5 Reasons Why Southeast Asia is the Future of the Travel Industry


Skift recently published their manifesto on The Future of Travel in 2020, a look at how marketing, technology, design and user experience are going to utterly transform an industry they describe as “the global crucible”.

Here at representasia, based as we are in Thailand, one claim in particular caught our eye:

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Why do Skift believe that our region holds the key to the future of the travel industry? Here are 5 reasons…

  1. Established and rapidly growing inbound markets

ASEAN inbound tourism numbers are dazzling. In 2009, just over 65 million tourists visited the region, but by 2013, that number had increased to just under 100 million, and it’s growing every year. Thailand – the region’s hub – welcomed over 27 million visitors in 2014, despite political upheavals. Cambodia’s visitor numbers have doubled in the last 5 years. So have Vietnam’s.

No other part of the world is seeing such big year-on-year increases, making ASEAN an essential marketplace for travel businesses and the perfect testing ground for new ideas.

  1. Rapidly growing outbound markets

It’s not just inbound travel that is growing in ASEAN – outbound travel is thriving too, due to a combination of an expanding middle class, a young population, and the spread of low-cost airlines. The region’s increasing affluence, combined with a reduction in the cost of travel and the way the internet has made research and booking a lot easier, means that this is the first generation of Southeast Asians for whom travel is a regular pastime rather than a distant dream.

Want some figures? Between 2009-2013, intra-ASEAN tourist numbers grew from 31 to 43 million. 6 million Thais travelled overseas in 2013, along with 2.5 million Vietnamese – the latter one of the most rapidly growing outbound travel markets in the world.

  1. Massive mobile penetration

The future of travel is mobile. Already, mobile internet search is outstripping conventional forms, and mobile booking is growing at a faster rate than other channels. With technologies such as mobile hotel check-in and keyless entry being rapidly adopted, mobile will soon dominate the industry.

In ASEAN, mobile penetration is over 109%, rising to 126% in Cambodia and an amazing 145% in Vietnam. Southeast Asians are mobile addicts, as a short trip on the BTS in Bangkok will confirm. They live on their mobiles.

  1. Social media penetration

Skift highlight the sharing economy and ubiquitous booking as two of the main disruptors of the travel industry in the next 5 years, and what both of them have in common is that they are inextricably linked to social media. Many hotels already embed booking engines on their Facebook pages, and the world’s biggest travel social media site – Tripadvisor – is now offering live bookings.

ASEAN, with over 150 million Facebook users (including 20 million in Vietnam alone – a country which periodically tries to ban the site) will be at the heart of this revolution in how we research, book and share our travel experiences.

  1. Entrepreneurial startup culture

ASEAN’s young, increasingly well-educated population and its long-established entrepreneurial spirit make it a fertile breeding ground for travel startups. And its low living and operating costs make it a popular base for startups from outside the region.

Innovative travel sites such as Hotel Quickly, Grab Taxi and Very Local Trip are all ASEAN-based, and the number is rapidly growing, as young people with no experience of the “traditional” travel industry reshape the way people book their trips and share their experiences while they’re travelling.


Skift are clearly excited about Southeast Asia’s role in the future of travel, and so are we. A perfect storm of rapidly growing tourist numbers and a young, mobile-obsessed, tech-savvy, entrepreneurial population is turning our region into a hotbed of travel innovation like no other. We can’t say for sure what our industry will look like in 2020 – but we can help shape it, and we can’t wait to experience it!


To find out how we can help your business dive into the bubbling cauldron that is the Southeast Asia travel industry, contact us now on hello@representasia.com


About Author

Tim is one of representasia’s co-founders and the company’s CMO. He has been in the tourism industry since 1992 and has worked in Paris, London, Saigon & Bangkok. He has a strong background in operations, technology, sales & marketing. Representasia is his second business venture, following his founding of a successful Vietnam DMC in 2009.

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