Kuala Lumpur, April 26, 2022 – Before COVID-19, the countries of Southeast Asia were some of the world’s most popular travel destinations. The pandemic changed that in a matter of months — with devastating repercussions for the region’s $380 billion tourism industry. In early 2022, though, the tide started to turn again. Southeast Asian nations have eased travel restrictions, and the region’s travelers are eager to make up for lost time. They are committed to traveling more frequently, they’re open to new destinations, and they’re determined to make the most of the opportunities that are now opening up.
To understand the extent of the pent-up demand these travelers are feeling — and the oppo unity it creates for the region’s tourism operators — we took a closer look at some recent Google Search trends to gauge traveler demand.
In Southeast Asia, inbound travel – visits by non-residents to the country – has experienced the fastest upturn in the Philippines and Indonesia. The Philippines’ inbound demand has already surpassed pre-pandemic figures (104%) and Indonesia is close to a full rebound (94%). These two countries have also seen the fastest outbound travel – visits by residents to other countries – resurgence as search volumes have bounced back to 70%. Singapore is third place for both inbound and outbound travel demand.
“With borders in Southeast Asia opening and travel demand picking up, Google Search trends gives us a clearer idea of Malaysians’ travel preferences and what the reviving travel industry is looking like. Here in Malaysia, we’re seeing a steady recovery of international travel demand which has already climbed to 90% of pre-pandemic levels, and an explosion of domestic travel demand as Malaysians rediscover the country’s destinations. Because of this, we are adapting Google tools to help travelers find the long-awaited travel experience they are looking for. Our free travel insights tool enables businesses, governments and tourism boards to make decisions based on up-to-date information on travelers’ preferences” said Marc Woo, Managing Director of Google Malaysia.
In Malaysia, there was a sharp increase in travel demand following the announcement of the reopening of borders for international travel from April 1, 2022. Between March 27 and April 4, international travel demand had already climbed to 90% of pre-pandemic levels – this highlights the pent up demand for overseas holidays among Malaysians. Some of the top travel destinations by demand are big cities, and there is also a growing interest in European countries.
Domestic travel demand has exploded with Malaysians making the most of the country’s rich natural and cultural o erings. Intent for in-country travel in Q1 2022 beat 2019 levels by 30%. Malaysians have been increasingly searching for staycations (3x vs 2019 levels) and transit bus services (51% year-on-year growth), as well as exploring theme parks, heritage towns and other destinations such as George Town, Langkawi and Cameron Highlands.
Travelers crave luxury and care about sustainability
While the surge in demand is welcome, it’s impo ant that the industry understands and caters to travelers’ changing needs and preferences. Search trends make it clear that the travel environment today is more complex than it was before the pandemic.
- People are spending more time researching, planning and nding options, seeking peace of mind, and making sure they’re covered for unexpected changes. We saw year-on-year growth of more than 400% in travel insurance related searches in Malaysia.
- Malaysian travelers in particular are exhibiting preference for hassle-free leisure holidays, as searches for “all inclusive resorts” are up 120% year on year.
- Malaysians are looking for exclusive private accommodation options as they plan their overseas travel: interest in vacation rentals rose 11x year-on-year.
- There’s a growing sustainability consciousness across the region – particularly in Singapore and The Philippines. Searches related to sustainability have grown by 45% since 2019, while searches related to greenhouse gas emissions have increased by more than 163% in Singapore and by more than 156% in the Philippines.
How we’re adapting Google tools to help travelers
We’re committed to helping travelers find the long-awaited travel experience they’re looking for, while navigating the complex environment. On Google Travel, the Flights, Hotels and Things to Do sections now provide more information on COVID — and give travelers the option to search for exible booking options. The Google Travel Help website makes it easier for people to navigate travel policies, restrictions, and special requirements.
For travelers seeking out new experiences, we’ve added more destinations to the Explore tab — including smaller cities and national parks — and options to lter by interests like outdoors, beaches or skiing.
We’re also helping travelers make more sustainable choices when they research and book, including giving hotels the ability to show an eco-ce i ed badge next to their name and share details about their sustainability specific practices, and providing carbon emission estimates for flights.
Insights and tools to boost travel industry
In addition to evolving our tools for travelers, we’re doing a lot of work to help our industry partners tap into the plan for the future. Using Travel Insights with Google, businesses, governments and tourism boards can make decisions based on up-to-date information and move quickly when an opportunity arises.
To help smaller businesses in the travel industry reach potential customers on a large scale, we’ve made it possible for all hotels and travel companies to show their direct booking links in their profiles for free — and see how many people clicked on those links by generating reports on Hotel Center.
The world of travel is changing, but the experiences on o er are as exciting as ever. A new wave of travelers is heading online, ready to book and determined to get ‘revenge’ for the trips they’ve missed out on. And as demand continues to bounce back — in Southeast Asia and beyond — we’ll keep doing everything we can to make sure travelers have the information they need to make the industry recovery strong and sustainable.