COVID-19: Insights on Travel Impact, APAC #73

October 8, 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, as the industry stabilises. 

These insights are based on data collected for the week ending 4th October, 2020. We are reviewing our data on a regular basis in order to provide an accurate 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.

Thailand’s Strong Upticks in Domestic Travel Intent

Last month, it was announced that Thailand will offer a special tourist visa that allows foreigners to stay for up to 90 days, and ensure that they quarantine for the first 14 days of their stay. The quarantine can be completed at a number of luxurious properties.

As part of the visa mandate, tourists are required to book their accommodation for the entire 90 day period before arrival to Thailand. This special tourist visa is effective from October 2020 to November 2021. Currently, there is no notable change in international demand to travel to Thailand, perhaps because it is still unclear which countries are allowed to apply, and because of the stringent rules and regulations. For example: Nationals from the United Kingdom are not aware if they are able to use this long term visa. However, domestic market activity is high.

When comparing volume from Domestic, International, and Regional (ie: Asia Pacific) markets for hotel bookings in Thailand, it is clear that the domestic market activity is high. This indicates that even though the international borders are open, there is no notable change in the international demand because of the stringent rules and regulations to be able to travel into Thailand. 

 

Domestic, International and APAC Hotel Bookings since January to Thailand – Cities by Destination

When we look at hotel searches domestically from within Thailand, we see steady growth starting in mid-May. It is common for Thai travellers within the country to get away from the city heat and travel north to Chiang Mai towards the end of the year where the temperature is cooler, and our data indicates that September and October have had a clear interest in demand.  

With domestic travel restrictions easing, we also see interest in hotel searches in Hua Hin and Pattaya. Hua Hin is offering attractive outdoor activities for families such as jungle and beach adventures. 

Pattaya saw an increase in search intent in July and September with drops in August and more recently, October. This is not surprising as Pattaya has been dealing with a flood aftermath which has caused severe flooding and erosion. 

 

Hotel Searches Since January – Thailand – Cities by Destination

Looking at the chart below, we see that travellers within Thailand seem to want to visit Bangkok. Surprisingly, luxury hotels are opening amidst the pandemic and more international airline carriers are being approved to carry passengers on inbound flights to Thailand, such as Qatar Airways

More recently, Bangkok Metropolitan Administration spent 130 million baht ($4.1 million) on turning a 30-year-old railway project into a tree-lined pedestrian walkway over the city’s Chao Phraya River, in a hope to make it a tourist attraction and increase interest locally. Chao Phraya Sky Park offers visitors an exquisite view of Wat Arun (Temple of Dawn), and the vast Bangkok skyline. 

Our data indicates that hotel bookings in Bangkok are mostly coming from within Thailand. Domestic travel to Bangkok has almost recovered to pre-COVID level, as seen in January. However, Bangkok is reliant on travellers from the regional (Asia Pacific) and international markets, which are yet to show positive signs of recovery. 

 

Hotel Booking Since January – Thailand – Cities by Origin

Early this month, Thailand received its first foreign travellers from Guangzhou, China. The flight is said to have about 120 tourists and flew directly into Phuket. Additionally, the country has announced allowing medical tourists from China, in an effort to rescue its tourism industry. 

When looking at the percentage change since April of the hotel searches to Thailand from China, we see an increase at the end of August and September. The searches could be driven by those looking to travel for Chinese ‘Golden Week’, which is the two week-long holiday around National Day on 1st October.

 

Hotel Searches and Booking to Thailand from China – May to Date

Travel within Australia

Looking at search and booking trends of domestic travel within Australia, we see that the states of Queensland and New South Wales (NSW) are leading in recovery. Queensland, which is located on the continent’s northeast has a coastline of nearly 7,000km and houses the iconic Great Barrier Reef. New South Wales on the east coast, is known for its capital Sydney, its beaches, bushland, wine and dine scene. 

In more recent developments, Queensland was meant to reopen its borders to its southern neighbour NSW on 1st November, but is now halting these plans due to the increase of COVID-19 cases in NSW. Queensland’s Premier Annastacia Palaszczuk announced that her state will not open up to NSW unless they can go a full 28 days without a community transmission case.

From our data, we see that search and booking intent has been most negatively impacted in Victoria. So while borders between some states are open, Western Australia and Victoria are an exception. Interstate travel requires documentation prior to crossing borders, and because the rules are unique to each state, locals are treating it much like international travel.

 

Travel Trends within Australian States – May to Date

When looking at out of state travel within Australia, we see that the Australian Capital Territory (ACT) which houses Canberra, Australia’s capital, is leading the recovery. Unlike other states, the ACT border is open and travellers do not need a permit to enter. NSW and Queensland is leading the recovery as an in state travel destination.

 

In and Out of State Travel Trends within Australia – May to Date

We also observed from our data that short distance travel (0 -160 km and 160 – 400 km) is more popular, indicating that most travel is occurring by road. Mid-range distance travel (800 -1600 km) is also showing some signs of recovery. 

With the latest announcement by the Australian Government to establish a Safe Travel Zone with New Zealand, the distance of travel will subsequently increase. Also, Singapore is allowing for Australians to travel into the country, with the exception of Victoria, a COVID-19 hotspot. 

Australia’s Domestic Travel Distances – May to Date  

In conclusion, the findings this month include changes in domestic travel in Thailand, sometimes driven by seasonality. It will be interesting to observe what changes occur as the country continues to open its borders to international tourists, a key contributor to the economy. In Australia, domestic travel is highly dependent on state led rules and regulations and mostly driven by those destinations you can reach by road. With Australia allowing travellers from New Zealand, quarantine free from 16th October, the trends are bound to change. 

We will continue to share more insights as we monitor the situation. These forward looking insights will hopefully help travel marketers shape their strategies as the industry recovers from this outbreak.

For the rest of the COVID-19 insights series 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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