Travellers look to Asia-Pacific as booking windows normalise

  • Skyscanner’s new report reveals the increased search volumes by travellers and the growing popularity of Asia-Pacific destinations
  • Travellers from EMEA and the America regions are favouring destinations in Asia-Pacific
  • Tourism boards in Asia-Pacific will need to intensify marketing efforts to ensure their destinations stay top of mind among travellers
More travellers are looking to visit destinations in Asia-Pacific

Skyscanner’s new report, Skyscanner Horizons: Destination & Booking Insights Q1 2023, which explores the latest trends in global travel, has identified a spike in the number of travellers searching for travel inspiration as well as growing popularity of Asia-Pacific destinations among different geographical markets.

The study states that despite a backdrop of higher airfares and a challenging economic climate for some, travelling internationally remains a top priority for many people across the world.

Skyscanner platforms now see more than 100 million unique monthly visitors, which Mike Ferguson, director of destination marketing at Skyscanner, said was “indicative of both the sector’s continued recovery and the exceptional travel demand across all regions”.

Ferguson added: “Destinations, particularly in Asia-Pacific, are benefitting from increased search volumes compared to last year and, at the same time, longhaul booking windows are lengthening. Longhaul international travel has been slower to recover than other segments, but 2023 looks set to change that.”

EMEA market – all ready for summer
Travellers in Europe, the Middle East, and Africa regions (EMEA) are working out their summer vacations, with flights being booked two to three months in advance.

Bookings for shorthaul summer sojourns are mostly made at least 90 days ahead (31 per cent of travellers), but this is a 15 percentage point decline over 1Q2019, as some travellers prefer to book closer to their departure dates. The 60-89-day booking window showed the greatest increment (25 per cent) compared against 1Q2019.

For longhaul trips, bookings made more than 90 days ahead have increased by 11 per cent over 1Q2019 to reach a 40 per cent share in 1Q2023. This reflects greater traveller confidence in booking trips to places farther away.

In terms of trending destinations for the next six months from March till September 2023, most of the top 10 countries are in Asia-Pacific.

The report states that travellers in EMEA are taking advantage of recent border reopenings and the relaxation of restrictions across Asia. Taiwan takes first spot, with a 791 per cent spike in searches in 1Q2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Japan (+433 per cent), Laos (+367 per cent), China (+359 per cent), Saudi Arabia (+264 per cent), Malaysia (+259 per cent), Albania (+254 per cent), Singapore (+245 per cent), South Korea (+215 per cent) and Vietnam (+201 per cent) make up the rest of the top 10 ranking, in descending order.

AMER markets – longhaul returns to pre-pandemic norms
Almost 40 per cent of longhaul flights booked by travellers in North, Central, and South America regions (AMER) are made over 90 days before departure.

The highest growth was seen in the 60-89 day booking window, with number of bookings up by nearly a fifth (19 per cent) in 1Q2023 compared to 1Q2019.

These outcomes reflect continued preference and confidence in booking bigger, usually more expensive trips at least three months ahead, likely to places that have recently opened up in Asia-Pacific.

Similar to EMEA markets, travellers in AMER are favouring Asia-Pacific. Seven out of the top 10 trending destinations from March to September 2023 are in Asia-Pacific.

China takes first spot, with a 317 per cent spike in searches in 1Q2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Japan (+266 per cent), Taiwan (+215 per cent), Singapore (+172 per cent), Malaysia (+169 per cent), New Zealand (+136 per cent), Norway (+127 per cent), Morocco (+125 per cent), Saudi Arabia (+125 per cent) and Fiji (+118 per cent) make up the rest of the top 10 ranking, in descending order.

APAC markets – regional travel leads the way
Booking lead times remain short – less than one week and between seven and 29 days ­– for Asia-Pacific travellers looking to fly domestically. For shorthaul trips, bookings are secured seven to 29 days and 30 to 59 days – these two booking windows comprise nearly two-thirds of the total for shorthaul searches at the end of Q1.

For longhaul trips, more are booking far ahead. Windows of at least 90 days see a 22 per cent increment, while 60 to 89 days is up by 10 per cent in 1Q2023 versus the same period in 2019.

Seven out of the top 10 trending destinations for these travellers are within Asia-Pacific, due to improved air connections following the easing of restrictions.

Destinations not within the region include ‘Everywhere’, Skyscanner’s popular search feature that gives travellers inspiration on when and where to travel, as well as Austria and Hungary – most likely due to recent increases in non-stop flights to Europe.

Taiwan takes first spot, with a 1,426 per cent spike in searches in 1Q2023 compared to the same period in 2022. Laos (+895 per cent), Japan (+800 per cent), Everywhere (+701 per cent), Mongolia (+679 per cent), China (+618 per cent), Thailand (+580 per cent), Vietnam (+545 per cent), Austria (+469 per cent) and Hungary (+462 per cent) make up the rest of the top 10 ranking, in descending order.

Destination marketing intensifies
With traveller interest in Asia-Pacific on the rise across geographical markets, Ferguson told TTG Asia that tourism boards in this region “will have to intensify their (marketing) efforts to ensure their destinations are top of mind” among travellers.

He said: “The trending interest in Asia-Pacific destinations across various markets has created a highly competitive landscape, as more countries and cities vie for attention. To stand out, tourism boards will need to develop compelling marketing campaigns, highlight unique aspects of their destinations, and showcase the diverse range of experiences they offer.

“Collaborations with airlines, travel agencies, and online platforms will play a crucial role in promoting Asia-Pacific destinations and capturing the attention of potential travellers worldwide.”

The destination marketing rush has led to a “significant increase in destination promotions partnerships” with Skyscanner this year.

When asked what types of destination marketing messaging stand out in particular now, Ferguson pointed to an “emphasis on emotional and experiential messaging”.

“Destinations understand the power of evoking feelings and memories associated with travel, and they are leveraging this to remind people of the joy and transformative experiences that it brings. These messages aim to highlight the unique attributes of each destination, whether it is showcasing breathtaking landscapes, authentic local experiences, or extraordinary cultural encounters,” he detailed.

“Immersive videos and visually captivating imagery are also being used as part of this storytelling to transport would-be travellers to far corners of the world and create a strong desire to explore and embark on memorable journeys once again,” he added.

One ongoing example of such destination messaging, according to Ferguson, is the Tourism Western Australia campaign. Titled Western Australia – Walking on a dream / Perth: where amazing adventures begin, the campaign with Skyscanner plays up the destination’s unique landscapes, wildlife and road trips that will appeal to holidaymakers as well as work/leisure blended travellers.

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