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Travel industry missing the esport boat

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There are 20,300 seats at the Accorhotels Arena in Paris. Come Sunday this week, they’ll be filled with thousands of esports fans, many of whom will have travelled vast distances around the world and paid between 40-80 euros just for an entry ticket to the final of this year’s League of Legends tournament.

With South Africa quickly onboarding the global esports trend, just last week – Red Bull hosted the first national finals for Street Fighter in SA which welcomed a wave of professional gamers to SA’s shores. In fact data from esportsearnings.com that tracks international esports revealed that FIFA and Counter Strike earned SA’s top 10 esport stars a whopping R2.6 million.

And when it comes to the commercial impact emerging from this and other multi-million-dollar esports opportunities, everyone seems to be getting in on the act—everyone, that is, except the travel industry.

The meteoric rise of esports has thrust the industry into the news and broadcast agendas of the world’s biggest media outlets. International competitions have been broadcast globally by the likes of ESPN and NBC, and have sold-out some of the world’s most recognizable arenas—think Madison Square Gardens.

Dedicated arenas are springing up in cities all over the globe, as investors attempt to maintain pace with demand from travelling fans for a front row piece of the action when the world’s gaming elite go head-to-head. Marvel Entertainment and Disney have signed eye-watering commercial deals and Intel have also partnered with Tokyo 2020 to run two major tournaments alongside next year’s Olympic Games.

Yet, while our analysts identified a 20 percent spike in solo travelers making weekend bookings to Seoul and Busan ahead of the 2018 League of Legends World Championship—arguably one of the biggest live tournaments on the planet—few, if any, travel businesses are proactively targeting these travelers.

The stats painted a similar picture in Vancouver in 2018, where we witnessed a 40 percent rise among solo, weekend and group travelers before and during The International, a major esports event organized by the creators of DOTA 2. And with prizes reaching into the millions of dollars, interest shows no sign of abating as the 2019 League of Legends Championship races towards its dramatic finale on 10 November.

How big is the video gaming opportunity?

The reason why travel brands aren’t engaging esports travelers isn’t exactly clear but is likely to revolve around perceptions of video gaming as an armchair activity watched from living rooms and basements.

Many esports enthusiasts are also committed gamers and are notoriously resistant to advertising as we know it—and they’re incredibly territorial about the games they are prepared to play and watch. Market research company Newzoo estimates that 70 percent of esports gamers are only interested in watching one game, while their research revealed how 42 percent of viewers don’t play the games they watch.

However, millions more watch esports casually and don’t necessarily share the same characteristics as the gamer audience, making personalization even more critical for those looking to build a connection.

Those who do venture into the world of spectator esports can expect to find huge opportunities and, for the moment, very little competition. In a recent Global Entertainment & Media Outlook, PwC suggested the revenue generated by the video games market will pass US$30 billion within the US alone by 2023.

That’s over six times the revenue of China’s largest online travel agency, Ctrip, and it doesn’t stop there either. The management consultant’s five-year forecast for esports specifically, includes annual growth forecasts of more than 18.3 percent, making it by far the fastest growing segment in gaming globally.

Understanding what esports travelers want

Like all personalization efforts, securing bookings from esports travelers requires knowledge of what motivates enthusiasts and passive audiences to travel to an event, as well as where they can be found.

Platforms like Amazon’s Twitch have become more popular than mainstream broadcasters like ESPN and NBC among those choosing to watch online, with global audiences are set to swell by an additional 200 million by 2020. Can these audiences be enticed into arrivals?

In the search for answers to this question, travel brands can learn a lot from the way the video gaming industry has developed into the best example of personalization in the world, through the use of ideas like customizable characters or countless features that can be purchased in-game, among other things.

When combined with data from 14 billion monthly shopping searches processed by Travelport systems, insights like these are likely to be especially useful for online travel agencies who despite collecting more data than ever before, have traditionally found creating a tailored experience far easier said than done.

According to Skift and Adobe’s 2018 Digital Transformation Report only 36% of travel executives rated their personalization efforts as four or five on a scale of one to five. Our own research, is helping to turn this tide by providing our partners business intelligence generated by over US$89 billion worth of annual travel spend and helping them turn this into an actionable basis for their strategic investment decisions.

In the case of esports, this means building out engagement plans that reflect the lengths that traveling fans will go for the experience of being at a live event and lead times that can range from 7 to 30 days, depending on the likelihood of a team’s success and the results of qualification and knock-out stages.

This approach is central to creating any uniquely memorable travel experience and will only grow in importance as we transition to a customer-centric world packed full of new motivations to travel.

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Alexa can now read all messages

For the first time, an Alexa skill is available that makes it possible to listen to any kind of message while driving

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For the first time, Alexa users can now hear all their messages and email read aloud.

Amazon’s Alexa has become a household name. The world’s most popular virtual assistant is getting smarter every day and now, with Amazon Echo Auto, it’s in cars too. 

“In today’s highly connected world, messaging in the form of emails, texts, Facebook Messenger, WhatsApp and work channels like Slack, are integral to our daily routine,” says Barrie Arnold, chief revenue officer at ping. “However, distracted driving is responsible for more than 25% of car crashes and thousands of preventable fatalities every year.” 

ping, a specialist in voice technology founded by Arnold and South African Garin Toren, has developed a new Alexa skill as a companion to its patented smartphone app, that enables any message type to be read aloud. Designed for safety, productivity and convenience, “pingloud” is the first skill of its kind for keeping users connected when they need a hand or an extra pair of eyes.

“The ping Alexa skill is specifically designed to help drivers stay off their phones while giving them exactly what they want – access to their messages.” says Toren, ping CEO. 

Opening up Alexa to developers has resulted in an explosion of new skills available either for free or for a fee that unlocks premium services or features. These tools magnify the usefulness of Alexa devices beyond common tasks like asking for the weather, playing music or requesting help on a homework assignment. According to App Annie, the most downloaded apps in 2019 were Facebook Messenger, Facebook’s main app and WhatsApp, highlighting the importance of messaging. 

“The ping Android app is available worldwide from the Google Pay Store, reading all messages out loud in 30 languages,” says Toren. “The iOS version is in global beta testing with the US launch coming very soon.” 

Once you’ve signed up for ping, it takes a few seconds to link with Alexa, enabling all messages and emails to be read aloud by a smart speaker or Echo Auto device. Simply say, “Hey Alexa, open pingloud.” ping links an account to a voice profile so unauthorised users with access to the same Alexa cannot ask for the authorised user’s messages.

All major message types are supported, including Texts/SMS, WhatsApp, Facebook Messenger, WeChat, Snapchat, Slack, Telegram, Twitter DM’s, Instagram, and all email types. Promotional and social emails are not read by default.

*For more information, visit www.pingloud.com

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Coronavirus to hit 5G

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Global 5G smartphone shipments are expected to reach 199 million units in 2020, after disruption caused by the coronavirus scare put a cap on sales forecasts, according to the latest research from Strategy Analytics.

Ken Hyers, Director at Strategy Analytics, said, “Global 5G smartphone shipments will grow more than tenfold from 19 million units in 2019 to 199 million in 2020. The 5G segment will be the fastest-growing part of the worldwide smartphone industry this year. Consumers want faster 5G smartphones to surf richer content, such as video or games. We forecast 5G penetration to rise from 1 percent of all smartphones shipped globally in 2019 to 15 percent of total in 2020.”

Ville-Petteri Ukonaho, Associate Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “China, United States, South Korea, Japan and Germany are by far the largest 5G smartphone markets this year. The big-five countries together will make up 9 in 10 of all 5G smartphones sold worldwide in 2020. However, other important regions, like India and Indonesia, are lagging way behind and will not be offering mass-market 5G for at least another year or two.”

Neil Mawston, Executive Director at Strategy Analytics, added, “The global 5G smartphone industry is growing quickly, but the ongoing coronavirus scare and subsequent economic slowdown will put a cap on overall 5G demand this year. The COVID-19 outbreak is currently restricting smartphone production in Asia, disrupting supply chains, and deterring consumers from visiting retail stores to buy new 5G devices in some parts of China. The first half of 2020 will be much weaker than expected for the 5G industry, but we expect a strong bounce-back in the second half of the year if the coronavirus spread is brought under control.”

Exhibit 1: Global 5G Smartphone Shipments Forecast in 2020 1

Global Smartphone Shipments (Millions of Units)20192020
5G19199
Rest of Market13941165
Total14131364
 
Global Smartphone Shipments (% of Total)20192020
5G1%15%
Rest of Market99%85%
Total100%100%

Source: Strategy Analytics

The full report, Global Handset Sales for 88 Countries & 19 Technologies, is published by the Strategy Analytics Emerging Device Technologies (EDT) service, details of which can be found here: https://tinyurl.com/wep83gc.

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