Capitalizing on the tourist eSIM opportunity

If Maslov were to update the ‘Hierarchy of Needs’, Internet connectivity would certainly be included, or perhaps one can argue that Internet connectivity today is part of the physiological needs of a human being. From sharing selfies to booking cabs and making payments, having a data connection on your smartphone is as important as remembering to keep your passport when you travel.  

With the convenience of purchasing an eSIM instead of a physical SIM for your travel, it is no wonder that the travel eSIM market has become a USD 300 million+ opportunity in 20231, and travel eSIM users are expected to grow from 40 million in 2024 to over 200 million by 20282.

Given the strong growth in the Travel eSIM market, we wanted to study which telcos are capitalizing on this opportunity and how easy it is for tourists to purchase an eSIM.  

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Figure 1: Key Players in the Tourist eSIM market in Asia Pacific

Interestingly, of the 28 Telecom Service Providers we studied in ASEAN (India, Australia, and New Zealand), only one-third (i.e. only 9 telcos) offered Tourist eSIMs that could be purchased online. Instead, many telcos offer eSIMs for postpaid customers or even prepaid customers but require local ID or verification, and some do not provide an online purchase option, making it inaccessible for tourists.  

The Tourist eSIM market is competitive as non-telco players like Airalo, Yesim and others storm the market with great CX (customer experience) and telco partnerships to offer data roaming services.  

To compete, telcos must deliver a great Tourist eSIM experience, from the purchase journey to activation. This journey should also extend to top-up, potential rewards and other adjacent services linked with travel & hospitality.

As part of the Twimbit CXMark service, we benchmark CX journeys across different players in an industry by conducting real transactions to define the journey parameters that drive the experience and discover the friction points, understand best practices from the players, and identify CX innovation opportunities for the players to improve their CX.  

We have recently conducted a CXMark exercise on the Tourist eSIM purchase journey across 10-12 providers in Asia Pacific, and the full research findings and benchmarks will be published on the Twimbit platform.  

When it comes to eSIMs, tourists are expecting:

  1. Convenience in purchase and top-up process – This is quite key for telcos to get right. Tourists have options to purchase an eSIM from a growing number of providers. Hence, making the purchase journey as frictionless as possible is important. Telcos also need to focus on Discoverability (good SEO with a targeting landing page), Simple Sign-Up, e-KYC (Passport verification), and Payment options.
  2. Good Price & Promotions – Competitive pricing to hook tourists to your plan and then offer top-ups and promotions that help them during their travels.
  3. Ease of eSIM activation – This can be another friction point, and making it easy to access the QR code and install the eSIM without much technical know-how is important.
  4. Good network connectivity – Good roaming partners delivering good coverage and speed determine repeat business and top-ups.
  5. Quick Customer Support – The ability to easily access support when having issues with purchase or installation is a key factor in determining the level of CX: good self-service options and explainer articles/videos.  
  6. Tourist-specific offers – Given the specific focus on tourists, telcos have a unique opportunity to be creative with their bundling of services and build an ecosystem of partners that can offer promotions and plans that would interest tourists. For example, sharing internet data across countries. Business and leisure travellers travel to a few countries in a single trip or a month, and having the option to share roaming data across countries can be a great value proposition. Many Tourist eSIM providers offer plans for a specific country, which can be another opportunity area to tap into for telcos.  
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Figure 2: Building Blocks of a Great Tourist eSIM Journey

To win the Tourist eSIM journey, telecom service providers must be laser-focused on building a great customer experience that makes the telco the preferred option for Tourist eSIMs for all their travels across multiple destinations. To do this, telcos need to understand how to build the best experience for the Tourist eSIM Purchase & Activation journey, understand the current friction points, learn how other players manage the journey and identify opportunities to differentiate and innovate.  

Details of the customer journey for the providers offering Tourist eSIMs will be available in our upcoming CXMark study.

1 2 Twimbit analysis