Asia the Way to Go

Expedia increases focus and investments on Asia as a region

Close-up view of Expedia researcher placing the sensors onto the test subject’s cheek, and above the eyebrows

Most people would be excited at the thought of travelling, especially if it means taking a break from your hectic day-to-day schedule. For a company like Expedia, who are in the business of travel, identifying new trends and exploring new technologies that can benefit the growth of its online platform further. All for the sake of its users.

In a recent unveiling of its Innovation Lab for Asia – the first of its kind in the region – in its Singapore office, Expedia reveals its intense focus on transforming travel through innovation and application of technology.

The transformation of travel for Expedia is not just about making the average experience better with every single click of the person before, but through analysis and powerful data insights, also improving each person’s unique experience. Only by being able to understand the data-driven insights, this can be done quickly and seamlessly.

“Expedia’s global success comes from a culture that values innovation and investment in technology. The key differentiator is that we do every single improvement based on powerful data insights. It has been our driving force for the past 20 years. We invested US$1.2billion in technology in 2016 and with our 2000 engineers and 700 data scientists we deliver personalised experiences that come with more choice, flexibility and savings for both our customers and partners”, says Arthur Chapin, Senior VP
Product and Design, Expedia group.

“We are already preparing for the time when machines will be able to not just analyse but also understand when to act on real-time data. The companies that are going to win in the end are those that structure themselves to prepare for these changes, act on them and be first to market.”

Expedia places great emphasis on addressing the question on ‘what have they solved for their customers’ which is very much done around a hypothesis and test world – referred to ‘test and Learn’ internally.

This has changed the way the company thinks about innovation, having moved from four release cycles per year to weekly releases allowing for an agile development.

“People don’t travel to go to a place, people travel for an outcome and the next big thing in travel will be a better use of information to make the travel inspiration and booking experience more personalised and predictive in real-time”, enthuses Chapin.

Expedia’s strategy of understanding its customers in Asia is not something surprising, considering that is sees significant growth in emerging markets such as Malaysia and Thailand.

Dara Khosrowshahi, President and CEO of Expedia, Inc, who was also in town during the launch, shares the projection that two thirds of the world’s population will live in Asia by 2030, Asia travel market is expected to grow four times faster than North America and two-and- a half times faster than Europe.

“Travel is a force of good. It has the power to change the world. There is no place for bigotry and intolerance among those who travel and open themselves to different cultures, customs and viewpoints. It’s encouraging to see that the majority agrees, as evidenced by the growth rates of the travel industry, which is growing faster than global GDP”, says Khosrowshahi.

“Our culture of data-driven insights is making it clear to us that the success in the next 10-20 years will depend on how well we do in Asia. The investments we are making here – such as the Expedia Innovation Lab, which allows us to understand our customers in Asia better; investing in our people and in technology that serves better both the travellers and our partners, are all geared towards our success in Asia.”

To better capitalise on this growth, the Expedia group and Asia had created a joint venture company – AAE Travel Pte Ltd – since 2011. The company has been overseeing both Expedia and AirAsiaGo points of sale across the region. To date, Expedia has become the majority shareholder in the company with 75% equity shares.

“For us AirAsia has been a fantastic partner. We had a decent position in Asia and looking at the North America growth rates, we were happy with our business in Asia. Tony Fernandes, however took one look and said, ‘That’s not good guys!’. We had no idea that Asia offered such a significant and rapid growth until our partnership with AirAsia. It kicked us into an aggressive stage of growth through its scale and deep insights into this region,” he shares.

It is clear to see that opportunities in Asia will be the company’s focus in the mid-term future, with plans to grow the region into the second largest market for the online travel company in the next five years.

This article was first published in Business Today June 2017.


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