The ASEAN countries, with a total population of about 640 million, are attracting increased attention as promising consumer markets.
Notably, the middle-class population in the ASEAN community – people with disposable income of US$16-US$100 per day – is projected to reach 400 million by 2020, according to Nielsen.
With a median age of 29, the ASEAN population is young compared to not only developed markets, but also the emerging markets in Asia.
To better understand consumer behaviour and purchasing attitudes of the ASEAN middle class, a targeted, face-to-face consumer survey (the Survey) was carried out by HKTDC Research in the second quarter of 2017.
More than 1,400 consumers with a minimum monthly household income of US$1,000 were interviewed in five ASEAN countries (Malaysia, Thailand, Indonesia, the Philippines and Vietnam), covering seven cities, namely Bangkok, Kuala Lumpur, Manila, Jakarta, Surabaya, Ho Chi Minh City (HCMC) and Hanoi.
All of the respondents were aged 21-60, and 80% of them were below 41 years of age (see Appendix for respondent profiles).
Travel and Leisure Most Popular Spending Category in ASEAN
Thanks to the rise of online travel agents and budget airlines, travel is becoming increasingly affordable for ASEAN’s middle class. Many young travellers prefer to make short trips more frequently to neighbouring countries on the weekends, thereby spurring strong intra-regional travel in recent years.
The HKTDC Research Survey also confirmed this trend, with “Travel and Leisure” being the top spending category in the past two years among respondents in all cities surveyed with the exception of Hanoi, which showed a stronger preference for fashion items.
It should be noted that, however, the Survey required that respondents met the minimum yearly household income of US$12,000, which is roughly three times the average per-capita income of all ASEAN countries.
Furthermore, the survey income threshold represented, respectively, six, four and two times the per capita income in Vietnam, the Philippines and Thailand.
The newly industrialising Vietnam is at the lowest end of the income spectrum among the surveyed countries, and within Vietnam, as HKTDC Research learned, the average income in HCMC is higher than that in Hanoi, and this in part explains the weaker purchasing power of Vietnamese respondents compared with the middle-class respondents in other countries.
When it comes to booking a trip, survey respondents reported that their top spending area was travel package (36% of total spending on “Travel and Leisure”), followed by hotel or other accommodation (32%), air tickets (27%) and theme parks (4%).
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