The evolving traveler in Asia Pacific

The travel industry is poised for an increased share of tourism from the Asia Pacific, as travelers take to the skies, roads and seas across the region. New research reveals that a series of highly contrasting traveler preferences are driving a new behavioral mix from APAC travelers.

Four out of five Asian travelers say that travel is no longer a luxury for them — it’s a necessity


The trend away from travel being seen as a luxury has been happening for some time now. The growth of the middle class has accelerated this perception, as has the ubiquity of travel images on social media. As consumers see their friends traveling the world (and sharing it online), travel has lost its “nice to have” status and moved to the “must have.”

“Barriers to travel in the region are breaking down – strong macro-economic performance, rising personal incomes, a surge in affordable travel options and increased Government support are all driving growth – meaning traveler volumes are undisputedly on the rise,” says Todd Arthur, vice president of sales and market development for Sabre Travel Network Asia Pacific.

Arthur continues, saying:

“Traveler preferences are also evolving. In today’s dynamic market, it’s not enough to serve travelers based on a traditional trip category alone, such as business or solo or senior travel. Trips are becoming more complex as traveler preferences shift.”

Motivation versus Behavior

Using a psychographic assessment of travellers, the study finds that major polarisation exists across two key dimensions around the region: ‘Motivation’ – whether a traveller is motivated by ‘self’ or ‘others’ in their travel choices – and ‘Behavior’ – specifically the level of control a person wants to exert over their trip.

Motivation provides a glimpse into the “why” behind a particular travel choice. These are the reasons a traveler might make a decision, and is generally related to either their own desires and needs or those of others.

Behavior is the resulting outcome from traveler motivations. These are the actual decisions a traveler makes, and are generally related to the amount of control a traveler prefers. These behaviors lie on a continuum between a fully-packaged trip and a completey independently-organized experience.

“It’s hard to segment consumers across the markets, but you may be able to identify some common themes based on the values of travelers and psychographics. No one has approached it this way yet.” -Andrew Herdman, Director General, Association of Asia Pacific Airlines

Defining features of the four traveler types

Mapping these polarizations across both behavior and motivation gives rise to four distinct Asian traveler types: the Explorer, Connector, Follower, and Opportunist.

One in three Asian travelers fall into the ‘Explorer’ category, making this the most common traveler type around the region. Notably, there is an almost even split of travelers, by volume, between the three remaining traveler types.



One of the primary threads is that travelers of all types are looking to control their own destiny as far as their travels. They want to have control and agency to personalize the itinerary to fit their own personal desires.

More control doesn’t mean less help!

Taking more control of a trip does not come at the expense of external support and trip guidance offered by travel providers and agents. In fact, the study finds that over three in five Asians (64%) expect to use a travel agency for their next trip.

“We’re encouraging our customers in the travel industry to ask, ‘how do I evolve my offering to connect with these travelers in the way they want?’ That’s how they’ll capture their attention and credit cards,” says Todd.

“Take the Explorers, for example. They are the traveler type most likely to want to plan their trip on the go, so there’s a great opportunity today for the industry to provide consumers with technology platforms that offer on-demand trip planning and travel shopping services.”

The traveler types also have places they are more likely to come from:

  • Connectors tend to be swaying their influence in Australia, Indonesia, Korea and New Zealand.
  • Followers are gathering together in Hong Kong, India, Japan, Malaysia and Singapore.
  • Opportunists are ready to go in China and Taiwan.

However, a small majority of travelers are more likely to be motivated to travel by self-oriented reasons (56%), seeking to build their own individuality and life experiences rather than the opportunity to gain experiences to share with others (44%).

More APAC travelers would rather control their own trip (58%) than let someone else take charge (42%)


When it comes to behavior, more travelers would rather exert control in their trip (58%) over letting someone else take charge (42%). This reflects a growing sense of consumer empowerment and willingness to invest more effort in personalizing the travel experience throughout the journey. Whether before, during or after the trip, travelers want more control.

“By going beyond traditional traveller segmentations to map the evolution of our customers at a more granular level we can hone our services to keep adding value to the travel experience,” comments Allen Leng, Corporate Office Director, Chan Brothers Travel & Director, Chan Brothers Lab.

Delivering value throughout the traveler’s journey

The regional growth is only creating more opportunities for travel suppliers to better serve travelers. As travel increases throughout the region so do potential revenues for those offering the best products.

Sabre Travel Network’s senior vice president for Asia Pacific, Roshan Mendis, concludes:

“Asia Pacific’s travel industry is booming. Not only are we the world’s largest travel market today but we are also one of the regions with the highest levels of projected growth. With this comes rapid evolution in the way people travel; their expectations, choices, likes and dislikes. We need to understand these changes to keep the travel industry players we serve at the forefront of this evolution.”

Data-driven decision support tools, such as Sabre Red Workspace, help airlines, hotels and travel agencies track and understand their customers’ evolving profiles. This understanding allows for a more collaborative traveler experience, where agents and advisors can craft more personalized and relevant experiences.

Download the full report here.

The research was conducted by The Futures Company for Sabre Corporation between June and August 2016, based on a quantitative survey of 3,233 leisure and business travelers in APAC.