Introduce “One Pass” to improve the tourist experience

LETTER | Last week, I felt a sense of deja vu reading a report that the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), together with five major companies, launched the TAGTHAi Pass, a digital pass for strengthen Thailand’s tourism industry.

Since December 2020, I have repeatedly proposed a similar concept, which has been disseminated through my published letters. Although I have recommended many new ideas for improving our tourism, only a few have been taken up by local industry players.

Our nonchalant attitude has allowed Thailand to overtake us in tourism. In 2014, Malaysia received 27.44 million foreign tourist arrivals and 26.10 million in 2019. In 2014, Thailand attracted 24.81 million foreign tourists, but this number soared to 39 .92 million in 2019.

In December 2020, I claimed that travel agents must re-explore a whole new world to survive. I called on local tour operators to revamp their business as they need to change and adapt to a very different scenario transformed by the pandemic and rebuild their business models.

If a training workshop for travel agents were to be led by a skilled facilitator, attendees might end up spouting crazy proposals for argument’s sake during brainstorming sessions. Ideas that seem weak, weird or crazy at first can later turn out to be gems.

For receptive tour operators, instead of continuing to rely solely on piecemeal bookings from their overseas counterparts and sales generated via websites or social media, they could also explore and tap into the much larger traveler market. who bypassed travel agents.

A large travel agency or a consortium of smaller ones could pool their resources and hire technical experts to help develop a “One Pass” that can be used not only for train, bus, taxi or e-hailing transportation. but also in hotels, restaurants, shops, attractions, places of entertainment and for guided tours in the city or land excursions in another State.

Using QR codes, the ticket could easily be distributed and used by a large number of participating service providers. For example, they could be priced at RM199 per day on a twin sharing basis and registered users can opt for any form of ground transportation within the city, an overnight hotel room with breakfast the next morning, a buffet or a set meal. for lunch or dinner, entrance tickets to many attractions, free gifts at select shops and entertainment venues, join tours, excursions, adventures and many other activities.

Some tourists might overuse the value of the pass while others might underuse it. The former will thoroughly enjoy their stay while the latter will be pleased with the convenience and facilities. By tracking and recording tourist activities, the science of the travel industry could be deciphered using big data analytics, and no longer based on guesswork or hunch.

Just as the traditional taxi industry has been decimated by email services, a multi-purpose travel pass using an app can replace the services of travel agents and tour guides, as most customers will find it more comfortable, convenient and cheaper to use a smartphone than to talk to another person who may not understand correctly or communicate poorly.

In another opinion piece in December 2020, I pointed out that we should prepare for the travel services of the future. The fusion of fifth-generation technology standards for cellular broadband (5G) with artificial intelligence (AI), Internet of Things (IoT) and augmented reality (AR) will revolutionize the tourism industry, as well than old-school travel agents and tour guides. will become redundant.

Much like Uber, which initially subsidized 58% of fares on average worldwide, so passengers only paid 42% of the actual fare in order to crush competitors, new start-ups offering state-of-the-art travel packages technology are likely to adopt similar strategies to compete.

For example, a budget travel pass sold for RM199 per day might be worth RM300, a RM299 premium pass worth RM450, and a RM399 deluxe pass worth RM600. This would allow tourists to choose the level of hotel and room they wish to stay without having to compromise their lifestyle and is also in line with the national tourism policy aimed at attracting spendthrift tourists.

The multi-purpose pass would also ensure that many sectors benefit from tourism, as registered users could travel freely on trains, buses, taxis and courier vehicles, eat meals at participating restaurants, enter attractions , collect free gifts in shops and entertainment venues, join guided tours, excursions, adventures and other activities for experiential tourism.

Besides a long list of options available at any time during their stay in a destination, registered users could also access smart information made possible by AI. While using their smartphone to record something interesting, they could also activate AR so that a virtual tour guide appears on screen and provides meaningful commentary.

In addition to becoming drone pilots to capture close-up videos of distant objects where permitted, tour guides of the future must also be YouTubers capable of introducing and recording something interesting for the posterity, instead of letting the service rendered disappear with the wind.

The travel services of the future would be very different from those before the pandemic. In October 2021, I said that the travel agents of the future would come in the form of super apps, as it would only be a matter of time before they were readily available to international travelers and popular with foreign visitors in the same way. apps have successfully hijacked the traditional taxi market.

Giant online travel agents (OTAs) have long carved out the lion’s share of flight and hotel bookings that even physical travel agents buy from them. Meanwhile, the online accommodation market had taken market share from hotels by offering cheaper private accommodation.

New businesses with the highest growth potential are those that could build a gargantuan customer database that could initially start with just one service. For example, Grab has introduced more than 10 on-demand ridesharing services including taxis, private cars, ridesharing, bikeshare, shuttle services, and motorcycle taxis.

It has already ventured into multiple consumer services such as hotel reservations, video-on-demand platforms, ticket purchasing, food ordering, grocery shopping and a wide range of financial services.

It will come as no surprise that super apps are decimating traditional travel agents by promoting travel packages to various destinations offering the widest variety of options for hotel stays, meals, tours, transfers, entrance tickets and other activities that tourists desire but at half the normal prices. .

Therefore, the travel agents of the future would be super apps that travelers could choose from the best options available and book directly when needed without going through intermediaries, and they would no longer need to ask for information that might be inaccurate. or erroneous. of date.

With the cancellation of Visit Malaysia Year (VMY) 2020, not much has changed since 2014, which was our last VMY. Players in our tourism industry seem to be caught in a time warp of ideas from the past, especially those that were successful before the pandemic and don’t want to change.

The Kodak moment once meant that something worth saving should be captured on film. At its peak in 1996, Eastman Kodak was worth US$31 billion (RM139 billion) and Kodak was the fifth most valuable brand in the world. He refused to accept the changes and collapsed in 2012.

Travelocity, the first OTA, was established in 1996. Since then, OTAs have captured an average of 40% of the total global travel market for hotels, airlines, tour packages, rail, cruises and more services, eliminating many traditional travel agents.

It’s only a matter of time before most tourists download travel pass apps that offer all the options available in a destination at any time during their stay so they can easily choose their hotel, food, drink, transportation, tours and entertainment, all of it. prepaid.

Introducing “One Pass” in Malaysia would require huge funding. In Thailand, five companies, AIS, TRUE, Kasikorn Bank, ThaiBev and Dusit Thani, have pooled their resources to attract tourists and facilitate their stay, without them being left to fend for themselves.


The views expressed here are those of the author/contributor and do not necessarily represent the views of Malaysiakini.

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