COVID-19: Insights on Travel Impact, APAC #39

June 3, 2020

With our access to real-time traveller audiences and unmatched visibility into global travel demand, we’re in a unique position to share the current travel trends at the forefront of marketers’ minds. In this blog series, we’ll take a look at the data in order to aid travel marketers in their assessment of this worldwide event. They can use these trends to inform their marketing strategies during this period and be prepared for the recovery once the situation stabilises. 

These insights are based on data collected on the 1st of June, 2020. We are reviewing our data on a weekly basis in order to provide a regular view of trends and patterns in consumer behaviour. Sojern’s insights are based on over 350 million traveller profiles and billions of travel intent signals, however it does not capture one hundred percent of the travel market.

Green Shoots From APAC Domestic Markets With Talks of Travel Bubbles Popping up 

The Asia-Pacific (APAC) region is starting to see some positive developments with regards to the easing of lockdown restrictions, and signs of travel gradually reopening. 

Singapore announced the beginning of a circuit breaker from 7th April, where most workplaces were closed, except for those providing essential services, and schools moved to full home-based learning. As part of a clear, clinical, three-phased approach to end the circuit breaker, Phase 1 kicked off on June 2, allowing businesses to resume operations. This includes hairdressers and barbers to offer all services (not just basic haircuts), and motor vehicle, aircon, printing, and pet services to resume activities. Additionally, visits to parents and grandparents are allowed but are limited to two people from the same household, and schools are gradually opening. 

The dates for Phase 2 and Phase 3 are yet to be announced and will be defined if the Little Red Dot doesn’t see a surge in COVID-19 cases following Phase 1. There is hope that the gradual opening of the island will be a wise course of action – time will tell.  

We are also seeing the announcement of certain flight routes from Singapore’s Changi Airport opening up later this month. Some countries are talking about the potential of having travel bubbles and this essentially means that countries would allow citizens to cross borders with minimal or no quarantine periods. An early example is the corridor set up on 1st May between China and South Korea, which requires travellers to undergo a short quarantine and at least one negative coronavirus test in each country. 

Hong Kong recently stated that they may create travel bubbles with neighbouring countries that share Hong Kong’s success in containing the virus. In early June, an advisory group will present Australia and New Zealand with a plan for quarantine-free travel between the two countries. 

There is also the potential of a travel bubble that would include Hong Kong, Macao and some mainland Chinese cities. Singapore announced talks that are underway with South Korea, Australia, New Zealand, Malaysia and China to establish “green lanes” for travel. More globally, it’s worth noting that Australians have been allowed to travel to Greece. 

Overall, we are noticing a big recovery trend for domestic travel for many of the APAC countries including Thailand which we will go into further down in this article. 

Year-Over-Year Global Flight Searches to Key APAC Markets















Focus on Thailand’s Domestic Hotel Trends 

Last week, Phuket International Airport announced that it would reopen limited domestic flights, ferries, and tour boats. As of 1st June, Phuket hotels have been allowed to reopen and dive and island tours were also given the green light to resume operations. Elsewhere in Thailand, as lockdown restrictions ease, Pattaya and the popular offshore destination of Koh Lan have also reopened their beaches. 

Our data indicates that we are seeing a big lift in domestic hotel searches in Thailand. When we drill down to the specific travel date, we are noticing an uptick in June and July, and an unusually high increase in November. 


Year-Over-Year Hotel Searches to Thailand

Year-Over-Year Hotel Searches and Travel Date in Thailand

Strong Travel Intent to China From Within APAC and Internationally

With the concept of travel bubbles floating around, we noticed that there was a substantial increase in May for flight searches from APAC countries to China. Surprisingly, there was also a big increase in non-APAC international origins to China. The APAC countries showing the strongest travel intent to China include Australia, South Korea, Singapore, Malaysia, and Philippines.  


Year-Over-Year China Flight Searches – Domestic vs. International 

For non-APAC countries, the US shows the biggest uptick in travel intent. Additionally, the UK, Netherlands, Germany, and Belgium also have some fairly significant increases in flight search to China. We noticed that much of the increase in searches are for July travel and onwards. 

Even though searches are up, bookings still lag behind. This could be due to the limited supply of flights, so even though people have the urge to travel, they are unable to find suitable flights.

Year-Over-Year China Flight Searches vs. Booking 

An Update From Down Under  

Australia and New Zealand have done an exceptional job of flattening the COVID-19 curve. To date, both countries have contained the number of coronavirus-related deaths compared to the rest of the world. From mid-May, Sydney managed a controlled opening of some businesses and restaurants. In a recent hotel forecast study, we saw that room occupancy in Sydney for hotels is not expected to climb substantially in June, but the model predicts that the cautious approach they have maintained will pay off, with July seeing occupancy rise into the 30% range.

Most states within Australia, including New South Wales and Victoria, are also easing lockdown restrictions to allow for intrastate travel and dining for 20 to 50 people. With the undoubted pent-up demand, hoteliers are expecting that regional and luxury accommodation will benefit the most initially as well as restaurants. 

Our data shows that Australia domestic travel continues to see recovery which started towards the end of April. Most searches are for very near term check-ins at hotels. Domestic hotel searches seem to be on an upward trend and both hotel searches and bookings have increased. As expected and until the international borders open, international inbound hotel search and booking to Australia is still declining.


Year-Over-Year Australia Hotel Searches/Bookings – Domestic vs. International 

Domestic Travel for Australia as The Source Market 

Sojern will continue to share more APAC insights as we monitor the situation and find interesting trends, to help travel marketers shape their strategies when the industry starts to recover from this outbreak. For the rest of the COVID-19 insights series and webinars click here

About teesta.raha

Teesta is Sojern's Senior PR & Content Manager, EMEA and APAC and is based in Singapore. When not working, you will find her traveling, doing yoga, reading and occasionally, golfing.

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