“(The year) 2016 proved to be a solid year for Expedia hotel partners in Thailand with all top 10 international markets gaining double digit growth. This, coupled with the current initiatives from the Tourism Authority of Thailand to boost Thailand as a preferred destination1, 2017 looks to be another promising year for Thai hotels,” explained Pimpawee Nopakitgumjorn, Director of Market Management at Expedia group.
Expedia is first and foremost a technology company operating in the travel sector. It analyses vast amounts of data from a diverse range of travellers from more than 75 countries in 35 languages, with more than 600 million site visits per month, Ms Pimpawee explained.
The group reported US$60.8 billion (B2.104 trillion) in sales for 2015 and boasts more than 18,000 staff.
“It (the report) shares deep insights about traveller behaviour that can help our Thai hotel partners to optimise revenue by knowing when and where to target the right travellers at the right time with the right offer to help boost incremental demand,” she said.
According to the report, Expedia group’s top 10 international markets into Thailand (2016) in order of bookings were: 1) United States; 2) Hong Kong; 3) Japan; 4) UK; 5) Australia; 6) Singapore; 7) South Korea; 8) Germany; 9) Malaysia; and 10) Sweden.
The top five destinations most popular with travellers who booked via Expedia group sites (2016) saw Bangkok in top place and enjoying more than 30% year-on year growth, while Phuket placed second with more than 20% year-on year growth.
Other locales saw Pattaya as the third most popular Thai destination for travellers to Thailand, but enjoying more than 40% year-on year growth in 2016, while Koh Samui placed fourth (+10% year-on year growth) and Chiang Mai fifth (+20% year-on year growth).
Among the “key traveller insights” were that Thailand saw the highest growth from Hong Kong travellers, up by 1.5 times.
“Hong Kong proved to be the most valuable market, generating the highest Average Daily Rate amongst all international travellers,” said the report.
“Visitors from Hong Kong peaked from June through September, coinciding with their summer break. While top destinations included expected cities like Bangkok, Phuket and Pattaya, Hong Kong travellers are showing increasing interest in Krabi with a year-on-year growth of over 35%,” it noted.
Bolstered by the frequency of low-cost carriers in the region, Hong Kong also showed the largest year-on-year rise in package bookings at 80% growth (compared with the top 10 international markets into Thailand).
Regarding the UK and Australia as source markets, the report noted, “Australia and UK travellers demonstrate similar traits when it comes to booking and staying at hotels in Thailand. They like to be organised and secure their rooms well in advance, evident by their relatively longer booking window of over 1.5 months (about 50 days) as compared to other nationalities.
“For stand-alone hotel bookings, a large majority of them (80%) book 3-4 star hotels. Interestingly, when they make package bookings for Thailand on Expedia group sites, they are more likely to upgrade to 4-5 star hotels,” it added.
Ms Pimpawee’s advice to hoteliers was simple: “Don’t just fill your hotel – fill it with the most valuable travellers. International visitors stay longer, book further in advance and are less likely to cancel. Today, they are more price sensitive than ever before. Diversifying your distribution strategy might give you a bigger slice of the international pie, better base inventory and higher Average Daily Rate.”
In addition, Pimpawee urged hotels to give consumers the option of when to pay when booking. “Allowing consumers to have the choice of either paying for their hotel rooms at the time of booking or upon check-in enables hotels to increase their overall relevance to consumers,” she said.
However, Ms Pimpawee’s crucial advice was “Be mobile”. “More and more savvy travellers are researching and booking travel on mobile devices which includes smartphone, tablets and wearables. According to Expedia group proprietary data for 2016, over 45% of the group’s traffic arrived via mobile and nearly one in three transactions were booked on mobile devices,” she noted.
“Hotels who want to capture these travellers should consider having both a mobile web and app strategy. A partnership with the Expedia group gives hoteliers exposure across a wide range of travel brand apps and mobile web.”
Supporting the advice, the report is steeped in stunningly specific data. Regarding mobile bookings, the report notes, “The mobile space isn’t just cellphones anymore, multi-device ownership is becoming the norm. Consumers are constantly connected to their phone, computer, and tablet all at the same time.
“Mobile share of online bookings refer to bookings via cell phones, tablets and desktops. Mobile is an important growth channel in APAC. By 2017, roughly 25% of online bookings in the US and Europe and more than 33% in Asia-Pacific will be transacted via a mobile device.”
To this, the report revealed, “Through Expedia labs research, we learned that customers will search for a flight online an average of 48 times before booking a trip to ensure they had the best route and price,” adding that every second there were millions of price changes across the products Expedia offers.
“More importantly, we measured that after 90 seconds, users started forgetting what they saw…Today’s consumers are searching and buying across-devices and you have to get the transition between devices right,” the report said.
“Expedia has access to an unprecedented amount of data, one of them being 8.6 billion flight searches every year. This enables the company to leverage on the ‘Power of Real Time’ and offer this within our industry-leading online tool, known as Expedia Partner Central (EPC),” the report added.