“Travellers are willing to pay a premium for brands to deliver a personal experience”

ITB Asia news spoke with Hermione Joye, Sector Lead, Travel and Vertical Search APAC, Google, ahead of her keynote at ITB Asia 2023

Hermione Joye looks at travel trends in APAC, how traveller behaviour has shifted and the influence of digital technology and artificial intelligence on the market today.

How has traveller behaviour changed in the way they plan and book their trips today and what are the main priorities for APAC travellers?
Without a doubt, the region has seen an acceleration towards all things digital in the last few years and this digital adoption looks set to continue, especially since APAC has a large Gen MZ population and one of the highest mobile app penetrations in the world.
While cost and currency fluctuations are top of mind for travellers according to our latest travel research, they are willing to pay a premium for brands to deliver a personal experience. For example, 73% of respondents are willing to pay a premium for accommodation platforms that delivered positively, and 80% are willing to pay a premium for airline platforms that delivered positively. This means travellers are more discerning about their choices and are willing to shed those extra few dollars if they perceive they’ll get a highly personalised and premium experience. While travellers are feeling the pinch of economic pressures, it’s not that they aren’t willing to travel – they just expect to get the most out of their buck.

A digitally savvy region means consumer journeys are much more fragmented, spanning a broader spectrum of touchpoints

How are travel companies harnessing digital strategies to adapt to these priorities?
A digitally savvy region means consumer journeys are much more fragmented, spanning a broader spectrum of touchpoints – search, video, social media and many more. Our research found the average post-Covid consumer journey comprises 140+ touchpoints when researching brands they have not purchased before!

This is a staggering figure but presents a huge opportunity for brands to reach out to the consumer and rise to the top of the consideration set. And artificial intelligence can play a role in helping brands drive marketing efficiencies. For example, Scoot, a low-cost airline under the Singapore Airlines group, saw at least 30% incremental conversions using the AI-powered Performance Max tool compared to non-Performance Max campaigns. By pairing Performance Max with its Search campaigns to analyse traveller intents and preferences, Scoot was able to identify new search queries that were not covered by its existing keywords, and new segments of customers it could engage. Doing so allowed Scoot to deliver ad creatives with information relevant to people’s travel intent.

How is APAC faring as a tourist destination? What do the forecasts for the future look like?
APAC is and remains a popular tourist destination. Among the fastest-growing destination countries in 2023 by search demand, we have 3 APAC countries in the top 10 list – Japan and China occupy the top 2 spots while the Philippines comes in at 10th.
We cannot talk about travel in APAC without mentioning Japan – search interest for the land of the rising sun grew almost 80% in 2023 compared to 2019, and 30% year-on-year. Its popularity among APAC travellers is undisputed – when we looked at searches on Google Flights for year-end holidays across APAC, Japan comes out on top in 9 of the 12 APAC markets.

The travel market today

For Hermione Joye, the two words that best describe the travel market today are “stability” and “opportunity”.

Stability might seem like a surprising choice after the many changes and ups and downs of the industry in the last few years due to Covid measures such as border closures, vaccinations and travel restrictions. But we are now entering a period of stability in which travellers can, according to Ms Joye, “plan and forecast their trips more than 3 months out.” Travel demand as measured by search interest is now surpassing 2019 levels and remaining high as of July 2023. APAC’s travel resurgence is surpassing that of other regions says Ms Joye, with APAC’s demand for international travel at 85% more than 2019 levels, and demand for domestic travel at 52% above 2019 levels.
And opportunity? For Hermione Joye, stability and opportunity go hand in hand: “Stability brings about opportunity, which makes travel a bright spot for the region whether that’s international travel or intra-region travel.”


The Evolution of Travel in the New Era: Embracing Change and Opportunities
L3, Begonia Ballroom, 3001A
Today – 9:00-9:15 a.m.