After the World’s Biggest Recession, It’s Solo Travellers That Find the Deals

Hoteliers have rejoiced about the increase in occupancy rates. With a twenty percent surge in the number of booked hotel rooms throughout the first half of 2010 and an increase in travel industry spending, it seems as if Britain’s travel-friendly population was back to its old habits. But there’s one demographic that’s missed out on the industry-wide praise: internet-savvy solo travellers.

Hotel aggregator firms like Priceline and its Pacific subsidiary Agoda have helped solo travellers find low-cost room deals and fill gaps in hotel inventory, industry journalists claim. The surge in recent bookings is primarily due to families and business travellers, although individual bookings have made up a significant portion of the global accommodation market’s revenues.

Most travellers still book their flights and accommodation using an agency, primarily due to the cheaper fares and hotel rates on offer. But a growing number of solo travellers are eschewing an appointment with the travel agent in favour of an online booking, potentially saving themselves money in the process. Services like Priceline top popularity lists, along with Agoda and Orbitz.

There’s also been an increase in the number of travellers booking combined accommodation and flights through an aggregator-turned-airline. Asian low-cost carrier AirAsia has turned combined bookings into an art, encouraging solo travellers to book hotels using their website by offering a collection of coupon codes and special discounts.

While upsells, cross-sells, and special promotions are far from new in the online travel industry, their renewed presence is certainly a good sign for the travel industry. Splashes of darkness are visible in the windows of even the world’s most popular hotels, indicating that there’s still room available at below-cost rates for those with an innovative approach and sufficient tech savviness.

AirAsia’s Rapid Expansion: How One Budget Airline is Winning Asia

Malaysian low-cost carrier AirAsia has taken the world by storm since commencing operation in 1996. Over the last decade, the airline has won a considerable amount of business throughout SE Asia and its native Malaysia, winning customers that prefer a low-cost alternative to the high-end fares and expensive airlines that are ubiquitous throughout the region.

What’s most impressive, however, is that the airline has achieved a dominant position within the region’s air travel industry in little more than a decade. AirAsia’s rapid growth is amazing from a business standpoint and from a historical point, with large companies like Malaysia Airlines and well-known Singapore Airlines formerly dominating travel within the airline’s operating region.

Its customer-first strategy has won the airline praise from industry groups, with AirAsia recently named the world’s ‘best low-cost airline’ at the SkyTrax World Airline Awards. Thanks to its slick marketing operations and incredible level of customer loyalty, the airline has achieved a position that’s unique amongst low-cost airlines: few AirAsia customers use other airlines within Asia.

For a low-cost carrier, that’s quite an achievement. While Europe’s low-cost airlines are forced to fight off negative publicity and compete based on price alone, AirAsia has formed a unique spot amongst its competitors as a low-cost airline with immense customer loyalty. During the airline’s recent ‘Mind Blowing Fare’ promotion, over 500,000 tickets were sold during in a single day.

The successful formula has lead to other air travel companies in the region taking notice. Tiger Airways, a low-cost carrier based in neighbouring Singapore, plans to join forced with high-end carrier Thai Airways for a competing service. Given AirAsia’s promotional savvy and incredible level of customer loyalty, the challenge seems like one that could spark a regional air revolution.

Exploring Tokyo — The World’s Biggest City — on a Backpacker Budget

There’s no city quite like Tokyo. The Japanese capital is both the biggest city in the world and one of its most culturally interesting, combining three-hundred-year-old temples and skyscrapers, rich cultural gems with cutting-edge technology. When it comes to experiencing high-tech Asia, there’s truly no real alternative to a quick trip through Japan’s mega-metropolis.

But Tokyo has a semi-deserved reputation for expense, particularly for travellers. Ranked as one of the world’s most expensive cities for expatriates, the megacity is often thought of as a destination for those with Herculean budgets. We don’t think so – with the right spending strategy and a bit of calculated frugality, the Japanese capital can be a good budget travel destination.

Where to start? Pick a hotel that’s outside of the city centre. Tokyo has the world’s most effective public transport system and it’s pointless to ignore it by booking into a central hotel. Provided your room is within walking distance of a train station, it’s no less convenient than one in Shibuya or the Shinjuku business district.

Don’t eat out, eat up. Tokyo’s ground floor restaurants tend to be overpriced and disappointing, with basic plates of ramen attracting five-star prices. Find better prices and better quality by walking up a floor or two. Third and fourth-floor restaurants in Tokyo tend to be less expensive, more friendly, and less crowded, giving you a better travel experience and better food.

Finally, learn basic Japanese. Tokyo is expensive and impersonal at first, but with a basic collection of Japanese phrases on your side it quickly becomes a manageable city. Arm yourself with a concise phrasebook and take note of some simple Japanese sentences, particularly ones related to housing or eateries. Japanese people love to help you out, provided you’re willing to put in some effort first.