The post-pandemic travel boom is an opportunity for the region’s marketers and advertisers to recognise that consumer behaviours and considerations have evolved significantly, says Criteo’s Kenneth Pao.

From booking flights and that postponed honeymoon holiday in Maldives to scheduling a Europe tour for a post-graduation trip, a trendy phenomenon has emerged since late 2021 – the rise of revenge travel.

While it might have been odd to pair a negatively perceived word like “revenge” with positively perceived concepts like “travel” in the past, revenge travel is fast becoming a familiar term as more consumers plan trips to make up for vacations lost during the pandemic. This comes especially as countries across the globe open their borders in a recovering economy. With more than 160 countries accessible to tourists again after prolonged lockdowns, travel bookings are now soaring to greater heights.

This is especially so in Asia Pacific. According to Criteo’s Travel Commerce Insights Report (with data from over 2,000 travel player partners in 50 countries accounting for two billion annual bookings), the region’s hotel and air bookings have exceeded pre-pandemic levels. Travel players in APAC are reporting a 377% year-on-year increase in volume of air bookings and a 235% increase in airline site traffic (Criteo: Indexed Hotel Bookings vs. Traffic compared to May 2019, pre-pandemic baseline).

While the rise of revenge travel spells great opportunities for the region’s travel players, marketers and advertisers in this space need to recognise that consumer behaviours and considerations have also greatly evolved since the start of the pandemic.

From identifying the best advertising platform to understanding the key messages that would best resonate with audiences in 2022, these are my perspectives on how to engage the revenge traveller in 2022 and beyond.

Pivoting from clicks to taps: Rise of mobile apps and web

For some of us, gone are the days when we made our travel bookings in person and for many, travel and hotel bookings have only ever been done online.

Even prior to the pandemic, booking tickets online was the way to go for most in APAC, with desktop bookings emerging as the most popular travel booking platform and recording a 260% growth in 2018. However, as the region’s consumers become increasingly mobile-first amid the pandemic, this phenomenon is starting to change.

Think about the purchases that you have made over the last month – how many of those were made on desktop versus mobile? Now compare this ratio to your purchase behaviour three years back – are you now pivoting from clicks (desktop) to taps (mobile, web and apps)? If your answer is yes, your behaviour resembles most of the consumers in APAC.

Criteo’s Travel Commerce Insights Report found that most APAC travellers begin their travel search via mobile web (78%) and nearly 63% finalise their booking on a mobile app. Mobile apps emerged as the most popular travel booking platform (63%), followed by desktop (54%) and mobile web (53%).

The implications for marketers and advertisers in travel? Do not neglect mobile web and apps in your media buy strategy. Work with an advertising partner that can help you measure and optimise a full-funnel advertising campaign powered by commerce data.

Relaxation and reconnection: Perfect pairing to entice travel

Beyond the change in preferred platforms when it comes to travel bookings, APAC consumers are also starting to have different motivations for travel.

In 2019, many in APAC would travel to gain exciting new experiences, knowledge of different cultures and a greater sense of self. Interestingly, following the pandemic, motivations for travel are now geared towards relaxation (57%) and reconnecting with family and friends (55%) (Criteo travel survey, Q2 2022 base: all respondents APAC n=5,082). In other words, the revenge traveller puts friends and family first.

In view of this, marketers and advertisers can adjust key messages in advertising campaigns such that they appeal to regional audiences who are increasingly looking to reconnect with family and friends.

A perfect, timely example would be the “To New Memories” campaign that Hilton debuted across Malaysia, the Philippines and Sri Lanka to encourage familial reconnection during Ramadan earlier this year. Driven by their research insights on how consumers were increasingly seeking reconnections with family and friends, they carefully curated a series of room and dining packages as part of this campaign to target domestic and international travellers. Ultimately, it appealed to their key motivation for travel and enabled them to reconnect with their loved ones at Hilton hotels during the festive period.

As relaxation and reconnection continue to be key motivations for travel among APAC consumers, marketers and advertisers should align their campaign messages to these insights. Taking it a step further, they can also collect zero party or first party data to identify niche preferences, such as specific associations that audience groups relate to for relaxation. From there, advertising technology tools like commerce-focused AI can easily be layered on to improve predictions and intent data, thereby enhancing advertising returns.

Green is the new black

Growing alongside the popularity of the rise of revenge travel in APAC is the rise of green travel. The pandemic has made consumers across the globe more aware of the deepening climate crisis and a greater need to adopt green practices, including travel and tourism.

Consumers across APAC collectively demonstrate strong eco-conscious sentiment, especially in India where over 76% of travellers intend to lower their carbon footprint while travelling as compared to the regional average of 54% (Criteo travel survey, Q2 2022 base: all respondents APAC n=5,082). Furthermore, more than two in three APAC consumers are looking for sustainable travel information from a variety of sources, signalling an appreciation for guidance on this topic.

This spells opportunities for travel players to curate more sustainable options for their products and packages. Furthermore, utilising intelligent product recommendations, they can trigger visits, engagement and purchases of other similar products or packages to appeal to the eco-conscious revenge traveller.

Looking ahead

While these are the latest trends in APAC, considering the rate at which the travel industry is evolving, it wouldn’t be surprising if consumers start to develop preferences for alternative travel booking platforms or different motivations for travel several months down the line.

However, if marketers and advertisers in travel stay committed to understanding consumers and anchor their advertising strategy on real-time, inter-device first party insights from consumers, I am confident that they will remain adaptable in meeting APAC consumers’ demand during revenge travel season and beyond.