Digital, Dynamic, Domestic: McKinsey Points Way to Asian Tourism Recovery

Last week, research company McKinsey released a report called Reimagining Tourism: How Vietnam Can Accelerate Travel Recovery. The report is very interesting reading not just for those in Vietnam’s tourism industry, but throughout Southeast Asia where COVID-19 has largely been controlled and where the region’s tourism industry is waiting, increasingly impatiently, for the rest of the world to get its act together.

As we can see from the graphic below, the pandemic had as catastrophic an effect on Vietnam’s inbound tourism industry as it did across the region, with international visitor numbers plummeting from 18.5m in 2019 to 3.5m in 2020. Catastrophic because whilst international visitors only make up a relatively small percentage of Vietnam’s overall tourism figures, with domestic travel dominant, they spend around 10 times more in the country on average than domestic tourists, so tourism revenues were hit hard.



Vietnam’s highly successful, world-leading zero- COVID policy, which has seen the country suffer only 35 deaths, means it is ideally placed to bounce back quickly when tourism recovers, and much of the advice in the McKinsey report also applies to other Southeast Asian nations that have successfully managed the pandemic, including Thailand (91 deaths), Cambodia (4) and Laos (0). McKinsey predicts that, if it follows the right strategy and maintains its low infection rate, Vietnam’s tourism industry can return to 2019 levels as soon as 2024.



The report shares several strategies that Vietnam – and by extension its neighbours – can use to drive tourism recovery, and here are our takeaways from those.

Focus on Domestic & Regional Travel

Vietnam and Thailand in particular have huge domestic tourism industries and, in recent years, there has been a dramatic increase in outbound trips from both countries. This means that, with outbound travel currently impossible, those travellers will travel domestically, increasing the average spend per domestic traveller, and encouraged by an absence of large numbers of foreign tourists and abnormally low accommodation rates – as McKinsey put it, “Shifts in tourism behaviour could result in high-end domestic trips. With borders remaining closed for outbound travel, an increase in domestic luxury trips could occur as travellers reallocate their budgets.” So travel companies need to focus more on domestic travellers and tailor their offerings to them, which will in many cases require a different strategy to marketing to and building itineraries for foreign visitors.

McKinsey also predict that the first international visitors to return will be from neighbouring countries that have managed COVID recovery similarly impressively, such as China, South Korea, Japan, Malaysia and Thailand – all countries who were amongst Vietnam’s top source markets pre-pandemic. So any recovery roadmap for Southeast Asia also needs to focus on attracting visitors from regional neighbours.



Pricing & Packaging

With tourist demographics totally shaken up, and traditional high/low seasons turned on their heads, McKinsey advise travel companies to rethink their traditional pricing strategies in two key ways:


Companies need to think more about bundling services together, to increase revenue and provide better convenience for bookers. We are already seeing hotels in the region offering more creative staycation packages to local travellers, including not just a hotel room but also limousine pickups, spa and gym access, dinner, and even local sightseeing trips, and this kind of creative packaging will be crucial in order to get domestic travellers to travel more, and spend more when they do.

Dynamic Pricing

As the report states, “Historical booking patterns and trends normally used as key reference points for price optimisation and yield management may no longer be as relevant.” This means companies will need to use up-to-the-minute data on things such as hotel occupancy and domestic flight numbers, as well as changing pandemic situations at home and abroad, to price their offerings more dynamically in order to maximise yield.


One of the biggest tourism trend in recent years has been the growth of experiential travel, with many tourists – particularly in the luxury and millennial sectors – preferring to spend their money on unique experience over luxury hotels/resorts and the standard tourist itineraries. As McKinsey put it, small local operators are generally a lot more agile than the bigger travel companies when it comes to creating new local experiences, so there is a lot of scope for partnerships; and small local companies with unique local experience offerings should be looking to global platforms such as Tripadvisor, Viator and AirBNBExperiences to boost their reach and revenues.

Also, this trend is not limited to international tourists – domestic travellers are increasingly looking to spend their money on experiences and see their own countries in a new light. Here in Thailand for example there is a big trend for farmstays and homestays, and so operators should be thinking local both in terms of the experiences they offer and who they market them to.

Digital Transformation

Yes I know, we say this in every blog post, but it’s only because it’s true! And McKinsey agree with us: “The time for digital (really) is now…The pandemic has made the adoption of mobile and digital tools even more essential“. This means not just focusing on online digital booking channels, but also providing more customer touchpoints during the trip (using a mobile app for example, and embracing an omnichannel approach to communication) and also making it easy for customers to change or cancel their trips – such flexibility is likely to be a key driver of customer loyalty in the ‘new normal’.

McKinsey also suggest that governments should be drivers and facilitators of digital transformation, citing the Singapore Tourism Analytics Network (STAN) and the Tourism Exchange Australia (TXA) platforms as good examples of governments connecting travel businesses to technology providers.


To conclude, McKinsey’s report says “Travel players in Vietnam can seek to accelerate the industry’s recovery by capturing emerging growth opportunities domestically as they gradually rebuild international travellers’ confidence.” We believe that applies not just to Vietnam, but to any country that has managed the pandemic successfully and is now able to prepare for tourism recovery – and at eRoam, our technology solution is here to help companies every step of the way. To find out how we can help you digitally transform your business, sell more domestic travel, and easily offer dynamic pricing and packaging online, please get in touch!



B2B Travel: Are You Providing a B2C-Level Customer Experience?

E-commerce platform Magento released their State of B2B Ecommerce in ANZ, SE Asia and India report this week, and whilst the report is primarily focused on tech, manufacturing and retail companies, it also makes compelling reading for those of us in the travel industry. Read more

A Blank Slate: Seven Ways to Reset Your Business


At some point, I suspect everyone who has run their own business has wished they could hit the reset button. Maybe the business hasn’t evolved in the way you planned; maybe you don’t have the right clients, or you have the right clients but you’re not giving them the right level of service; maybe your team doesn’t have the right dynamic; maybe you picked the wrong tech solutions; maybe you’ve simply abandoned your original ideals in order to make revenue. However, once your business is established, starting afresh is simply unfeasible – you can’t simply dump your clients, get rid of your whole tech stack or fire your entire team, and doing it incrementally takes a lot of time. If only you were able to start again with a blank slate… Read more

What Is Omnichannel, and Why Should Travel Companies Care?


Yes, we have another buzzword for you – Omnichannel. What is it, and why should you, as a travel business, be interested? First of all, let’s look at what the word ‘omnichannel’ actually means. Wikipedia defines omnichannel as:


…a cross-channel content strategy that organizations use to improve their user experience and drive better relationships with their audience across points of contact. Rather than working in parallel, communication channels and their supporting resources are designed and orchestrated to cooperate. Omnichannel implies integration and orchestration of channels such that the experience of engaging across all the channels someone chooses to use is as, or even more, efficient or pleasant than using single channels in isolation


Omnichannel differs from multichannel in that, whilst in the latter the various channels of customer communication are separate silos and are not integrated, omnichannel integrates them into one uniform approach to customer relationships. This graphic from FitSmallBusiness explains it nicely:



An example that many of you will be familiar with is TV streaming service Netflix. Wherever I log into my Netflix account – my TV, my phone, my tablet, a hotel TV etc – the experience is the same and I can start watching a film on one device and pick up where I left off later on another one. When I’ve finished bingeing a TV series, Netflix sends me an email with suggestions for other shows I might enjoy. Essentially it’s a seamless experience across all channels and there is none of the disconnect that can be annoying in multichannel experiences.

And omnichannel is popular with customers too. A recent Aberdeen survey found that companies with an omnichannel strategy are seeing customer satisfaction levels 23 times higher than the average, and seeing 89% customer retention (as opposed to 33% for companies with poor or non-existent omnichannel strategies).

Omnichannel works because different customers like to communicate with your business in different ways. Some are old-school and prefer to deal with you face-to-face or over the phone; some prefer email; others prefer chat apps such as Messenger, Line or Whatsapp. Some prefer different channels for different purposes, eg Facebook for the dreaming stage, website for the booking stage, Line for post-booking and customer service. As this Amadeus graphic shows, there is no dominant communication platform:


Indeed, research shows that 60% of online purchasers begin shopping on one device before switching to another, and that the average accommodation booking involves an incredible 45 touchpoints across different channels and devices!

This means that a multichannel/siloed approach will cause more problems than it solves – we’ve all experienced the frustration of dealing with a non-integrated customer service environment and having to explain our problem multiple times across multiple channels. Customers want to know that, whether they’re calling you, emailing you, or chatting with you on Whatsapp, the person they’re interacting with will have all the relevant information to hand and they won’t need to repeat themselves.

And yet, at the moment travel companies have been much slower on the uptake than their customers. Amadeus’ research suggests that whilst only 10% of travel agencies think using online messaging channels is important, 43% of their customers want to use these channels. And despite the proven ROI benefits, only 20% of travel agents surveyed are planning to adopt an omnichannel strategy in the next five years.

Here’s an example of how your customer journey might work if you implemented an omnichannel strategy:

  • Customer Googles ‘japan cherry blossom itinerary’
  • Your Google ad pops up
  • Customer visits your website, spends a few minutes reading itineraries, then leaves without completing an enquiry form
  • Via your retargeting solution, the customer sees a Facebook ad for your Japan itineraries, which reminds them of their uncompleted research
  • They click on the ad, return to your site, and submit an enquiry
  • You respond to their enquiry along with a Whatsapp message to alert them to the response
  • They ask questions about the proposal you sent them via Facebook Messenger, and you answer via the same channel
  • They decide to go ahead so you send them a payment link via Messenger
  • After they pay they automatically get a customer number and a download link for your itinerary app
  • They can use the app to communicate with you and also book additional services or upgrades, and communicate with you during the trip
  • After they return home your customer service team calls them to get their feedback and also sends them a feedback survey link via Whatsapp
  • They complete the survey, receive a discount on future trips via email, and the information gathered is used to serve them with future offers and deals

The process works because, whichever channel the customer uses to interact with you, the experience is the same, as the customer, and their CRM record, is at the heart of everything you do. And whilst it may seem complicated, implementing an omnichannel strategy is fairly straightforward and only really requires a robust and flexible CRM solution (eg Hubspot), and an integrated booking solution (eRoam of course!) Integrating your CRM with Google Adwords and a retargeting solution such as Adroll means you can control your SEM strategy from within your CRM; integrating your CRM with your website means all website enquiries and chats go straight into the customer’s CRM record; and integrating your CRM with your booking solution means that all customer quotes and bookings are tracked and are instantly visible to your customer service team.

COVID-19 is increasing the pace of digital transformation in our industry and those companies that come out of it ready for the rebound will be those that are most responsive to customer needs. We’re ready to help you as you look to adopt omnichannel and other digital strategies, so to get your digital journey started, please get in touch!



The DMC Landscape is Changing: 6 Ways to Stand Out

We don’t need to repeat it again really, but COVID has had a destructive, disruptive and transformative effect on the travel industry, and when tourism resumes – as pent-up traveller demand suggests it will – our industry will look very different. Here in Asia we’ve already seen several large, traditional DMCs go out of business, and it’s the same story worldwide. And with travel agent and traveller needs changing to adapt to the new normal, those DMCs that ride out this tough period will need to adapt if they’re to survive and thrive. Read more

COVID-19 and Travel: Digital Transformation Now More Important Than Ever


A few weeks ago, travel news website Skift teamed up with Amazon Web Services to canvass the views of 1,000 tourism & hospitality executives on digital transformation in their business and how COVID-19 has changed their strategy when it comes to technology and cloud-based solutions. You can download the original report here – meanwhile, here are our takeaways…

COVID-19 Has Increased the Pace of Digital Transformation

We’ve been saying it for weeks – whereas a few months ago digital transformation was seen as a nice-to-have rather than an essential for many travel companies, COVID-19 and its decimation of our industry has changed attitudes across the board. 57% of those surveyed said that the pandemic would have a significant impact on their digital transformation strategy in the short term, whilst 78% said the pandemic has made it more important for them to proceed with their digital transformation strategies.






Digital transformation can help companies be more responsive and more agile during crises, and can also help them rapidly pivot their product offering to move away from international to domestic travel whilst borders remain closed. We predict that those companies that come out of the crisis stronger and ready to do business will be those who already have their technology stack in place.

Few Travel Companies Are Ahead of the Curve

We didn’t really need telling about this next bit, but it was still good to see the numbers! Of those surveyed, only 28% felt they were ahead of the competition when it came to digital transformation, with 71% saying they were either keeping up or behind. We’re pretty sure that it’s the 28% who will be leading the way when travel bounces back, as it undoubtedly will.



There are several reasons why travel companies feel unable to get to grips with new tech. For larger companies, rolling out new tech across large teams and different offices is a huge undertaking. Also, keeping up to date with the rapid pace of change and the growing range of solutions can be a headache. many travel companies have legacy systems that are a key part of the business and which need to be integrated with new solutions, which takes further time and money. And of course introducing new tech, whatever size your company is, requires some upheaval, change management and staff training.

The Customer Experience Remains Top Priority

Whatever the stage of their digital transformation journey, one thing that pretty much all respondents conveyed was that delighting and retaining customers is key to their success. “Provide consistent and high-quality customer experiences”, “Deepen customer relationships” and “Increase customer retention” were three of the top four stated business priorities for 2020, and the only way to achieve these at scale is to use technology.

Customers are more digitally-savvy than ever before, more so after COVID-19 and the resultant increase in the use of Zoom calls, food ordering apps, track & trace solutions etc. People are more comfortable with tech than ever and they don’t just desire it from the travel industry – they now expect it. They’re also used to the quick, immediate booking process provided by OTAs and the old DMC model of taking hours/days to respond to a quote enquiry is on its last legs.

Travel Is Underusing Data Analytics

With digital transformation comes lots & lots of lovely, usable customer data – indeed, digital analytics is the number one area companies are planning to invest in in the next 12 months, with nearly 75% saying data analytics is very important or critical to the success of their business.




However, the desire does not currently match the reality! More than half of the respondents said their company’s data strategy was average or worse, with only a third claiming to be successful at using customer data analysis to make better business decisions.

The Cloud is Where It’s At!

Of the companies surveyed, 88% are either in the cloud already or planning to move their, with a mere 12% holding out and keeping their software in-house. The top three reasons for going cloud-based were better business flexibility and agility, easier scalability, and an enhanced customer experience. A mere 3% disagreed with the idea that cloud computing helps improve the customer experience and optimise the company’s operations.

With its lower costs, greater flexibility, scalability and security, and easier implementation, there is no doubt that the cloud is here to stay, and it’s not a question of if your travel business will move, but when.


eRoam is at the forefront of helping travel businesses digitally transform themselves to deal with the unique challenges 2020 has presented. Our cloud-based solution is affordable, easy to implement and simple to use, and helps companies provide a much better customer experience and harvest valuable behavioural data. To try eRoam for yourself, click here to sign up for a free trial.


Segment to Succeed: The Power of eRoam + CRM

Email marketing may be arguably the oldest digital marketing tactic there is, and it may have a bad reputation thanks to years of misuse and abuse, but it remains one of the easiest and most popular marketing methods there is – and, as email marketing solutions and CRMs get smarter, it is becoming increasingly effective. Here are some stats that may surprise you:

Roughly 80% of marketers have reported an increase in email engagement over the past 12 months. (HubSpot, 2020)

Email marketing has the highest return on investment for small businesses. (Campaign Monitor, 2019)

The number of global email users is set to grow to 4.48 billion users by 2024. (Statista, 2019)

So far from being a dead technology, increasingly replaced by messaging, global email usage is growing, and its effectiveness as a marketing tool is actually increasing.

One of the primary reasons for this is the increasing use of email list segmentation. Sending carefully targeted emails to a segmented list is one of the most effective digital marketing strategies there is – far more so than just blasting out the same email to your entire list. A 2017 Mailchimp survey found that segmented emails get 14.3% more opens than unsegmented ones, and achieve a staggering 100.95 increase in clickthrough rates. And with contemporary CRMs and email marketing solutions making segmenting easier than ever, there’s no longer any excuse not to segment your email marketing.

One of the key challenges to travel marketers when it comes to segmentation is that most of their customer data is not in their CRM system (if they even have one); it’s in their booking system (if they have one!), or various spreadsheets, or in many cases it isn’t even centralised at all and is spread across various hard drives, email accounts and other databases. Even when it is readily accessible, it may not contain the kind of information – travel preferences, interests, favourite destinations, preferred airlines/hotels etc – that is required for effective segmented email campaigns.

To do this effectively, you need a booking system that captures the right data about your travellers, and which integrates with your CRM system to enable you to build segmented lists based on that data, as well as performing other marketing tasks such as retargeting and analytics. And that’s where a solution like eRoam can help.

Whilst eRoam doesn’t come with a full-function CRM solution (we prefer to leave that to the experts and focus on what we do best), its customer area captures all the relevant data you will need to run segmentation campaigns. As well as the basics – name, address, nationality etc – we dive deeper into client data and capture details such as interests (eg Food, Photography, Golf etc), preferred airlines & flight class, preferred hotel chains & room type, preferred car rental company and vehicle type, and favourite destinations. You can also separate these by type of travel, with different preferences for leisure, family and business trips.



Then, via API, you can connect eRoam to your CRM solution and export this data to add it to the client’s CRM record. Now the magic happens. Let’s say, for example, that you have a special deal from Emirates on business class flights to Sydney – all you need to do is create a segmented list of clients whose preferred airline in Emirates, whose preferred flight class is business, and who have Australia in their preferred destinations, and bingo, you have a very clearly targeted list of people who will be more likely to be attracted by your deal. And if they come back and ask you to put together a trip for them, at the itinerary building stage eRoam will remember those preferences and apply them to the quote.

Email segmentation and personalisation at scale used to be a challenge, and it still is if you’re not collecting the right data. By harnessing the travel knowledge of eRoam and the marketing power of your CRM system, you can transform your email marketing strategy and see your click rates – and conversion rates – start to soar!


Personal + Global: How Travel Agents Can Combine Personal Service With the Power of an OTA

Earlier this week we wrote about the recent ASTA webinar on the future of travel, and their prediction that travel agents/advisors would be winners, whilst OTAs might struggle when travel starts to get back to normal – the reason being that people will value personal, bespoke service more, which TAs are better equipped to offer than OTAs. Read more

Travel Tech: How Going Digital Means Being More Human

One of the most common tropes in science fiction – ever since Mary Shelley wrote Frankenstein in 1818 in fact – is the robot who desperately wants to be human. It seems we humans simply can’t accept that robots are just technological gadgets – we want to imbue them with human qualities and physical characteristics and turn them into mechanical homo sapiens, with all the imperfections that that entails. We love technology and the ways in which it has improved our lives; but we need to be able to relate to it on a personal level. Read more

VIDEO: How eRoam Can Help Travel Agents Sell More Domestic Trips

In this new video interview from Insider Travel Report, eRoam’s Commercial Director for North America talks about how we make it easy for travel agents and travel advisors to take advantage of the current domestic travel boom. For more information on how eRoam can help transform your travel business, please contact us! Read more