Travel TrendsThe region boasts a competitive edge for recovery over Europe or the Americas, say travel analysts.

Asia still high up on travellers' bucket list

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According to data, countries with a strong positive reputation include the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Macau, Vietnam, India, Indonesia and Cambodia. Pictured: Hot air balloons over Bagan, Myanmar
According to data, countries with a strong positive reputation include the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Macau, Vietnam, India, Indonesia and Cambodia. Pictured: Hot air balloons over Bagan, Myanmar Photo Credit: Getty Images/Zzvet

The Asia Pacific region has emerged from the global slowdown in international travel in a stronger position than destinations such as Europe and the Americas, and is still “very much on the bucket list”, according to Olivier Henry-Biabaud, CEO of TCI Research.

The travel analyst made these remarks as part of the Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA)’s recent webinar, Scenario Planning for International Visitor Arrivals in Asia Pacific - 2021-2023.

Henry-Biabaud presented Travelsat's — TCI's measurement index — sentiment data on the state and dynamic of destinations and travel brands’ ‘e-reputation’, which is shaped by online conversations, media, consumers, companies, citizens, brands and officials. Topics that build a positive reputation include nature and water-related activities, gastronomy, events, celebrations, and technology and innovation, while negative topics include travel bans, xenophobia, and anti-Chinese sentiment.

Countries with a strong positive reputation include the Maldives, Sri Lanka, Macau, Vietnam, India, Indonesia and Cambodia. Countries whose e-reputation has been ‘preserved’ include Myanmar, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Japan and Thailand, while Taiwan, New Zealand, Australia, South Korea, Hong Kong and China’s e-reputation is ‘more exposed’. China did, however, gain 20 points in the last quarter of 2020.

“Sentiment is not predictive alone of travel planning, but a positive e-reputation is essential to generate favourability towards destinations and travel brands, particularly in a post-crisis management context,” Henry-Biabaud explained.

During the webinar, Professor Haiyan Song of Hong Kong Polytechnic University’s School of Hotel and Tourism Management shared mild, medium and severe scenario forecasts of quarterly and annual visitor arrivals to 39 Asia Pacific destinations, along with recovery scenarios for the next three years.

Total visitor arrivals in the Asia Pacific are predicted to recover to 667 million (96.3%, mild scenario); 523.1 million (74.4%, medium); and 342.8 million (48.7%, severe) by 2023.

"It's good news for Southeast Asia", which Song forecasted would come under a mild scenario forecast to see 100% recovery by 2023. A similar outcome is also projected for South Asia, he added.

Findings shared by Caroline Bremner, Head of Travel Research at Euromonitor International, echoed the above forecasts.

“Expect a strong rebound especially from countries with emerging economies, such as Cambodia and Myanmar,” she said. “Asia Pacific is expected to bounce back in 2021, however greater coordination is required to open up safely.”

Bremmer added that a digital green transformation is critical for DMOs to survive and build resilience over the long term. “This is an opportunity to move away from the volume tourism model of old and embrace a more value-driven model, which really focuses on optimising the revenue and opportunities that travel and tourism can bring for local communities and businesses.”

Similar recommendations were made by Henry-Biabaud.

“Probably one of the best actions for DMOs and hotels is to focus on quality. Even if you only receive 10% of volume, if you focus on the quality, this is the best way to protect your brand for the future.”

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