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    Traveloka is one of the giant OTAs that also suffer tremendously from the damage caused by the pandemic. However, it quickly struck back up and became the first to notice recovery signs from the markets. Destination Review has conducted an interview with Ms. Huynh Mai Thy, Country Manager, Traveloka to see how this giant OTA dealt with the crisis.

    Traveloka is Southeast Asia’s leading digital travel and lifestyle booking platform, enabling discovery and booking of transport, accommodation, and lifestyle products. Traveloka’s comprehensive product portfolio includes transport booking services such as flight tickets, bus, trains, car rental, airport transfer, as well as access to the largest accommodation inventory in Southeast Asia, including hotels, apartments, guest houses, homestays, resorts, and villas, making Traveloka as a booking platform with widest selections of accommodation and packages.

    Traveloka is also a key player in the lifestyle segment offering reservations for a wide range of local attractions and activities as well as culinary directories through Traveloka Xperience.

    According to Ms. Huynh Mai Thy, she is proud to say that the Traveloka application has been downloaded more than 60 million times, making it the most popular travel and lifestyle booking application in the Southeast Asian region.

    Since the outbreak, Traveloka and other OTAs have certainly come across many unexpected problems which were impacted from the grounding of airlines, the revenue plummets of hotels and overall, from the halt of global tourism and travel.

    The recent COVID-19 situation has put the tourism sector in an unprecedented challenging state, and Traveloka is not immune to it, especially during lockdown periods, where its booking revenue almost went down to zero that was caused by restrictions of commercial flights in Indonesia, one of its largest markets, in May. Traveloka’s internal data recorded the lowest transaction level during the lockdown period, April and May, at around 5% compared to the previous year. Traveloka had to pay for 90 percent of the one million airline tickets that customers requested for refund due to COVID-19, with the cashback amount up to 100 million USD.

    It also had a lot of operational challenges due to a high number of travel cancellations during COVID-19 with almost 150,000 refund requests just for the flight only which was 10 times higher compared to the pre-COVID-19 period. Especially for the Vietnam market, as the Vietnamese government imposed strict social distancing and quarantine measures, as well as firmly refused to open to international tourists, Traveloka also witnessed its hotel bookings drop dramatically.

    In the recovery phase after COVID, Traveloka became one of the first platforms to report positive signs from its markets in Southeast Asia like Indonesia, Thailand and Vietnam. So what has Traveloka been doing during the encounter of such a challenge? What actions has Traveloka taken to survive those difficulties?

    According to Traveloka internal data, the staycation trend has been increasing since June and people have embarked on more road trips since August. Traveloka observed that market recovery was driven by the decreased number of new COVID-19 cases in each country. For example, its Vietnam transactions reached 100% pre-pandemic levels beginning in July, as people started to get back to their routine activities. A similar story is observed in Thailand, although this market is at a slower recovery rate of 75% today. Therefore, it implemented different policies for each market.

    Besides taking control of its finances fastly and decisively in general, as well as doing cost streamlining such as performance marketing and cloud computing, Traveloka has also implemented a number of adjustments to increase traffic and transactions on its platform. According to Ms. Huynh Mai Thy, Traveloka constantly listened to the needs of its customers to find the solutions for their pain points to earn their satisfaction.

    With the Indonesia market, it provided COVID-19 test services in 44 cities across Indonesia, offering a flexible refund policy, and ensuring users’ safety through online hotel check-ins and contactless payment options under its Eats products. And through Online Xperience, Traveloka provided virtual experiences where participants can learn new skills and interact with others from the comfort of their homes. This has become an exciting alternative during the lockdown as it recorded an eightfold increase in transactions for Xperience products in July.

    With the aim to support the safe transition to the new normal era, Traveloka has continuously put our efforts to collaborate with partners to restimulate the markets by offering various special offers, while at the same time also upholding the implementation of health and hygiene protocols as imposed by the government. For example, Traveloka became the official partner with the Tourism Authority of Thailand to promote Thai domestic travel through the “We Travel Together” campaign.

    Not only focusing on the service quality, Traveloka also concentrated on branding in the Southeast Asia markets despite the common thought of cutting costs on marketing and branding during the crisis. In Vietnam, Traveloka became the sponsor for quite a few regional and domestic events like the “31st SEA Games Kick-Off Ceremony”. It also supported the Central of Vietnam during the flooding season by raising funds and building new houses for the poor that were influenced by the floods.

    Looking at the current development of the COVID-19 pandemic, whereby many countries have started to recover, including Vietnam, Traveloka still believes that the travel and tourism sector will recover very soon. In Vietnam, one of its core markets, the government has been working very hard in pushing down the new positive cases numbers by implementing an aggressive, targeted testing program and a centralized quarantine system.

    According to Ms. Huynh Mai Thy, given the circumstances and to provide such impacts to the industry, Traveloka’s short term strategy would definitely be to work together with its partners to formulate strategies to get back to its feet faster and stronger. Meanwhile, its guiding principle for every innovation that Traveloka has had or will continue to create is addressing the customer’s pain points.

    With sharp and clever decisions, we also believe that Traveloka will soon recover completely and join hands with other sectors to help domestic, regional and international tourism flying again!

    #BusinessSpotlight is a series featuring outstanding business stories and initiatives in tourism and travel.

    BUSINESS SPOTLIGHT: Traveloka and its soaring from “the storm”

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