Localize your travel sites to make the most of Asian bookings
Despite much of the world recording relatively slow economic growth over the past few years, Asia is a region that has been bucking this trend to enjoy unprecedented growth.
Figures from Bloomberg cite Asia alongside Africa as top of the global growth projections over the next two years, while the latest Asian Development Bank report also names it as the fastest growing region.
Indeed, GDP growth forecasts are expected to be 6.4 per cent for 2015, much higher than other economies around the world.
Have money, will travel
This is having a knock-on effect on its population. By 2030, it's estimated that Asia will represent 66 per cent of the global middle class population and 59 per cent of middle class consumption, up from just 28 per cent and 23 per cent respectively in 2009 (Kharas, 2010).
And all that growth and extra disposable income for families leads to one significant thing: more holiday travel. Just as Europeans and Americans wanted to capitalise on their leisure time and money as soon as they were able, so too do Asians now they are part of a growth market.
This is likely to lead to significant opportunities for hoteliers, travel operators and other industries connected with the leisure industry that have a presence in Asia.
Just recently, the Asia Cruise Trends report published by Clia found that the Asian cruise market is booming and actually struggling to keep up with demand from China in particular.
Passenger capacity is expected to reach nearly 2.2 million in 2015 as larger ships are put on to meet the calls for more holidays at sea, up from 1.4 million last year and an annual growth rate of 34 per cent since 2012.
More than a third opted for cruises of two or three nights to reflect the fact that many workers in this region aren't lucky enough to have too much allocated annual leave time.
Further figures from PhoCusWright found that the Asia Pacific travel market already overtook Europe to become the world's biggest travel region three years ago, accounting for bookings worth about $320 billion.
Clearly, the only way is up for this sector. But could providers of holidays and similar products be missing out on custom by failing to meet their customers' needs in this part of the world?
Unwittingly losing Asian custom?
For example, TNooz.com found that Asian travellers often research prices online but book offline through traditional travel agencies and in-person sales.
Could this be because they're not enjoying the same range of services that people in other parts of the world have become used to?
It has been suggested that online sales will represent less than a quarter of the total Chinese travel market this year, while Japan will also be the slowest-growing online travel regions, according to TNooz.com, despite increased internet penetration and adoption of mobile devices.
Perhaps there is a case for travel companies improving their localization models to ensure customers in Asia are not being ignored – and they are not missing out on valuable revenue streams in the process.
Why localization is vital
Travel already lends itself to online research, so all companies need to do is get potential bookers to click through and they've made a sale. However, understanding the customer is perhaps more key in this industry than anywhere else, so although it might sound simple, this is actually quite a tricky thing to do.
However, it's not impossible and the first thing to do is ensure travellers can book in their native language – according to Forrester research (although it was carried out in English-speaking regions), 84 per cent of holidaymakers prefer to use websites in their own language.
If they land on a page and it isn't available in their mother tongue, they may immediately bounce off and look elsewhere. This means localizing for language is vital.
It isn't just about translation though, as quirks and cultural differences also need to be taken into consideration. For instance, Chinese people tend to prefer to make bookings over the phone, so details about this option need to be available to them.
Other countries might prefer very different breaks to their neighbours, so offering appropriate trips is a must if it is to appear as though customers are looking at products tailored to their needs.
Localizing your website for region is a great way to encourage people to keep reading your content and hopefully then be enthused enough to visit your hotel, use your airline or enjoy your resort.
Don't be tempted to go it alone though – amateur localization efforts tend to look just like they are; 'amateur', and can be just as off-putting as not localizing in the first place.
Instead, consider partnering with a dedicated language service provider (LSP), who will not only be able to translate your messages (brochures, web, video, software), but also guide you on how to identify, prioritize and capitalize on the most lucrative markets by creating a robust and actionable localization strategy.
To find out more about localization for the travel and hospitality industry, just contact us today.