Travel-Loving Malaysians Embrace Online Planning

( - Google & TNS Reveal Uncharted Territory of Opportunity.

When planning a trip; whether it be for business or for pleasure, the first thing one does is to get online, ‘Search’ for all the necessary information and once all details have been decided, plans are then booked online through one’s preferred mobile device.

Such is how the web has changed the way consumers in Malaysia make travel plans – who goes to a travel agency anymore, really?

In a collaborative effort by Google and TNS Research, a study was conducted last year across 11 Asia Pacific (APAC) countries including Malaysia, to better understand how consumers use the web to plan and make travel arrangements.

The study revealed that ‘Online’ is the screaming trend of consumers – 9 out of 10 Malaysian travelers log on to the web to research hotels, 5 in 10 travelers book accommodation online, 1 in every 4 Malaysians plan their travel using only online sources.

A New Rule-Book for New Trends?

During a recent sit-down with Google Travel Lead; Marc Woo pointed out that each trend surveyed represents an opportunity for travel businesses as well as advertisers to tap into the consumer market following this digital direction.

Marc stressed on the point that traditional business models are obsolete – they must start catering to current consumer behavior. He added that there isn’t enough attention being spotlighted on the issue.

“The web is rewriting the rules at every stage of a traveler’s journey, from dreaming, planning and booking to experiencing and then sharing their trip,” he said.

Businesses need to step up. It isn’t enough to merely have a website that comes as a default nowadays, they ought to think up ways of making their digital storefront as attractive as possible to engage a consumer to spend time on the site.

Marc went to cite some examples, “Do they have e-commerce enabled on their sites? Are they tracking their electronic storefront? Are they using the right tools to collect data on their customers and acting based on that data collected?”

“This is the foundation one has to build before they can think about capturing qualified leads,” he said.

Insipre A Dream, Capture Their Imagination.

At the beginning of the sit down, Marc relayed a tale of how his dad is inspired to travel, makes plans and books the details all from online sources as opposed to how in the old days, the telephone and brochures were the staple medium of travel agencies.

Things are drastically different for Marc’s dad nowadays. He doesn’t pick up the telephone anymore nor does he pour over brochures, he now enjoys the convenience of ‘Search’ and relies on researched or documented online videos to help him decide on his accommodation.

“The web is fundamental to how people get information and how people get inspired, more so in the case of travel.”

According to Marc, the study revealed that travelers are spending a lot of time online, researching and being inspired from online videos. Citing YouTube as a prime example, he illustrated the power of sharing online through social media platforms, especially on mobile. Photo sharing, video clips, testimonial-based websites like Tripadvisor and travel blogs all provide fresh and engaging content for potential travelers, inspiring them to act.

85% of those surveyed agree that online videos strongly influence their decision on what accommodation to choose, like Marc’s dad.

This trend is consistent across key markets in the APAC region – 7 in 10 consumers in mature markets agree online video strongly influenced their destination. 80% from emerging markets concurred.

“The industry is not moving fast enough to adopt to the change that the consumers are embracing,” he said.

92% of leisure travelers and 93% of business travelers begin planning hotel stays with a search engine, the average Malaysian leisure traveler searches 7 times before settling on a final destination, business travelers search 5 - 5.5 times, which is still quite a bit for Malaysians. 

The data proves that people would search for a particular product as opposed to a particular brand. It also revealed that people rely on social media and videos that provide fresh and engaging content.

Make An Impression – Online

The study revealed 72% of leisure travelers and 76% of business travelers respectively tend to recall on online ad compared to other more traditional mediums such as TV, print or radio. This is because online ads are targeted to their interests, relevant to the content they are browsing or relevant to the content that they express.

The power of mobile is undeniable – it’s a very “productive” medium on-the-go and Mobile-loving Malaysians are relying more and more on ‘Search’ to research and plan their trip. 41% of Malaysian travelers have used mobile to plan their holiday and 60% business planners used mobile.

Businesses have to tap into all that potential. From hotels to florists, besides targeting them on ‘Search’ with keywords, are their potential on-the-go customers being targeted with the right ads? At the right place? At the right time?

Marc explains that businesses should be thinking about all these opportunities and formulate a “smart content” marketing strategy to educate, entertain and inspire their potential travelers.

Being mobile is essential. 3 out of 5 Malaysian business travelers used smartphones to plan their accommodation, 2 in 5 used their tablets to do so. In Singapore, 4 out of 10 leisure travelers use mobile to plan and book their hotels, while more than half of business travelers follow suit.

However, many travelers find themselves frustrated when attempting to book accommodation using their mobiles. 43% say that it is easier on a PC; this shows that Malaysian hotels should ensure to optimize their sites and booking engines to accommodate consumers who are using their smartphones to plan and book a trip.

Wake Up!

“The travel industry is only just waking up to the potential of digital,” Marc said. “We hope this study will help marketers throughout Malaysia understand and engage online consumers in both at home and abroad.”

2 in 3 travelers who see an online ad click through or visit the website advertised – so why is the travel industry still sleepy?

Travel marketers looking to capitalize on these trends can explore the possibilities of digital advertising.

Mobile is not the future, it is now, central to not just a marketing strategy but more importantly, a business strategy.

“The travel industry needs to put two arms around this paradigm shift”, Marc finalized.


About this research

In partnership with TNS Research, Google interviewed a total of 11,000 Internet users (18-64 years of age) across 11 countries who identified themselves as business or leisure travelers, including over 1,000 travelers in Malaysia. The quantitative interviews were conducted in an online survey during May 2013 and aimed to understand the research and purchase behaviors of travelers in these countries. A key focus was on the role of digital media such as search, mobile, and video in driving travel decisions with an emphasis on hotel and online travel agent booking. The findings were released in July 2013.


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