Since the beginning of the COVID-19 pandemic, the Asia Pacific (APAC) region has had some of the tightest travel restrictions in the world. But with many countries now opening their borders for the first time in two years, travel intent to the region has sharply risen in recent weeks.
Sojern, a leading provider of digital marketing solutions for travel, shares travel trends and insights for a promising quarter ahead in APAC. What will happen in the coming months?
Hotel and flight searches are on the rise across APAC
Sojern’s recent data shows very positive trends emerging. Online searches for hotels and flights to the region have recorded exponential growth compared to the same period last year and suggest that recovery is upon us. Sojern has detected signs of strong desire to resume travelling to the region as soon as possible, especially from EMEA travellers, up 177% year over year (YOY), APAC (+164%), and LATAM (+15%), with smaller growth from Caribbean (+11%), Canadian and American (+2%) travellers. With the majority of APAC closed to international tourists throughout 2021, this growth in flight searches shows strong signs of pent-up demand as more countries continue to relax restrictions.
The APAC destinations that are most attracting these travellers are Indonesia, Vietnam and New Zealand. With Bali recently reopening to vaccinated travellers, and a wide array of new hotels, restaurants and wellness offerings to take advantage of, it’s perhaps no surprise that Indonesia tops the list. Pre-pandemic Vietnam had a longtime vibrant backpacking scene which is set to continue following its reopening in March for international tourism after almost two years.
Mid-April also saw New Zealand’s first international visitors since the start of the pandemic arriving in major cities including Auckland, Wellington and Christchurch. Only Australian citizens and permanent residents are allowed in so far. But, travel intent is expected to stay high as the border opens to countries that don’t require a visa to enter such as the UK and US from early May. The other countries in the region making up the top 10 international hotel bookings are Philippines, Singapore, Australia, Thailand, Malaysia, Japan and India.
Singapore, also known as the garden city, and one of only three city states in the world, has just announced large-scale easing of COVID-19 measures. This comes as daily infection numbers continue to fall and stabilise, meaning no more group size limits, capacity limits removed for large events and pre-departure tests before entry to Singapore are no longer needed if fully vaccinated. With Singapore maintaining some of the strictest restrictions in the world up to now, the recent announcement will continue to spark travel intent to the island.
Drilling down further, based on the past 30 days, international flight searches to South Korea (+157.1%), New Zealand (+149.3%), and Singapore (+138.5%) have seen the biggest month-over-month (MoM) increase, followed by Indonesia (+92.8%), Malaysia (+83.8%) and Taiwan (+57.8%), which is now gradually relaxing quarantine rules for all arrivals to the island. Countries with more conservative reopening of borders, which include Japan (+50.9%), India (+29.0%) and Thailand (+11.0%), have demonstrated slower search growth during this period.
With Thailand just announcing that from May they’ll remove a requirement for vaccinated arrivals to undergo a test and brief quarantine on arrival, travel intent will be sure to increase. Visitors will instead be encouraged to perform antigen self-tests during their stay. Songkran, the Thai New Year’s national Holiday, is reportedly serving as a gauge for whether the country can proceed with further easing of travel restrictions. Should the situation further improve, travellers to “The Land of Smiles” can look forward to all travel restrictions being lifted on June 1.
Encouraging prospects for APAC travel recovery
Despite the travel sector being strongly affected by the pandemic, Sojern continues to work with thousands of hotels, attractions, airlines and destinations annually in APAC and around the world. Powered by artificial intelligence and traveller intent data, Sojern provides multichannel marketing solutions to drive direct demand. Positioning itself as the key partner for tourism professionals who want to be supported in their ongoing recovery, the company has continued to gain market share in the region.
“While the road to recovery in tourism in Asia has been difficult, Sojern’s latest figures following a recent flurry of reopenings in the region is cause for optimism,” comments Lina Ang, Managing Director, APAC, Sojern. “I am proud to lead my team through these challenging times as we continue to utilise our innovative digital solutions to bolster our customers’ businesses. We see lots of opportunities in the region throughout 2022, and look forward to strengthening Sojern’s operations in APAC, continuing to partner and support the travel industry in their ongoing recovery.”
With a presence in APAC since 2015, Sojern’s portfolio in the region includes large hotel groups such as Accor, Wharf Hotels and Frasers Hospitality, as well as boutique properties, while airlines include Singapore Airlines. Click here to find out how Sojern has helped improve visibility on top Metasearch engines for Indonesian booking engine Alaric, increasing direct bookings. Click here to read about how Sojern partnered with a group of Australian properties – Bella Casa Noosa, Ocean Breeze Resort, and Saks on Hastings, to generate more than $739,000 AUD in direct booking revenue through a multichannel digital marketing strategy.