For many in the World, Asia represents the exotic; the jungles and resorts of South-east Asia, elephant trekking through India and Thailand, river cruises along the Mekong, these are experiences that can only be found in Asia. The unique, the once in the lifetime, and the seemingly difficult to book. But I believe that this is about to change.
Based on our aggregate booking data, customers booking excursions and activities in Asia tend to book with long lead times, as far in advance as 30 days. Compare that to customers who book North American excursions less than 7 days out.
What does that tell us? Well, on the surface it tells us that those booking their trips to Asia book well in advance (if at all). Another interesting statistic however is that the majority of operators in Asia don't accept real-time payment from customers, choosing instead to opt for manual payment methods, like "Pay on Arrival".
I would argue that there is a two-fold challenge for operators in Asia when it comes to taking full advantage of advanced bookings for their tours and activities. The lack of access to online payment systems for small enterprises in Asia have long been a hurdle for operators and the relative lack of ubiquitous Internet access. We are however, starting to see both of these changing, especially in the major tourism centers.
When we first launched in 2007, we found that the majority of operators in North America and Europe were not using electronic reservation systems or accepting online bookings except through aggregators such as Viator. Really, this hasn't changed all that much since we know that in North America, less than 14% of operators use electronic reservation systems even now.
Although there is no quantitative data available for the Asian market, I would estimate that number to be equal to or even less than that. The advantage for the North American market is relatively homogeneous nature of payments. Online payment systems and merchant accounts have been readily available for some time and the technology is well established. This has helped tremendously as small businesses have shifted from a local only in-destination approach to an online inbound focus.
A big advantage for Asian excursion operators is that software as a service reservation systems have reached a relative level of maturity. Unlike their North American and European counterparts who adopted desktop systems much earlier on, there are well established SaaS reservation systems that have been around for many years and are well positioned to service the needs of operators in the Asia market looking to shift online and take advantage of advanced bookings. Full story...