HotelsSuch packages provide hospitality and tourism players with a much-needed cashline and help to protect livelihoods in a sector hard hit by the coronavirus pandemic

Rush of 'buy now, stay later' deals prop up demand for future travel

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‘Buy now book later’ packages featuring of TreeHouse Villa, an adults-only luxury resort on the island of Koh Yao Noi in Thailand’s Phang Nga Bay, sold more than 1,000 bookings within 24 hours, according to Luxury Escapes. Credit: JessJaparman/Instagram
‘Buy now book later’ packages featuring of TreeHouse Villa, an adults-only luxury resort on the island of Koh Yao Noi in Thailand’s Phang Nga Bay, sold more than 1,000 bookings within 24 hours, according to Luxury Escapes. Credit: JessJaparman/Instagram

As travel curbs ease and domestic tourism restart in many countries across Asia Pacific, travel industry players are seeing encouraging demand from would-be travellers in ‘buy now stay later’ promotions.

Such deals have also become a critical lifeline for many crisis-hit hospitality and tourism players to boost much-needed revenue and protect jobs as they reopen their doors for business again.

In Thailand, French hospitality giant Accor has introduced the Buy Now, Stay Later voucher sale to the domestic market, offering packages of up to 50 percent off with the flexibility of stay until end of 2020.

These offers appeal to people who are “excited to return to travel and are looking for great value”, and those who have booked the vouchers cover a range of demographics, according to Ianic Menard, Accor vice president of sales, marketing and distribution for Upper Southeast & Northeast Asia and the Maldives.

“The need for flexibility is key, so we are incorporating this into our strategies as much as possible. We have also recognised travellers’ willingness to pay upfront for amazing offers, even if intended travel dates are still unknown. The use of voucher sales helps to meet both of these key drivers, by offering great deals without the need to select stay dates at the time of purchase,” he remarked.

Flexibility has always been a key drawcard for the curated list of limited-time luxury travel packages that Luxury Escapes offers to its three-million-plus members, said Graham Hills, head of Asia at Luxury Escapes.

“We have always championed advanced bookings with an average lead time from booking to staying of approximately three months domestically and 12 months internationally,” he said. “We have also improved on a unique feature of ours called the ‘buy now book later’ product which allows our members to choose travel dates later when there is more confidence in travel."

Domestic pivot

While the global health crisis has not led to any change in Luxury Escapes’ focus on limited-time offers, the company is now “leaning more” into closer-to-home domestic products and destinations as well as markets that are further along in their Covid recovery where travel is starting to resume, including Australia, New Zealand and Thailand, Mr Hills told Travel Weekly Asia.

The biggest change in the wake of the Covid-19 pandemic, said Mr Hills, is the increase in demand for domestic stays. “With borders closed for many countries, international travel is not an immediate option, but people still want to ‘escape’ after the lockdown, so deals closer to home significantly increase in importance,” he added.

The Australian market, for instance, “has been fast to start the recovery journey” with many opting to book a staycation or an interstate holiday in anticipation for state borders to reopen.

For Accor, likewise, the Bangkok market has responded positively for nearby destinations such as Hua Hin, Pattaya and Jomtien, as well as urban staycations at luxury properties in the Thai capital. “We are optimistic for increased interest in Phuket, Southern Thailand and Chiang Mai from the domestic market, now that flight access is increasing,” he told Travel Weekly Asia.

Inspiring international travel
Though Accor’s focus remains on domestic markets whilst country borders remain closed, Mr Menard is anticipating demand from regional markets in Asia to pick up once international travel restrictions are eased in the second phase of recovery.

As ‘buy now book later’ deals allow travellers to continue in their inspiration dream phase and have something to look forward to, noted Mr Hills, such trend is particularly evident for deals in the Maldives, Fiji and Southeast Asia.

The Singapore market has registered a steady increase in international bookings while similar recovery patterns also observed for markets like Thailand, Malaysia and Vietnam.

“Maldives remains on people’s bucket lists with search queries still relatively high and bookings steady – we expect this to be a key destination as their plans to reopen from July come to life,” said Mr Hills.

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