After almost two years of closed borders across much of Asia, it’s a sigh of relief for all of us to see a number of countries now relaxing measures to entry and reopening to international travel.
With over 88% of Singapore’s population now fully vaccinated, Singapore has extended its Vaccinated Travel Lane (VTL) to 21 countries. Thailand too has re-opened its borders for international tourism by allowing fully vaccinated travellers from 63 low-risk countries to enter without a multi-day quarantine. On 15 November, Malaysia launched the Langkawi Travel Bubble and Cambodia officially reopened to vaccinated travellers without quarantine. Shortly after, Vietnam reopened the island of Phu Quoc under its new vaccine passport scheme.
As we eagerly look ahead to 2022, Destination Asia’s Global Director of Sales, Katie Buxton, is on hand to discuss Asia’s reopening, her recent return to face-to-face tradeshows, and what travel trends to expect in the year to come.
You attended your first face-to-face tradeshows last month, WTM in London and IMEX America in Las Vegas. How was it meeting partners again for the first time in two years and what were the hot travel topics discussed?
It was fantastic to be back meeting with our clients and partners face-to-face and to have the opportunity to discuss the reopening and recovery of travel in Asia after two years apart. Both shows had an upbeat mood as clients shared success stories and paid tribute to the resilience and adaptability of our industry. Overall, both shows gave us all reason to believe the industry’s future is bright.
For which of the destinations in Asia are you seeing the most interest in now?
At the moment we’re seeing interest predominantly for Thailand and Singapore, with Thailand’s Test & Go programme and Singapore’s VTL both proving to be a success. However, we have a strong pipeline of M&I business for other countries within Destination Asia’s network for Q3/Q4 of 2022, when we predict business travel will be back in full swing in Asia.
What new travel trends we will see arise in 2022 and beyond?
We’re seeing a rise in awareness surrounding sustainable tourism, the environment, and our impact on local communities, with responsible travel programmes growing in popularity. We’re also seeing growth in group sizes and increased spending as travellers want to ensure their return to international travel is memorable. Having been unable to travel to Asia for almost two years, guests are wanting to reconnect with friends and families and finally take that ‘trip of a lifetime’ that they’ve been dreaming of.
What changes, if any, has Destination Asia made to help navigate travel in Asia both during and post-COVID-19?
In the early days of COVID-19, we very quickly updated our operating standards relating to health and safety based upon four key guiding principles: protection & barriers, enhanced sanitation procedures; physical distancing compliance; and training & monitoring. These new standards have since been recognised by the World Travel & Tourism Council, meeting their ‘Safe Travels’ global protocol requirements. Additionally, we created a dedicated Travel Recovery site managed by our in-country teams to help our partners stay up-to-date with the latest entry regulations. Throughout the pandemic, we’ve also been working closely with our clients to offer as much flexibility as possible when booking with Destination Asia.
What’s your favourite travel destination in Asia and why?
Right now, I would say Hong Kong. So much more than just a stop-over city destination, Hong Kong is a melting pot of cultures where ‘East meets West’ and has an energy about it that is not found in many other Asian countries. Of course, it has designer label shopping, an abundance of fine dining, and a vibrant nightlife scene, but I think Hong Kong’s greatest secrets lie within the outdoors; there are 232 outlying islands, sandy beaches, and countless mountain paths with some of the best hiking in Asia.
Click here to view our dedicated Travel Recovery site and stay up-to-date with the latest news related to the return of travel in Asia.