In the third episode of our "Think Travel: Leadership Circle" podcast, Hermione Joye and Pulkit Lambah sat down with travel industry leaders from AirAsia Group, Tiket.com, and Klook to discuss how they've evolved their business strategy during the pandemic to focus on apps and digital engagement. Check out highlights from their chat below with additional insights from Google’s Tim Antcliff and Kantar’s Matt Beal.
Travel apps are becoming more important in APAC despite the slowdown in international travel. Companies looking for ways to help people with contactless travel during the pandemic have found apps to be crucial. They let travellers carry out essential tasks and can serve as a digital vaccination passport.
As people’s evolving expectations raise the bar for brands, these emerging trends across APAC are a window into the future of travel down under. To find out how travellers’ app usage is evolving, Google partnered with Kantar to survey 6,000 people from across six markets in APAC — including Australia. We discussed the findings in a recent podcast in which regional travel brands joined us to share how they’ve been acting on these travel industry trends to better engage with people.
Here are three key takeaways from our chat on why travel apps are essential and what makes them successful.
Apps turn phones into mobile passports
“This pandemic changed the game quite a bit. Right now, almost everyone is forced to shift to digital in every situation. But that’s because almost everything is on mobile now, and that's a huge reason why mobile apps are so important these days.” — Gaery Undarsa, co-founder and chief marketing officer at Tiket.com
Travellers’ mobile-first habits became clear as we surveyed travel app users in APAC. People generally prefer using travel apps over websites, especially in emerging markets. In our research, we found that 39% of people across Australia prefer to engage with travel brands using an app — and in Thailand, India, and Indonesia, this preference was higher, at 67%.1
This app-first behaviour is emerging in markets that were historically desktop-first, such as Japan.2 Across APAC, people said travel apps are more convenient to access on their phone, are more likely to have better deals and promotions, and are easier to browse for travel ideas compared with mobile websites.3
At the same time, COVID-19 travel restrictions and policies are accelerating travel app usage and digital transformation in the travel industry. Apps have replaced in-person interactions at travel agents or country borders — 1 in 5 travellers in Australia said they engage more with apps for safety reasons.4 Sixty-two percent of Australians also engage with brands through apps because they can do so any time and anywhere.5 And in the last 18 months, app performance and features have improved, with the integration of important travel details such as vaccination status and passport information.6
With this rapid adoption of apps, people are using phones as if they’re mobile passports. “Government subsidy or verification of vaccination status now appears on mobile apps, and that has really shifted consumer behaviour,” said Wilfred Fan, chief commercial officer at Klook. “People now see their mobile device as a pass, a permit, a certificate, or as something that they just have to use.”
To keep up with these changing travel app trends, brands have started adding new features to their apps. AirAsia incorporated a health passport into its app, while Tiket.com launched the Tiket To Do platform where travellers can update their vaccination status and other important health information.
Be the first to reach out through your app
Our research also showed that just because people install a travel app, it doesn’t necessarily mean they’ll use it.
In Australia, 84% of people have a travel brand’s app installed on their device.7 However, only 67% of them have actually used the app at least once, and only around 46% use the app regularly.8
How app usage affects brand sentiment
According to 21% of respondents from Australia, the top reason they haven’t used an installed app is because they prefer other channels such as websites — and waiting for discounts and promotions is a close second at 18%.9 Klook noted that, people, especially millennials, need a nudge like a special offer on the brand’s homepage to engage with the app. Fan said, “Millennials’ app usage is a bit more spontaneous, and quite often, we need to put something in the forefront for them to see.” That’s why Klook’s app offers up recommendations, special deals, and information on interesting things to do.
Learn more about how AirAsia, Tiket.com, and Klook are driving usage of their apps:
People prefer all-in-one apps with lots of functions
When it comes to downloading and using an app, 68% of Australian travellers prefer an app with various functions rather than many single-purpose apps.10 The top activities performed in apps are comparing prices, making bookings, looking for discounts, and browsing photos of travel destinations.11
An engaging app can make all the difference for travel brands. Sixty-five percent of Australians agree they are loyal to their favourite travel apps.12 With the rise of app usage, trends are also emerging around app activities. People now want to watch video tours of hotel rooms, take part in virtual experiences, and watch live streams such as walking tours around popular travel destinations.
The top reason people gave for continued usage of a travel app was that it had all the features they needed.
Travel industry experts on our podcast recommended that travel apps be all-in-one and have functions that cover people’s needs across their entire travel journey. Indeed, the top reason people gave for continued usage of a travel app was that it had all the features they needed.13
A one-stop app will become even more pivotal as international borders reopen and travel grows increasingly complex. Whenever people pack their bags, they’ll have to keep track of more information than they did before — from proof of vaccination to daily itineraries. That’s why they’ll likely gravitate toward apps that help them organise and access everything they need quickly, easily, and reliably.
The user experience of a multi-function app, however, is important. “When you have more and more things to sell, it's quite challenging to make a user journey that is actually seamless, that actually captures every need and want of the user,” said Aireen Omar, president of AirAsia Digital. The brand is working on a personalised app experience where people receive information that caters to their interests.
As digital transformation in the travel industry accelerates, the way people interact with travel brands is evolving. Travellers now prefer apps — we’ve also seen a preference for apps in the retail sector — so travel brands need to make apps the focus of their marketing strategy.
As Undarsa said, “Sometimes brands just try to do everything. If you need to choose, especially in the beginning, just choose one. If you need to choose, choose apps. And that's it.”