A new mood is sweeping through APAC. Up until now recovery has largely been nuanced across the region, but as Taiwan, Hong Kong and Japan become some of the last remaining countries and territories to drop quarantine requirements and testing, optimism is in the air.
“The current outlook is hugely positive,” says Laura Houldsworth, Managing Director of Asia Pacific at Booking.com. “With border restrictions lifted, there are promising signals that the desire to travel is returning across the region overall.”
The domestic market and inter-regional travel remains strong
International travel is certainly back on the cards, with our data showing an increase in early searches – those over 30 days ahead of the check-in date – for international destinations compared to last year.
But while international travel intent is rising, we’re noticing that APAC travellers are continuing to prioritise local and regional trips over long-haul ones. “Travel is currently very inter-regional, although domestic markets have not slowed,” notes Houldsworth.
As our inaugural APAC Travel Confidence Index shows, domestic trips look set to continue driving the bulk of travel in Australia, Thailand, Korea and Taiwan. Even in India, where confidence is at its highest, 87% of travellers say they’re likely to continue travelling domestically once international borders reopen.
APAC travellers might not be venturing too far as of now, but that doesn’t mean they’re necessarily turning to well-trodden tourist spots either.
“We’re seeing a growing desire for travellers to visit lesser-known destinations within their home countries,” confirms Nuno Guerreiro, Regional Director at Booking.com. “Before the pandemic searches were centred on bigger, well-known destinations, but people are now willing to venture beyond the usual, well-known destinations.”
For partners looking to expand their portfolios, tapping into these emerging destinations presents an opportunity to capture new audiences, he adds.
Travel that’s good for the mind, body – and planet
Sustainability is another factor that’s driving travellers in APAC to rethink where they’re headed to next.
“One of the things I hear from partners in the region is that they’re really focused on the travel experience,” says Guerreiro. “The pandemic presented an opportunity to reflect and think about how they could reinvent these experiences, especially around sustainability and its impact on wellbeing, which is another key motivator for travellers.”
While our Travel Confidence Index points to the fact that sustainability is a key consideration for travellers across the region – who will generally pay more for greener credentials – mental wellness is the second most important motivator for booking a trip, particularly for those in Thailand, Korea and Vietnam.
“Typically, wellbeing was seen as an outcome of travel, whereas now people are travelling intentionally to enhance their wellbeing and make mental health part of their travel plans,” says Houldsworth.
Alongside more mindful experiences, travellers are likely to pay a premium for stays that prioritise their physical comfort, too. “We’re seeing greater interest for luxury travel across the APAC region, with travellers opting to upgrade to a deluxe room over a standard one, or booking accommodations like villas,” adds Guerreiro.
For partners looking to capitalise on this trend, the room differentiation tool can help generate more high-value bookings by highlighting the amenities, services and facilities that each of your rooms offer. This means guests can find accommodation that perfectly meets all their requirements.
Flexibility is a necessity, as is being open to new markets
“Travellers are still reluctant to book non-refundable rates even if they offer a better price point,” explains Guerreiro. “Almost 90% of advance bookings are with flexible rates due to lingering uncertainty.”
If you’re hesitant to offer flexible rates, allowing one date change for guests who book a non-refundable rate can help you meet travellers’ desire for flexibility without compromising your revenue.
While responding to changing traveller behaviour is important, ensuring you reach these travellers in the first place is also vital. With about 60% of bookings now happening on mobile – and 40% of those being made via our app – thinking about how you market your property on this platform as well as adopting mobile rates can help you capture more demand.
“Partners need to be looking at where their demand is coming from and be targeted in their response,” says Houldsworth. “There is a real opportunity to capitalise on the travel confidence apparent in countries like India where 86% of those surveyed as part of our Travel Confidence Index stated they intend to travel in the next 12 months. Domestic travel is still growing in India, but we are seeing an increase in outbound travel from the country into the APAC region too – much of which is still to come.”
Positive signals on the horizon
With an influx of investments in the region and many new properties scheduled to open in 2023 and 2024, confidence across APAC is ripe – and this is filtering down to our partners.
“One of our partners in Bangkok told me recently that although they’re still waiting for the Chinese market to open, the average spend of visitors into Thailand right now is up, as is their average daily rate, with food and beverage revenue alone increasing by almost 20%. So even though occupancy is still not where it was, profits are rising,” reflects Houldsworth.
To help partners capitalise on this growth, our demand dashboards make it easier to track trends. “It’s about empowering our partners with the right tools in terms of data so they can make the best decisions,” adds Guerreiro.
We’re also investing more in brand marketing – like the inspirational Booking Explorers campaign – to capture opportunities and ensure we’re top of mind with travellers in those markets.
“The future is certainly bright, with more promising signals on the horizon, but there is still more demand to be captured,” says Houldsworth. “We have some way to go until we reach the peak of opportunity in APAC, and I’m excited to continue to work with our partners to prepare for what that will bring.”
- Intent to travel is rising across APAC, indicating an increase in demand for the season ahead
- Even with the resumption of international travel, domestic travel looks set to remain
- Traveller confidence is strong across the region, particularly in India, Vietnam and China
- Sustainability is a key motivator for travellers, with 52% across the region willing to pay more for sustainable options
- Luxury travel is proving popular, with more travellers utilising our Room Differentiator tool and choosing to upgrade their stays or book alternative accommodations like villas