APAC Travel Trends For Mobile Apps – How To Drive User Engagement

As the summers approach, travel is sure to be on everyone’s mind. Long weekends, schools closing for breaks, and demand for family travel are among the top catalysts for increased travel bookings.

In Branch’s latest festive season guide for app marketers, we found that last year, travel apps in India saw a huge spike in the number of installs from August through December. Travel companies wanting to capitalize on the seasonal surge should start preparing now by rethinking their messaging and targeting strategies. 

Graph of app install and engagement trends

X axis: Time, Sept 2020 - Dec 2021
Y axis: change in install and engagement by %

Install % shows moderate gains from 0% - 50% from Sept 2020 - March 2021. In March 2021 there is a dip, reaching -50% by May 2021. As of May 2021, install % increases steadily to Nov 2021, maxing out at 100% before taking a small dip down to ~55% in Dec 2021.

Engagement % is overall similar to install, though lag behind chrome Sept 2020 - March 2021. Highest peak is around 50% as of Aug 2021. As of Sept 2021, dips to about 20% and makes gradual gains to just under 0% by Dec 2021.

In the past years, especially after the pandemic, travel—both the ways in which consumers engage with travel brands and the experiences they expect from travel companies—has become more convenient, flexible, and personal. 

While travel apps have been successful in driving installs, user engagement and retention continue to be a challenge for many marketers. 

To help you get answers, we analyzed the top travel industry leaders in the Asia Pacific region including Australia, India, Indonesia, Hong Kong, and Singapore. As a result, we identified five strategies that are moving the needle in travel apps:

  1. Travel app user onboarding is crucial
  2. Focus on first-purchase engagement campaigns
  3. Ramp up your QR code marketing strategy
  4. Turn email into a powerful user engagement channel
  5. Leverage reward-based referral programs

How to use your marketing channels to engage with customers this holiday season 

With lockdowns out of the way globally, there’s an increase in both domestic and international travel. More people are willing to travel now than ever before. The only catch is you need to build a personalized marketing strategy that checks the boxes for travelers while driving app downloads for your travel mobile app. 

Here are five APAC travel trends that can help you create or optimize your existing mobile marketing strategy. 

1. Travel app user onboarding is crucial 

The average travel app loses 64% of users after just 30 days. This number spikes to 76% after 60 days, and 82% by 90 days. One of the key drivers that ensures users stick around in your travel app is a great user experience — one that’s tailored to their needs. 

The challenge is that you only get one chance to win over your new users. This small window of opportunity exists from when the user clicked “install app” or searched for your app, and stretches until they actually download and open your app. 

To ensure a seamless, personalized custom onboarding, use deep linking throughout your channels to route users to the accurate destination (e.g., in-app content or an app store depending on whether they have your app installed or not). 

Once a new user has successfully downloaded your app, engage them immediately. You can do this by highlighting the best features of your app, sharing or referral discounts, or promoting your loyalty program. 

Here’s what it might look like: drive new users straight to your loyalty program to display their loyalty status, highlight exactly what they’ll receive when they hit different milestones, and how they can gain more miles to redeem valuable things within your app like drink vouchers or seat upgrades. 

An example is InterMiles, a travel rewards and loyalty company, that used deep links on its social platforms to accurately direct new users to the app store. Once the app is downloaded, it highlighted a special Diwali program guiding users on how to get extra miles. 

Visual image showing process of getting users from Facebook to app:

Socials to app store to downloaded app

Another crucial element in personalized onboarding is the sign-in process on mobile devices. Your users engage with your brands across multiple platforms and devices. Make it easier and faster for them to quickly log into your travel app without leaving them frustrated by a lengthy verification process; make their travel planning journey seamless. 

Travel companies can leverage deferred deep linking with the ability to guarantee a match to enable auto-login users in apps, as well as across devices, safely and reliably. This way, you can ensure a successful onboarding experience and improve conversion rates in the long run.


2. Focus on first-purchase engagement campaigns 

After you’ve onboarded your new users, you need to nurture them down the conversion funnel. 

As our research shows, value for money is the top factor influencing travel decisions among Australians in 2022. This is also seen in India where consumers’ expectations of value for money and meaningful experiences are constantly rising based on our festive season guide for app marketers. Given this rising trend,  travel companies need to double down on their first purchase engagement strategies by putting “value for money” at the spotlight. 

Research shows that travelers tend to purchase various ancillary products significantly between the booking and check-in period. One way to promote this is by offering ancillary purchases to your users, such as upgrading your seat, buying WiFi, adding a bag, or booking a cab. You can feature these  prominently in your app directly or by deep linking from emails or push notifications. 


Bar chart showing "Significant Volume of Ancillary Sales Opportunities Exist After the Initial Booking"  Bar chart lists the following services: Assigned seat Seat/cabin upgrade Travel insurance Hire car Checked/hold luggage Entertainment Lodging Priority boarding Fast-track security Dining reservations Sightseeing tour  Chart measures each of the above by % measuring when customer would prefer to buy the services above using the following moment in the travel process: During initial booking Between booking and check-in At check-in Day of travel In destination


87% of consumers are more likely to shop with travel brands that succeed at personalizing their apps and websites. Therefore, travel companies can leverage in-app prompts and push notifications to further re-engage users back into their app where they receive the best experience with their brand. 

If you’re a travel aggregator, a great way of doing this is by recommending things to do. This can include booking rentals, suggesting interesting activities based on users’ locations, or offering rewards and discounts based on their interests, behaviors, and past brand interactions. 

You could also send push notifications upon arrival for partner programs, such as cab companies, ride shares, etc., to further improve your users’ travel experience. Display various messaging and value propositions to not just cater to your users, but also to identify the best-performing push notifications that can drive users back to your app. 

Cleartrip, an online travel company that allows users to make hotel bookings, flight bookings, and explore destinations uses Branch’s push notifications to notify users about changes and events in real-time. 

Since Branch’s push notifications are powered by deep links, they ensure that they direct users to the accurate in-app destination to reduce friction. This, in turn, helps users quickly get what they need without manually browsing through your app.

Visual image showing process of getting users from push notifications to the app


3. Ramp up your QR code marketing strategy

QR codes are an excellent way to complement your travel brand’s experience, drive engagement, or simply help users connect with your brand better. According to a Branch study, from January 2019 to January 2021 there was a 496% surge in QR codes as the last attributed touch before a conversion event. 

Use QR codes to run different campaigns around holidays—offer discounted cab rentals, free in-flight meals, free WiFi access, flight information, and more. Change messaging quickly and dynamically upload the new promotion behind your QR code to ensure your content is up to date. 

For example, GoIbibo uses QR codes on its website to navigate users to its mobile app. This works incredibly well because their web users already have some brand affinity, interest, and intent to purchase from them. As such, they’re more likely to convert to app users versus targeting consumers who are not yet in their funnel at all. 

Branch’s QR codes solution can also help you add branded QR codes on your website to decrease dropoff and increase retention by encouraging users to download your app. Since these codes are powered by deep links, you can personalize users’ experience by directing them to the same in-app content within your app that triggered their interest on the web.

Visual image showing process of getting users from computer to app:

Computer to phone camera to app store to downloaded app.


4. Turn email into a powerful user engagement channel

Converting first-time users is only half the battle. To drive engagement and retain your first-time users, optimize your email marketing campaigns in a way that motivates users to take further action in your app. 

Recommend travel destinations, personalized itineraries, weather forecasts, popular attractions, concerts and events, and top restaurants, or simply send booking reminders in your emails. You can also use email as a way to drive app downloads and engagement by alerting customers that your app can provide further benefits, like in-flight entertainment access, VIP access, complimentary meals, and shopping discounts at the airport.  

Eliminate gaps from the email-to-app journey to allow users to take immediate action without interruptions. Direct them straight to your in-app content or your mobile web depending on whether they have your app downloaded or not. To achieve this, consider partnering with a reliable linking and attribution platform that not only accurately routes users to the correct destination, but allows you to measure every install and down channel conversion precisely. 

MakeMyTrip—India’s leading player for flight bookings—nails the personalization game when it comes to its email campaigns. When a user clicks on a CTA in their email, they’re taken straight to the in-app content. No need to manually enter destination details, or search for coupon codes.

Visual graphic showing user progression from mobile web to app.


5. Leverage reward-based referral programs 

Combine referral programs with the right level of personalization. Even something as small as adding the referrer’s name in the referred user’s onboarding journey could significantly impact the referred user’s experience. 

You can then use deep links in your app to automatically apply the referred user’s credit, encourage users to engage further with your app, and deliver a seamless experience. 

For instance, MakeMyTrip allows users to send gift cards to others via multiple channels like WhatsApp, email, and social media platforms. When a user receives a gift card and clicks on the link, they’re directed straight to the MakeMyTrip app, and the gift card is automatically added to their account.

Visual showing progression of how user referrals are used in app to connect users.

To remove biases and truly understand which channels drive the most impact in terms of user acquisition, compare referral installs with other organic and paid campaigns. Branch’s powerful referral solution lets marketers track clicks, installs, and opens to analyze the performance of your mobile referrals. 

Wrapping up: The mobile user acquisition itinerary for marketers

It’s important to understand that the holiday season isn’t for reinventing the wheel but rather optimizing what’s already in place and making sure you put your user experience at the heart of everything. As a travel company, you must be prepared to capitalize on consumer spending this holiday season or risk losing substantial new installs and revenue for your business. 

Here’s a quick recap: 

  • Personalize your user onboarding experience
  • Implement deep linking throughout your channels
  • Add ancillary purchases to show value for money
  • Use push notifications for partner programs
  • Add QR codes on your website and in the real world to drive new users to the app
  • Leverage email campaigns to boost retention
  • Use deep links in referral programs for a smooth user experience

Learn more about how Branch can help you drive user engagement and acquisition this holiday season.