Research Insights $11.2B mobile gross bookings projected in NE Asia by 2025

$11.2B mobile gross bookings projected in NE Asia by 2025

January 2023
Phocuswright Research

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 travelers. 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 favor. Its tech-agile travelers 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.

Phocuswright Chart: NE Asia Total vs Online Gross Bookings
(Click image to view a larger version.)

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 $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.

Northeast Asia’s travel recovery began late and remains a work in progress after protracted disruptions since spring 2020. While severe travel restrictions and the lack of Chinese visitors have been challenging for the region, the downturn is not expected to last. Looking forward, there is optimism regarding the return of Chinese visitors, and renewed air connectivity across Asia Pacific markets will help fuel inbound traffic from other markets as well. Annual growth should continue to accelerate in 2023, as travel activity returns to normal; revenue is expected to surpass 2019 levels in 2023, ahead of many other APAC markets.

This report provides a comprehensive view of the Northeast Asia travel market, with a focus on the key markets of South Korea, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macau. Coverage includes detailed market sizing and projections, distribution trends, analysis of major travel segments, key developments and more.

This report is part of the Asia Pacific Travel Market Report 2021-2025 series, which includes all of the following publications (available now or coming soon):

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