The Journey to Songkran Goes Mobile: Travel Trends in Thailand

On your mark, get set, splash! Thais have been celebrating Songkran with water celebrations, religious rituals, and family visits for hundreds of years. Over the past several years, tradition met technology as festival planning and traveling went mobile. See how your brand can take part in consumers’ travel micro-moments in the lead up to the Thai New Year.

Songkran marks the first big travel season of the year in Thailand. Family members living abroad return home and young people hit the road in search of the year’s biggest water fights. Our Travel Dashboard shows that visitors arrive from all over the region, with travelers from India, the U.K., Australia, and Singapore making the most hotel accommodations searches for Thailand. As Thais and their neighbors stock up on water guns and make travel plans, they turn to the web. “Travel and tourism” searches spike in April, just before and during the festival.1 Travel search volume is growing every year in Thailand, with a 16% YoY growth from 2014 to 2015.1

Of the 40M Thais now online, 83% go online on their mobiles, with mobile growing robustly at 56% YoY (2015 vs. 2014).2 This astounding smartphone penetration is, to say the least, revolutionizing consumer behavior the world over, and nowhere more so than the home of Songkran, where Thailand has one of the highest percentage of consumers who research travel products from their smartphones.3

Thailand leads the way in percentage of online shoppers who use their smartphones to research:

The rest of the world may be headed toward a mobile future, but Thais are a couple steps ahead and already live in it.

Types of travel micro-moments

With constant access to powerful computers in their pockets (and in their clutches), Thais turn to the web to do things, go places, find out information, and buy things on a moment’s notice. These micro-moments are crucial for travel brands to understand as they look to win the hearts and minds of potential customers.

Here are the common types of micro-moments travelers all over APAC experience as they plan their Songkran adventures:

I-want-to-get-away: Dreaming moments

These daydream moments happen when travelers see something that inspires them to take a trip, whether it’s YouTube videos, conversations with friends about travel, or looking through pictures of a beautiful place they’d like to visit. At this point, travelers will search for things like “best Songkran festivals in Thailand” or “SE Asia places to visit in April.”

I-want-this-trip-to-be-perfect: Planning moments

Planning moments come next in travelers’ journeys. Here, they start to work through the logistical details of a trip: the best ways to get to their destinations, where to stay, how much it will cost, and best times to visit. Once they’ve decided they want to go to Bangkok for Songkran, for example, they may search things like “flights from Singapore to Bangkok” or “best places to eat near Bangkok.”

I-want-to-book-this: Booking moments

Once the research is done, travelers are ready to firm up their trip details. Across APAC, these booking moments can happen at home or on-the-go. This is when it’s most critical for travelers to have a seamless experience so nothing gets in the way of confirming their purchases.

I-want-to-make-the-most-of-it: Experiencing moments

Once they’re at their destination, travelers are ready to learn about their surroundings and start exploring. Eighty-six percent of Thai travelers want to try something new, so this is when people seek out new experiences (“what time does the water festival in Bangkok start?”), yummy food (“best green curry near me”), and inspiration (“top things to do in Bangkok”).

Meeting the needs of always-on travelers

It’s critical for brands to keep in mind that the old categorizations no longer apply. People can be leisure travelers one day and business travelers the next, or even both at the same time. What matters most in our micro-moments world is meeting consumers’ needs in that exact, intent-rich moment. Here are the crucial steps your travel brand can take as you prepare for influxes of travelers across APAC during Songkran and throughout the year:

Be there:

Anticipate the micro-moments travelers will have as they go about planning and experiencing their trips. Commit to having a presence during those digital moments.

Be useful:

Whether they’re researching flight options or already on the ground and need ideas, travelers are looking for assistance right then. Provide people with relevant information and help in real time.

Be quick:

If speed thrills, friction kills. Travelers want to know, go, and buy quickly so they can be on their ways. Ensure that your mobile experience is fast and frictionless. A few too many lags, and you may find your customers looking elsewhere.

Sources

  1. Google, “APAC Travel Dashboard — A Look Back at Recent Trends,” 2015.
  2. Positioning Magazine, “The Game Changer,” December 2015.
  3. Google Consumer Barometer, 2015.

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