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ITB ASIA commissions first study on small & medium sized enterprises in Asia-Pacific travel & tourism

Messe Berlin, organisers of the ITB Asia, the region’s newest travel trade show, have commissioned a study on the future of small and medium sized enterprises (SMEs) in the Asia-Pacific travel & tourism industry.

The study is designed to underscore the important role played by the thousands of travel & tourism SMEs in developing creative products, upgrading standards, improving services and facilities as well as job creation and environmental preservation.

At the same time, it will outline the challenges they face and the policy options that tourism ministries and national tourism organisations must consider in order to ensure that SMEs not only maintain their qualitative edge but thrive and prosper in a rapidly changing and highly competitive environment.

Dr Martin Buck, Director of Messe Berlin (Singapore), said, “We recognise the SMEs as being vital to the future of Asia-Pacific travel & tourism. Although globalisation has clearly delivered a lot of benefits to the region by driving awareness and brand-recognition, it is the SMEs which provide the Asia-Pacific with a distinctive character.”

Noting that low-cost airlines came from nowhere to transform the region’s aviation industry, Dr Buck said such success stories provide inspiring examples of how small players can overcome the odds and establish themselves via focussed marketing efforts and competitive pricing.

However, he noted that global, regional and local crises always tend to affect the SME’s first. “This was clear in the aftermath of both the 1997 economic crisis as well as the December 2004 tsunami. In both instances, governments moved strongly to help the SMEs first, and we want to try and see if these practises can be institutionalised.

“We are already taking a first positive step towards helping the SMEs by offering them a special package to encourage their participation in the ITB Asia, to be held Oct 22-24 in Singapore. We have also created a special website for them. This will allow them to enjoy a global exposure at low prices.

“The study will take that one step further by giving them a ‘voice’ and a platform on which to base future policies and programmes to encourage and facilitate their growth.”

The study will be carried out by Imtiaz Muqbil, executive editor of Travel Impact Newswire.

Commented Mr Muqbil, “As a media SME myself, I empathise with the small guys, who are always struggling to compete with the big boys in terms of attracting manpower, streamlining marketing and distribution costs, and attracting customers.

“However, the strong emergence of the region’s boutique hotels and health and wellness facilities clearly shows that SMEs are establishing their niche and making their presence felt.

“As many are owned and/or operated by former senior executives of large corporations, they know all the tricks of the trade. With the right government support, they will be able to more than hold their own.”

The study, is due for completion in September 2008.

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