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  • Travel Daily Media chats with James Reed, CEO & Group Managing Director of Destination Asia – July 2014

Travel Daily Media chats with James Reed, CEO & Group Managing Director of Destination Asia – July 2014

James Reed, CEO & Group Managing Director of Destination Asia


What trends are Destination Asia seeing with regards to guest destination preference? For example, are you seeing rising demand for any new/emerging destinations?

Destination Asia is a destination management company with 33 operating offices in Thailand, China, Japan, Vietnam, Hong Kong, Burma (Myanmar), Singapore, Indonesia, Malaysia, Cambodia and Laos.

The more ‘traditional’, mature inbound destinations of Thailand, Hong Kong, Singapore and Malaysia continue to grow, though recent trends now show a consistent and exceptionally high double-digit growth into China, Burma, Japan and Indonesia. The growth of these four countries as destinations is from all market segments, especially MICE (corporate end-users and third party providers), and international tour wholesalers. We also expect China to overtake Thailand from early 2017 as our biggest revenue earner.

What actions is Destination Asia taking to facilitate this, in terms of new itineraries etc?

China, Japan, Burma and Indonesia are the current ‘hot’ destinations from all source markets, with an exceptional growth of 25% year-on-year. To service-support these four markets we have increased staff numbers, for example, there were 9 staff in our Tokyo office in 2013 compared to 47 today, six in our Rangoon (Yangon) office in 2012 and 43 today. We have also launched a wide range of new ‘participatory’ travel products that enable clients to not only see the cultures of these four unique countries, but also interact with the local people.

These experience-led programs include, as a small sample of many others, activities such as cycling through the Kiulu countryside in Malaysia to meet local farmers or spending the night in a traditional Khmer house close to the temples of Angkor in Cambodia. Many of our programs now offer the chance to ‘give back’ to society, incorporating corporate social responsibility (CSR) elements. These CSR initiatives have become a core part of our business.

Vietnam will soon become a large and near-mature destination, paralleling the historical growth and development of its nearby competitor friend, Thailand. Our teams in China are continually creating new product. The opportunities here are unlimited and we are exploring not just the east coast, but the outer regions in the north and mountainous ‘Middle Kingdom’.

Our Hong Kong and Singapore offices continue to develop niche products highlighting the still evident days of colonialism alongside their modern and dynamic personalities.

Where are Destination Asia’s largest source markets and are you seeing any shift in these?

The Destination Asia Group has source markets from Europe, the USA and Canada, the UK, Australia/New Zealand, South Africa and South America. We are not in the Russian market.

The highest growth is now coming from North America as opposed to the UK and Australia in the past. This is a natural result of the continuing high economic/GDP growth rates, rising strength of the US dollar and low unemployment in the USA and Canada, contrasting with the less favourable business conditions, almost zero economic growth and high unemployment rate in Europe.

Destination Asia China is the only company in our 11 country Group that currently operates outbound with a market we forecast to grow at double-digit strength. This is not only for travel into our own Asia-wide network, but also to the USA and Europe with eco-friendly, cultural experience products that are becoming very popular among younger travellers.

How has your Thailand business been affected by the events of the previous year and are you experiencing any rebound?

The main impact of the political crisis in Thailand was seen within the inbound MICE business, though we were able to move many of the cancelled corporate meetings, events and incentives to other countries in the Destination Asia Group; the main recipients being our offices in Tokyo, Shanghai, Singapore and Hong Kong.

All of our source corporate/MICE decision makers have advised that following the elections in Q1 2016 that Thailand will see an almost immediate resurgence and indeed our 2016 MICE bookings in Thailand are almost back to traditional levels. There was little change within the leisure business except for the immediate period of May/June and international tour wholesalers’ production into Thailand is now back to normal booking patterns.

What further developments can we expect from Destination Asia in 2015?

Destination Asia will continue to expand, with two new countries to join our group by late 2016. We are the largest operator in Asia of international cruise ships’ port call services and we expect this market to grow, with more ‘blue sky’ opportunities opening as port facilities in Asia expand and improve.

We are investing considerable resources in the coming year to expand our online booking presence for the FIT market.

The traditional market and product ranges will rapidly change and those DMCs who adapt to offer flexible product options and delivery formats will grow. As people change the way they book and travel, so too must we be creative and adaptable in our services we offer.

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