Asian travelers are back with new preferences and expectations
SINCE the start of the pandemic, the travel industry has faced a great amount of adversity – particularly in Asia. But now the tide is finally turning. Travel demand in the region began to recover towards the end of last year and has continued to accelerate in recent months.
The gradual opening of borders in Southeast Asia and Australia has been the long-awaited catalyst for consumers to turn their pent-up demand for international travel into action and start traveling again. Research insights also show that these travelers have emerged from the pandemic with new mindsets and preferences.
Travel is resurfacing and the recovery is accelerating
Travelers across Southeast Asia and Australia have resumed their overseas travels with a vengeance. Domestic demand is nearing pre-pandemic levels – Malaysia and Indonesia have already exceeded 2019 demand – and international demand is growing rapidly.
Australia is leading the way – interest in overseas travel has risen from just 47% of pre-Covid levels in January to 96% in March. The Philippines and Indonesia return to 70% of 2019 demand. Following the announcement of the removal of most international travel restrictions in the last week of March, Singapore’s demand rose to 85 % that week, compared to 65% the previous week.
Likewise, interest in inbound travel to the region is recovering rapidly. The Philippines, Australia and Indonesia are the top destinations in the region, with interest in the Philippines and Australia already exceeding pre-Covid levels.
New preferences influence consumer decisions
Search trends show that travelers have emerged from the pandemic with new preferences and heightened expectations. Understanding and addressing them can help travel businesses make the most of the opportunities created by the upsurge in travel demand in the region.
- Digital is more integrated into travel than ever. Travelers use digital platforms throughout their travel journey – from finding inspiration and booking trips, planning itineraries and navigating in the field, to sharing their experiences online. Digital natives now dominate the region’s age pyramid; Millennials and Generation Z make up half of the population in Indonesia and the Philippines, the two largest countries in the region.
- Trip planning is more meticulous than before. In today’s complex travel environment, people are spending more time planning their vacations. For example, there has been a significant growth in the number of searches related to travel requirements and travel insurance.
- The appetite for longer stays is increasing. The remarkable growth in demand in vacation rental searches is potentially a sign of longer travel times, an interest in more exclusive accommodations, or the blurring of boundaries between work and travel.
- Travelers have a preference for luxury. The growing demand for luxury and wellness travel shows that people are looking for premium travel options, potentially to pamper themselves, rejuvenate and disconnect from their daily lives.
- Awareness of sustainable development is growing. The pandemic has accelerated the shift to conscious consumption. 91% of respondents in a recent study answered “important” to the question “How important is sustainable tourism to you?”
Leveraging insights can help travel businesses unlock new opportunities
To make the most of this rapid recovery in travel intentions, travel industry players need to ensure they are top of mind as travelers turn their dreams into action. Having an engaging online presence and digital tools that provide a seamless customer experience that minimizes travel friction can help drive both interest and conversion.
Travel companies must also adapt their messages and offers to meet people’s new preferences. Highlighting other in-demand solutions and services that facilitate the travel experience is a good approach for non-premium brands.
The accelerating resurgence in travel is an exciting and pivotal time that presents many opportunities for travel businesses to delight travelers, exceed expectations and win new customers for life.
* Hermione Joye is Head of Travel & Vertical Search APAC at Google.
• Sources: All information, unless otherwise stated, comes from Google Destination Insights and Google Trends.