Travo Asian Forum: Sustainable growth in travel needs technology and start-ups

Travo Asian Forum: Sustainable growth in travel needs technology and start-ups

Pata aims to help members to keep pace and scale globally

Technology and sustainability are the two major factors that emerging markets for tourism must focus on today if they are to grow responsibly.

The 2019 Travolution Asian Forum, held during the Pacific Asia Travel Association’s annual Travel Mart in Kazakhstan heard from the association’s chief of staff Trevor Weltman.

He said the association itself has started to look at what support and services it should be providing members in 2019 if it were to have been created today.

“Two of the most important factors are technology and sustainability,” he said. “We need to focus quite heavily on the technology side. In today’s world every company is a technology company.”

Weltman said Pata wants to help its members keep up with the pace of technological change, to make operations more effective and to scale globally, and to do this sustainably and profitably.

Graham Harper, Pata’s newly appointed sustainability and social responsibility consultant, said sustainability means different things to different people but being financially sustainable was crucial for everybody.

He said much of the move towards sustainable practices has comes from consumer, the demand, said but that the challenge was on the supply side.

“On the demand side there has been a strong push [for sustainability]. Our industries have sustainability at the fore. We are all aware we have to be sustainable. That’s coming from consumers, the people that we serve.

“But the big challenge is on the supply side. What are the different alternatives we have to choose from in our purchasing? How can we be able to more effectively examine our supply chains and find those different alternatives.

“In a lot of emerging markets they do not necessarily have the same access to those alternative supply options.”

Harper added that it was vital that the impact of any adoption of sustainable technology is measured from the outset.

“If you cannot measure it you cannot manage it,” he said. “Being able to understand what impacts you have is so crucial because to be a successful business you have to be able to message that effectively.

“And the only way we are going to be able to get our message out is if we have strong data. So we have to start at the very beginning. You cannot finish a project and then say let measure something.

“We have to a very clear idea of where we are going, how we are going to get there and most importantly how we are going to measure it. That will help us, in the end to set ourselves in the marketplace and bring success.”

Jason Lusk, communications and innovation consultant and ADB Ventures, an arm of the Asian Development Bank that is partnering with Pata on a new Travel Lab project to source sustainable technologies for member, said:

“We need to evolve in terms of the sustainable development goals we are focused on. In Asia government have woken up.

“They are our clients and we will always have relationships with governments. But the way that they operate is beginning to change. One way is through the emergence of public private partnerships as a major tool. There has been a lot of experimentation by governments.

“The other thing that’s happened is that governments have realised that private sector development is very important. It’s the key to sustainable development over the long term.

“Engaging with the private sector is very important along with the constant need to innovate and for government to support innovation.”

Lusk said ADB will help Pata members to build networks for innovation with partners for whom it is mutually beneficial to work together to form a self-sustaining “eco-systems”.

“There is this emerging understanding that when you create partnerships to support sustainability development goals all of the actors need to be driven by their own self interest, their own imperative to survive.”

Patricia Nordstrom, corporate partnerships manager at start-up accelerator Plug and Play, another partner in the Pata Travel Lab, said:

“We are trying to educate corporations on best practices for working with start-ups in all fields that allows them to grow and scale together with the corporate. They have to scale together.

“We need governments to be part of this. We need corporates to take ownership and have skin in the game, so create new opportunities and we need to have technology and the forefront of our agenda.

“Travel has been around for a long time. For most corporations it’s about culture, a mindset change. A number of companies in travel are starting to make investments. There is a need to start innovating.”

Nordstrom warned that return in investment in travel around seven to 10 times on average, way below average in fintech which is around 300 times. “But even so, good returns,” she said.

“The main thing is the amount of investment you put in at the start. Travel companies need more investment and better partnerships. They need more scale from day one.”