AirAsia Expedia CEO: Asians are spontaneous, smartphone-savvy, social travelers
Expedia Korea launched in July 2011 with little fanfare. The online travel booking site is still building its brand awareness in Korea.
While Koreans tend to favor schizophrenically detailed and stylized websites updated every second, Expedia's Korean site is stark and frills-free.
But with a rapidly growing business out of a Seoul-based Korean office, Daniel Lynn, CEO of AirAsia Expedia believes Korea is the hottest new market for the multi-billion dollar company.
Currently, the Korean site offers hotel services and AirAsia flight options, following the launch of the Expedia AirAsia joint venture last year.
Korea is the eighth launch in Asia for Expedia. The company's international bookings accounted for 39 percent of worldwide bookings in 2011. Last week, the company reported total gross bookings of US$8.42 billion and international revenue of US$325 million for the first quarter of 2012.
We quizzed the 31-year-old British-born, Singapore-based travel expert about the industry, his own travels and his travel tips.
NB. Expedia is CNNGo's online travel booking partner.
CNNGo: How does the Korean travel market differ from others?
Daniel Lynn: We do a vacation deprivation study every year where we survey people from around the world. What we've always found is that Koreans don't get a lot of time to travel -- they go on maybe one trip a year.
But now, with the shift in the working week where more people are taking weekends completely off, Koreans are now taking a lot of weekend trips to Hong Kong, Japan and Bangkok in addition to the big trip. And this is something that is only going to increase, and something that we can help make happen even more.
We have a smartphone application with tons of downloads from the Korean market. What's amazing is how so many Koreans won't book until they actually arrive at the destination. There are tons of this spontaneous last-minute travel.
CNNGo: How do you think the travel market differs in Asia?
Daniel Lynn: Asian travel is profoundly different in a number of ways.
First, it's a lot more social. Western travel tends to be in a small family unit. But in Asia, you get a lot more groups of friends traveling -- girlfriends going away for a trip together, for instance. With people embracing the social side of it, it's easier to share ideas and make it easier for people to travel together.
Second, in Western Europe and in the United States a high portion of travel is booked online. In Asia people are still using travel agents, but the shift to online is happening at an incredible pace. I don't know if it will follow the industry trajectory of the United States -- it might exceed it as there are generations of people much more comfortable with online and going straight to buying travel online, having never bought offline.
Asians are also more smartphone savvy, and use the technology to feel empowered with they travel.
CNNGo: What are the top three places you’ve been to?
Daniel Lynn: My honeymoon was in Pangkor Laut just off of Malaysia. It was such a beautiful isolated place.
My second favorite was going diving in Koh Tao, Thailand.
The city I love spending time in the most is Tokyo.
CNNGo: How is Expedia doing so far in Korea?
Daniel Lynn: We're ahead of our expectations. We want to build a very scaled business here over the next three years with short-haul travel and long-haul travel.
Right now we only offer hotel services and AirAsia flight options, and we are looking to add a complete range of flight options. A lot of websites in Korea are really complicated but we're looking at a bunch of different technology solutions because we want simplicity.
CNNGo: What are the hottest destinations for travelers right now?
Daniel Lynn: Off the scale right now is Myanmar. It's opening up in a fantastic way. As it is easing out of sanctions right now after reforms, I think travelers want to go there before it becomes too developed.
Island destinations are increasingly popular. It used to be that the only place you would go to in Indonesia was Bali but now people are seeking out Lombok and other destinations there.
I would say that if you love Japan, now is the perfect time to go. It is really recovered now, but not as many people are going. I was skiing there a few months ago and there was no one there. It was the best skiing of my life, no question.
CNNGo: What are your travel tips?
Daniel Lynn: The more flexible you are about when you travel to where you're interested in, the better. If you want to travel to Malaysia for example, during Ramadan you'll be able to find phenomenal deals.
For spontaneous deals, download the Expedia Hotels application. It's incredibly simple to use.
Look out for low-cost carriers opening new routes. When they open new routes they tend to have amazing deals.
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