Looking forward: Expedia.co.th reveals the top travel trends and tips for Thai travelers in 2021

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What do Phuket, Pattaya, and Chiang Mai have in common? These were all trending destinations for Thai travelers in 2019.

Fast-forward to 2020’s trending list – it is no surprise that domestic destinations was the theme of the year: Bangkok, Pattaya, Chiang Mai, Hua Hin, Phuket, Khao Yai.

Whether it was by necessity or design, it’s clear Thais spent 2020 exploring beach towns, scenic drives, or in some cases, their own backyards. Today, Expedia.co.th released its 2021 Travel Trends Report, analyzing traveler data to uncover the biggest takeaways from an unprecedented year, and what travelers can expect in the year ahead.

In addition to tapping into its own massive database of search and demand data, this year Expedia partnered with the Airlines Reporting Corporation (ARC) for a deep dive on the effect of the pandemic on air travel.  “It’s no secret that air travel changed this year in ways we have never seen before, but people are still flying, and they will continue to fly. We are keeping a close eye on these changes to help travelers get the most from their journeys,” says Chuck Thackston, Managing Director of Data Science and Research for ARC. “Expedia and ARC are teaming up again to get to the bottom of what’s changed and equip travelers with new trip-planning insights to use when they do fly again.

Highlights from the report include:

  • Air travel trends and hacks
  • Traveler priorities in 2021
  • The top trending destinations of 2020
  • All the tropical beach cities (and other dreamy destinations) on travelers’ 2021 bucket lists

What we learned by looking at traveler behaviors in a year as unusual as 2020 is that travel will always be an integral part of our lives,” says Lavinia Rajaram, APAC Head of Communications for Expedia brand. “Travelers responded to the uncertainty and restrictions by finding ways to safely explore closer to home, and the result is a bigger emphasis on flexibility, sustainability, health, hygiene and a list of trending destinations across Thailand that are inspiring and attainable for the year ahead.”

Airfare Booking Hacks for 2021

 For six years running, travelers have relied on the annual Expedia ARC report, which analyzes billions of flight segments, to provide insider tips and tricks for getting the most out of air travel. Considering the atypical year, a new cheat sheet is needed now more than ever.

Based on ARC data, average ticket prices (ATPs) for domestic flights hit their lowest in October 2019 but fluctuated until they hit another rock bottom in August 2020, but have since started to recover. From late August to October, prices were between 25-35 percent lower year-on-year but followed the usual seasonality curve. Meanwhile, ATPs for international flights remained stable from 2019 with gradual but minor increases starting early 2020 until they peaked in August 2020 before normalizing to June 2020 levels.

What this means for travelers is that while average ticket prices are historically low for both domestic and international flights, prices rise during peak travel periods such as school breaks and the holidays. To get the best deal, travelers need to know when to book and start their trip.

  • Best day of the week to book: Sunday
    • For domestic flights, book on Sunday, not Monday to save around 16 percent
    • For international flights, book on Sunday, not Friday to save around 14 percent
  • Best day of the week to depart: Thursday and Friday
    • For domestic flights, start your trip on Friday, not Monday to save around 5 percent
    • For international flights, start your trip on Thursday, not Sunday to save nearly 7 percent

Traveler Priorities in 2021 

  • Flexibility isn’t a “nice-to-have”, it’s required: In 2021, flexibility will continue to be top of mind for Thai travelers. Luckily, flexibility is more affordable than ever: Expedia lodging data shows average daily rates for refundable bookings were more than 50 percent cheaper in 2020 compared to 2019.
  • Health and safety advancements: In the year to come, concerns about staying safe while traveling will continue to impact every aspect of trip planning, from what type of accommodations to choose to where to go to who to travel with. Since May, nearly 300,000 properties have added health and cleanliness information on Expedia.co.th, including enhanced cleaning, contactless check-in, social distancing, and other guest safety measures.
  • Travel bubbles and green lane to aid in confidence building: Travel bubble (also: air bridge, corona corridor, green lane, COVID-safe travel zone) is a bilateral arrangement between countries to ease border restrictions and allow quarantine-free travel during the coronavirus outbreak. With the Singapore – Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble paving the way for international travel resumption, travellers can expect similar closely managed travel agreements to allow for consumers to explore destinations quarantine free.
  • Majority of travelers booking less than 15 days out: According to ARC data, in 2019, the average Thai traveler booked flights around 26 days in advance of their departure date, but during the onset of the pandemic, that window lengthened to 18 days. The new normal (since August) is just 14 days out – the average advance purchase dropping below the 15-day mark for the first time in years – and illustrating how travelers have adapted to the rapidly changing environment. However, with airlines eliminating change fees travelers may feel more confident booking further out, knowing they can always change their plans down the road.
  • Thailand, a beacon for Eco Tourism: Thais have shown increasing concern for environment, culture, tradition and sustainable interest of the planet; both as travelers and tourism professionals. Initiatives have been taken by both private and public sectors to promote eco-tourism.  The Tourism Authority of Thailand (TAT), together with the Department of Marine and Coastal Resources and Ko Tao’s public and private sectors, has launched ‘The One for Nature’ project to promote responsible tourism.  For the first time in Thailand, Nann and Chiang Khan made it on the Sustainable Destinations TOP 100 list by Green Destinations Foundation.  In 2019, UNESCO and Expedia Group signed a global agreement to promote sustainable tourism and heritage conservation through an industry-first Sustainable Tourism Pledge. It was the first collaboration between UNESCO and a global online travel agency. 
  • Maximizing the trip: During the lockdown, many travelers relied on virtual tours and activities to satisfy their wanderlust. But travel resumed, whether it was just within their own cities or on a proper getaway, travelers looked at adding activities to their travel plan as a way to get the most out of their trips.

2020’s Trending Destinations

This year’s list might look a bit different than last year’s, with backyard beaches and outdoorsy escapes taking the place of exotic international destinations. Still, these domestic gems are proof there’s plenty to explore even when travelers are staying closer to home.

  1. Bangkok
  2. Pattaya
  3. Chiang Mai
  4. Phuket
  5. Hua Hin
  6. Rayong
  7. Chonburi
  8. Khao Yai
  9. Chiang Rai
  10. Songkla

The Next Big Trip: Top-searched destinations for 2021 and beyond

While nearby escapes and road trips are likely to remain popular as travelers navigate the ongoing realities of life amid a pandemic, search data proves that aspirations persist for grander, far-flung vacations. More specifically, it seems vacation-deprived Thais dreaming of their next trip fall into one of two categories:

 Island escapists. Looking at the top 20 destinations, half are islands and are popular beach destinations. After a year like 2020, it’s not hard to imagine why so many travelers want to escape to an island the next chance they get.

  • Phuket (#1)
  • Pattaya (#5)
  • Koh Samui (#6)
  • Krabi (#9)
  • Hua Hin (#11)
  • Trat (#12)
  • Maldives (#14)
  • Pang Nga (#15)
  • Nakhon Si Thammarat (#16)
  • Koh Lipe (#16)

The short-haul destination traveler. Famous among Thais are cities within Asia that are a few-hours flight from Bangkok.  Though these cities haven’t seen their usual tourist bustle over the past year, but search results make it clear that Thai travelers are eager to return and enjoy these all-time favorite destinations close to home.

  • Tokyo, Japan (#3)
  • Osaka, Japan (#7)
  • Seoul, South Korea (#8)
  • Sapporo, Japan (#10)
  • Hokkaido, Japan (#13)
  • Taipei, Taiwan (#18)
  • Yamanashi, Japan (#19)
  • Singapore (#20)

With COVID-19, it’s important to stay safe and up to date on the latest travel guidance and restrictions. Find out what to expect, how to find flexible travel and other information on the Expedia COVID-19 travel guide.

Best day of the week to book recommendation is based on average round-trip ticket prices for January through early October, for both 2019 and 2020, sourced from ARC’s global airline sales database.

Best day of the week to travel recommendation based on average round-trip ticket prices for January through early October, for both 2019 and 2020, sourced from ARC’s global airline sales database. Departure date determined by the first date of travel in an itinerary.

Trending destinations are some of the markets seeing the best growth year-over-year, based on lodging demand on Expedia.co.th between Jan. 1, 2020 – Sept. 14, 2020 compared to the same timeframe in 2019.

Top searched destinations based on lodging interest on Expedia.co.th between Jan 1, 2020 – Sept 12, 2020 for travel in 2021.