Global vaccine rollout improves 2021’s travel outlook, says Agoda CEO John Brown

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Confidence in the vaccine rollouts, discussions around COVID-19 passports, and alternative state quarantine announcements have triggered an increase in international travel searches for certain markets, according to Agoda.  

Agoda’s search data highlights green shoots of recovery and a growing optimism by travellers across Asia that international travel will start to return, with Australia, South Korea, Japan, and Indonesia witnessing an increase in the number of international destinations in their top 30 searches in March 2021 compared to December 2020.

Travellers from these markets are joining China, Taiwan, and Singapore in their optimism for the resumption of international travel. Only Malaysia, the Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand continued to see zero international destinations in their top 30 searches in both December 2020 and March 2021.

With the recent surge of cases, Filipino travellers are less optimistic about international travel now compared to September 2020 where eight overseas destinations were in the top 30 searches. But domestically, Batangas, Boracay Island, Manila, Cebu, Subic (Zambales) are the top searched destinations.

Interestingly, however, Thailand and the Philippines both feature strongly as destinations, with Bangkok securing a spot in six out of 11 origin markets’ top 30 search lists.

Market Number of international destinations in top 30 search (March 2021) Number of international destinations in top 30 search (December 2020)
China 10 

(Hong Kong SAR, Macau SAR, Bangkok, Dubai, Singapore, Tokyo, Edinburgh, London, Cebu, Boracay Island)


(Bangkok, Macau SAR, Hong Kong SAR, Singapore, Phuket, Tokyo, Maldives, London, Taipei, Pattaya)


(Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, Manila, Boracay Island, Pattaya, Hong Kong, Phuket, Bali, Penang)

(Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Bali, Dubai, Penang, Pattaya, Manila, Hong Kong, Khao Yai)


(Tokyo, Hong Kong, Kyoto, Jeju Island, Osaka, Bangkok, Seoul, Sapporo)

(Tokyo, Kyoto, Bangkok, Hong Kong, Osaka, Maldives, Singapore, Bali)


(Bali, Pattaya, Bangkok, Manila)


South Korea

(Bangkok, Las Vegas, Tokyo, Bali)



(Bangkok, Manila, Pattaya)



(Genting Highlands, MY)

Malaysia, The Philippines, Vietnam, and Thailand 0 0


Alongside these growing searches, Agoda’s data shows booking patterns start to normalize and return to pre-COVID trends, as behaviour indicators such as lead times and prices, which both reduced heavily in the spring and summer of 2020, dip less sharply.

“There are definitely reasons for the travel industry in Asia to start to feel more optimistic, and vaccines will be critical to full recovery, but initiatives like government subsidy programmes, such as TTogether in Thailand or GoTo Japan have been successful in harnessing the demand for travel and supporting domestic accommodation providers. Agoda’s search data shows that travellers are looking to resume international travel, buoyed by the implementation of the vaccine roll-out, but there is more to do,“ explains John Brown, CEO of Agoda.

“The vaccine rollout in Asia is commencing, but the pace across the region will vary, with some markets such as Singapore being fully vaccinated this year and others like Japan, Thailand, and Vietnam looking more likely at 2022, so these heavily tourism-dependent economies need to consider how to accelerate the return to normality. Governments will need to innovate how they approach reopening of their borders, balancing the very real need for the safety of their own citizens, and visitors alike, with the economic reality. For the foreseeable future, quarantine remains a stumbling block to international travel, so the provision of alternative state quarantine (ASQ), as launched in Thailand and Hong Kong, might prove to be a sensible solution in line with a vaccine programme. Corporate technology partners able to move fast will be able to provide governments with support to manage the complex variables that markets face.”

Alternative quarantine solutions

With travellers raring to go, now more than ever, public-private collaboration is integral as the world works towards the sustainable recovery of the travel and tourism industry, an essential pillar in the Asia Pacific making up 10% of APAC’s GDP in 2019. International travel will take on a new reality with integrated measures to facilitate safe and responsible international travel, ranging from rapid testing, health certificates, COVID-19 vaccine passports, and more. Quarantine stays is another key measure with the likes of the Thailand and Hong Kong governments exploring ways for travellers to embrace quarantine stays, working closely with private companies to assist with technology solutions.

As the first market to implement ASQ, Thailand’s Ministry of Public Health and Department of Health Service Support partnered with Agoda to leverage the travel platform’s tech solutions enabling returning Thai nationals and residents to choose their preferred accommodation direct on the travel platform. With Thailand announcing the reopening of borders to international tourists this July, Agoda’s ASQ platform will offer travellers flexibility in terms of types of accommodation choice and other variables such as duration of stay.

“We are seeing rays of hope as markets announce the re-opening of borders through initiatives like the Taiwan-Palau or potential Australia-Singapore travel bubbles. With more markets exploring travel corridors, Alternative State Quarantine accommodation provides a solution to help resume international travel by enabling travellers to choose a quarantine property that best suits their needs. We are working closely with local governments and our accommodation partners to identify tech-enabled solutions to spur on and support the revival of local tourism economies,” concludes Brown.