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Reimagining Tourism: Top Three Travel Trends in Asia Pacific 2024

6/5/2024
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Caroline Bremner Bio
Prudence Lai Profile Picture
Prudence Lai Bio
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Asia Pacific (APAC) tourism continues to flourish following the reopening of borders. Destinations and travel players are greeting the new faces of post-pandemic travellers, shifting attention from driving volume recovery to value creation for a sustainable future. Moving forward, back-to-basic strategies are key for travel businesses as traveller preferences, reason to visit and customer journeys continue to transform. Making it easy for APAC consumers to make the most sustainable travel choice is more critical than ever. This helps to drive optimum benefits to local communities, protect the environment and biodiversity, whilst delivering the wow factor for travellers.

Understanding new travellers – alternative source markets and shifts in behaviour

Travel remains a top priority for APAC consumers despite challenging macroeconomic headwinds.

Over 30% of APAC respondents plan to increase spending on travel and holidays in 2024

Source: Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey (fielded January to February 2024)

The travel industry is navigating shifts in source markets and their new travel behaviours. China used to be the top three source market among most APAC destinations in 2019, according to Euromonitor International’s Travel System. The recovery in China outbound is slower than expected as domestic tourism remains a strong substitute for Chinese consumers. Destinations and travel players are looking to discover and groom alternative source markets to close the gap and exceed peak levels.

Together with diversifying source markets, APAC travellers are also shifting focus from spending on tangible goods to intangible experiences when travelling. Top travel destination features include relaxation and local immersion that offer good value-for-money with diminishing importance for shopping, according to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey (fielded January to February 2024).Chart showing Top Five Travel Destination Features for Asia Pacific 2024

Travellers are keen to discover destinations in a more meaningful way, understanding cultures and exploring nature during their trip. Identifying unique selling points of a destination or travel products aligned with refreshed perspectives of the post-pandemic traveller are important.

Seamless customer journey – AI or human

APAC consumers are ready for a transformed customer journey for greater levels of seamlessness.

40% of APAC consumers use AR/VR tools to preview a holiday destination and 33% to tour a potential hotel room for destination discovery and planning

Source: Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Digital Consumer Survey (fielded March to April 2024)

AI is seen as an enabler and tool to help the industry provide better convenience and a seamless customer journey, especially for younger generations. Online travel agent giants such as Expedia and Trip.com have embedded Generative AI capabilities into their products to woo their customers. However, the general application of AI has a long way to go as the travel industry is trying to understand the return-on-investments of AI applications, beyond improving internal processes or simple customer service such as a chatbot.

The implementation of AI depends on many factors, including brand positioning, value proposition and the customer journey. Almost 50% of APAC consumers prefer interacting with a human for customer service, according to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Digital Consumer Survey (fielded March to April 2024).

Even with the latest Generative AI technology for customer service, APAC consumers’ main preference is to interact with humans to solve issues and answer questions. The human touch remains essential to travel and hospitality, especially to foster emotional loyalty towards the destination and brand.Chart showing Comfort with Brand/Company Interaction to Answer Questions

From sustainable to regenerative travel transformation

There are high levels of engagement and concern among APAC consumers regarding climate change (66%) and wanting to have a positive impact on the environment through their daily actions (64%), according to Euromonitor International’s Voice of the Consumer: Lifestyles Survey (fielded January to February 2024).

However, worryingly the trend is in reverse. Levels of consumer engagement are slowing year on year, with signs of green fatigue creeping in. For consumers, it is not always apparent what the most sustainable choice is when selecting destinations or travel suppliers, despite transparency of carbon emissions in search results from the likes of Google and Skyscanner. Reports of greenwashing by airlines and travel businesses further exacerbate consumers’ confusion and disillusion.

Radical behaviours such as choosing no-fly alternatives that are gaining ground in Europe have not yet caught on in Asia Pacific. With rising disposable incomes in the decades to come boosting propensity to travel in Asia Pacific, decarbonising aviation will become an ever-pressing need to ensure an inclusive and sustainable transition to net zero by 2050 in line with global targets. New business models that focus on community tourism, regenerative tourism, and nature- and climate-positive tourism are being explored across Asia Pacific to ensure that the path to net zero can run smoothly.Chart showing Asia Pacific Consumer Attitudes to Sustainability 2024

The outlook for travel and tourism in Asia Pacific is optimistic, boosted by consumers prioritising travel and wellness. Growth is powering ahead, despite the slow return of China’s outbound travellers. Exceeding peak 2019 levels is forecast in 2024 with an expected USD510 billion inbound tourism spending in Asia Pacific, fuelled by intra-regional demand with a 5.4% CAGR forecast over 2025-2030.

With Asia Pacific the key catalyst for future travel growth, all eyes are on travel businesses and destinations to ensure that the speed of transformation is not excessive and managed in a sustainable way that puts people and planet first.

Read our articles Three Key Strategies for BNPL in Emerging Markets in Southeast Asia and Analysing Inbound Travel Payment Experience in East Asia's Key Destinations – Part I for further analysis on the drivers of travel payments in Asia Pacific

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