Travel to Asia is on the rebound, and tour operators who have long
specialised in the region are welcoming the stampede of interest,
especially given the uncertainty last year as to when many Asian
countries would fully reopen.
Now, with even the longest holdouts having dropped three years of
Covid-related closures and restrictions, travellers are wasting no time
booking trips to the continent.
Leading the charge as one of the most sought-after destinations in
Asia this spring is Japan, which in October became one of the last
countries to fully reopen.
is booming right now. All of our departures in March and April for the
cherry blossom season have sold out," said Scott Avera, president of
Alexander + Roberts, who added that many travellers on Japan trips this
year are new clients, while about 25% are rebookings.
Intrepid Travel says Japan is one of its top-selling destinations at
the moment and that it has increased offerings to meet demand for this
"We really can't operate enough trips," said James Thornton, Intrepid
CEO. "We've just had to put on 24 additional premium trips for Japan
this season, which shows how popular the country is. It seems like every
single person wants to go to Japan for cherry blossom season this
Trafalgar, part of the Travel Corporation, recently completed a
partnership with the Japan National Tourism Organization that ran from
December to February to help jump-start tourism to the country. The
results helped turn inquiries into bookings.
"We saw a 136% growth in travellers requesting a quote for trips to
the destination over the same time period compared with 2019, and for
the full year to date, total travellers booked is up over 25%," said
Melissa DaSilva, president of TTC Tour Brands.
South Korea and Vietnam are popular
But the Land of the Rising Sun is hardly the only country drawing travellers back to Asia these days.
"Surprisingly, there's been a very large increase in demand for South
Korea," said Catherine Heald, CEO of Remote Lands, a custom travel
luxury tour operator that specialises in Asia, adding that travel to
South Korea had not been as common as to other destinations in the
region prior to the pandemic. "Everything changed with K-pop, BTS,
K-dramas and 'Squid Game.'"
Hobbins, owner of Global Village Travels in Plainfield, New Jersey,
said she, too, has fielded more client interest in South Korea lately,
particularly "for the South Korea-Japan combination, since several
flights from the East Coast transit through Seoul."
Vietnam, Cambodia and Thailand are also top sellers of late, with
Thornton saying Vietnam is Intrepid's "most popular destination
globally," while India is gradually starting to see demand return.
One country that tour operators say isn't in high demand is China,
which only ended its restrictive quarantine policy in January, reopening
to international travel, while in the midst of a massive Covid
outbreak. The U.S. State Department still has a Level 3 Travel Advisory
to China, suggesting people "reconsider travel" there, and given that
the country is not being quick to reissue tourist visas, China's rebound
may be a long time coming.
Remote Lands' Heald is among those who said clients aren't requesting China right now anyway.
"People aren't ready to go back yet," Heald said, citing hesitations
likely stemming from the Covid wave that started in December.
Rising political tensions between the U.S. and China may also be playing a role.
Lingering flight restrictions are also limiting flight availability
both into and within China, which has led to higher prices, said
Intrepid's Thornton, undercutting potential demand. Chinese airlines
have yet to fully come back online, and many U.S. carriers committed
their planes elsewhere due to China's long closure.
Thornton expects prices to drop for flights from North America to Asia
once those carriers resume normal route operations, "which will make it
more accessible for American travel."
Source: Travel Weekly