You might have heard it said that all Asians look the same. But obviously, they don’t. Now, a study by Amadeus shows that their travel preferences differ, too.
It’s a finding that the travel technology solutions company calls the “many Asias within Asia”.
That is the underlying sentiment in Amadeus’ Journey Of Me Insights: What Asia Pacific Travellers Want, a study spanning 14 countries in the Asia Pacific (Apac) region.
Think of it as the opposite of the one-size-fits-all approach, says Amadeus Asia Pacific vice president (corporate marketing and communications) Karun Budhraja.
“No two DNAs are the same, and no two travellers are the same. Someone who travels for business will vary from one who is travelling for leisure,” he says, during an interview at the Amadeus headquarters in Kuala Lumpur.
That particular analogy is amplified when you put it against the backdrop of a region as diverse as Apac.
“It’s a huge continent with very different motivations. Even between Singapore and Malaysia, which are bordering countries, there are anomalies as well,” he says.
Conducted in collaboration with market research firm YouGov, the study was conducted in Australia, China, Hong Kong, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, New Zealand, the Philippines, Singapore, South Korea, Taiwan, Thailand and Vietnam.
The sample size is 6,870 adults from the region who have travelled internationally in the last 12 months.
Contrasts in terms of behaviours, needs and preferences were registered across all geographic and demographic lines. One particular instance here is that while 66% of Chinese travellers do most of their travel bookings on mobile phones, only 39% of Malaysian travellers do so.
Notable differences were also observed in the attitude towards sharing economy businesses, such as Airbnb and Uber. While 70% of Japanese travellers have never used a sharing economy service for trip accommodation, 64% of Malaysian travellers have, and almost half of all Indian travellers say they do so “often” or “very often”.
What are the factors that drive those differences?
“It’s historical. You travel every 100km within a large continent and things are bound to change – language, features, and the way of thinking too. So that historical factor brushes off in this report as well,” Karun offers.
“About 87% of Singaporean travellers want to speak their common language when they travel abroad.” The common language spoken in Singapore is English, a global language.
“For travellers from Malaysia, it is about 47% (who want to speak their mother tongue when travelling abroad).
“Compare that with Hong Kong, where Cantonese is prevalent, only 4% (of respondents who expect their language to be spoken when they travel abroad) came up. “There is that kind of disparity. I think it stems from the fact that the region is culturally rich,” he adds.
Privacy and personalisation
Another highlight in the report is travellers’ willingness to trade personal data for more relevant offers and personalised experiences. Of those polled, 64% of the respondents are comfortable giving away their personal particulars.
Malaysian travellers are slightly more cautious, with 57% of the recipients being somewhat or very open to sharing their personal information.
But according to Karun, 57% is still a big percentage, especially compared to about 31% of Japanese travellers who would share their personal data. Meanwhile, travellers from Indonesia (80%), Thailand (79%) and Taiwan (78%) are the most open.
“The finding in Malaysia came as a surprise. We had recent scares like WannaCry and Petya (ransomware attacks) which means putting your data out there could cause problems. Malaysians are a bit cautious but generally OK with sharing their data,” he explains.
Earlier this year, the world was hit by global cyberattacks that brought computer systems from Britain to the US, and from China to Russia, to their knees. Victims included hospitals, banks and telecommunication companies.
The Journey Of Me Insights study reports that it all boils down to maintaining some boundaries on the part of travellers. It also calls for travel providers to respect and protect personal data and the need for privacy.
Above and beyond adhering to legislation, though, travel players must be able to articulate “What’s the value?” to get travellers to share their data.
“Travellers want to share their data, and want personalised service, but it must be done on their terms, not on the terms of the travel providers. That needs to be solved by the providers,” Karun says.
Amadeus general manager (Malaysia) Miro Blazevic says travellers also only share information with providers they can trust.
“Companies have to be authentic and relevant. It’s about how you can provide information that makes travellers smarter,” he offers. Karun also says that travellers should know what they want in return for their personal data. And, he adds, whenever in doubt about a particular site, be sure to consult a friend or family member who is tech-savvy.
No thanks, Instagram
Genuine insights are also much sought-after by Apac travellers, as highlighted in the report. Sure, carefully curated Instagram feeds of celebrities and glossy pictures of travel brochures are nice to look at.
But when it comes to travel inspiration, those with wanderlust would much rather seek advice from other travellers. The study reveals that online booking and review sites, along with word of mouth, have the largest influence on Apac travellers’ trip-planning process.
Online booking websites (50%), social networks (48%) and travel review sites (47%) are the top three channels for relevant recommendations.
Thinking of seeing cherry blossoms? Malaysian travellers tend to seek recommendations from other travellers on when the best time is to visit countries like Japan.
In markets like China and India, online booking websites are ranked even higher, while social networks dominate in Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam.
Closer to home, Malaysian travellers seem to favour cost-conscious recommendations more than the average Apac traveller. Of those polled, 51% find information and tips that help them save money most useful.
The report attributes this to the weakening Ringgit in recent years.
On keeping one’s travel budget in check, Blazevic’s personal recommendation is to plan ahead.
“Many travellers still don’t plan in advance. My advice is: enjoy the planing and enjoy the research,” he shares, adding that travellers can look for many options online.
Moving forward, though, Karun expects the future to be bright for the global travel landscape.
“Travel has been booming and it has become an intrinsic part of our lives. And the travel industry will get smarter when cities turn smarter.
Singapore is a classic example. It will be interesting to see how the industry will move on from there,” he concludes.