10 rising travel trends – what APAC consumers want in 2022
Spending on travel is set to surge in 2022, as vaccines are rolled out worldwide and travel restrictions ease, though regional fluctuations continue.
According to the New Trending in Travel report from WTTC and Trip.com Group, spend on international travel in 2022 is expected to rise significantly by 93.8% in 2022. This follows last year’s 69.4% decline in global international spending on travel, which rose just 9.3% in 2021.
While projected domestic spending growth outperforms international spending in most regions, Asia-Pacific is however forecast to see an incredible 148.3% growth in international spending in 2022 as more destinations expect to reopen to travel.
This is good news for the travel and tourism industry, which has been battered by the pandemic, experiencing a US$4.5 trillion drop in GDP globally in 2020 and losses of 62 million jobs.
But travel has been changed forever. Even if the industry returns to pre-pandemic levels, it will not be the same, as consumer tastes, priorities and behaviour have changed.
How consumers book holidays, the destinations they choose to travel to, the types of holiday they prefer, the length of time they go for, and the expectations they have from airlines and hotels has changed, all impacted by the ongoing pandemic.
Add to this the acceleration of both digital transformation and climate change, and post-pandemic travel behaviour and demands will look very different.
So, what do consumers want from travel in the future? And is consumer booking behaviour and destination choice across Asia Pacific different from those in the rest of the world?
From ongoing demand for staycations, to increased interest in nature-based activities, and rising demand for tailored and long-stay trips, we summarise the consumer travel trends for 2022 and beyond, referencing the Trending in Travel report.
The persisting restrictions on international travel have resulted in domestic tourism surging with domestic hotel bookings increasing more than 200% on Trip.com’s platform this year compared to 2019.
The rise in domestic travel and ongoing demand for staycations has been particularly impressive in mainland China. Survey data taken over China’s major 2021 National Day holiday shows that 49.1% of Chinese tourists are opting for in-province travel, 4.1 percentage points higher than in 2020, suggesting a continued appreciation of holidaying within the country.
Hong Kong, Singapore, South Korea, and Japan have also experienced increases in demand for staycations, with Trip.com data showing that in-market hotel bookings in Hong Kong in the first two quarters of 2021 increased over 200% compared to 2019. Such growth in domestic travel was supported by enabling governmental policies. For instance, the Japanese government launched its Go to Travel campaign in 2020, which offered discounts up to 50% on domestic travel.
2 Longer stay trips
Holidaymakers are looking for new ways to have meaningful travel experiences by working around current restrictions, including taking longer trips. Global Data found that one in four travellers favoured staying 10+ nights during 2021, while the average trip length in 2019 was 4.45 days (domestic) and 9.22 days (international).
This trend towards extended stays is expected to remain in the longer term as travellers attempt to make the most of trips taken, and also to have more meaningful experiences.
According to American Express research, 87% of respondents in India and 68% in Australia are interested in taking extended trips to experience new destinations. And interestingly, Skyscanner found that in 2020, 18% of Japanese travellers said their trips were less about how they look on social media and more about appreciation, an 8% increase from 2019.
And if travellers can also combine a holiday with remote working, which is becoming increasingly likely with workforce hybrid models, then even longer stays are set to trend upwards and Bleisure (business meets pleasure) trips will become more in demand. In an Asia-Pacific booking.com survey, over two thirds of Thai travellers agreed that remote work during quarantine and travel would incite them to stay longer; and more than half of Vietnamese and Chinese travellers agreed.
3 Shorter booking windows and flexible bookings
Uncertain and fast-changing travel restrictions have resulted in a shift in travellers’ booking habits, with consumers less willing to book travel months in advance and increasingly seeking flexible bookings. Three-quarters of travellers say they would be more likely to book a hotel with flexible cancellation and refund policies in 2020 compared to less than 20% pre-pandemic, research from Skift & Oracle Hospitality finds.
Shorter booking windows are also becoming more common, and especially so in China. In 2019, 70% of Ctrip hotel bookings for mainland China were made within three days of travel, this ratio increased to more than 80% in 2020 and 2021 with over 60% of these being same-day bookings. The same is true for flights. While in 2019, 80% of travellers in mainland China made flight bookings within 18 days of departure, in 2020 80% of travellers made flight bookings within nine days of departure.
4 Rural destinations and nature-based activities
In the wake of COVID-19, consumers are increasingly seeking out secondary destinations, rural areas and nature-based destinations. American Express research found that over half of consumers are more likely to take an outdoor trip now than before the pandemic and 47% want their next trip to be in nature.
In Asia Pacific, nature-related attraction bookings on Ctrip have been on the rise since 2019. This has been supported by an upswelling of national park ticket bookings on the platform between 2020 and 2021. Nature-related attraction bookings in the first quarter of 2021 increased by 66.7% compared to 2019 and increased substantially, by 264.5%, in the first half of 2021 compared to 2020.
And remote rural areas and suburban areas saw the fastest increase in booking rates in the first half of 2021, with some 30 destinations in mainland China experiencing a five-fold increase in booking rates, most them less developed or remote destinations in western China. In March 2021 alone, rural tourism-related bookings on Ctrip increased by over 300% compared to pre-pandemic levels.
These increases highlight a trend of travel to more secondary and rural destinations which is likely to continue growing.
Pent-up wanderlust has also given rise to increasing demand for adventure, with 69% of travellers interested in visiting lesser-known destinations, according to American Express. And as travellers increasingly look to lessen their footprint and enhance their social impact, nearly three-quarters are hoping to support local communities through their travel, with 59% interested in ‘philantourism’, a type of travel where you choose a trip to support a destination through tourism.
The philantourism trend was already picking up traction pre-pandemic, with 51% of global travellers willing to exchange their original destination for a lesser known but similar alternative if it had a smaller footprint and greater community impact, according to Booking.com. This trend remains on the rise, with increasing consumer interest in sustainable travel, philantourism, and rural tourism.
6 Sustainable travel and hotels
According to Booking.com research, the pause in travel inspired 83% of global travellers to make sustainable travel a priority in the future. Consumers are increasingly looking to book hotels that follow sustainable practices, for example. Trip.com Group research revealed over 80% of Ctrip customers supported hotels that did not provide disposable products so as to reduce single-use waste and secondary contamination. And a 2021 Airbnb survey found that the majority of Indian travellers (94%) would look at sustainable travel options when they do leave their homes.
7 Wellness and self-care packages
In April 2021, McKinsey found that four in five consumers believe wellness is important and 42% consider it a top priority. What is more, consumers in Japan reported a substantial increase in the prioritisation of wellness over the past two to three years.
Surveying consumers in 48 countries in 2020, the Wellness Tourism Association found that 78% already included wellness activities when they travelled. Evidently, consumer sentiment and activity around wellness travel shows increased interest in this type of tourism. With prolonged travel restrictions into 2021 and heightened awareness of wellness, the desire to spend more time and money on self-care, wellness, and stress relief is likely to continue growing. What is more, as consumers continue to blur the lines between business and leisure travel and become more aware of and search for more self-care and wellness activities to cultivate healthier lives, wellness tourism will continue to see growth in the long term.
8 Enhanced health and hygiene measures
While price still drives bookings, consumers are now equally focused on health and safety and expect enhanced health and hygiene measures. Amadeus found that 47% of global travellers cite a COVID-19 related factor as the most influential criteria in choosing a destination and two thirds expect an understanding of the COVID-19 prevention measures in place prior to booking.
Access to such information remains especially critical for travellers in Asia-Pacific, with nearly three-quarters of consumers in APAC now prioritising clear health and safety precautions above price (36.8%) and location (46.3%), according to PATA.
9 Inspired and booking via social media
When it comes to travel inspiration and booking, there is a clear generational divide. Unsurprisingly, Visa found that younger generations (Millennials and Gen Zers) are predominantly booking through smartphones.
Social media and digital marketing have become increasingly powerful marketing and selling tools for travellers and will continue to be in the long term, requiring more destinations and businesses to continue to respond with innovate and engaging strategies.
As travellers plan and book their next trips, younger generations will continue to seek engaging and interactive content on digital channels when choosing where to go.
10 Tailored and personalised trips
Travellers will seek to limit COVID-19 exposure by creating more tailored trips to meet their needs, according to 2021 research from Flywire.com. In fact, 70% of leisure travellers in Japan expect and plan to spend more money on travel in 2022 than they have in the past five years and 76% would choose to spend more for a trip with certain additional health and safety protocols.
The luxury travel market, which was valued at US$945.6 billion in 2019 and is expected to reach US$ 1.12 trillion in 2027, has always offered more exclusive access to amenities and travel products making it an enticing way to travel for those interested in limiting their exposure to those outside of their travel group. And in fact, the number of daily enquiries for luxury tailor-made travel on Ctrip in the first half of 2021 increased by 140% compared to 2019.