Singapore, Malaysia, Thailand, Philippines, Australia
Malaysian travellers continue their love affair with their favourite holiday destinations throughout Asia, including Indonesia, Singapore and number one this year, Taipei.
The country has a number of great options when it comes to homegrown destinations so it’s not surprising that Langkawi, Port Dickson, Penang, Kuching and the Genting Highlands are the most popular domestic picks.
Nearby affordable destinations and low-cost flights are driving a healthy growth in both domestic and international travel by Malaysians.
Similarly in the Philippines, the top five international destinations belong to Asian capitals, and, apart from Manila, domestic visits are centred on popular holiday locations such as Cebu, Davao, Puerto Princesa and Bacolod.
Singapore remains the top international destination selection for Australia, and Bali moved up to second most popular search from number three last year. London too moved up from number ten to take the fifth spot this year, and Taipei is the fastest mover at third most searched destination, particularly interesting when the city didn’t even register in Australia’s top ten in 2013.
Domestically, more people searched Sydney airfares this year as Melbourne slipped to number two, and both Brisbane and the Gold Coast nudged Perth down to number five.
Bangkok again topped the list for international searches for Singaporeans, and Taipei, Hong Kong and Manila made the top five again this year. Jakarta slipped out of the top five and was replaced by Bali, indicating Singaporeans took full advantage of low-cost flights to escape the city and take time out during 2014.
Thailand’s tourism industry has had a tumultuous year where demonstrations in the capital affected the choice of travellers, according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT) who predicted 28 million arrivals for 2014, however between January and August, arrivals sat at 15.7 million.
On Wego, interest in Thailand remained high, with no obvious effects of the demonstrations with favourite visitors, Singaporeans, still choosing Bangkok as their top destination. Bangkok was also listed among the top five destination searches among Wego’s regional markets in Indonesia, China, India, MENA, Malaysia, Philippines and Australia over the past year.
In 2015 we can expect some aggressive marketing campaigns from TAT as the authority highlights new destinations within the country, with new promotions to stimulate fresh niche tourism opportunities.
The MICE industry continues to play an important role in Thai tourism, with the UK and European markets among the top ten source markets for business events, rising 84 per cent over the first three quarters of 2014. The number is expected to increase in 2015 with a myriad of business events throughout the next 12 months.
The top five domestic destinations remain the same as last year, with the only difference being that Jakarta has overtaken Bali to register the top spot.
I believe that the country’s national election was a factor in boosting visitation to the capital for campaign and other election-related activities.
Bali is still a popular hotspot both domestically and internationally with an increasing supply of hotel rooms in the budget sector, a trend we expect will continue throughout 2015. It’s possible however, that at some point, the attraction of Bali as a relaxing retreat, may see travellers seek out other areas from the traditional locations on the island, and a new Bali.
Singapore as a top international selection for Indonesians is unlikely to change any time soon. The abundance of cheap flights and close proximity makes it an ideal quick shopping trip, medical check up or transit point to further explore the region, and the rest of the world.
Kuala Lumpur regained its number two spot, pushing out Bangkok from last year, possibly attributed to the demonstrations in the Thai capital. Increased air connectivity to Malaysia will retain Kuala Lumpur’s strong position as an outbound destination and offer up new destination possibilities in Indonesia, for the inbound market.
We expect Tokyo, and Japan in general, to show increased interest from Indonesian travellers in 2015 as they take advantage of decreased visa requirements announced earlier this year. The popularity of Europe will also continue to grow.
Lion Air remains a strong presence in the market, and with another record aircraft order announced recently, we can expect this trend to continue.
China and Hong Kong
Self-service travel to Southeast Asia from China is heating up. We’ve seen significant growth this year of Chinese FIT travellers within the region, particular to Thailand, Malaysia and Singapore.
Compared to Europe, more friendly visa policies make bookings easier, without the need to go through travel agents, which may be a contributing factor in the growth of individual travel to Southeast Asia.
Singapore’s Mandarin-speaking and visitor-friendly environment could see a considerable increase in the number of Chinese travellers to the Lion City in 2015.
Hong Kong and Taiwan remain popular, while Korea continues to progress in visitor growth. The country has aggressively marketed to Chinese travellers. In addition to providing more routes to second tier cities in China, Korea has also granted a 30 day visa-free entry to Jeju province.
Aligning the ‘Korea Grand Sales’ shopping festival with Chinese New Year in 2015 to deliberately target Chinese travellers was a smart move, and with Kpop and Korean drama gaining popularity in China, it’s likely Korea will be the country of choice during next year’s busiest holiday season.
The individual traveller scheme is booming in Hong Kong. Our industry partners in the city are constantly telling us how popular individual travel is becoming.
Hong Kong millennials, perhaps just like those in the rest of the world, love planning trips, in contrast to group travel traditions. Hong Kong’s proximity to the rest of Asia is growing the short-haul travel segment and with airlines such as Hong Kong Express and Peach Airlines launching routes to second-tier destinations in Taiwan and Japan, sightseeing-type tours are becoming more common.
Hong Kong remains the outbound destination of choice for Chinese travellers, however other cities nearby are increasing in popularity for younger travellers.
Singapore and Korea’s ease on visa policies, and Taiwan integrating a local payment gateway (China UnionPay), which enables travellers to holiday without exchanging and carrying local currency, will make them more attractive options as destinations. Thailand and soon, Indonesia, have also announced visa on arrival for Chinese visitors, which all contributes to more competition as destinations attempt to lure more Chinese travellers, and also impact Hong Kong’s share of mainland visitors.
Wego’s large number of business travel users in India have placed Delhi and Mumbai in the top domestic travel destinations this year, while Goa, continues as a favourite amongst holiday travellers with all our top five domestic hotels located in the popular beachside city.
Southeast Asian cities again top our most popular international destination list, with Dubai climbing strongly to the number two spot.
New domestic airlines, expansion of route services and attractive discounts will continue to add a zing to this sector, while improvements in infrastructure will help the domestic travel market grow with travellers seeking out new serviced destinations.
Inbound tourism will take a leap forward with the recent introduction of visa on arrival extended to 43 countries.
Currently an undersupply of around 150,000 hotel rooms in India, especially in the budget segment, should see a growth in these types of properties in 2015. Outbound travel will continue to also grow in the upcoming year, supported by the burgeoning and affluent middle class.
The Middle East and North Africa (MENA)
MENA travelling habits changed considerably during 2014. Seasonality didn’t appear to have an effect on whether people travelled or not this year. In fact, site visits, search and revenue during this year’s Ramadan, traditionally a slow period for business in general, peaked as one of our busiest.
We witnessed a continuous growth of travel between MENA and Asian destinations, with Jakarta topping the list (at number three last year), and Kuala Lumpur and Bangkok leaping into the top five, along with favourite Istanbul, and new entrant, London.
Domestically, flights in Saudi Arabia continue to grow exponentially, with the addition of more services from Saudia, Flynas and the new AL Maha Airways.
Europe remains a preferred destination with more fly and stay packages offered by local and international OTAs, clearly signifying the importance of MENA travellers to European destination marketers.
Dubai consistently attracts more shoppers, family-fun seekers and international business travellers. The number of new hotel properties opening and under construction throughout the region, and in Dubai in particular, will continue to grow the tourism industry.
Our focus on providing MENA travellers with a localised and relevant travel search site, has resonated successfully in the region.