DatabankThe country accounted for 53% of gross bookings across NE Asia in 2021, with almost two-thirds coming from online channels: Phocuswright report.

Tech-savvy Korea dominates Asian online travel market

Northeast Asia's travel industry prepares for a rebound in 2023, but economic headwinds and geopolitical tensions remain concerns.
Northeast Asia's travel industry prepares for a rebound in 2023, but economic headwinds and geopolitical tensions remain concerns. Photo Credit: Adobe Stock/diego mariottini/EyeEm

Northeast Asia's travel industry, comprised of four key regional travel markets - South Korea, Hong Kong, Taiwan and Macau – is preparing for a rebound in 2023 with the rebuilding of air connectivity across Asia Pacific markets.

However, global economic headwinds, high inflation, volatile jet fuel prices and the fallout from Russia's invasion of Ukraine are all concerns.

Weak currencies could impact spending power for outbound travellers. Regional factors, such as North Korean foreign policy and China's relations with Taiwan, loom large.

Crucially, each market is hoping that the ending of China's hardline Covid policy will nurture a robust travel bounce back. A regional recovery requires China to fully reopen. This will likely commence in the first half of 2023.

According to Phocuswright’s latest travel research report Northeast Asia Travel Market Report 2021-2025, South Korea is the region's largest travel market, accounting for 53% of gross bookings in 2021 (see figure below).

Hong Kong and Taiwan were closely matched in the second and third spots. The distribution of online bookings is weighted even further in South Korea's favour. Its tech-agile travellers accounted for almost two thirds of online gross bookings.

This reflects a diversity in booking of hotels, air, rail and car rental for domestic travel in South Korea in 2021, and limited outbound travel while other markets were stagnant. Some distance behind was Taiwan, which took the second spot for online gross bookings.

Tech-savvy Korea dominates Asian online travel market

The pandemic witnessed a dramatic surge in the popularity of smartphones to search and book travel, with the mobile share of online gross bookings peaking in 2021.

Although this may moderate slightly, an upswing in travel activity will see mobile booking volumes take off. Mobile gross bookings in 2023 will comfortably surpass 2019 levels. A projected US$11.2 billion in 2025 would be more than double the 2019 record.

The mobile travel realm is especially competitive in South Korea. Homegrown online travel brands like Good Choice, Yanolja, MyRealTrip and Tidesquare invested astutely in technology during the pandemic to capture domestic bookings and prepare for international travel to start heating up from 2021 onwards.

Acquisition activity has also been aggressive, enabling online players to add new product and service capabilities to their mobile apps and platforms.

Source: PhocusWire

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