefully.
Dr. Alfred Loh, CEO of the World Organization of Family Doctors, said medical associations are not supported by governments or drug companies. “As an association of medical professionals, we must be neutral. People may ask: Is this influenced by money politics? In making decisions, we have to be mindful of ethical considerations.”
ROMANCE LIVES ON IN TRAVEL DESPITE ONLINE TRENDS AND GADGETRY
The presence of user-generated content and virtual tours on the Internet does not necessarily diminish the romance of travel. The impact of the Internet should be taken on aggregate, as the real value of online is that it reduces risks for travelers.
That was the sentiment at a session called “Long Live The Romance of Travel.” The session took place during the Web in Travel part of ITB Asia, October 20 in Singapore.
“People value their leisure time more than work time, so they look at the Internet as a way of reducing the risks on their trips,” said Mr. Ian Wilson, regional vice president and general manager, The Fairmont Singapore.
“It’s been said that money can buy happiness, but buying stuff cannot buy happiness. On the other hand, buying an experience can create happiness,” said Wilson.
The panel also heard from Singapore based adventurer, Mr. Goh Mia Chuan who recently returned from an 18-month motorcycle trip through 48 countries with his wife Pan Ling Hong.
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“We enjoyed our journey, even getting lost, and the funny quirks like getting directions according to favourite food places in Asian countries. I was surprised that people were so friendly, like the policeman in Pakistan who insisted I take his money when I ran out of cash,” Mr. Goh related.
Goh said that he relied on the Internet to get information on border crossings and where to stay. While it would have been harder to complete the adventure without going online, it would not have been impossible.
The panel agreed that experiencing the romance of travel did not necessarily mean taking the cheapest options, as the notion of romance could range from checking into a beautiful suite to staying in a tent.
Mr. Jens Uwe Parkitny, managing director, Expedia Affiliate Network, Asia Pacific, said that the prevalence of the internet did not mean that travelers automatically took up the cheaper option.
“We see the same phenomenon in Asia Pacific as we see in Europe where people are willing to spend whatever they save on airfare on better hotel rooms and unique experiences,” he said.
Mr. Brad Gurrie, general manager, Australia and Southeast Asia, Travelzoo, likened travel to a love factory. “The key thing is that people like a deal. Given the opportunity they will still make spontaneous decisions. It is important to understand the travel habits of your customers. It’s not the technology that decides, it’s the people who decide where they want to be.”
“The romance of travel is not just a concept, in some cases it can be true,” said Ms. Kulika Sotho, executive director, Hanuman Travel, Cambodia. She cited her own real life experience of falling in love and marrying her husband whom she met on a trip.
Summing up, Wilson of Fairmont emphasized that the romance of travel would continue to survive as long as travel brought about fulfilment.
NEW MEGATRENDS IMPACTING ASSOCIATION MEETINGS
The changing world environment presents great opportunities for associations. Asia is a key market, where the need for adult learning and certification could be tapped. Technology is driving change and the trend towards integrated association management will soon spread from the USA and Europe to Asia, with the possibility of hybrid associations evolving in time.
These were some of the topical issues that Mr. Robin Lokerman, CEO Institutional Division, MCI, raised in his talk entitled, “Global Megatrends and Their Impact on Associations in Asia” at ITB Asia’s Association Day forum in Singapore, October 20.
Lokerman identified seven trends that bear watching. One is that the global recession has led to the role of governments changing in many countries. “Associations play a key role to balance the influence of governments,” he said. As an example, he cited Singapore, where the government works closely with associations.
Globalization in the association sense typically has three mega regions contending for annual conferences: the Americas, Europe/Middle East/Africa, and Asia Pacific. Although global conferences tend to rotate around regions, Asia Pacific is becoming increasingly important. Regional associations will also see “incredible growth, more than in UK and Europe” noted Lokerman.
Asia is more diverse, he said, and as it grows in importance, more scientists and experts will want to publish and deliver papers at conferences in Asia.
Globally, he identified key growth markets as China, India, ASEAN, Brazil, Middle East, and Latin America. A new Asian century is being defined by its rising middle classes, he said.
While there are multiple generations to consider, from old-timers to Generation Y, (people born after 1976), Asia’s significantly younger population means that associations have to be relevant to them. “Generation X may want to give back to society, but Generation Y will ask: ‘What’s in it for me?’ We have to respond to that.”
With the ubiquity of technology and social media, associations have to examine the validity of their member model. Associations should leverage social networks and knowledge platforms and integrate offline with online communications, facilitating discussion forums and social and viral networking.
Lokerman cited the American Society of Association Executives (ASAE) conference this year where a virtual meeting ran in parallel and cost only US$100 less to participate in. But it saved on travel time and costs. People could register, log on, and share in the dialogue as views from conference sessions were collated and uploaded.
Concern about climate change and social responsibility are becoming an integral part of doing business. Indeed, global reporting in corporate financial accounts is also becoming important.
Lokerman argued that there is a virtuous circle from cost savings through printing less paper and improved operational efficiency to greater staff motivation and brand reputation being established through competitive differentiation and PR exposure.
Global knowledge in the professions, certification and learning, especially e-learning, will add value. Singapore has made great progress in this area, and is now seen as the “knowledge hub” of the region.
Despite the general trend towards decentralization, Lokerman predicted that in the association sphere, there may be a more centralized approach adopted instead, as associations seek to consolidate activities.
But after that, the next phase would be a “starfish” type organization, where things would be decentralized again. The five legs will be circles, or components – by geography, industry, and interest area; catalysts – peers who operate on trust, collaborating behind the scenes and are inspirational; ideology; and pre-existing networks and champions.
“Eventually, we will see the emergence of the hybrid organization – one with central functions but more agile in governance and staffing,” said Lokerman. “The focus will be on active co-creation with the community, internet-based collaboration and hybrid meetings, like that seen at ASAE this summer.”
SARAWAK TO FOCUS ON INTRA-ASIAN TRAVEL
Sarawak Tourism Board (STB) announced a change in strategy for the coming year. The Malaysian state will shift its focus to intra Asian travel to capitalize on increased air connectivity with key source markets in the region.
Sarawak’s minister of tourism and heritage, Datuk Patinggi Tan Sri Dr. George Chan Hong Nam launched a range of all-inclusive tours, called Sarawak Integrated Packages (SIP), at the Pan Pacific Hotel in Singapore on October 19 in the run up to ITB Asia 2010. The launch was also officiated by Sarawak Tourism Board’s chief executive officer, Dato Rashid Khan, and attended by members of the travel trade and media in Singapore.
The campaign aims to attract Singaporeans and foreigners residing in the city-state to Sarawak, riding on the availability of direct flights to Kuching on Malaysia Airlines (MAS), Silk Air, AirAsia, and Tiger Airways. In addition, MAS Airlines will commence direct Singapore-Miri flights on October 31.
The consumer-driven strategy will be facilitated through a tie-up involving 36 travel agents in Singapore collaborating with nine suppliers from Sarawak to process enquiries, bookings and payment for these integrated tour packages.
Speaking to the media earlier at a press conference at the same venue, Dato Rashid Khan explained that with the change in focus, the state was aiming to double the number of tourist arrivals over last year’s total.
Sarawak hopes that with the SIP program, it will be able to attract 62,000 tourist arrivals from Singapore and an estimated RM124.8 million in tourist receipts. In 2009, the state recorded 50,243 tourist arrivals from the island republic.
The initiative comes on the heels of a similar campaign to attract visitors from South Korea and Japan launched a fortnight ago. Key to the success of this campaign is the addition next year of three new Malaysian Airlines (MAS) flights from Seoul’s Incheon Airport, Tokyo’s Haneda Airport, and Osaka’s Kansai Airport.
The flights, which begin in mid-January 2011, will fly to Kuching via Kota Kinabalu, the capital of the neighboring state of Sabah.
Mr. Rashid revealed that STB would embark on a 10-day tourism promotion in Tokyo, Osaka, and Seoul involving 15 local representatives comprising tour operators, hoteliers, and restaurant operators.
“The representatives will promote Sarawak during the road shows. We hope that the promotion will expose the state to the market over there and hopefully our delegates meet and seal deals with their counterparts,” he said.
To illustrate, Mr. Rashid said that scheduled charters from Korea earlier this year had resulted in a four fold increase in arrivals from the country to the state compared to a similar period last year.
According to Mr, Rashid, this led to a 6 percent increase for the second quarter of 2010 over the same period last year. The first quarter until June this year saw the arrival of 4,223 tourists from Japan and 2,540 arrivals from Korea.
USING YOUR MEETINGS TO PROMOTE THE GROWTH OF YOUR ASSOCIATION
Meeting organizers were encouraged to add value to their events and raise the profile of their organizations by taking three steps that could extend the reach and influence of their organisations, according to Ms. Nancy Green, CAE, executive director, National Association for Gifted Children.
Speaking at the Association Day Program as part of ITB Asia 2010 on October 20, Ms. Green said the lasting outcomes of a meeting or conference encompassed a selection of the best ideas from the meeting. They should be shared with non participants, the release of selected content to engage those who were absent, and implementing steps to convert attendees into members by offering special offers on site and ‘members only’ events.
“I would be remiss if I didn’t point out the importance of generating awareness to boost the profile of the event. That is why I always emphasise the seven ‘buzz builder’ factors that help create a positive pre-press with the media,” said Ms. Green.
“These include providing a forum for a controversial debate with key leaders, using photography and social networking features such as blogging and Twitter to create on-line impact, building on the strengths of the local and regional environment, and announcing a new product or service.”
Ms. Green said that it was important to recruit executives who could manage new markets with appropriate language skills and cultural understanding.
It is essential to use technology to amplify the impact of live meetings or enhance the experience, for example, through instant audience feedback, virtual conferences and webinars.
However, leveraging social media to foster interaction between people and groups could serve as a complement, and not a replacement, of live meetings.
In addition, Ms. Green advocated association members to work proactively with the media in terms of setting up a press conference, photo opportunities with key leaders and conduct demonstrations on the show floor. She also suggested a special “state of the industry or profession” session that includes VIPs in the field or industry.
To add value to the event, Ms. Green recommended an implementation strategy highlighting a special recognition ceremony for member accomplishments in program and in general sessions.