Women and travel technology – an Asian perspective
In planning and curating the programme for the first WITX-Women In Travel in Bangkok on April 27, I have personally learned a lot.
One, tourism is a great industry for women. It offers jobs at all levels for all stratas of women. This is particularly powerful in developing regions.
Two, women are almost twice as likely to be employers in tourism as compared to other sectors. Tourism also offers leadership possibilities, with women accounting for one in five tourism ministers worldwide; more than in any other branch of government.
This is according to a UNWTO/UN Global Report on Women in Tourism 2011, which says:
“Women make up an important percentage of the tourism workforce, but more work must be done to close the wealth and skills gap between men and women employed in tourism.”
Three, women form the backbone of travel organisations but they are few and far between in management positions of major global brands and in the technology field, they are even fewer and far between.
Four, I’ve also learnt a lot about women as customers in Asia.
Did you know for example, she’s very rich? In the Forbes list of 50 richest women, women in Asia make a strong showing – China fielded 21, India eight, Singapore five, South Korea and Indonesia, four each, Japan three and Australia two. But of course, the world’s richest woman next year is expected to be from Australia – the mining tycoon Gina Rhinehart.
Across Asia, a growing swathe of affluent women consumers is emerging. From singles – more women are staying single, longer – to what has been termed “the silver tsunami”, this is a huge market to be tapped.
Of course, there’s also the lucrative weddings market particularly in India where no expense is spared at events such as these.
And given the fact that the majority of leisure travel decisions are made by women, then this becomes an increasingly important market to influence. Throw into this mix the fact that women fuel e-commerce, contributing up to 70% of revenues to retail sites from fashion to fiction.
At a Google Thinktravel event last month in Singapore, Loren Schuster, managing director for Google Singapore, said “a happy wife is a happy life”, when talking about how he and his wife planned one particular vacation.
I was talking to a general manager of a resort recently and he told me too that women were also the first to complain:
“You please the wife and everyone’s happy.”
At a time when technology is changing customer behaviour, it is even more important for us to understand how that’s changing women as travellers.
For instance, Ross Veitch, CEO of Wego, says that 50% of users on his Singapore site are women and they are active searchers.
“When booking a hotel, women are more likely to seek recommendations from a friend or her family, as well as leverage UGC reviews.
“Similarly, women business travellers are also likely to leverage recommendations from their organisation as well as UGC reviews. Men, on the other hand, are more likely to use search engines and other travel sites for information.”
This is backed by data from Experian Hitwise. Comparing travel websites visited by men vs women in Australia and China, there’s a clear trend of men going straight to search while women prefer wandering around the more social sites. Probably the same behaviour that is reflected in the real world in terms of how women and men shop.
Women also use social media differently from men – the growth of Pinterest into the world’s third largest social network is driven by women – up to 80% of active users.
I sense something big happening in Asia’s travel and tourism – the intersection between the rise of women in the workplace and that of technology which frees women up as entrepreneurs and travellers will create opportunities we’ve only been dreaming about.
Perhaps it’s now time to talk about it.
Siew Hoon Yeoh is the editor-at-large for SHY Ventures and editor/producer of WIT-Web In Travel.
She created and manages the travel insider website The Transit Cafe and also runs WIT - Web In Travel, Asia’s leading travel distribution, marketing and technology conference, and the weekly WIT newsletter.
In 2008, WIT was awarded the Most Innovative Marketing Initiative by the Singapore Tourism Board. Siew Hoon is also an established speaker and facilitator at travel industry conferences and workshops.
She is also is a published author, having written titles including “Truth, Lies & Other Stuff” and “Around Asia in 1 Hr: Tales of Condoms, Chillies & Curries”.