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ITB Asia News 2019 Day 2 Edition

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW 11

EXCLUSIVE INTERVIEW 11 Tours and activities are coming online… softly, softly Thoyyib Mohamed Managing Director, Maldives Marketing & PR Corporation Blanca Menchaca CEO, BeMyGuest The Maldives to highlight local culture Maldives Marketing and PR Corporation Managing Director Thoyyib Mohamed met with ITB Asia News to discuss their new marketing focus. We asked him what the Maldives are looking to implement for tourism. BeMyGuest are specialists in technology and distribution for Asia’s travel experience industry - attractions, tours and activities. On the eve of ITB Asia, Blanca Menchaca, CEO, BeMyGuest, shared research at WIT Singapore into the state of the tours & activities sector in the region, and where it could be headed. We asked her how she gathered her data. The Maldives want to highlight aspects beyond the luxury sun, sand seaside image that we generate in tourists’ mind to get a more sophisticated, diversified image. In fact we realized that 40 to 60% of travellers around the world are looking for authentic experiences. So we need to offer more choices and this is what we will implement from next year. In which fields do you see opportunities for tourism? We think that our culture will be a very good way to attract tourists. When I talk about culture, it is more about our way of life than pure cultural sightseeing. We will be promoting our gastronomy, our textile patterns and our ancestral traditions in daily life. We also want to highlight our environment commitment. The Maldives will in fact turn singleuse plastic free from 2023. How can you integrate these cultural aspects when most tourists mostly go to resorts and stay there? The Maldives offer more than just the “one island-one luxury resort” product. Some tourists can live on a small boat and then hop from one island to another. People looking for a more affordable holiday can choose guest houses or city hotels and get immersed into the local culture. This way, tourists can discover the life of communities and enjoy an authentic experience by living with locals. The government will help locals financially with new tourism activities while we also provide marketing support. Are you looking at specific marketing activities for the Muslim market? We have been a 100% halal tourism destination for a long time but we certainly need to have a stronger marketing approach to this market. This will start from next year by appointing a PR agency in Malaysia which will market halal tourism to all ASEAN countries BeMyGuest is a B2B company, partnering with multiple brands who are reselling travel activities, offline and online. This gives access to a huge amount of consumer data, from online partners connected to our system via API or consumer data from offline agents selling over the counter to consumers using the agents’ marketplace. The data has been coming in primarily since 2016, so we decided to do some research and analysis on Asian consumer behaviour in this way. There are huge differences between the markets. Tell us about your findings. There are vast differences. Our research shows just how unique and complicated this region in the world is to navigate. There are cultural differences, language differences, and currency barriers. The behaviour of one nationality versus another, even though they may be neighbours, is extremely different between Singaporeans, Malaysians and Indonesians, and even more so for the Chinese. How are local tour bookings evolving? OTAs who are selling travel activities have so much access to technology, they know how to optimise their websites, even doing personalised offerings if they have your data from social media. But on the operators’ side there is still a huge gap. It’s a sector that is just starting to come online, from literally being pen and paper business. OTAs are contracting them on pen and paper and them helping them digitise their products through their teams. But it’s on the operators’ side where the biggest opportunities still exist. What are you primarily presenting at ITB Asia? We have a stand with three core products. One is our software – our reservation system for operators. We also have an API for distributors who want to sell products, and we have an agents’ marketplace for offline buyers who want to start buying online ITB ASIA NEWS • Thursday 17 October 2019