2019 has been an exciting year for Tiqets in the APAC (Asia-Pacific) region. The number of museums and attractions keeps growing and we’ve finally entered the Japanese market with a bang. The region is experiencing a surge in incoming tourism and Tiqets is taking advantage of its potential. We sat down with Tiqets’ APAC team, headquartered in Bangkok, to get some insight into the rapid expansion their region is going through and how Tiqets plans on reaping the benefits of its potential.
How did the need for a Tiqets team in the Asia-Pacific come about?
Jon, Regional Director: Tiqets is one of the fastest-growing startups in Europe. Asia Pacific has the fastest-growing tourism industry in the world. If we didn’t expand here and offer Asian and Australian products to our customers, it would be like serving pad thai without noodles.
Ankur, Regional Manager: Some of the fastest-growing companies in recent times have come from APAC, be it taxi companies, payment giants, hospitality brands, or yet another tours & activities brand. Asia offers Western companies a whole new ecosystem of consumerism where the offerings and demands are pretty unique. APAC’s online tours & activities sector is less than 10% of the actual market size and devoid of a major market leader. Thus, the sheer size of opportunity here is huge.
What are some of the unique challenges you face in this part of the world and how are you overcoming them?
Jon: I’m used to setting up offices in the USA. Just getting set up here in Bangkok was a very different experience. Simple things can be very difficult, and difficult things can be very easy. It’s like playing the lottery every morning. Finding office space was a great example. We found a nice spot at the right price, but after we did the paperwork and signed a lease, they advised that monthly rent had to be paid in cash, in person, to an office that was in a very remote part of the city. We would’ve lost a full workday each month just paying rent. Then, I found an awesome place online. The price was right and the photos made it look fantastic. I hopped in a taxi and headed down to the address on the website and found…an empty lot. But we’re happy where we are now, and the neighborhood is growing like crazy.
Carl, Regional Manager: In my experience in SE Asia everything seems to be transactional instead of looking at the big picture. Lack of price integrity is a good example of this. Sometimes times it’s a race to the bottom. Also, there is no unified tourism industry which ultimately benefits the destination. Resources that we take for granted in the West, like networking events, cooperative sales and marketing efforts, and member-driven tourism organizations are non-existent here. You’re pretty much on your own.
Ankur: The product offerings in Asia are pretty unique and different from the West. Tourism is highly experiential in this part of the world, which means it’s hard to find a uniform activity/tour for a particular sight. With so many operators offering competitive rates and itineraries for the same product, it’s a challenge to sieve through all the options and find out who the best quality operators are.
Seth, Market Coordinator: The ticketing system used by suppliers here in Asia struggles to fit our system and its guidelines when implementing a new product. Some venues are still using paper tickets and a few still face difficulties getting their internal system right. Another prominent challenge here is the low cost of living, which results in tickets to products so cheap, they don’t meet Tiqets’ guidelines, so we are forced to adapt.
Tiqets recently entered Japan and some other notoriously complicated (but rewarding) Asian markets, how did you pull that off?
Jon: Asia Pacific is a massive area culturally and geographically. Every day we connect with regions as diverse as Korea, Japan, Australia, India, and Myanmar, funneling our work through our English-speaking office in Amsterdam, to then be published in multiple languages and sold to customers from 150+ countries. How do we do it? I have no freaking clue, I assume one of our executives has sold their soul to Satan. Somehow it just works.
Ankur: It’s constant learning. You might find yourself spending a month trying to set up a contract with an operator who runs a tourist bus service in a major city, only to realize they’re actually not the operator at all and the tickets come from someone else. On the flip side, when you think it will take you yet another month to negotiate with a potential partner, you’re suddenly contracted and already selling tickets in under a week. Our patience is constantly tested, but the fruits are very rewarding.
How does team APAC plan on expanding its business in the region in the coming years?
Jon: There’s so much room for growth here, both in well-known markets we haven’t tapped into yet and in markets that will be famous by the time we get to them. Ten years ago, Cambodia and Vietnam weren’t on anyone’s radar. Now, they’re already talking about overtourism there. Even places that might still sound funny to visit for some of us, like Kazakhstan, are exactly where Vietnam was in 2010 – just about to enter the mainstream.
Carl: I agree with Jon. It’s a bit like the Wild, Wild, um, East. I’ve lived in the region for almost ten years and it amazes me the places that I haven’t managed to get to yet. There’s so much unrealized potential here – it’s difficult to stay focused on what’s currently on your plate.
What secret spot in APAC do you recommend to your closest friends?
Jon: That’s a really tough one, but I’ll represent the team and mention a couple so you don’t all rush to the same place at once. In the South Pacific, it’s the Cook Islands. They’re a NZ territory, and they bring that Kiwi laid back attitude and friendliness to a remote atoll. It’s a great and affordable alternative to Fiji or Tahiti. In SE Asia, it’s the Ban Gioc Waterfalls near the Vietnam/China border. They’re stunning and surreal and they’re barely on the map for western tourists. The amazing thing about tourism in Asia is that outside of Thailand, it’s still a very young industry. Even highly developed countries like Japan have been slow to embrace inbound tourism. Travelers will go where the infrastructure is – the airports, resorts, roads, etc. Think about it, do you want to be the first to put a hotel in an amazing spot that no one has ever heard of and is still hard to reach, or would you invest in a popular area that’s still growing, like Phuket? There’s so much out here that hasn’t been developed yet, it will take 30-50 years before this market really matures.