Issue #101 - Chinese Travel Returns, South East Asia Prepares!
All the pieces of Asia Pacific’s disrupted travel jigsaw are now back in place.
Welcome to issue 101 of Asia Travel Re:Set… and a big bienvenido to all new subscribers who jumped aboard over the past month.
So, China is reopen - and all the pieces of Asia Pacific’s travel jigsaw are back in place. This should make for a compelling 2023, so stay tuned as we’ve got some good stuff lined up over over the coming weeks.
Before that, a gentle easing into the New Year. Not much analysis from me today. I’ve done a lot of that lately, with much more coming up when we publish the 2023 China Outbound Tourism Handbook next Sunday.
Many thanks in the meantime to all media that reached out in recent weeks, including BBC News, BBC World, CNA, Al Jazeera, Australian Financial Review, VOA and BFM.
So today, I’ll take a quick trip around South East Asia to see how the return of travel from China is being reported one week before Lunar New Year. It’s a mixed picture.
Thanks for checking-in
- “IN THE NEWS”
- Chinese Travel Returns, South East Asia Prepares!
From Zero-Covid to Maximum Panic for South East Asian tourism planners
- China Reopens for Travel: What Happens Next?
We navigate all the pertinent issues with Prof. Wolfgang Georg Arlt, CEO of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI)
“IN THE NEWS”
A couple of recent TV news interviews for me discussing China’s return to travel — I joined Channel News Asia (CNA) with Angela Chan on 27 December, shortly after China announced its removal of quarantine. On 9 January, the day after China reopened, I chatted with Karishma Vaswani on BBC News.
And then to radio, to discuss the pressing issues for Malaysia’s new Minister of Tourism. Arts & Culture on Kuala Lumpur-based BFM. Listen HERE.
Chinese Travel Returns, South East Asia Prepares!
A quick trip around the region to see how China’s return to travel is being reported
"Welcome to Thailand!" Thai Deputy Prime Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and other senior officials said on Monday to the first group of Chinese tourists arriving at Thailand's Suvarnabhumi Airport in Bangkok. The 269 passengers from Xiamen, East China's Fujian province, were greeted with flowers and gift bags.”
Those were the upbeat words of China Daily reporting on the red carpet rolled out to China’s first post-reopening arrivals in the Thai capital. Quite a welcome!
Thailand's tourism authority forecasts 300,000 Chinese tourists in the first quarter, and 5 million across 2023. However, as I wrote in this piece for Midas Aviation, “Thailand’s state planning division has admitted China’s reopening ‘was faster than expected’ and reconvened its number crunchers.” A new 2023 forecast is due soon.
Forecasting is taken very seriously in Thailand, which is South East Asia’s most-visited country and in 2019 greeted 10.99 million arrivals from China. So seriously, in fact, that it this week floated the notion of receiving 80 million visitors per year by 2027. That’s a whole lot of “quality tourists.”
In other news, it should be noted that Thailand’s neighbours gleefully reported its long-delayed new Tourism Fee, which will finally come into force in June. Maybe.
Next to Malaysia, where Chinese media showed a video of “6,000 red lanterns in the iconic Thean Hou Temple to usher in the upcoming Chinese Lunar New Year.” Meanwhile, new Tourism, Arts & Culture Minister Tiong King Sing cautioned against a “public overreaction” to Chinese tourists returning:
“Some quarters said we should not allow tourists from China into Malaysia. I want to request that people don’t overreact. We cannot implement special control on China’s tourists, that’s not fair.”
Anecdotally, but having spoken to many people here in KL over the past week, there are certainly mixed opinions about the return of Chinese visitors at this time.
Anxieties, too, in Singapore, including “the psychological discomfort of serving Chinese travellers among frontline workers,” notes this piece, Staying open to China travellers is a huge economic gamble for Southeast Asia, published by CNA. It goes on to say, not unreasonably, that: “This could give Southeast Asia a big win, especially if Beijing takes further retaliatory action against countries that impose new restrictions on Chinese travellers.” Those countries likely include Japan and South Korea.
Published on 22 January…
The China Outbound Tourism Handbook 2023 helps readers to place in context the rapid expansion of Chinese domestic and outbound travel over the last decade. It explores the dramatic changes within China over the past 3 years – and guides readers to view Chinese tourism through a dynamic new lens for an unfolding era.
Written for the travel and tourism industry, it provides practical guidance of the ongoing shifts in Chinese travel, retail, branding, banking, fashion, gaming, sports, social commerce and mixed-reality that will influence travel patterns - and supports your business to prepare fully for a very different era of Chinese outbound tourism.
More details HERE
Pre-order your copy HERE
PLUS, join Prof. Wolfgang Georg Arlt, Anita Chan, Rong Zheng and myself for a new webinar: Chinese Outbound Tourism in the Year of the Water Rabbit - Prepare for the New Wave of Tourists, on Tuesday 17 January.
Click for more information HERE
And a short teaser HERE
OK, next up, Cambodia, where the State Secretariat of Civil Aviation’s spokesman Sin Chansereyvutha this week told Xinhua: “For 2023, we predict that the number of air passengers will be doubled thanks to China's reopening.” Cambodia is targeting 4.6 million air passengers this year - and expects more than 1 million visitors from China.
Indonesia, meanwhile, is going lower with its forecast. “An estimated 253,000 Chinese tourists will land in the country for vacation this year,” said Tourism & Creative Economy Minister Sandiago Uno this week. That’s a long way short of 2.07 million in 2019, but gives it plenty of scope to revise upwards later in the year.
In Laos, all eyes are on an expected surge of ridership on the China-Laos train - and at the border crosspoint at Boten. So far, the Laotian Times reports, “Most visitors who crossed the border into Laos were Chinese visitors and workers.” It added, “However, following the Chinese New Year period, Laos is hoping to welcome more visitors from China.” In preparation, “Many hotels and restaurants are hiring staff who can speak English and Chinese in readiness for the expected influx of visitors, many of whom are expected to arrive via the Laos-China Railway.”
One noticeable trend is a spike of articles being reprinted in South East Asian media from Chinese media. The Manila Times published this Global Times piece noting that “Thailand, Malaysia, Singapore and Indonesia are among the top 10 popular countries and regions” currently being searched on a leading Chinese OTA. Curiously, the piece didn’t mention the Philippines. Never mind, speaking to Chinese media, President Ferdinand Marcos Jr “invited Chinese tourists to visit the Philippines again ‘and in even bigger numbers’.”
And finally to…
Vietnam, which (interesting timing, this) “asked Japan for the second time on Friday for support in building a north-south high-speed railway,” reports VN Express. The proposed line would connect (in 2 phases) Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City and cost circa USD58 billion.
But back to China, which was Vietnam's largest tourism source market in 2019, with 5.8 million arrivals. Vietnam has been fairly circumspect so far about its expectations for 2023. That said, this week Saigon News forecast Chinese tourists “will come back to the country in March.”
Plenty of time for local tourism businesses to read our new Handbook in preparation!
China Reopens for Travel: What Happens Next?
China dominates all current analysis of travel and tourism. So it’s a pleasure to welcome Prof. Wolfgang Georg Arlt, CEO of the China Outbound Tourism Research Institute (COTRI). Hannah interviews Wolfgang and myself about all things China, including The 2023 China Outbound Tourism Handbook, which is out on 22 January.
We address more than 15 critical areas of interest for the travel and tourism industry (and related sectors) about the return of Chinese travellers. These range from air travel, FIT and group tours to emerging segments, consumer technologies and, of course, how to be "China-ready" for the new era of Chinese outbound travel.
View the full question list HERE.
Listen to China Reopens for Travel: What Happens Next, with Prof Wolfgang Georg Arlt, here:
🎧 Website 🎧 Spotify 🎧 Apple Podcasts
Or search for The South East Asia Travel Show on any podcast platform.
And, that’s a wrap for Issue 101.
The Asia Travel Re:Set newsletter will return (en route from Paris!) on 29 January.
Until then, find me on LinkedIn, the Asia Travel Re:Set website and The South East Asia Travel Show.
And don’t forget our Chinese Outbound Tourism Restart Webinar on Tuesday…