WITH global economic woes casting a pall over the travel industry, Asian travellers would likely adjust travel plans than cancel them altogether, said Daisy Sam, general manager of research firm Cimigo China in a phone interview with TTG Asia e-Daily.
“Based on research figures, there will be more people travelling. But there will be a change in travel patterns. Travellers are likely to be more price conscious, take shorter trips, head to different destinations or even travel in smaller party sizes,” she said.
Cimigo released a report last month on the profile of the Asian traveller in 2011, in which Hong Kong emerged as the top destination. When asked which destination was likely to snatch the crown in 2013, Sam said: “If I had to pick one, it would be China. The sheer size of the country means China has a variety of attractions, whether for the leisure or business traveller.”
Furthermore, shifting travel patterns meant China was in good standing as a relatively inexpensive destination, Sam said, noting that the government has been steadily improving the country’s infrastructure, and the destination is easily accessible for Asian travellers by railway or ferry.
Sophisticated, repeat travellers are also likely to take to newer destinations such as Myanmar and Vietnam, having covered the big cities and popular destinations in Asia.
Sam said that while potential outbound from China to these newer destinations was huge, visa approval remained a stumbling block. However, exotic locations were unlikely to beat traditional destinations given the massive pool of first-time travellers in Asia looking for a “regular” tour.
Despite increased price sensitivity, Asian travellers are unlikely to swap full-service airlines for low-cost carriers. Sam said there would always be passengers who want to travel in comfort.
She cautioned: “It is more important for airlines to promote themselves not simply by offering discounts but also by differentiating themselves clearly to the target market that is willing to pay more.”
The outlook was gloomier for travel agencies, whom Sam predicted would gradually diminish in importance especially in areas with high rental costs. Compared to airlines, which have worked hard to improve reach through their websites and attract customers to book directly, offline travel agencies were constrained by their physical locations.
But Sam said travel agencies still had a place in Hong Kong and China, “where people still look for convenience.”
“There is definitely a segment that prefers offline agencies – the older, less Internet-savvy. Offline travel agencies must understand what consumers are looking for, which is advice, good service, promotions and information on new products such as cruises.”