Intelligence Thai travellers dreaming of island escapes, short-haul travel for 2021 By TTG Asia / Posted on 24 November, 2020 13:55 While domestic trips are poised to remain popular among Thai travellers going into 2021, search data shows that they are also eager to return to Asian destinations close to home, found Expedia Thailand’s 2021 Travel Trends Report. The report analysed traveller data to uncover the biggest takeaways amid the pandemic this year and what travellers can expect in the year ahead. Japan, South Korea and Singapore are among Thai travellers’ top-searched destinations for travel in 2021 In addition to tapping into its own database of search and demand data, this year, Expedia partnered with the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) for a deep dive on the effect of the pandemic on air travel. According to the report, which looked at top-searched destinations for 2021 and beyond, Thais dreaming of their next trip fall into one of two categories: island escapist and the short-haul destination traveller. Looking at the top 20 destinations, half are islands and popular beach destinations. These include Phuket (#1), Pattaya (#5), Koh Samui (#6), Krabi (#9), Hua Hin (#11), Trat (#12), the Maldives (#14), Pang Nga (#15), Nakhon Si Thammarat (#16), and Koh Lipe (#16). Famous among Thais are cities within Asia that are a few hours flight from Bangkok. Though these cities haven’t seen their usual tourist bustle over the past year, search results show that Thai travellers are eager to return and enjoy these all-time favourite destinations close to home. These include Tokyo, Japan (#3); Osaka, Japan (#7); Seoul, South Korea (#8); Sapporo, Japan (#10); Hokkaido, Japan (#13); Taipei, Taiwan (#18); Yamanashi, Japan (#19); and Singapore (#20). This year, backyard beaches and outdoorsy escapes have taken the place of exotic international destinations. The top 10 trending destinations for 2020 are Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Phuket, Hua Hin, Rayong, Chonburi, Khao Yai, Chiang Rai and Songkla. The study also found that in 2021, flexibility will continue to be top of mind for Thai travellers. Luckily, flexibility is more affordable than ever: Expedia lodging data shows average daily rates for refundable bookings were more than 50 per cent cheaper in 2020 compared to 2019. In the year to come, concerns about staying safe while travelling will continue to impact every aspect of trip planning, from what type of accommodations to choose to where to go to who to travel with. Since May, nearly 300,000 properties have added health and cleanliness information on Expedia.co.th, including enhanced cleaning, contactless check-in, social distancing, and other guest safety measures. According to ARC data, in 2019, the average Thai traveller booked flights around 26 days in advance of their departure date, but during the onset of the pandemic, that window shrunk to 18 days. The new normal (since August) is just 14 days out – the average advance purchase dropping below the 15-day mark for the first time in years – and illustrating how travellers have adapted to the rapidly changing environment. However, with airlines eliminating change fees, travellers may feel more confident booking further out, knowing they can always change their plans down the road. As well, Thais have shown increasing concern for the environment, culture, tradition and sustainable interest of the planet – both as travellers and tourism professionals. Initiatives have been taken by both private and public sectors to promote eco-tourism. For instance, the Tourism Authority of Thailand, together with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources and Ko Tao’s public and private sectors, launched The One for Nature project in January to promote responsible tourism in the country.