Asia-Pacific Travellers: about to transform the global tourism industry

Whether you’re prepared for it or not — the Asian-Pacific traveller is the new power tourist profile.

As of 2015, International travel from Asia-Pacific already exceeded the Americas — and is expected to be nearly double the Americas by 2030. Chinese travellers alone spent $215-billion USD abroad in 2015 and spend on average 12% more than any other travel group.

While travel from US, Canada, and Europe will increase moderately, travel from Asia Pacific will grow exponentially. They are very high value potential, and as of 2015, only 5% of people held passports, indicating big things to come. By 2030 expect swaying their purchasing and decision-making power to be critical to success of the global tourism industry.

Travel sectors likely to benefit

This market prefers curated premium tours and experiences. As well, given that language is a barrier, companies that will be successful in winning that market will make the end-to-end experience frictionless by taking care of visas, transport, hotels, guides, Instagram-perfect sight-seeing itineraries.

The markets that appear most poised to benefit from the increase from the Asia-Pacific traveler:

High-end Hotels in major cities: with a preference for luxury, shopping and easy-to-follow tours, major hubs are likely to be the main travel destination for inexperienced Asia-Pacific travellers to get more comfortable with travel. We see this daily in Vancouver, and is a major reason why Shangri-La has invested in 16 locations outside of Asia.

As investment has continued to grow in Vancouver from the APAC region, so have the number of luxury stores, supercar tours, tour companies, and personal concierge/assistant services.

Luxury Resorts: for travellers looking for a beach destination, high-end all-inclusive resorts need to only make minor changes to win over this demographic. They offer the sense of security, of being taken care of, and planned excursions that appeal to this group.

Nuanced marketing like recognizing Golden Week in January, can have a major impact on revenues and direct booking.

However, most resorts and hotels in the Americas are designed for people of a Western background — from their activities, decor, food choices, all the way to the languages spoken.

Luxury Short-Term Rentals: Airbnb, VRBO, Homestay have all grow thanks to offering an entirely new stock of accommodations. The APAC market’s new traveller may look to those traditional companies for the perfect house, villa, or condo.

Accordingly, there has been a rise in travel agents and concierge services that specifically help place luxury or international travellers into the perfect home and take away the stress of logistics, visas, itineraries. Ski destinations like Whistler will see this increase in traffic just as much as a beach destination in Costa Rica or The Bahamas.

Why this market shouldn’t be ignored

Not only is the there the benefit of increased visitors, increased investment comes along with it. Destinations that were previously considered North American domain, are now getting an influx of Chinese Investment.

The Mexican government has been wooing China for Trade and Tourism agreements —and they anticipate a 35% increase in Chinese Tourists this year alone. This increases has been felt across Asia for years with international investment fuelling new projects in countries like Thailand and the Philippines, and now it is coming to the Americas.

Spending: While Western travellers’ spending has remained fairly flat since 2008 — travellers from Emerging Markets have seen a 3x increase in spending, and aren’t showing signs of slowing down.

Growing Purchase Power: With the global middle class forecasted to grow by another three billion people between 2011 and 2031 (mostly from China and other emerging markets), the potential is huge. Their economies are stable, and job growth is exponentially higher than in the Americas.

Traveller Needs: Because they are still a very nascent market, many Asia-Pacific travellers are also first-time travellers. Over 50% of Chinese tourists still choose to book tour-based travel through a Travel Agent that they feel understands their unique needs.

But most importantly…

Chinese Investors will meet their needs if Western Companies don’t.

While many Caribbean hotels and resorts have been focused on the North American market, Chinese companies have been heavily investing in International Tourism to profit on the Asia-Pacific travel boom.

In 2016, China’s HNA Group acquired Carlson Hotel Inc, 25% of Hilton Worldwide, and now has 2 seats on Hilton’s (10 seat) board. As of May 2017, they are officially in the market to acquire a major Cruise Line.

At the same time, Chinese insurer Anbang Insurance Group (owner of the iconic Waldorf Astoria in New York) lost a bidding war with Marriott International Inc for the acquisition of Starwood.

However if existing Hotels and Resorts aren’t prepared to personalize for the cultural norms, language barriers and Visa help required — there are Chinese investors waiting in the corners to take that market share in the Americas.

How can companies meet the needs of both the American and Asia-Pacific Traveller?

Technology can enable this.

As a whole, Travel is getting cheaper and safer, in large part thanks to technology. So how can legacy resorts cater to this changing traveller — when finding reliable staff who speak English can already feel like a challenge.

New and emerging technologies can help to bridge that gap. Internet of Things devices can create a seamless experience that doesn’t require verbal or written commands.

Mobile apps like Uber and Google Translate are already allowing people to communicate between languages. Machine learning and guest analytics can arm concierge staff with predictive cues to better serve a guest with different needs. Many of these technologies have been a response to the changes in the global travel audience, and are just the beginning.

How do you think Resorts and Hotels in the Americas can best adapt to this increase of Asia-Pacific travellers?

Brittany Hobbs is a Researcher, Customer Experience Strategist and Innovation Consultant in Vancouver, Canada. As GM of PH1 Media she leads trend innovation workshops, research programs and strategies for businesses that want to future-proof their relationships with customers.