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Life After COVID-19: To Travel Or Not To Travel?

How Are Consumers in Asia Pacific Feeling About Travel Now?

Global passenger numbers plummeted over 60% in 2020 and as much as 95% in some months, according to the International Air Transport Association (IATA). But how are consumers in Asia Pacific feeling now about traveling?

When it comes to a personal holiday vs. business travel, consumers are much more likely to take a personal holiday, once they feel the virus is under control in their location. Across Asia Pacific, 17% said they would be likely to take a holiday, whereas only 4% said they would be likely to take a business trip. Obviously, the impact of working from home or avoiding travel by using Zoom, etc. is making business travel less mandatory. Similarly, in Australia, 20% said they would be likely to take a holiday, whereas only 4% said they would be likely to take a business trip. This is most likely a result of the COVID management by Australia.

Although individuals are less likely to take business trips compared to personal holidays, the timing of when people believe that they will be taking a trip are similar. However, in Australia, nearly 2/3 of consumers believe they will be travelling again within the next 6 months, which is significantly higher than the Asia Pacific region which is only 1/3.

The biggest key driver that will help consumers be more likely to travel is the number of new cases at their destination being zero for at least the past two weeks (32% in both Asia Pacific and Australia). The second biggest key driver is the removal of all travel restrictions, with Asia Pacific at 24% and Australia at 19%.

Another important factor that impacts when consumers will start traveling again are the quarantine requirements, either at the destination or at home. 83% of consumers across Asia Pacific agree this is a key driver to planning their trip, whereas this number is significantly lower in countries where cases have been low to zero and allow domestic travel, like China, New Zealand, Australia.

When asked, “How likely will you travel for either business or personal reasons at the same frequency as before the Coronavirus (COVID-19) outbreak?” consumers in Asia Pacific were at 24% for business travel, and 40% for personal travel. However, these numbers are lower in Australia, at 13% for business travel and 31% for personal travel.

People in Asia Pacific who have been locked down for longer periods of time are potentially saving up for that first trip overseas to make it more special than normal. In Australia, people are looking to experience the destination rather than worrying more about the style in which they travel (airline, hotels, etc.).

There is also more of a drive on sustainability, especially as concerned travellers are on the rise and are looking to reduce their carbon footprints. There will also be a drive to engage smaller communities and support these individuals more, as the difference a traveller can make travelling to a smaller place is bigger, especially if these communities might have been struggling before the pandemic. Could this mean that road trips will begin to kick into high gear?

When asked if having a “COVID Passport” (a demonstration of your coronavirus-free status) would impact their plans to travel, majority of consumers in Asia Pacific (47%) said that they would refrain from travelling altogether, until a vaccine is in place. However, in Australia, majority of consumers (51%) said this would not change their future travel intentions/plans.

The most important questions that travel destinations need to be asking are:

  1. What are the types of travellers visiting you? What are they looking for from your destination?
  2. What is the role of a travel advisor? Is there going to be a shift to booking more through advisors and agents given their invaluable knowledge and industry connections? Are you marketing/engaging them and providing them with all the necessary information so they can sell your destination above others?
  3. Planning trips will become more joyful again and travel will boost mental health as consumers begin to see the vaccine being rolled out. Hopes are increasing and people will spend more time on looking for the ideal experiences. Thus, it is quality over quantity – Where do we need to communicate to consumers? There is going to be a lot of choice of destinations, how does yours fare? Are you positioned correctly?

Adapting to consumers in real time will be critical. Consumers are thinking differently today than ever before, and are blending information together from traditional surveys with social media data or digital behaviour data to fuel a more emotional engagement, but are also looking for a consistent experience before they travel.


Written by Oliver Rust, CEO ENGINE, APAC & Global Products