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COVID-19 Data and Insights on Travel Impact in APAC


With our access to real-time traveller audiences and unmatched visibility into global travel demand, we’re in a unique position to share the current travel trends at the forefront of marketers’ minds. In this series we take a look at the data in order to aid travel marketers in their assessment of COVID-19. Marketers can use these trends to inform their campaign strategies during this period and be prepared for the recovery once the situation stabilises. The trends we’ve observed so far include: recovery in China, the short-term impact of travel restrictions, and the rise of both staycations and hotels for stranded visitors. For a deeper understanding of these trends, read more:

YoY Change in Weekly Flight Search (January–March 21)

As the virus has drastically shifted regions in the past few weeks, we continue to see the impact on travel intent vary by region. The Americas and Europe put stricter regulations in place while Asia Pacific calls it’s citizens back home.

Daily Worldwide Flight Searches to China

China is showing signs of stabilisation at this time.  However, universities around the world, primarily in the US and Europe, are closing their doors, leaving Chinese citizens to fly back to Asia, and some are bringing COVID-19 with them. Because of these closures and a call for citizens to return to the country, we’re seeing an increase in last minute, one-way tickets, but no overall trending uptick at this time. Instead, we’re seeing higher than normal flight searches as Chinese citizens depart other regions with growing infection numbers.

Year Over Year Change in Flight Search Volume (Weekly Average)

While Hong Kong, the Philippines, and Singapore, as well as South Korea, Malaysia and Taiwan all had early exposure to COVID-19, they have had tremendous success blocking the spread of this pandemic with strict travel restrictions, mandatory quarantine periods, and total lockdown in some cases. Several of these markets had recently become more lenient in an effort to return life to normalcy—including the Hubei province which announced it would lift travel restrictions this week provided they received a health clearance code. However, since opening borders, more infection has spread as populations settle back into place. In turn, these countries have re-imposed strict travel regulations for foreigners and quarantines on new arrivals. Australia has even announced they’ll be closing their borders for six months.

Sojern’s data analysis noted an interesting trend—flight searches spike each time a travel restriction was announced, followed by an immediate decline. These increases in flight searches are not signs of travel recovery in the traditional sense, but are signs that travel is to be paused in the short-term. For the travel industry, this can be interpreted as short term pain for long-term gain, as signs of governments taking the health of their people and travellers seriously is the best early indicator for true and sustained travel recovery.

Year Over Year Change in Singapore Hotel Search Volume

Much of the travel increase we’ve seen came from searches within Singapore. Early March, Singaporean hoteliers turned to staycations which worked well with families who were looking for something to do with their kids during the March school holidays, without leaving the country. Singaporeans were encouraged by the government and by local hotels and attractions to do staycations. We see that the price drops from hoteliers and the government encouragement was effective because of the dramatic rise in hotel searches from within Singapore.

Additionally, we noticed a particularly strong spike on March 18 and 19, the day that Malaysia’s borders were locked down, and thousands of Malaysian workers were suddenly stranded in Singapore. This sparked a significant influx of last-minute hotel searches as Singapore companies worked with their government to house thousands of affected employees in hotels until at least March 31st.

Year Over Year Change in Singapore Hotel Check-In Dates, Based on Searches in March

Singaporeans completing hotel searches in March are looking for staycations in March, April, and May as restrictions prevent international travel. There is a huge year-over-year increase and a strong indication that the people have confidence in their safety within Singapore. They are eager to return to life as normal and plan vacations. Learning from this example, we will look out for similar trends to detect signs of travel recovery and consumer optimism, closely monitoring each region, country, and major destination every week to identify any patterns.

We’ll continue to share more insights as we monitor the situation and provide recommendations.

Sojern‘s digital marketing solutions for travel are built on more than a decade of expertise analysing the complete traveller path to purchase. The company drives travellers from dream to destination by activating multi-channel branding and performance solutions on the Sojern Traveller Platform for more than 10,000 customers around the world. Recognised as a Deloitte Technology Fast 500 company six years in
a row, Sojern is headquartered in San Francisco, with 600 employees based in Berlin, Dubai, Dublin, Hong Kong, Istanbul, London, Mexico City, New York, Omaha, Paris,
São Paulo, Singapore and Sydney.