From booking hotels to ferry rides: Grab, Lazada, Shopee move to capitalize return trip

The reopening of global borders has not gone unnoticed in Singapore. As the pandemic enters the rearview mirror, traveler confidence is returning and people are more eager than ever to go abroad.

Earlier in July, Expedia’s Travel for Real study found that seven out of 10 Singaporeans plan to travel abroad in the next three months. A similar proportion feel safe to travel now that they are fully immunized.

These positive sentiments have led to long queues at the Immigration and Checkpoints Authority (ICA) building as Singaporeans eagerly apply for passport renewals.

In May, no less than 14,000 applications were received in one day, with waiting times of up to six weeks. For those planning a year-end trip, the ICA has asked that applications be sent out immediately.

Balancing the equation, there has also been a surge in visitor arrivals to Singapore, with between four and six million visitors expected in 2022.

Although this is much higher than the figures of pandemic years – only 330,000 visited the country in 2021 – there is still plenty of room to grow. To put things into perspective, 2019 was a record year for tourism in Singapore, with over 19 million visitors.

Changing travel trends

As the road to recovery continues, new industry trends have begun to emerge. Much like its role in changing the way we work, the pandemic has also impacted the way we travel. In 2021, Gus Gardner, tourism analyst at GlobalData, said: “The pandemic has caused a significant shift in consumer booking habits.

Online travel agencies (OTAs) were once the most popular option for booking hotels and flights before the pandemic, but direct bookings are now starting to take over.

Gardner explains how this may have been caused by some OTAs being extremely slow to issue refunds during the pandemic. “It has shaken the confidence of travelers to book through intermediaries.”

Since 2019, direct bookings have grown to share a larger percentage of total travel bookings / Image credit: GlobalData

Travelers now want the highest level of flexibility, and it’s no wonder the flexible terms, easy changes, and quick refunds of direct booking channels are appealing to travelers.

Plus, the ability to make changes online puts the power back in the traveler and streamlines the entire process. By booking direct, the traveler cuts out the middleman, dramatically speeding up the change and refund process, and increasing satisfaction.

– Gus Gardner, Tourism Analyst, GlobalData

According search by Statista74% of the travel and tourism industry’s total revenue will be generated by online sales by 2026.

E-commerce giants have expanded their services to include travel

The shift in tourism towards direct bookings is colliding with a broader shift – across different sectors – towards e-commerce.

A survey conducted by iPrice Group revealed that three out of four Singaporeans had started shopping online more frequently since the start of Covid-19. Platforms such as Shopee and Lazada have grown significantly as a result. Comparing the fourth quarter of 2019 to 2021, monthly Shopee users have almost tripled.

This growth is expected to continue even as the world opens up again. GlobalData estimated the e-commerce industry in Singapore increase from US$5.9 billion to US$10.7 billion between 2021 and 2025. In its findings, the company noted that the shift in consumer behavior towards online shopping continues, even as physical stores reopen.

As such, Shopee and Lazada are in an ideal position to expand their services and meet a wider range of consumer needs.

Booking hotels and flights

In November 2021, Shopee partnered with Agoda and to enable hotel, resort and apartment bookings on its platform. This feature has been rolled out in a number of Southeast Asian countries, including Singapore, and allows users to book accommodation worldwide.

Users can browse hotels and make reservations using their existing Shopee account. They can also use their existing Shopee vouchers or coins to offset the costs. This saves you from having to sign up for a new platform and hand over your payment details to them, just for your travel needs.

Image credits: Shopee

Lazada has also expanded into the travel industry during the pandemic. Towards the end of 2020, the company rolled out a feature allowing users to book flights using its app.

With over 50,000 domestic and international routes, the app displays fares for a variety of airlines operating in destinations around the world. Rates are competitive with those offered by online travel agencies, and users can find their booking details saved on the app itself.

Bus and ferry journeys

Superapp Grab is another company trying to stay ahead of the curve and shape the future of travel. Although it started as a ride-sharing service, the platform has grown to offer much more in recent years.

In 2018, Grab ventured into fintech, offering its own mobile payment solution and insurance products. Along with this, the company has also introduced its food and package delivery services. Over the past two years, these have become Grab’s main source of income. In 2021, the company also introduced GrabMart in Singapore, allowing users to get next day delivery on over 10,000 essential items.

By adapting to trends, Grab was able to make up for lost revenue during the pandemic. Now, in the wake of Covid-19, the company is looking to do the same with its new intercity travel feature.

enter the long distance
Image credits: Grab

In partnership with Splyt and Easebook, Grab now offers over 15,000 bus and ferry routes allowing users to travel between these three countries.

“By expanding our travel offerings, users can plan their vacations without the need for multiple apps or connections,” says Rashid Shukor, Director of National Operations and Mobility, Grab Malaysia.

Grab Intercity is a way to minimize congestion on highways and allow people to travel easily across borders. Shopee offers a similar service – in partnership with EasyBook – facilitating bus and shuttle reservations for travel between Singapore and Malaysia.

Additionally, the Singapore Tourism Board reported that more than 28% of people who visited Singapore in the first half of 2022 arrived from Indonesia or Malaysia.

Just like in other areas, such as education and entertainment, digital technology is now playing a role in creating a new and improved form of travel.

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Also read: E-commerce winner: Shopee’s Chua Kel Jin discusses how businesses can increase their online presence and sales

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