Flight Bookings to Asia-Pacific Up 250% Ahead of Chinese New Year Despite Inflation Highs

Sojern sees strong global travel intent ahead of the Year of the Rabbit

ASIA-PACIFIC – 9 January 2023 – With a recent report indicating Asia-Pacific’s travel industry may be the only one in the world to recover by 2023, this year's Chinese New Year could be cause for additional celebration. Following a flurry of easing restrictions last year including Singapore, Australia and Thailand followed most recently by Japan, South Korea and Taiwan travel in the region is soaring ahead of the Year of the Rabbit. Sojern, a leading provider of digital marketing solutions for travel, shares the latest travel trends for Lunar New Year. As inflation peaked at the end of 2022, have soaring prices impacted global travel intent to APAC? 

Singapore tops flight bookings, American travellers take advantage of the strong dollar

Top Flight Booking Origins over Chinese New Year Period to APAC Destinations, 2022
Top Flight Booking Origins over Chinese New Year Period to APAC Destinations, 2023

Looking at flight bookings the top origin countries travelling to or within APAC for Chinese New Year are Singapore (16%), the United States (12%), perhaps taking advantage of last year's strong US dollar against other currencies, followed by Thailand (9%), Taiwan (8%) and Japan (7%) likely due to the long awaited loosening of their COVID-19 travel restrictions. India falls out of this year's top ten, replaced by South Korea in seventh place. Sojern sees a slightly different story for hotel bookings with South Korean travellers taking the top spot with 16% of all APAC bookings followed by the United States (11%) moving up from sixth place, followed by Japan (10%), Hong Kong (8%) and Australia (8%). 

Considering origin states flight bookings the top ten has also had major movement this year. Tokyo - Japan (8%), Berlin - Germany (7%) and California - United States made up last year's top three which this year has shifted considerably to Taiwan (9%), Bangkok - Thailand (6%) and Tokyo - Japan (5%). South Korea’s Seoul is the top origin state making APAC hotel bookings at 8%, followed by Central and Western Districts - United States (8%) and Central - United States (6%), Taiwan (5%) and California (4.15%) meaning three out of the top five are US travellers.

The Land of Smiles trumps Chinese New Year travel 

Top Search Destinations for Flights over Chinese New Year Period, 2022
Top Search Destinations for Flights over Chinese New Year Period, 2023

Southeast Asia hotspot Thailand comes out as the top destination country based on flight searches for global travellers moving from second to first place in 2023 and comprising 27% of all travel to the region during the holiday. Japan (19%), Singapore (18%), dropping from first to third place, the Philippines (10%) and Malaysia (8%) make up the remainder of the top five. However despite average hotel room rates hitting a 14-year high in the Lion City last year, Singapore is the top destination country based on hotel searches for 2023 comprising 21% of all searches, followed by China (15%) and the Philippines (15%). 

Looking at top destination states for flight searches Bangkok - Thailand comprises 22% of all searches followed by Tokyo - Japan (15%), Manila - Philippines (9%), Phuket - Thailand (7%) and Taiwan (7%). The eclectic mix of destinations suggests travellers are seeking both city breaks and sunshine getaways across the region's many vibrant metros and beautiful islands this holiday season. China’s capital Shanghai drops out of the top ten this year down from eight to eleven. Despite plans to loosen its travel restrictions on inbound and outbound travel from 8 January the drop is likely due to the current surge in COVID-19 infections across the country. 

“While the impact of inflation in the region hit last year, our data shows travellers aren’t willing to sacrifice travel this holiday season,” said Lina Ang, Managing Director APAC, Sojern. “At Sojern we’re considering this year’s Chinese New Year as the “first” normal year despite economic uncertainty. Destination Marketing Organizations (DMOs) and hoteliers should take note of those destinations showing the most interest from inbound international and regional travellers, and use intent data to reach these potential travellers with messaging from your particular destination or property. With 2023 holiday bookings up on 2022 levels overall we’ll be watching closely to see if reports that APAC is expected to close the rebound gap are realised.” 

Travellers plan ahead to maximise the Lunar New Year weekend 

Duration of Stay, Flight Bookings Chinese New Year Period, 2022
Duration of Stay, Flight Bookings Chinese New Year Period, 2023

Based on flight bookings on average we see longer durations of stay during this year's Chinese New Year period with 27% of travellers staying up to a week versus only 9% last year. However stays over a fortnight are down slightly with 31% over 15 days long versus 35% in 2022. This is perhaps due to lesser to no restrictions in the region this year meaning travellers may be seeking to plan multiple shorter trips over the year rather than use all their annual leave at once. In addition, visitors clearly feel more comfortable travelling in groups, with 15% booking and 14% searching flights for groups of three or more for the holidays, compared to only 5% and 6% in 2022 and 24% booking hotels for three or more versus 20% last year.

Flight booking lead times have increased significantly with over a third (35%) of travellers booking more than three months ahead of Chinese New Year in 2023 versus only 24% of travellers in 2022, with 23% booking between 2-3 months (61-90 days) and 32% booking between 1-2 months (31-60 days) ahead in 2023. The majority of travellers booking far ahead ahead of the holiday is likely due to attempting to secure favourable flight rates during this ongoing period of inflation. This trend is mirrored by hotels with 33% of travellers making bookings more than three months ahead compared to only 15% of bookings in 2022. Sojern predicts this is a result of travellers regaining confidence in forward booking. 

Over the past three years Sojern’s innovative digital marketing solutions have seen the company best placed to support regional partners such Accor, Banyan Tree Holdings, Hyatt and Frasers Hospitality through travel recovery challenges. The company’s unwavering focus on travel has only increased its resilience and reaffirmed its vision to become the #1 travel marketing platform.

*This data was pulled January 3 2023

About Sojern

Sojern is the leading digital marketing platform built for travel marketers. Powered by artificial intelligence and traveller intent data, Sojern provides multichannel marketing solutions to drive direct demand. 10,000 hotels, attractions, tourism boards and travel marketers rely on Sojern annually to engage and convert travellers around the world.

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