Telum Talks To... Sylvia Chim, Regional Director, PR & Communications, APAC, Booking.com

Telum Talks To... Sylvia Chim, Regional Director, PR & Communications, APAC, Booking.com

Travel business is 'roaring back' and we caught up with Booking.com's Regional Director, PR & Communications, APAC, Sylvia Chim. She highlights the importance of transparency and localisation in comms to engage with its consumers, and upcoming digital trends in the travel industry.

As leisure and business travel is clawing its way back to normal, can you share some comms strategies your team have adopted to re-engage back with customers and trigger their interests?
It’s been exciting to see travel make a comeback as restrictions ease across Asia Pacific particularly in the past few months, allowing for more international and intra-regional travel. Staying agile and being able to pivot where necessary, to adapt to the evolving needs of our destinations, travellers and partners has been the most key. We continuously keep our finger on the pulse of Asia’s travel recovery in order to know when the right time is to drive intent and action, so travellers can make informed and safe decisions as they plan their next trip, whilst remaining mindful of the fact that how they do so will be a little different from before.

Late last year, we launched Booking Explorers, one of our milestone regional PR campaigns, which was a celebration of the adventurers and trailblazers among us in Asia, as they tell their stories of how they have remained explorers at heart and continued to responsibly experience the best our world (or their backyards) had to offer, despite challenges brought about by the pandemic.

Booking.com's latest consumer survey shows that sustainability consciousness is growing amongst travellers - how does your team communicate credible sustainability information to customers?
From a consumer perspective, we have seen that travellers are very aware of the human impact of travel and how much it can actually impact a local community be it negatively or positively. What this means for us, and travel in general, is that we have a great opportunity to highlight the real positive impact travel can have on the world. Consumers want transparency and honest engagement when it comes to sustainability, especially as it has the power to bring people together - something so many of us have been missing since the pandemic.

At Booking.com, we are taking important steps to make sustainable travel choices easier, for both our travellers and accommodation providers. Late last year, Booking.com launched the Travel Sustainable Badge - a first-of-its-kind initiative in the industry that builds upon the many robust eco-labels and certifications already in place. The goal of the badge is to enable travellers to make more informed choices when searching and booking their stays and provide our accommodation providers (hotels, homes) that have excellent sustainability practices in play greater visibility and recognition on our platform.

In addition, we are committed to fostering innovation to make sustainable travel more accessible across our industry, including funding and mentorship to a wide variety of startups and non-profit projects, as well as through other industry partnerships and initiatives, such as Travalyst and our partnerships with the Sustainable Hospitality Alliance and World Animal Protection.

Booking.com has grown to 43 languages till date as part of its localisation strategy - why is localisation important?
It’s all about being relevant to our consumers and being able to provide the best experience for them when using the Booking.com platform, so they remain confident at every step of the funnel. This goes beyond language translation and ensures our content completely resonates with the market that it’s been localised for. It’s an extremely collaborative process so that we can make certain that we’re able to communicate the culture, the context and the values that Booking.com is trying to communicate to our travellers - no matter what language they speak. It also gives us the opportunity to market our 28 million accommodation listings directly to our customers, personalising their user experience to help them find the right accommodations - and to help our partners get the right guests.

The travel industry has always been at the forefront of digital innovation - are there any upcoming digital transformation trends that you look forward to?
As technology becomes more integrated into personal travel experiences, there is an increasing incidence of data-driven marketing approaches, in a rapidly evolving landscape. Removing friction from travel and a personalised user experience still remains at the forefront of travel innovation. This includes taking advantage of Artificial Intelligence and Machine Learning in order to make informed decisions about customer behaviour and preferences.

Another area where friction needs to be removed is payments. Markets across the world have vastly different payment practices, policies and methods. With our newly created FinTech business unit, we’re working to find creative solutions to bridge the gap in order to help everyone work, book and pay more efficiently, flexibly and securely.

What’s on your travel wish list?
That every traveller is a little more thoughtful about the footprint they leave behind. Everyone is excited about getting out and exploring the world again; and I hope that we can all find joy in making the conscious effort to explore and experience our world responsibly and sustainably. Travel can truly empower and revitalize marginalised communities, expand opportunities, preserve cultural heritage and help regenerate delicate ecosystems. It is ultimately in our hands to make sure there is always a world worth experiencing now and in the future.

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