As we navigate post-pandemic travel, the old adage ‘it’s the journey, not the destination’ holds new meaning. Compared to the rest of the world, APAC was largely closed off for a longer time, and as such, is forecast to lose its number one destination spot this year, exacerbated by Japan’s slow easing of inbound travel restrictions for tourists and China and Hong Kong’s ongoing restrictions. But we’re still expected to see a positive 22% year-on-year growth as APAC travellers seek safe, restriction-free destinations and gravitate towards longer travel for personal development.
Another recent global study shows that the rise of inflation is having minimal impact on travel. And despite global aviation and hospitality staff shortages, the same study reveals 58% of travellers “have not been affected.” APAC’s consumer spending hasn’t yet been weakened by inflation, but complaints of higher prices are already coming through so it’s a space to watch intently — as is the escalating tension between traveller expectations and the feasibility of businesses to deliver on what they want, when they want it. Just as consumers expect greater accessibility and efficiency from brands — they won’t easily accept disruption anymore — longer wait times or subpar customer service are causing frustration.
Connect with post-pandemic APAC travellers via safety, wellbeing, and technology
Travel is seen as a salve to stress, and digitisation has helped implement new post-pandemic measures and tech-assisted travel experiences. Life is blending and creating the ‘working vacationer’ and the ‘vacationing executive’ — both permanent behavioural shifts from COVID-19 — with the demands of the digital nomad more pronounced as they explore remote areas yet demand full digital connectivity. Working holidays in the luxury sector are rising too, while all travellers seek creative solutions that address lack of service and product shortages.
A recent study reveals that 95% of APAC travellers are interested in sustainable travel options and 100% are willing to pay more for sustainable travel. But ultimately, led by our APAC green travellers and digital nomads, people want to return to travel only if there is evidence it will not carry any personal risk. Safety protocol and healthcare access play a heavy role in their decisions. Restriction-free destinations hold appeal and brands that communicate and display their safety protocol will soothe underlying fears. In particular, APAC travellers will respond to frictionless touchpoints using technology to ease the strain, and their psychological safety will be met through brand familiarity and trust gained through personalisation. Data-sharing between guests and travel operators will mean that you already know your guest before they arrive — building even more personalised familiarity.
In addition, people are increasingly interested in building mental fortitude and taking proactive steps towards building psychological strength. Across APAC, Kantar’s Sustainable Sector Index 2022 reveals that younger generations are more concerned about mental health issues. You can connect with them by helping them to engage in meditation and mindfulness on their travels. But as most are still concerned with the possible health implications, they too are taking their physical safety more seriously than they had in the past. Unsure of when things will be ‘okay’ or how long it will last, these ‘opportunity grabbers’ treat themselves to small indulgences and fun moments while they can.
My team and I have been watching the world reopen as futurists first and researchers second, and have anticipated three unique worlds in which the new demands from and expectations of APAC travellers are likely to manifest. From this vantage point, and with a clear visualisation of where our destinations are, we will be empowered to create and inform our innovation pipelines with disruptive and well-timed products and services.
Discover the three new travel worlds of APAC travellers
• Safe worlds: Travellers will continue seek out feelings of safety as they re-explore the world. Technology will ease the strain through frictionless touchpoints, as Korean Air demonstrated with their implementation of biometric self-boarding. Their air travellers are now able to proceed through domestic boarding gates by just scanning their palms, eradicating the need for a physical boarding pass. And don’t forget the benefits of personalisation through data-sharing between guests and travel operators to facilitate ‘safety’ needs.
• Deep worlds: Hyper-locality is spilling over to travel. Deeper, longer stays will replace whistle-stop tours and anchor the deep traveller to a sense of place. Travellers will want to immerse themselves in stories from the living community where the ‘every’ day — not the exceptional — is celebrated. Our own research finds 52% of Asian consumers say it’s important for them to seek experiences that can be easily shared. Take a cue from Caption by Hyatt in the US city of Memphis, which seamlessly integrates into the neighbourhood by enticing locals to hang out, in turn delivering an embedded local experience for guests at its premises.
• Transformational worlds: Wellbeing knocks on travel’s door as people are transported and immersed into new worlds, both real and created. Hotels are also no longer bound by their grounds as they now have the flexibility of providing their services wherever and whenever. All designed to spark the self-discovery that this aspect of travel is known to unlock — but now with a stronger imperative. We know that on average, eight in 10 APAC consumers are currently likely to buy products or services that will enhance their sense of emotional wellbeing and relaxation. Technology delivers this via Tripp, a VR app where users explore worlds that have meditative effects. It’s travelling through the mind, without physical evocations, and providing an essential mental health service.
The future is always happening, and opportunities to connect with a travel mindset are endless
For example, right now you could use the new consumer motivation of protection to build your brand, create a revenue stream from your sustainability efforts or deliver a product that delights the new hybrid work-travel dichotomy. And tomorrow, prepare to create an ecosystem of positive action by participating and investing in local communities, update your signature experiences to express safety and privacy even while providing an ultra-personalised touch, and explore how you can delight your guests before they arrive or by going to where they are.
The future of travel is here right now. Are you ready to meet with the new APAC travellers? At Kantar, preparing for any new disruption is in our DNA. We help clients formulate strategy by generating future scenarios, implementing a trends framework to stay relevant to consumers, and monitoring their changes to prioritise those that will impact first.
Angelia Teo, head of futures and innovation at Kantar, Singapore
Angelia is a leading foresight strategist in Asia-Pacific, introducing disruptive thinking to strategy and innovations pipelines. At the forefront of insights and consumer understanding, she predicts long-range shifts and spots the latest trends with a focus on making them immediately applicable for forward-planning companies.