Technology and the future of tourism

(The Philippine Star) - October 24, 2014 - 12:00am

MANILA, Philippines - In the past few years, Southeast Asia has become a popular destination for travelers looking to experience the region’s distinct cultures, popular attractions and pristine beaches.

According to the World Tourism Organization’s 2013 Annual Report, Southeast Asia was the fastest growing subregion in Asia and in the world last year, with an increase of 11 percent in international tourist arrivals, driven by intraregional demand. Thailand grew by 19 percent, Cambodia by 18 percent, Vietnam by 11 percent, the Philippines by 10 percent and Indonesia by 9 percent. Among the emerging economies in Southeast Asia, Myanmar recorded a 52 percent increase in tourist arrivals in 2013.

A deeper look into these emerging tourism trends show that Southeast Asia isn’t just the only region poised to benefit from all of this growth. At the recent 2nd Asian Business Conference organized by the Asian Institute of Management (AIM) and the AIM Alumni Association, technology and tourism experts explored the role of technology in improving infrastructure and driving the future of tourism.

For Google Philippines industry manager Charly Atienza, the opportunities for the region and the rest of Asia have just started to emerge.

Atienza shared that by 2030, Asia will potentially be home to a billion travelers, referencing a survey that Google recently conducted. According to the survey, 86 percent of travelers in Asia begin their trips with search, with about six searches per trip plan. In addition, 78 percent of travelers are searching for videos related to travel, and around 51 percent of travelers are booking their trips online.

She pointed out that travelers are now using search to imagine their ideal travel experience, find the best deals, and book both rooms and flights, while sharing every stage of the journey with friends and family.

To keep up with the changing behavior of travelers, Google has been adjusting its search capabilities. “We’re constantly trying to build a better search. Our model is answer-suggest-anticipate,” shared Atienza. “We show key information and highlights of the city. We also have a hotel section in Google Search, where we show rates, ratings, and number of reviews.”

Atienza also talked about one of their tools, Google Flight Search, which allows users to search for and book flights. “In Google Flight Search, you will be able to see various options and get tips, like when the best day for booking a flight would be,” added Atienza.

Meanwhile, International Air Transport Association (IATA) country manager for the Philippines Roberto Lim discussed the results of IATA’s 2013 Global Passenger Survey, which engaged 8,000 respondents from over 140 countries.

The Global Passenger Survey showed that travelers are now looking at technology as a crucial component of a smooth journey – they prefer Internet and auto check-in over other forms of check-in, getting updates on their flights via text messages, using reusable bag tags, tracking their luggage real-time and interacting with airlines via their devices and via social media.

“Getting the right data at the right time is key,” noted Lim. “You need access to data on a real-time basis.”

“Digital media such as apps, websites, and social media are of profound importance to today’s global tourist,” added David Gulliver Go, executive director of the AIM-Andrew L. Tan Center for Tourism. “These platforms provide travelers the infrastructure to seamlessly navigate through dreaming, discovering, exploring and sharing travel experiences.”

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