Web in Travel: Agoda ready to take on Europe and US after “high altitude” training in Asia

John Wroughton Brown said the region was an “ultra-competitive” market

Being competitive in the Asian travel market is like high altitude training for athletes, the chief executive of Agoda told Web in Travel.

John Wroughton Brown said the region was an “ultra-competitive” market that has prepared it well to tackle the US and European travel sectors.

“It’s a privilege being able to work in Asia,” he said. “If you compete in Asia it prepares you to compete almost anywhere in the world. It’s like training at altitude.”

Wroughton Brown said the Singapore-based global travel booking platform, which became a part of the Booking Holdings group on 2007, said Agoda is about earning its way.

He said although there has been huge amounts of private equity funding coming into the APAC region there will be a “shake out” and funding dries up.

Referring to the recent crisis at shared office space provider WeWork, he said: “There’s so much money coming into these companies, it’s not tenable.

“It’s got to be demand driven but a lot of these things being built are supply driven. I’m not sure people really want that.

“You are going to have to make your money in the old-fashioned way or earning it. That’s what we do at Agoda.”

Wroughton Brown said Agoda will compete based on “execution, the best technology in the industry, the best prices and the best inventory”.

“People want the absolute best selection, or inventory, and they want it at the right price because vacations are expensive.

“A lot of people taking their first ever vacation find it on Agoda, and so it’s about relentless execution day in, day out.”

Agoda is working to expand its product range having added tours and activities and ride-sharing.

Having been known as a hotel platform originally, it has also built its own flights booking portal having partnered with KAYAK.

Agoda’s own flights technology provides users with a better user experience instead if having to click off, said Wroughton Brown.

“We do not go off and build things for the sake of it,” he added. “We build something because we look at our customers and say is there something that they really need or a problem we can solve.”

Testing flights with KAYAK quickly proved there was a need, said Wroughton Brown, and Agoda went live with its own flights portal last August.

“It’s already getting a tonne of bookings. We believe we can take that product and be the biggest flight provider in lots of markets.”

Agoda has also started to offer users a “mix and save” promotion for hotel bookings by splitting the stay between different available room categories.

Wroughton Brown, who described it as being like a “hacker fare”, said it requires some education for both consumers and hotel partners about the advantages.

But he said once consumers are comfortable with it they love it and it is providing around a 20% saving on bookings.

Agoda is working more closely with hotel partners to get close to their core Property Management Services technology.

This is so more relevant in-stay and in-destination experiences and attractions can be retailed to customers. It will also allow Agoda customers to book the specific room they want.

Booking Holdings backed Korean hotel platform Yanolja, which was valued at $180 million after a Series D funding round in June, has a partnership with Agoda that will provide mobile room service ordering and door key.

Wroughton Brown said Agoda is using artificial intelligence to subtly improve the customer experience so that logged-in users are shown curated and personalised product and content.