China Insights

Meet four types of polarized Asian Pacific travellers

Vicki Lai

Senior Consultant, Kantar Futures, Asia Pacific

Shoppers 13.02.2017 / 11:45

Friends jumping on the beach 2 col

We can define four distinct Asian Pacific traveller types: Explorer, Connector, Follower and Opportunist. Nearly half of Chinese travellers are Explorers.

Asia Pacific now leads as the world’s largest travel market and the number of those travelling has boomed. More significantly, attitudes towards travel have changed: four out of five Asian Pacific travellers feel travel is no longer a luxury but a necessity.

However, the fast-changing nature of the Asian Pacific traveller defies simplistic analysis.

In addition, the customer journey – the travel experience itself - is being reconfigured and expanded. Thanks to technology which allows us to do anything, anywhere, journeys are now more fluid, with many different phases more likely to emerge and merge. We can share as we experience; we can dream about what to do tomorrow whilst at the destination.

Evolving Travel Experience Final

These dynamics are set within the broader context of a transforming travel landscape. Shifts in the macro, consumer and market environment are driving up potential for travel, resulting in new travel needs. Asian Pacific travellers are struggling with the complexity they now face: 52% feel there are too many options and there is too much information available today. Trip optimisation has become an increased priority as people’s appetites for travel have grown and their expectations increased. Travel has become the new social currency and Asian Pacific travellers want to make sure they get the best trip experience.

These emerging travel needs require a fresh perspective on travellers in Asia Pacific which goes beyond demographics and income.

We have found polarisation exists across two key dimensions: the level of control people want to command over their trip; and their motivation behind travelling. On one end of the spectrum, a traveller might be internally focussed, seeking an experience driven entirely by their own personal fulfilment, to improve themselves, while at the other end, a traveller can be entirely motivated by external recognition and the idea of sharing with others.

Control In Travel Full

Motivation In Travel

Mapping out these polarisations gives rise to four distinct traveller types, with the largest proportion (38%) of Asian Pacific travellers falling into the Explorer type. Each type includes an even mix of business and leisure travellers, as well as a good spread across ages and gender.

Overview Of 4 Types 


Self-orientated x Likes to Take Control:

 “Travel is a way to break out of the day-to-day grind, to let loose and embrace the extraordinary. Not only do I get to discover the world, I get to discover more about myself.”


Others-orientated x Likes to be Taken Care Of:

 “Travel is my chance to spend quality time with the people closest to me. Planning can be tedious and I value any support I can get to ensure that our trip goes smoothly.”


Others-orientated x Likes to Take Control:

 “Travel is an avenue by which I express myself. I share my adventures with my loved ones and I’m constantly inspiring others through my experiences.”


Self-orientated x Likes to be Taken Care Of:

 “I just want to travel—I jump at any opportunity to explore the world. The chance to immerse in a new culture is exciting but I’d like to avoid the hassles of travel wherever I can.”


Meet The 4 Types

The four traveller types exist equally across age groups, gender and business travellers.

Detailed Data About 4 Types 

Spotlight on China

If we put the spotlight on China, the scale of rapid expansion becomes only too clear. At the start of the millennium, Chinese travellers made only 10 million international trips; within 15 years, this figure has increased more than ten-fold to 128 million trips!

Making sense of the opportunity

The diversity of Asian Pacific travellers undermines reliance on standard splits: Not only does travel in Asia Pacific consist of huge volumes of people, but also great richness in the variety of who and how travel takes place. As those who work in the industry have observed, classifying according to trip type has limited value in this dynamic market.

Nowhere is this truer than when thinking about business travellers, a key target audience. China has overtaken the US to become the world’s largest business travel market. It is also an evolving market thanks to the convergence of business and leisure needs. More than two-thirds of Chinese travellers are accompanied by their spouse or a family member for business trips.

China is notable for the dominance of Explorers – they represent almost half of all travellers in the country.

Details Of Chinese Travellers 

Technology also has played a fundamental role, delivering access to travel information and tools that have helped many travellers become independent and self-sufficient. Chinese travellers are keen for more technology. 65% wish there were more apps that would search for the best deals for pre-selected places and 53% are interested in tools that show modular activities for building personal itineraries.

However, they want to do the work themselves: 75% prefer to spend time and effort to personalise rather than pay a premium for personalised recommendations. They are also open to subtler support: 62% would welcome technology services that provide mood-based recommendations.


Establishing the defining characteristics of these traveller types reveals Asia Pacific travellers’ needs and aspirations. This knowledge presents opportunities to be more relevant, but the marketplace has to respond appropriately. For example, creating a standout travel experience has traditionally been all about service, and the default assumption of the travel provider is often to do more so that the customer does less. But 58% of Asia Pacific travellers do NOT want to be taken care of – they want to take control. As the businesses behind travel, we need to keep re-adjusting our outlook to evolve with today’s travellers.

With increasing expectations and new sources of influence, travel agencies, airlines and hospitality providers all have to consider what resources, existing and emerging, will best support these shifts in service and operations. There are new opportunities emerging in the business of travel. Everyone must stretch their horizons.

Source: Kantar Futures

Editor's notes

* This report is based on a research project conducted by Kantar Futures Company for Sabre Corporation between June and August 2016. It is first publicly released in January 2017;

* The report includes online survey results collected from Chinese mainland, Hong Kong, Taiwan, Austrlia, New Zealand, India, Indonesia, Japan, Malaysia, Singapore and South Korea;

* To reach the author, or to know more information, data and analysis of China and global tourism market, please contact us.

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