Asia’s travellers are back and with new preferences and expectations

Amy Stewart

SINCE the onset of the pandemic the travel industry has dealt with a great amount of adversity – particularly in Asia. But now the tide is finally turning. Travel demand in the region started picking up towards the end of last year and has continued accelerating during the past months.

The gradual opening of the borders in South-east Asia and Australia has been the much awaited catalyst for consumers to turn their pent-up international travel demand into action and begin travelling again. Search insights also show that these travellers have emerged from the pandemic with new mindsets and preferences.

Travel is resurgent and the recovery is accelerating

Travellers across South-east Asia and Australia have been resuming outbound travel with a vengeance. Domestic demand has almost reached pre-pandemic levels – Malaysia and Indonesia have already surpassed 2019 demand – and international demand is picking up fast.

Australia is leading the way – outbound travel interest grew from just 47% of pre-Covid levels in January to 96% in March. The Philippines and Indonesia are back to 70% of the 2019 demand. Following the announcement to remove most international travel restrictions in the last week of March, Singapore’s demand jumped to 85% that week, up from 65% the previous week.

Similarly, inbound travel interest to the region is recovering rapidly. The Philippines, Australia, and Indonesia are the leading destinations in the region, with interest in the Philippines and Australia already exceeding pre-Covid levels.

New preferences are driving consumer decisions

Search trends show that travellers 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 that resurgent travel demand in the region creates.

  • Digital is more embedded into the travel journey than ever before. Travellers use digital platforms across the entire travel journey – from seeking inspiration and booking the trips, planning itineraries and navigating on the ground, to sharing their experiences online. Digital natives now dominate the region’s population pyramid; Millennials and Gen Z comprise half the population in Indonesia and the Philippines – the two largest countries in the region.
  • Travel planning is more meticulous than before. In the current complex travel environment people spend more time planning their holidays. For example, there has been a significant growth in the number of searches related to travel requirements and travel insurance.
  • Appetite for longer stays is growing. Remarkable demand growth in searches for Vacation Rentals is potentially a sign of longer travel durations, interest for more exclusive accommodation, or the blurring lines between work and travel.
  • Travellers have a preference for luxury. Growing demand for luxury and wellness-focused travel shows that people are searching for premium travel options, potentially to pamper themselves, recharge, and disconnect from their daily lives.
  • Sustainability consciousness is growing. The pandemic has accelerated the shift towards conscious consumption. 91% of the respondents in a recent study said “important” when asked “How important is sustainable tourism to you?”

Building on insights can help travel businesses unlock new opportunities 

To make the most of this rapid recovery in travel intent, travel industry players must ensure they are top-of-mind as travelers turn their dreams into action. Having an appealing online presence and digital tools that provide a smooth customer experience that minimizes travel friction can help drive both interest and conversion.

Travel businesses should also tailor their messaging and offerings to meet people’s new preferences. Highlighting other in-demand solutions and services that smoothen the travel experience is a good approach for non-premium brands.

The accelerating resurgence of travel is an exciting and pivotal moment that offers many opportunities for travel businesses to delight travelers, exceed expectations, and win new lifelong customers.

* Hermione Joye is sector lead of Travel & Vertical Search APAC at Google.

• Sources: All insights, unless otherwise noted, are from Google’s Destination Insights and Google Trends.

Featured image: Bali, one of the top destinations for Asia’s revenge and endemic travellers

Asia’s travellers are back and with new preferences and expectations

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