Travel — Yeoh Siew Hoon
In 2005, a Malaysian travel editor working in Singapore discerned that the internet was going to fundamentally revolutionize the face of travel. “I could tell it would change consumer behavior,” says Yeoh Siew Hoon, who describes herself as a travel and tech enthusiast with a passion for storytelling. “The timing was right for someone to curate content about how technology was going to impact the way we travel.”
So she quit her job and joined forces with a fellow journalist from Australia to launch the first Web In Travel (WIT) trade conference in Singapore that year. “A WIT conference is a gathering of travel business professionals who want to talk about how technology has changed travel, from how consumers book to how they want to experience their trips,” she explains.
With the highest percentage of the population with internet access in Southeast Asia, Singapore was the natural choice. In the 13 years since, Yeoh has overseen the growth of WIT, which now holds conferences in cities including Seoul, Tokyo, Amsterdam and Hong Kong. “From the start, we wanted WIT to be a regional and global event, and Singapore is a very good place for that,” she says, adding that the past seven or eight years have seen the government placing a greater emphasis on the technology sector. “It is an easy place to do business, very accessible, and many travelers come here, including a growing pool of investors. That’s why you see so many tech start-ups now.”
WIT explores cutting-edge themes such as the impact of artificial intelligence on travel, while making sure that independent business owners can derive practical benefits. “The majority of the industry is made up of small businesses, so we have to keep it real to help them compete in a world of giants,” Yeoh says. WIT hosts events for tech start-ups, connecting entrepreneurs with potential investors and mentors to help them scale up their businesses.
For Yeoh, travel is more than just a personal passion. “Tourism has the ability to enrich local communities and bring them out of poverty,” she says, noting that as technology advances, travelers are paradoxically seeking out even more intimate, authentic and local experiences. And because of that, she says, “WIT’s journey is only just beginning.”
WIT’s focus on travel and tech, coupled with its initiatives like the WIT Bootcamp and Startup Pitch competition, helps budding local businesses find success.
WIT 2018 Conference
Oct. 15 to 17, 2018
Take the pulse of the latest travel innovations, and meet travel and tech enthusiasts from the Asia Pacific.
“Digital has changed the way travelers behave and Asia is a living breathing laboratory. WIT has made it easier for travel entrepreneurs to network, collaborate and learn from each other. Singapore is a small place, so it’s easier to have a close-knit community.”