Aerial views: Keeping grounded travelers

In the third podcast of our Think Travel: Leadership Circle series, Hermione Joye and Pulkit Lambah sat down with travel industry leaders from AirAsia Group,, and Klook to discuss how they’ve evolved their business strategy during the pandemic to focus on apps and digital engagement.

Listen to their full chat on changes in traveler behavior trends in Asia-Pacific (APAC) on Spotify and Google Podcasts.

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 travelers carry out essential tasks and can serve as digital vaccination passports.

To find out how travelers ’app usage is evolving, Google partnered with Kantar to survey 6,000 people from six markets in APAC. We shared the findings in a recent podcast, and leading regional travel brands joined us in the discussion to speak about 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

People generally prefer using travel apps over websites, especially in emerging markets. In our research, we found that 58% of people across APAC prefer to engage with travel brands using an app, and in Thailand, India, and Indonesia, this preference was higher, at 67%.

We’re also starting to see this app-first behavior in markets that were historically desktop-first, such as Japan. 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.1

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 – 36% of travelers in APAC and 46% of travelers in India, Indonesia, and Thailand said that they engage more with apps for safety reasons. In the last 18 months, app performance and features have improved, with the integration of important travel details such as vaccination status or passport information.


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