Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Telling The Futures

02 January 2010

MAS and AirAsia open up about travel trends and what they are doing to jazz up the market.

To get a better insight into travel trends, Malaysia’s two major airlines agreed to share information regarding the preferences of their customers.

Malaysia Airlines (MAS) senior general manager, network & revenue management Dr Amin Khan says that the company’s focus in 2009 was to stimulate demand for travel by creating innovative fare promotions.

Their aggressive campaigns paid off with MAS registering 3.3 million passengers in the third quarter of 2009, the highest number since early 2008. Dr Amin further revealed that customers opted to travel within Malaysia and the region in the first nine months of 2009 due to the economic downturn.

Malaysia Airlines and Air Asia expect a pick-up in travel next year and are wooing travellers through their online portals. — AFP PHOTO

“We increased domestic capacity by 10% to cope with the demand, adding frequencies to popular destinations such as Bali, Seoul, Taipei, Maldives and Colombo.”

During the school holidays, Malaysians flew to cities like Brisbane, Sydney, Tokyo and Shanghai, all of which are within nine hours of flight time. On the other hand, passengers from Europe, UK and Australia were travelling to destinations beyond the nine-hour range.

Long haul travels increased in the last three months with the top three popular destinations being London, Melbourne and Hong Kong.

“People have been staying home for a while now, and of late, we have been seeing a lot of pent-up demand for travel,” says Dr Amin.

Since moving to an online travel portal, MAS has enjoyed a steady increase in bookings through MASholidays (www.masholidayz.com), reflecting a major shift in consumer behaviour where they now purchase holiday packages online without a travel consultant to guide them.

“The DIY option for MASholidays is easily done online whereby customers can choose what they want, from air tickets, hotel, transfers to tour packages. This demonstrates that customers are more knowledgeable and more confident of the security aspect of online transactions. That’s why big ticket item purchases such as long haul and extended duration holidays which have a higher than average selling price have not deterred customers from transacting online,” says Dr Amin.

MAS expects the domestic and regional destinations to be popular, and the long-haul demand to pick up if the economic recovery is sustainable.

“We are continuously working on offering new and better services. We have just launched flymas.mobi which allows travellers to book, pay, check-in and fly with us via the mobile phone. Travellers can also check for the best fares, addresses and locations of MAS’s offices globally and share their travel itinerary with friends,” says Dr Amin.

Dr Amin Khan.

In terms of new routes, MAS will offer two new weekly non-stop flights from Kuala Lumpur to Brisbane come March 2010. They are also looking at key regions such as Asia Pacific, China, India and the Middle East where growth is more robust.

Meanwhile, AirAsia was unable to provide their statistics as a group but gave an idea on the buying trends of their GO Holiday (travel portal) customers instead. Darren Goh, head of Go Holiday (commercial) revealed that domestic travel increased for 2009, especially to Langkawi and Sabah and Sarawak.

Their largest outbound is still Thailand and Indonesia with strong showing for Hong Kong and Macau. Inbound top markets come from Singapore, Indonesia, Thailand and Australia, with Taiwan and China fast emerging.

Goh says that their customers usually travel in small groups of four and below, taking an average trip of 3.3 days throughout the year and 4.5 days for year-end holidays. The trend is to take frequent short breaks.

GO Holiday customers are usually in the 24-45 age group comprising professionals, independent travellers and couples. Around 60% purchase flight and hotel, 25% just hotel and 15% purchase the whole package.

To attract more customers, GO Holiday is launching a new website (www.airasiago.com) this month featuring special interest tours like spa, golf, wellness and honeymoon and special project products like EPL and motorsports.

“Travellers are becoming more discerning, and it is very hard to find online travel agents that can bundle all the components at value rates. Travel based on activities are on the rise and product differentiation is the key for survival,” says Goh.

Goh expects their load factor to soar next year with the inclusion of new routes to India and added frequency to some of their hot destinations. They are targeting online customers, travellers who previously booked from traditional travel agents and those looking for niche tours.

“Our flight and hotel packages will still be the key driver with more focus on local chains, boutique and new hotels and resorts. We are confident in increasing our customer growth with our new booking engine,” says Goh.

Stories by Joleen LunJew

The Star


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