Travel tech mature but Asia's adoption slow

Travel agents in Asia-Pacific are reluctant to adopt the latest technologies despite these being mature as they are averse to change and their customer base prefer human interaction over electronic transactions.

Asia's travel agencies remain resistant to the latest technologies due to existing systems which work adequately well and a customer base that prefers human interaction.

That was the view of Anil Damodaran, director of marketing, mobile, consumer solutions, and customer enablement at Abacus International, who added the technologies available in Asia-Pacific are mature and comparable to those available in the west but uptake is slower here.

Damodaran, speaking to ZDNet Asia after a media briefing on Tuesday, said one example of this reluctance is in the use of e-ticketing service. While travel agencies have implemented the service, many are not using it and prefer traditional paper tickets, he added.

He said one reason for the slower uptake of technology is because of the "high-touch" customer base in the region, who prefer human interaction to transacting using a computer.

Another factor is since the travel industry is quite mature, some travel agencies adopt the stance of "If it ain't broke, don't fix it" and choose to do things the way it is being done now without evolving, he added.

"Old way is broken"
However, Damodaran said the "old way is broken" and travel agents need to attend to travelers who are increasingly mobile and tech-savvy .

The director believes the need to educate both travel agents and travelers about the technologies available to them in order to drive changes in the industry. He also urged travelers to quiz their travel agents about the latest innovations in the market which would prompt the latter to pay attention to latest IT developments for their sector.

One example of is this is the adoption of mobile booking systems, which is slowly picking up. Abacus Mobile, the company's Web-based point-of-sale (POS), initially experienced "very low" uptake with only 50 to 70 agencies adopting the product in the first six months two years ago, he shared.

As more agencies face having to deal with customer requests after office hours, the online platform became more appealing for companies, he noted. Additionally, some "mom and pop" agents would also adopt Abacus' tool so they do not need to have a physical store and customers can make bookings with them on the move, he added.

This increased demand mean some 1,000 agencies have signed up to use the technology as of July, Damodaran revealed. In terms of regional adoption for the mobile POS, this is growing in all Asia-Pacific regions with Hong Kong, Singapore, and Taiwan the largest markets due to the large number of business travelers, the director explained.

Even as such self-service online booking platforms grow in popularity, he believes travel agents will remain relevant due to their domain knowledge. Travelers wishing to journey to several destinations, for example, would find it easier to make their bookings via travel agencies which would provide advise along the way, he said.

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