Issue #103 - Asia Pacific's Travel Recovery: It's Not All About China!
Now fully open, will Asia Pacific's travel recovery match the sum of its parts?
Welcome to issue 103 of Asia Travel Re:Set.
This week’s starting point is a paragraph I wrote for the Asia Media Centre:
“While 2022 set Asia Pacific on course for a recovery, results were patchy. Most regional destinations reported underwhelming arrivals figures. With a global economic slowdown forecast to crystalize in the second quarter of 2023, intra-Asian travel will be vital for building a strong recovery. There is plenty of catching up to do.”
So, let’s follow that train of thought…
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- “IN THE NEWS”
- Asia Pacific's Travel Recovery: It's Not All About China!
Now fully open, will the regional travel recovery match the sum of its parts?
- Sustainable Travel Tracking in Vietnam
What’s it like to carbon-track a trip from Ho Chi Minh City-Hanoi via Hoi An & Hue?
“IN THE NEWS”
"Replace all toilet paper with Chinese characters." From ChatGPT to skiing and climate impact to night tourism, this is a terrific review by Mark Footer, Travel Editor at SCMP, of our new book, The China Outbound Tourism Handbook 2023: 88 Practical Ways to Prepare for the New Wave of Chinese Visitors. Read HERE.
“For the first time since 2019, Asia Pacific is looking forward to a full year of travel activity – with all countries open. Destinations will be marketing hard to attract travellers from across the region – not just from China.” Read my new piece for the Asia Media Centre HERE.
Asia Pacific’s Travel Recovery: It’s Not All About China!
Now fully open, will the regional travel recovery match the sum of its parts?
[Image Source: CNBC]
This is an eye-grabbing graphic. It featured on a CNBC segment this week about South East Asia’s tourism recovery (watch HERE). The figures on screen represent the percentage rebound of tourism arrivals in each country in 2022 vs 2019.
So what are the takeaways?:
2022 was an incomplete year. South East Asia (Cambodia excepted) didn’t fully reopen until Q2. A regional recovery didn’t kick into gear until the 2nd half of the year, and accelerated towards year-end.
Percentage recovery rates disguise the base level. For example, Thailand’s 28% recovery in 2022 from 39.9 million visitors in 2019 trumps (by a big margin) Cambodia’s 35% recovery in 2022 from 6.6 million arrivals in 2019.
Rebalancing air travel supply and demand is a work in progress. This will improve through 2023, as OAG’s Mayur Patel notes in this SCMP article. In addition, visa issuance problems stifled visitation in some countries (notably Vietnam & Malaysia - where calls are rising for visa-on-arrival for everyone).
Other metrics are avialable. Singapore, for example, reported 2022 tourism receipts of “about half” the 2019 level (thanks, inflation!) despite visitor arrivals being down by two-thirds.
Measuring only visitor arrivals overlooks the strength and resilience of domestic travel region-wide, especially in Vietnam, where the inbound rebound is slower.
Perhaps, most importantly, the figures highlight that there is no single panacea. Asia Pacific is an interconnected travel market. The re-coupling of North East Asian and South East Asian markets will stimulate regional demand across 2023 and 2024.
China’s return from travel isolation will catalyse much-needed regrowth, too, but not to the extent of restoring inbound arrivals in South East Asia to 2019 levels.
Take Thailand. In 2019, 28% of its 39.9 million arrivals came from China. Even if all of those 10.99 million visitors had returned to Thailand last year, its 2022 international arrivals would have reached only 55% of the 2019 total.
In short, the travel recovery in South East Asia - and Asia Pacific - is about more than just China.
Accelerating the re-integration of South East Asian, North East Asian and Chinese air markets will shape the direction of travel in Asia Pacific over the coming years.
What will be the 88 key drivers of China’s outbound tourism recovery - and is your business prepared to welcome the new wave of Chinese tourists?
Grab your copy of the China Outbound Tourism Handbook 2023: 88 Practical Ways to Prepare for the New Wave of Chinese Visitors. Click HERE or HERE
As featured by South China Morning Post, TTG Asia, Travel Weekly Asia, Moodie Davitt Report, Asia Gaming Brief, China Table, VOA Chinese, Travel Daily Media, and many more.
Rethinking Asia Pacific Travel Integration
It’s that word “integration” that pulls all the regional threads together.
Over the past year, I have enjoyed working with the Phocuswright team to analyse and provide context to the varied-speed recovery across Asia Pacific. For me, this involved three individual Travel Market Reports assessing the travel trends, developments and demand drivers between 2021-2025.
The China Travel Market Report was published in July 2022, Southeast Asia in November 2022 and Northeast Asia in January 2023. An integrated Asia Pacific report, also including India & Australia-New Zealand, was published this month.
These multi-layered reports delve deeply to scrutinise the key segments, such as airlines, hotels, car rental, rail, OTAs and travel agents, in each market, They analyse dynamic travel drivers across the region and in domestic markets, such as mobile penetration and booking, new payment technologies, marketing strategies and travel and mobility experience innovations.
There is so much to unpack from these individual reports and the consolidated Asia Pacific report - so here are 4 resources that do it well:
1) 5 Things to Expect in the Southeast Asia Travel Market by 2025 (Phocuswire).
Gross bookings in Southeast Asia will reach 94% of the record 2019 level.
Digital transformation will continue to accelerate rapidly across Southeast Asia, with online bookings more than doubling between 2022 and 2025.
Eager to embrace all forms of mobile commerce, the region will see mobile gross bookings double its 2019 numbers.
Highly anticipated new rail services in Indonesia and Thailand will drive ridership growth. OTAs will be the key beneficiary of expanded mobile ticketing.
Uncertainty about the return of Chinese tourists will hurt Thailand most in Southeast Asia.
2) Mobile Gross Bookings Projected to Surge in Northeast Asia Led by South Korea (Phocuswire)
“The pandemic witnessed a dramatic surge in the popularity of smartphones to search and book travel, with the mobile share of online gross bookings peaking in 2021. Although this may moderate slightly, mobile gross bookings in 2023 will comfortably surpass 2019 levels. A projected $11.2 billion in 2025 would be more than double the 2019 record.” Read HERE
3) Northeast Asia’s Rebound: Beefing Countries, China’s Outbound & $11.2 Bn in Mobile Gross Bookings by 2025 (Web in Travel)
“Northeast Asia’s travel recovery began late and remains a work in progress after protracted disruptions since spring 2020. Severe travel restrictions and the lack of Chinese visitors have been challenging. Looking forward, there is optimism regarding the return of Chinese visitors, and renewed air connectivity across Asia Pacific will help fuel inbound traffic from other markets as well. Annual growth should continue to accelerate in 2023, as travel activity returns.” Read HERE
4) Unpacking Asia’s Travel Recovery Reports (Web in Travel)
This is a lively and concise podcast discussion between Pete Comeau, MD of Phocuswright & Siew Hoon Yeah, Founder & MD of Web in Travel, about the key findings from the Southeast Asia and Northeast Asia Reports. Well worth a listen. Click HERE
Sustainable Travel Tracking in Vietnam & AI in Tourism
Environmental impact and artificial intelligence (AI) are 2 of the hottest topics in tourism. This week’s The South East Asia Travel Show takes on these talking points with Bali-based Stuart McDonald, Founder of Travelfish.
Stuart discusses tracking his carbon footprint with the Capture and Path Net Zero apps during a recent trip from Ho Chi Minh City to Hanoi by train. He contrasts the challenges ahead for tourism in Hoi An and Hue. Plus, we chat about AI chatbots and building AI-generative content into travel products and services.
Listen to Sustainable Travel Tracking in Vietnam & AI in Tourism, with Stuart McDonald, Travelfish, 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 103.
The Asia Travel Re:Set newsletter will return on 24 February.
Until then, find me on LinkedIn and The South East Asia Travel Show.