Tourism suppliers should employ a strong focus on promoting domestic and near-domestic travel instead of plotting their longhaul strategies during this period, urged speakers at the ITB Asia 2020 Virtual last week.
Timothy Hughes, vice president, corporate development, Agoda, expressed that while longhaul travel will eventually return, it will not come as “a surprise”, and the industry will receive ample “warnings” to plan their next move.
“Don’t get distracted by conversations about green lanes, corridors and vaccines. Just focus on what is right here in front of us: domestic travel. Save the thinking about longhaul (for) when we start to get signals that it’s coming back,” he advised.
Among the characteristics of domestic travel that Hughes reported is the pattern of “near-domestic” travel, where residents of major cities like Bangkok, Seoul and Tokyo have expanded their vacation radius to 200km around the city.
These “drive markets” have short lead times, with Agoda seeing many same- or next-day bookings, and are “on the hunt for a deal” on “high-category hotels, villas and houses”. Observing that consumers are looking for flexibility, he also advised the industry to “put ‘non-refund’ on hold for a while”.
In Japan, local tourism authorities have pivoted their strategies that were once geared towards the international market. Prefectures are now providing discount coupons and promotions to local residents, shared Kei Shibata, co-founder and CEO, Line Travel jp and Trip101.
He observed: “We have started to see a great amount of demand through location-based marketing. This is working well to avoid overtourism, and it helps destinations and hoteliers save costs while increasing their ROI on marketing. Last-minute booking is also a big thing now, and our mobile push notifications are working extremely well to capture this demand.”
As companies feel the crunch on cost amid the pandemic, Hughes continued to stress that travel businesses should heavily consider investing in fintech solutions.
He asserted: “If you are not a fintech company in travel, you are giving money away. You’d need either teams of people – or if (one) cannot afford teams, then really smart partners – who can help manage complexity of payments in (the) most cost-effective way. If you’re a travel company, you’d better have fintech solutions.”