Asia as a New Frontier for Online Agencies

Earlier this month, Travelocity
announced the launch of Japan`s first one-stop online travel site `tabini.` This joint venture between US-based and 17 airlines comes as Priceline plans to launch their `Name Your Own Price` service in Hong Kong.
In January of this year, announced a joint Japanese venture which will establish a new e-commerce business under the lastminute brand in Japan. With the recent surge of interest in the Asian markeplace, it certainly appears that online agencies are recognising a potential for growth in this area.  Following Travelocity`s global expansion, Chris Vasiliou
, Senior Vice President, Strategic Planning and Development for shares his views on the subject with ITN in an exclusive interview:
1. Does Travelocity think that the travel industry has fully embraced the internet and its capabilities?

The travel industry has embraced the Internet more than any other industry, and it will continue to evolve and mature. Travel and the Internet are perfectly suited to each other, and the dramatic growth of the online travel industry proves its long-term viability. As the online travel marketplace continues to evolve, the travel industry will continue to take advantage of the new opportunities that are created at the intersection of technology and the travel market.

2. With the launch of Japans first one-stop online travel site, tabini, Travelocity has clearly made a substantial investment. This is the latest addition to a growing global network. How highly do you rate driving global e-commerce as a priority?

We believe that the global online travel market shows remarkable potential for expansion, and we have placed a high priority on being there when it happens.
3. This is your second large venture into the Asian marketplace. In January of 2001, Travelocity announced its participation in an expansive new online travel exchange in the Asia Pacific region; later named ZUJI(TM). What kind of response have you had from that?

Although ZUJI (tm) has been announced, it has not yet launched. However, the site is being highly anticipated -we have had a positive response to the announcement.

4. ZUJI offers a full spectrum of travel services, including air, hotel, car and land tours. How does tabini compare with ZUJI -(It is obviously targeting Japan)?

tabini will offer similar services, including air, car and hotel. It is a site specifically targeted to the Japanese market, and it has been developed to meet the needs of the Japanese traveller. In contrast, Zuji will be servicing multiple markets. The fundamental technology will be the same between the sites, but each country will have its own customer service and local management and each site will be crafted to meet the needs of the local market.
5. What features are offered to consumers on tabini:

- In what ways does Travelocity personalise the users` experience?

tabini will use some of`s popular travel tools, such as “Fare Watcher,” a personalized service that tracks the best round trip fare to a requested destination and notifies members when fares drop. tabini will also offer`s `Dream Maps`, where consumers can enter a yen amount and learn what international destinations they can fly to within their travel budget. In addition, the fulfilment and delivery process will be crafted to meet the needs of the local markets.

- What kind of choice and control do you offer?

One of the great attractions of online travel is the ability of the consumer to access very large amounts of travel and reservation information, 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. With tabini, Japanese consumers will be able to access information on virtually all international airlines serving Japan, along with more than 55,000 hotels and more than 50 car rental companies in Japan and internationally. In terms of language facilities, tabini is offered in Japanese.
6. Japan is currently facing a difficult economic climate. Why have you chosen this particular period to deliver tabini?

Japan continues to be one of the largest overall markets in the world, and the online travel industry is poised for strong growth there.
7. What differences do you expect to find in dealing with the Asian online market, as opposed to `typical` online consumers in the West?

Our partners in Japan have designed the navigation, look and feel of tabini to take into consideration the preferences of the online Japanese traveler

- Have you noticed any notable differences in online habits?

Not many - the Japanese are also concerned primarily with security, reliability, ease of use and good customer service.

8. Will European Consumers benefit from the site?

European travellers are able to access Travelocity Europe, with sites in the UK and Germany. Travelocity Europe is a joint venture between Travelocity and Otto, one of the world`s leading distribution companies. However, as we develop technology and functionality for any global partner, we can share to benefit all of our global partners. All partners share in global development.
9. Do you expect the World Cup to improve the future of tourism in Asia?

It`s great that Korea and Japan are sharing the world cup and it will introduce those great countries and cultures to an even wider audience.


10. With such a diversity of cultures and languages in the Asian region, how does Travelocity cater for local variations in customer needs?

We look to our partners. They are local and national airlines and we rely on them to help us meet all of the local requirements. They also provide fundamental and ongoing design direction for the site.
11. A cut of your budget was spent on a branding campaign in May 2001 `Go Virtually Anywhere` How important do you consider the brand name `Travelocity` in international exchange?

While Travelocity has placed a priority in expanding its global reach, we believe it is most important to establish regional brands with identities that speak to regional cultures. That is why you will see the joint venture is named `tabini` which means `travel to` or `to travel around` in Japanese, and Zuji which is Mandarin for `footprint.` However, you will also see the phrase powered by all of our global partner sites, underscoring Travelocity`s global presence.
12. China has been described as one of the world`s fastest growing Internet markets. Over the next three to four years, China`s e-commerce revenue is projected to grow nearly twelvefold to more than $16 billion.  Will you target China for further expansion?

Travelocity has not announced any plans for a Chinese site at this time.
Related stories on ITN:

(14/03/2002) Travelocity Launches Japanese Online Travel Site `Tabini`

(14/03/2002) Priceline to Operate in Hong Kong

(01/02/2002) Lastminute Offers Internet Services to Japanese Consumers