College of Management, Mahidol University (CMMU) has reported on the Post-COVID-19 tourism business guidance. Its “NEO TOURISM: the Traveler’s Insight” research has found that Thai tourism will never be the same. 2022 will be the year of a tremendous change in tourism industry where resilience is needed to catch up with the so-called “Next Normal” trend. Results found that the group that is ready to travel right after vaccination is the young neo travelers and family neo travelers. The most popular type of tourism is nature tourism. The top three provinces that young neo travelers want to explore are Chiang Mai, Phuket and Chonburi respectively while Chiang Mai, Prachuap Khiri Khan, and Chonburi are the top three destinations for families. In terms of budget, young neo travelers plan to travel from 3-4 days with the maximum budget of 5,000 baht while families plan their travels at a lower budget of 3,000-5,000 baht per family. The results also found that types of business that will benefit most from the reopening of the country’s tourism are restaurants, cafes, and COVID-19 related travel insurance.
However, there are three key trends for tourism industry during this “NEO TOURISM” era. First, customers will focus on nature tourism. Second, hygiene is the top priority for the customers. Finally, service conditions have to be flexible.
Assistant Professor Dr. Boonying Kongarchapatara, Head of Marketing Program, College of Management Mahidol University (CMMU), said that CMMU has conducted a large-scaled survey on different groups of travelers and has analyzed the findings of its “NEO TOURISM: the Traveler’s Insight” research to enable tourism business to gain resilience for the NEXT NORMAL trend or the post-COVID-19 era and to adapt to the changing customer’s behavior. The research was conducted with 1,098 participants which were divided into 2 groups namely young neo travelers and family neo travelers. Young neo travelers are those at 18-35 years of age with no children. This is the first group that the entrepreneurs have to take into consideration and adapt their services to match with the behavior of this group of customers. Family neo travelers are those at 27-45 years of age with children. This group consist of at least 2 generations of family members, is the majority of current Thai society and has higher spending per trip than other groups. New information for travel business is found as follows:
Factors enabling travelers to resume their trips are 1) less than 500 persons per day infection rate. Both groups agree on this factor at 48%. 2) over 70% of vaccinated population across the country and 3) their reception of mRNA vaccines which they are confident in. Having a look at the statistics on travel needs, it is found that 45.8% of young neo travelers and 52.2% of family neo travelers are still worried and would wait for the COVID-19 situation to ease up. 43.8% of young neo travelers and 28.3% of family neo travelers want to travel as soon as possible while 10.4% of young neo travelers and 19.6% of family neo travelers are indifferent to traveling.
Nature tourism will be the most popular type of tourism after COVID-19. The results found that 45% of young neo travelers and 61% of family neo travelers want to explore nature after having had to spend a long period of time at home. Domestic tourism will be the most-wanted alternative for the travelers with the results of 71% for young neo travelers and 92% for family neo travelers. The top three provinces that young neo travelers want to explore are Chiang Mai, Phuket and Chonburi respectively while Chiang Mai, Prachuap Khiri Khan, and Chonburi are the top three destinations for families. In addition, according to an interview with a family, they want to “explore the beaches and mountains as well as to see the sunrise and take a deep breath of natural breeze after working from home for five months in a row”. One of the young neo travelers added, “I want to travel in nature because I can get clean air and be less worried about being contacted with COVID-19”.
Assistant Professor Dr. Boonying added that post-COVID-19 tourism businesses that will profit most are restaurants and cafes because young neo travelers love to look for good places to eat which are not too crowded and have outdoor areas so they can confidently take off their masks while eating. They also look for places that are surrounded by nature where they can enjoy the scenery. For families, the focus is on in-house relaxation. They would rather have their meals at the hotel’s restaurant where they are confident of the hygiene and choose to do activities at the hotel to avoid risks from moving about. The hygiene measures, atmosphere, and services are what travelers will consider more and will be willing to suggest the place to other guests when they feel impressed. Another interesting finding is that COVID-19-related travel insurance might be popular because 59.4% of young neo travelers and 71.7% of family neo travelers are interested in buying a policy.
As for the budget and time that the travelers plan to spend for their trip after the COVID-19 situation, it is found that there is a slight change. Young neo travelers prefer a 3-4-day trip in a group of 3-4 people with the budget of 3,000-5,000 baht. Family neo travelers prefer a 3-4-day trip with their families with the budget of 3,000-5,000 baht per family. 70.7% of young neo travelers and 65.5% of family neo travelers agree that a post-trip swab test is needed. For the online channel of pre-trip information, 31.1% of young neo travelers go on Facebook for their information while 29.45% and 21.9% look for their information in Google website and YouTube respectively. For family neo travelers, 38.6% prefer to look for their information on Google website while 29.8% and 19.8% prefer Facebook and YouTube respectively. The information they look for are 1) COVID-19 measures of the places of destination 2) a number of infected people in the area and 3) information of services such as operating hours, etc.
In addition, one of the significant changes is the travelers’ increasing preference in contacting directly with the hotel (Direct to Hotel: D2H) with 2% increase among young neo travelers and 6% increase among families. There is a decrease in reserving rooms via online travel agents such as Booking.com and Agoda with 5% decrease among young neo travelers and 3% decrease among families. As for the booking conditions, both groups agree to pay more to get an amendable reservation. Both groups are worried about traveling by planes. As for traveling with public transport, young neo travelers are slightly worried while families are very worried and view that traveling in private vehicles are safer.
“Those in tourism business should consider more D2H or Direct to Hotel to adapt to this changing customers’ behavior with increasing preference in booking a room or requiring information such as hygiene measures, operating hours, booking conditions, directly from the hotel to via applications or online agents which has limitations in giving further information. Therefore, those in tourism business should try to focus on direct contact with customers via different platforms such as LINE OA, Facebook, and Instagram, etc. to facilitate the so-called Frictionless Contact. Other than that, the Direct to Customer channel such as online advertising can increase the inspiration and consideration for business tourism as well”.
Miss Thornchaya Suksaichon, a Master student at the College of Management, Mahidol University, and Head of the research team, said that the research analysis found three NEO TOURISM TRENDS to be emphasized which are 1) Nature Seeking 2) Hygieneaholic and 3) Flexi Needed and the “ROADMAP STRATEGIES” which are new tourism marketing strategies for dealing with NEO TOURISM of 2022. The summary is as follows:
- R: Reliable Service – Clear measures are needed whether it is hygiene measures, goods and service measures, or personnel willingness to give service.
- O: Optimized Experience – New tourism experience is needed and has to adapt to changing customers’ behavior.
- A: Anti-Disease – Cleanliness and safety have to be focused on and a clear operations procedure is required to give confidence to the travelers, for example, replacing a welcome drink with a welcome hygienic kit set including masks with screened hotel logo or an antigen test kit (ATK) for home use.
- D: Direct to Hotel – A direct channel of contact with the customers need to be established. This is a way to eliminate the middle person and reduce the communication gap as well as to tailor the services to customer’s needs.
- M: Media Matching – This is to use various communication channels for different target groups.
- A: Alliance – Business alliance is a good way to cooperate and render perfect services.
- P: Part of Community – This involves being a part of the community through the distribution of income to the locals, giving environmental-friendly services, and development to become a sustainable business.
The College of Management, Mahidol University (CMMU) has been organizing a seminar on marketing under the theme “Neo Tourism – the Traveler’s Insight” via Facebook Live on Facebook Page: Neo Tourism – the Traveler’s Insight. For those who are interested in pursuing a Master Degree in Management (Thai or International Programs), application is now open until 15th October 2021 at https://apply.cm.mahidol.ac.th/web/. For further information, please call 02-206-2000 or visit CMMU Mahidol Facebook page (https://www.facebook.com/CMMUMAHIDOL).