There were more than 100 million tourist arrivals in Southeast Asia in 2014 alone, but only one-third of them made online bookings.
And while some travelers might purchase plane tickets and hotel stays online, they’re reluctant to do so when it comes to excursions and experiences. That’s where travel agents reign supreme. Tourists may, for example, book visits to Universal Studios and Jurong Bird Park during a trip to Singapore, and they’ll be issued a paper ticket or handed vouchers.
Chee Chong, CEO of GlobalTix, believes that’s really inefficient. He’s been associated with the travel industry for the entirety of his professional career, which started with SilkAir several years ago.
It helps the park earn more revenue by running promotions.
Chee joined Singapore Airlines after it gained control of SilkAir and was posted to destinations across the continent, including Thailand, Indonesia, and Japan. After a seven-year stint at the two airlines, he changed industries with a role at Sentosa Development Corporation, which runs the Singaporean island resort. After that he was with an event management company that manages the Singapore Cable Car Network.
The entrepreneur’s work in the travel industry helped him understand that there were several gaps which needed to be addressed.
“According to our research, tours and activities account for 21 percent of tourist spending at their destination, and food and beverage another 24 percent, but only 5 percent of this is transacted online,” Chee explains. “This compares to 35 percent electronic ticketing for airlines and 25 percent for hotel bookings.”
Airlines and hotels weren’t affected much – large search engines had helped them expand their business, but tour operators lagged behind. Fewer online options meant they couldn’t entice customers with flash discounts and deals.
So the evidence pointed to holidaymakers being ready to buy day-trips and venue tickets online – what was needed was an online platform to bring everything together. That’s when the GlobalTix team came up with its e-ticketing platform.
Work on it began in April 2013 with the MVP launching roughly a year later, in May 2014. In the meantime Chee was joined by his brother, Chee Kong, who quit a promising job in private equity to support the fledgling company. He’s now the COO, responsible for operations, investor management, and financial reporting.
GlobalTix closed a series A round of funding worth US$2 million in August. It’s also supported by the Singapore Tourism Board.
Travellers are moving in smaller groups and prefer to customize their own travel plans.
One of the startup’s clients is Sentosa 4D Adventureland, a popular theme park in Singapore. GlobalTix manages its entire ticketing solution which means the park can do what it’s best at: providing tourists and families with an unparalleled experience.
GlobalTix helps the park earn more revenue by running promotions, connecting with a much wider network of travel agents across the continent, and introducing a tiered-pricing model.
This system works from the travel agent’s point of view as well. Their old voucher system, different for each attraction, is replaced with a single, golden e-ticket. Agents can also explore the marketplace option to see all the tours and activities taking place. There’s also a ton of analytics which larger operators can utilize to understand customer travel preferences, helping them plan ahead.
“Travellers are moving in smaller groups and prefer to customize their own travel plans and there is a need to have a common platform to bundle their offerings and to reach out to a wide audience,” adds Chee Chong.
Chee claims the startup’s grown 500 percent since 2014, now raking in an annual ticketing value of S$50 million. “We expect this to increase tenfold in the next three years,” he adds.
It’s currently working with destination partners in Singapore, Bintan, Batam, Bali, Bangkok, Osaka, and Tokyo with expansion into places like Phuket, Hong Kong, and Taipei in the near future. There’s no word on the total number of users, but they’ve already locked in luminaries like Universal Studios, Singapore Zoo, Night Safari, and Singapore Airlines.
“The aim is to bring about a new paradigm in an industry which is becoming more customer-centric and tech savvy,” says Chee.
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