Travel demand rises in APAC region

Google data shows travel searches increased up to 50% in August since restrictions were imposed in March


CONSUMERS in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region, including Malaysia, are signalling interest for international and domestic travels amid the Covid-19 pandemic, according to Google data.

Google analytical head for travel and finance Rohan Dhanuka said based on the Google data, travel searches increased up to 50% in August since restrictions were imposed in March.

“We had a bumper year in 2019 and going into January 2020 things were looking great for the travel industry in the APAC region.

“However, since then until May, we saw a 60% to 70% decline of people looking at flight bookings.

“The good news is, we have started to see a recovery as the travel searches increased up to 50% in the region,” he said in a webinar titled “The State of Travel in APAC and The Road Ahead” yesterday.

Google’s travel data for Malaysia showed that Kuala Lumpur (KL) remains the top domestic destination followed by Melaka, Penang, Langkawi and Kuala Terengganu.

“There is a heightened interest in domestic travel destinations located in the peninsular region as these destinations are easily accessible by land transportations such as cars and buses. Beach holidays remain the most popular option,” the data revealed.

Rohan said based on the wider scope of a survey within the APAC region, China’s travel industry showed a significant growth of about 115 million domestic flights that was recorded during the labour holiday in May.

He added that the republic has also showed a 98% increase in domestic flights bookings in August 2020, while its hotel occupancy increased by 50% since the lowest point recorded in February.

Rohan said the pandemic has shifted consumer behaviour and business marketing strategies in the tourism industry as safety and cleanliness has become the priority in accommodation bookings.

“There appears to be two travel groups that has emerged during this pandemic, the group that prefer hotels and the one that prefers vacation rentals.

“Travellers from Asian countries such as China, Thailand, Singapore, Vietnam, Indonesia and India suggest that they feel safer to stay in hotels.

“Meanwhile, travellers from countries such as Australia and New Zealand prefer vacation rentals, as long as they are practising social distancing,” he said.

Rohan added that 48% of Chinese travellers view hotels as having better health protection measures against 12% who prefer vacation rentals.

Based on the survey, which focuses on Chinese respondents, a demand for business travel still exists as 53% of the respondents showed interest in travelling for work, while 39% are willing to travel for meetings, incentives, conferencing and exhibitions.

Rohan said about 20% of those respondents are expecting practices such as wearing face masks throughout meetings, maintaining social distancing and participating in Covid-19 tests, to be put in place.