With buying powers hurt by weak home currencies, Malaysians and Filipinos are choosing to travel closer to home and to hold out for last-minute deals.
The ringgit traded at RM4.48 against the US dollar in November 2016, down 23 per cent since the start of 2015. The Philippine peso, meanwhile, slid from 46.28 pesos to US$1 in August 2016 to 50.01 in end-2016. Analysts expect it to reach 51 pesos this year.
Demand for Thailand is up; Pattaya pictured
With travel budgets battered, Malaysian are opting for regional holidays, observed travel agents in the country.
Olympik Holidays Malaysia’s CEO, Adam Kamal, said secondary destinations are more popular than capital cities as packages are cheaper, aided in part by direct low-cost flight access.
Demand for Thailand and Indonesia is up, said Apple Vacations & Conventions Malaysia, group managing director, Desmond Lee, encouraged by easy AirAsia airlinks and currencies that are “weaker than the ringgit, which is good for shopping and dining”.
Requests for North Asia have been down since 2016 for World Avenues Malaysia. Ally Bhoonee, its managing director, said value destinations within three hours’ flight time are now preferred.
In the Philippines, agencies have noticed stronger interest in less common Asian destinations such as Cambodia and Vietnam among travellers who are already familiar with the region.
Domestic holidays are also forsaken since the cost of travel to places like Boracay and Batanes is the same as or slightly lower than other Asian destinations, according to Lyn Galon, travel consultant, Scorpio Travel and Tours in the Philippines.
Purchase habits have changed too in both markets, with more consumers holding their breath for last-minute offers and possible pick-up in currency strength.
Bhoonee said customers making last-minute requests for the Chinese New Year period, in hopes that the ringgit would strengthen by then, presented a “challenge for us to get rooms and airline seats”.
Tess Ege, ticketing and reservation officer, Frontline 8 Travel Philippines, said the growing trend now is to wait for the Philippine Travel Agencies Association’s annual Travel Tour Expo (TTE) in February, where airlines and hotels offer steep discounts.
How outbound will pan out this year will depend on the outcome of the TTE, Ege said, underscoring the attraction of discounted trips amid a weak peso climate.
Mon Eusebio, travel and tours specialist, Velca Travel and Tours Philippines, also noted that travellers now wait for airline promotions like Cebu Pacific’s one peso fare and discounts of up to 50 per cent to cut travel costs. He also noted that business travel has been impacted slightly. – Additional reporting from Rosa Ocampo