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.

Dan Lynn, managing director of Expedia AirAsia, adds:

“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.

NB: Woman mobile image via Shuttertock.

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Siew Hoon Yeoh

About the Writer :: Siew Hoon Yeoh

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”.



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  1. sanaz bell

    this is a good report.they are doing good. women must get the chance to do it.

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  4. Prime

    As an indie travel mediapreneur, I love reading this kind of report esp something catering to Asian women travelers – who are emerging as among the fastest growing travel spenders. This is something that I’m closely monitoring as my travel media site is a resource for this type of traveler.

  5. Liz Ward

    To contribute to the answer of the question of why there aren’t more women presenting at travel and technology conferences; and the female gender is always underrepresented…I’ve been attending and been the token female presenter at conferences in Australia for 10 years+ and the number hasn’t increased over that time; I can speak about my observations in Australia.

    Think about the type of people who present at conferences. They are often marketing and sales professionals of travel distribution or travel distribution software companies. They are either forging new types of distribution channels via technology or they are trying to leach the revenue they can from a decreasing commission margin on the old distribution model (I beg your pardon, let’s not dare call it commission in the modern world of distribution, these people would prefer we call it a transaction fee). They are sales people trying to make a buck. The types of companies I’m speaking about in Australia are all owned/managed by men. Good luck to them, they’re aggressive business people who are providing a service that the industry is willing to pay for because it gets them sales…for now.

    Where the female leaders are in Australian tourism is in the supply side – supporting the industry to grow their own capability, creative consumer marketing and government.

    To your point Siew Hoon Yeoh, I think men and women are attracted to different types of work, just like they have different approaches to shopping.

    Prepare for a generalisation, but it’s hard to refute in travel and tourism in Australia: Men go straight to the $ issue (make money or spend money); whereas women tend to look at the social issues and higher purpose of what they’re work is achieving, taking consideration of the make up of the industry being 95% SMEs and the challenges and opportunities that that profile presents; the education element; and how industry growth can be supported through technology.

    So whilst our conference programs continue to be populated with clever, newest, technologies to generate sales through 3rd parties, as opposed to enabling the industry to steer their own growth in a market where it is easily achievable for SMEs to attract and deal direct with the consumer, you won’t see many women on the stage.

    • Steven Herron

      Wow Liz,
      I congratulate you on your openness to speak your mind. It is a rare thing in these times. I believe you are spot on with all of your observations and comments.


    Why have I not been invited? I was the one amongst 20 women chosen for the MASTERCARD sponsored leadership program in TOURISM and TRAVEL (the only one from India) and have led the automation of a 600 crore Brick and Mortar travel biz group in India. Currently consult with a few top travel houses in India, including a publishing travel media house.


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