Mobile Adoption, Same-Day Bookings Up in Asia

8 years, 2 months ago - July 11, 2013
Mobile bookings in Asia might lag behind much of the developed world, but their rate of adoption is increasing exponentially, according to speakers during last month’s No Vacancy Southeast Asia conference in Bangkok.

Approximately 25% of all travel-related bookings are made online in Asia compared with half in the United States, said Bambos Kaisharis, Google’s industry head of travel for Southeast Asia.

“Mobile searches have overtaken desktop searches in many parts of Asia, especially in Korea, Japan and Indonesia,” he said.

Expectations are high for further mobile use because smartphone models using the Android operating system and priced well below $300 are entering even the least developed Southeast Asian markets, speakers said.

For instance, German research company GfK recently reported sales of smartphones in Thailand grew from one in every five mobile phones less than two years ago to more than two in five during the past 12 months. Nearly 2.9 million smartphones were sold during the first four months of the year.

Travelers in Asia also are using their smartphones for planning and check-in with greater frequency, said Tomas Laboutka, CEO of last-minute booking app HotelQuickly, during a presentation titled “Last-minute booking models.”

“Forty-eight percent of travel planning in the Asia/Pacific is via mobile,” he said, while “65% (of guests) are already checking-in within 24 hours of booking.”

Same-day bookings on the rise
The same-day check-in and booking phenomenon, which arose in the U.S. during 2010 partly in conjunction with booking app Hotel Tonight, arrived in East Asia recently with the launch of Hong Kong-based HotelQuickly and Phnom Penh, Cambodia-based Check In Tonight.

Laboutka said there have been 100,000 downloads of HotelQuickly’s app since its launch.

During a separate presentation titled “Agents of change,” Agoda CEO Rob Rosenstein and Wotif CEO Scott Blume said there is little room for new same-day booking platforms in an already crowded distribution landscape.

“We don’t welcome it in the market. If a hotel wants to discount at half-price at the last minute, we can sell it. We sell everything,” Rosenstein said of online travel agency Agoda.

The “days are done” when a small website can come from nowhere and quickly become a competitor with established heavyweights, he added.

But just because these websites have arrived doesn’t mean a hotelier is forced to use them, argued Tarandeep Singh, director of revenue management for InterContinental Hotels Group’s Asia, Middle East and Africa region.

“Increased volume is coming in at the last minute, so why do something like this discounting, especially for the last minute? Even resorts take last-minute booking,” he said during a session titled “Driving pricing, revenue & distribution.”

“Low-cost airlines have made it easier for people in Hong Kong and Singapore to decide on a weekend visit,” he said.

Nearly half of IHG’s bookings are now made within a week of arrival, Singh said.

“It’s about branding as well. Aren’t we sending out the wrong signals (by using discount deal sites)? We should not look at it from only a tactical angle. We should look at it strategically,” he said.

Failures to think about pricing strategically have hindered hoteliers’ abilities to raise rates alongside gains in occupancy, speakers said.

“Occupancy rates are moving up, but (average daily rates) aren’t, with Bangkok and Sydney experiencing similar problems,” said Martin Kelly, director of, during a panel discussion.

Some hoteliers are quick to place blame on OTAs, but “I don’t think that explains it all,” IHG’s Singh said. “Fifty percent of our business is corporate and lots of repeat business. We think 30% is repeat business.”


Text by Hotel News Now

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