Phocuswright Europe 2023: Key MENA and APAC insights unveiled

Phocuswright Europe 2023: Key MENA and APAC insights unveiled

The panel saw executives from Almosafer, Travelstart, and Traveloka comment on trends such as AI, investment and staying relevant to market

A panel discussion with leaders from a range of Asia Pacific, Middle East and Africa-based companies looked at trends in their markets, while on stage last week at Phocuswright Europe.

The Barcelona event that saw content spanning three days with speakers from all over the world, included a WiT session moderated by Yeoh Siew Hoon, founder of WiT and editorial director of Northstar Travel Group Asia.

The discussion on new travel and tech trends in the more “unconventional” markets saw panellists from Almosafer in Saudia Arabia; Travelstart in Nigeria; Traveloka in Indonesia and Southeast Asia; Yanolja Cloud in South Korea and Flightroutes24 in China. 

While they are seeing growth in technology in their respective regions, percentages for travel bookings made on a mobile device in South Korea are lower than other places in the world. 

South Korea sees 60% of bookings made this way, Nigeria sees 64% and Saudia Arabia sees 80% of bookings made this way.

Looking at the type of travellers frequenting their countries as well, Muzzammil Ahussain, CEO of Almosafer said Saudia Arabia are seeing more “experienced travellers and more solo travellers”. 

He said: “If you look at where Saudia Arabia was in 2019, before the announcement of the tourist eVisa, it was very popular for religious travel but no other form of tourism.

“Now it’s the most visited Arab country in the first quarter with over 18 million tourists.”

Philip Akesson, group head corporate development of Travelstart said Nigeria is also seeing a rise in solo bookings but that “over half of tickets sold by Nigeria are still offline” which led them to the platform they built to help tackle this. 

All agreed that AI was necessary and aided transformation in the ecosystem.  

Caesar Indra, president of Traveloka: “There is a lot of potential applications that can be done by AI, we haven’t reached AGI but there are things that can be done, for example to make the quality of customer service better.”

Ahussaid said they’re trialling ChatGPT both internally and externally and that “AI will bring huge impact and change things” but that “human touch brings a different experience; I don’t see that in the region changing.”

He also stated “sycronisation from software and hardware” is needed in the industry. 

Indra added that he believes investors have gone back to fundamentals but “luckily travel is the business model that has been around for decades” and “globally travel is one of the more attractive areas for investors including Southeast Asia.”