Issue #86 - 10 Asia Pacific Travel Stories You May Have Missed This Week
Updates from China, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand, Vietnam and more.
Welcome to Issue 86 of Asia Travel Re:Set…
Let’s get straight into this week’s edition - which is my once-per-month dive into 10 travel developments that may have travelled below the radar.
Thanks for being onboard.
The Sunday Itinerary
- “IN THE NEWS”
- 10 Asia Pacific Travel Stories You May Have Missed This Week
Updates from China, Japan, Singapore, Thailand, New Zealand, Vietnam and more
- 22 Travel Wishes for South East Asia in 2022: Revisited!
Almost halfway through 2022, we reassess the region’s travel progress
“IN THE NEWS”
This week, I was a speaker at the UBS OneASEAN conference. During a session entitled ASEAN Opening Up: Where have all the tourists gone?, I set out the challenges ahead for travel and tourism for the rest of 2022 and into 2023 for global and regional investors. Best question from the floor?… “When will air fares stabilise?”
10 Asia Pacific Travel Stories You May Have Missed This Week
1) Currency Crisis in Japan
If you are among the first swathe of tourists (from hand-picked countries) visiting Japan after Friday’s restricted return of inbound travel, you will have more money to spend. The Yen hit a 20-year low against the USD on Thursday. On Friday, the Ministry of Finance, Bank of Japan and Financial Services Agency issued a rare joint response vowing to intervene and prevent a slump to the feared JPY140/Dollar rate.
2) China Border Pessimism in Hong Kong
Hong Kong has “ruled out a full reopening of the border with mainland China any time soon,” notes The South China Morning Post reporting comments by outgoing Chief Executive Carrie Lam. Earlier this year, Hong Kong targeted restoring quarantine-free cross-border travel with the mainland in the second half of 2022.
3) “Crisis is Over” in Thailand
Acronyms hastily penned by advisors are voiced daily by politicians in South East Asian. Thai PM Prayut Chan-o-cha pushed the limits of credulity by announcing SMILES, a new tourism campaign. It’s a “brainstorming framework” set around the long-standing Thailand Smiles With You tagline. So, here goes: Sustainability Manpower Inclusive economy Localization Ecosystems Social innovation. Better news is that Thailand will revise its visa policy, while - according to the Tourism Authority of Thailand - “the Covid-19 crisis is over for the tourism sector.” Hmm.
4) VFR Dominates in New Zealand
As New Zealand prepares for the final part of its phased reopening in late July, optimism for a quick recovery is low according to this piece by RNZ. Figures this week showed that 61% of visitors arriving (from permitted destinations) in the first week of June checked the box Visiting Friends/Relatives as their reason for travel. This is slightly down from 65.7% in the same 2021 period (when the Trans-Tasman Travel Bubble was operating), but compares to 27% back in 2019.
5) Tourism Pricing Controversy in Indonesia
Indonesia’s Coordinating Maritime Affairs & Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan (He of the “We don’t want backpackers here” fiasco) wants to reduce daily visitors to the temple site of Borobudur in Central Java to 1,300. His plan sparked controversy regarding proposed hikes in the 2-tiered entry fee. While foreign visitors would be charged around USD100 in future, the cost for Indonesians tourists would rise to an eye-popping IDR750,000. Unsurprisingly, the new fees are currently postponed.
[Highly recommended article, What Would Buddha Think?, by Bali-based Stuart McDonald of Couchfsh, discussing the issue.]
6) Airport Terminal Reboots in Singapore
Singapore announced it will reopen Changi Terminal 4 in September, and restore flight departures from Terminal 2 (which currently receives some arrivals) in October. Both terminals were shuttered during the dark days of the pandemic. This move “will enable the airport to meet the full recovery of pre-Covid-19 passenger traffic in the Northern Winter Season beginning 30 October 2022,” says a press release.
7) Cars vs People in Malaysia
Road travel woes in Malaysia. Dominant ride-sharing app Grab has hiked rates hugely in the capital KL (despite the government subsidising petrol and diesel to stabilise prices), while traffic problems continue to worsen nationwide. This is little surprise given the preference for personal car ownership over public transport. For the first time, vehicles now outnumber people in Malaysia. New data shows 33.3 million registered vehicles versus a national population of 32.6 million.
8) Airbnb Faces the Heat in Australia
Australia’s Competition and Consumer Commission is pursuing a law suit against Airbnb over allegations of misleading consumers on the pricing of homestays. The case relates to prices published on the Airbnb booking site in Australia in USD rather than AUD. Customers later discovered that their bill was higher than expected because of the prevailing exchange rate.
9) “Environmental Vandalism” in Vietnam
I got a little, ahem, ‘feedback’ for saying “Some of these new tourism developments, particularly in Vietnam, have ‘environmental vandalism’ written all over them.” on this week’s The South East Asia Travel Show. From space tourism and giant cruise ships in Halong Bay to a transparent tourism submarine, sustainability is nowhere to be seen. I set out some of these challenges in an Opinion paper, Vietnam Confronts Dual Forces in Tourism Development: Sustainable Initiatives Versus Megaproject Investments, for a Vietnam-only edition of e-Review of Tourism Research edited by Dr Jaeyeon Choe.
10) Redefining Tourism in Bangladesh
This week, Bangladesh clarified its official definition of a ‘tourist’ in a new draft law. According to existing law, a tourist is a “a person spending more than 24 hours but less than 6 months away from home for travel or leisure purposes.” This time limit will extend from 6 months to 1 year. “If the person is away for work, he or she will not be termed a tourist,” reports The Daily Star.
And, that’s a wrap for Issue 86.
Until next week, find me on Twitter, LinkedIn, the Asia Travel Re:Set website and The South East Asia Travel Show - where this week we’ll be chatting to Cathy Germier-Hamel, CEO of Destination Mekong.
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22 Travel Wishes for South East Asia in 2022: Revisited!
Flight ticket prices. Visa duration. Government economic planning. VFR. Vaccine waning. Domestic travel subsidies. Currency values. Resource constraints. Inflation. A Covid Resurgence.
Innumerable factors will converge to influence the trajectory of travel and tourism in South East Asia in the second half of 2022.
On this week’s The South East Asia Travel Show, we reassessed the 22 Travel Wishes we set out for rebuilding travel back in January. Some we got right, others are still pending and a few others were perhaps wishful thinking.
The travel landscape has changed for the better over the past 6 months - but what should we be preparing to confront up ahead?
Listen to 22 Travel Wishes for South East Asia in 2022: Revisited, here:
Or search for The South East Asia Travel Show on any podcast platform.