While the travel industry has been crippled by widespread lockdowns, and confinements have become the norm in the battle against the COVID-19 pandemic, hunkered down consumers seem to be slowly emerging and tentatively planning to hit the road or dust of their passports.
For morose marketers, here's a sliver of good news from APAC: According to a new Google report, people in some countries such as India, The Philippines, and Vietnam seem more inclined to rekindle their plans, even as the region overall is more optimistic about going on a holiday.
According to findings from this survey, marketers can take some lessons from China, which is leading the region out of a lockdown and in re-starting travel. According to Google's findings, search data indicates some early signs of recovery as well. There was a gradual rise in searches around holiday planning. In Taiwan, searches for “hotels” are gaining momentum, while searches for “resorts” or “all-inclusive travel deals” are starting to pick up in Vietnam and the Philippines.
This differing sentiment is also reflected in future international travel plans: Respondents in Indonesia, India, the Philippines, and Vietnam have indicated they are 1.5X more likely than those in Australia, Singapore, and Japan to travel internationally in the next six months.
Even as consumers slowly put travel back on the agenda, marketers would be well advised to heed some changes in their mindset. The coronavirus pandemic has impacted the way people will approach travel-related decision-making: a whopping 87% of APAC consumers expect to make changes to the way they travel, compared with 67% and 70% in North America and Europe, respectively
While expansive trips are certainly off the table, given widespread restrictions, people are looking to now travel s little differently. According to Google's findings, here are the top priorities for travel marketers:
1. Prioritise safety and cleanliness
Safety is top of mind for consumers around the world, especially as they get older: 65% of baby boomers say a personal feeling of safety is by far the top confidence booster for resuming travel. But only 28% of consumers say reopening borders will make them feel confident enough to travel again, so travel companies have to do more to make them feel safe.
2. APAC consumers are discount-driven
With plenty of uncertainty in the air, consumer want the option to change bookings and be offered promotional discounts. The chart below shows APAC consumers listed discounted fares and waived cancellation fees as key factors for booking a flight within the next three months.
3. Keeping travel close by
Data from Google and Global Web Index indicate that 25–35% of consumers’ first trips will be to nearby destinations such as staycations or places within driving distance. According to the GWI study, 42% of Chinese consumers are planning to take more trips in their local area than they did before the coronavirus pandemic.
To be prepared for these shifts, the Google report suggests that travel marketers keep abreast of minute shift in the landscape. For example, while complete global recovery is a long way off, travel “bubbles” offer a potential way forward. Marketers need to rethink messaging and targeting strategies, too since consumer behaviours and expectations can vary from market to market and even user to user. Marketers need to highlight what matters most to different people at each stage of recovery and adjust their messaging accordingly.