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East Meets West: Is Asia A Driving Force For Travel Globally?

May 13, 2019

Travel industry news is awash with posts and articles about China, and the influence its considerable traveling population has on global tourism. But, Asia’s impact on travel isn’t isolated to China alone nor is the influence one-sided. Travel inherently brings cultures together, and that synergy can be seen in the industry itself. Eastern and Western countries both lead and borrow from each other.

The growing number of Asian travelers is impressive, and a range of analyses and reports back that up.

  • “When you look at the travel statistics, over the past five years, travel has grown at about one and a half times the rate of GDP around the world, but in Asia it’s more around twice the rate of GDP growth. So, we [Hyatt] think Asia continues to be critically important.”  Mark Hoplamazian, CEO, Hyatt
  • ”The statistics of the World Travel Monitor® are impressive proof that in recent years Asia has gradually become the most important driving force in the international tourism market.” Dr. Martin Buck, Senior Vice President, Travel & Logistics at Messe Berlin

Has “Regional” Taken On A New Meaning?

Asian travel companies are being described as “test beds, disruptors,” and “travel enablers” in trade press.

Komal Nathani reports for that Western travel intermediaries are expanding their reach in the region through local partnerships, while Asian intermediaries are investing in their online presence. “Countries such as South Korea, Australia and China are global frontrunners in digital connectivity,” Nathani adds. “Other countries such as Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia are also gathering pace, developing user-friendly online booking platforms and convenient online payment systems.

In terms of business travel, Andrew Sheivachman writes for, “Upstart travel management platforms in North America and Europe are inspiring similar efforts in Asia,” including Singapore-based Travelstop’s localized versions of its platform. “Clever startups operating in Asia are helping to reshape the future of travel booking in the region. Their innovations could soon spread across the world—benefitting business travelers everywhere.”

According to, “Chinese firms that are stakeholders in the tourism industry are also making more substantial efforts to reach out to non-Chinese consumers, just as an increasingly large number of Western firms are attempting to tap into the revenue of Chinese outbound travel.”

Are Travelers’ Habits Regional?

In some cases, Asian and Western travel habits are similar, no matter where we call home.  For example, Agoda’s Family Travel Trends 2018 found that travelers in many of the countries surveyed take two to four family trips a year and the trips last one to three or four to seven days. The UK, US, Malaysia, Singapore and Vietnam were all very similar. The study also looked at who is traveling together, what they look forward to and what they’re concerned about.  Again, there was more similarity than differences between countries.

In another Agoda global survey (conducted by YouGov), an interesting difference between Asian and Western travelers came to light. There was “a big age gap when it came to solo Asian and Western travelers.” The Solo Travel Trends 2018 survey found that Asian solo travelers “are likely to be younger than their counterparts from the West.”

They surveyed 10,784 respondents, and 41% percent of solo Asian travelers were Millennials and 38% were Gen Zers. For Western countries Baby Boomers (39%) and Gen Xers (24%) are more likely to travel solo. The Western solo travelers also take longer vacations—four to seven nights, versus one to three nights for Asian solo travelers. The top destination for solo travelers in Asia is Bangkok and for Western travelers it is London.

As travel companies become even more global and serve travelers around the world, understanding and engaging both Eastern and Western travelers is vital. Sensitivity to regional and cultural preferences is key. And there are plenty of examples of ways in which that’s happening. Conde Nast’s Mark Ellwood suggests Las Vegas hotels know they must have a Chinese restaurant to attract “long-distance high rollers.” Other Western properties consider feng shui in their designs or home comforts in rooms.  For Swire Hotels’ first property in North American, EAST Miami, the hotel “sits embedded in an entertainment complex with a mall and movie theater easily accessible, an approach that’s standard in Asia but less common here.”

Paying Suppliers Globally

While catering to the needs and desires of travelers, it’s also important for travel companies to put in place a supplier payments strategy that allows you to achieve global acceptance at maximum profitability.

Your payments provider should partner with you to create a tailored approach to local, regional and global payments that allows you to operate easier and faster. Paired with these expertize, you should look for a virtual payments solution that offers a wide range of options to cater to the needs of each individual payment you make to improve acceptance and optimize payment flows and costs.

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