Welcome to issue 1 of our easy-to read analysis of Asia Pacific’s Top 5 travel takeaways.
This week’s snapshots feature China, Hong Kong, ASEAN, Cook Islands and Vietnam.
Each Monday, we deconstruct 5 travel and tourism stories you may have missed.
The Top 5 Travel Takeaways: Issue 1 is adapted from issue 67 of Asia Travel Re:Set.
Click HERE to read this week’s edition.
1) Talking Up Chinese Domestic Travel
Domestic travel in China is optimising the windows between COVID-19 outbreaks, such as recent examples in Xi’an, Anyang and Tianjin. Some 3.43 billion domestic trips were made in China in 2021, up 19% from on 2020, says the China Tourism Academy. This is estimated to increase to 3.98 billion trips in 2022 – but still notably down from the mid-2010s halcyon days.
Takeaway: An upswing in domestic travel must wait until later in 2022. With its mid-winter Zero Tolerance approach tightening, China is finalising an air-tight Travel Bubble for athletes, coaches and officials at the Winter Olympics, which start on 4 February. A subdued domestic Chinese New Year travel season from next week through mid-February is widely anticipated.
2) HKIA’s Super-sized Bond
The Airport Authority of Hong Kong (AAHK) announced a USD4 billion bond offer, across 5, 10, 30 and 40 years, to fund the 3rd runway expansion at HKIA and other capital investments. It is “the largest US dollar bond offering in size of a Hong Kong issuer since 2003,” notes the AAHK.
Takeaway: Hong Kong International Airport has experienced two horrific years. Monthly passengers slumped from 5.7 million in December 2019 to 90,531 in December 2022 and 118,000 in November 2021. It will be playing catch up with Singapore Changi, Dubai and Qatar when it fully reopens. The timeline is uncertain given Hong Kong’s Zero Tolerance alignment with China. The 3rd runway expansion looks a long-term play.
3) ASEAN Air Capacity Still Sagging
Scheduled airline capacity in South East Asia during the week of 6 January lagged a hefty -53.6% from the same week in 2020. This is the lowest COVID-era recovery rate of the 17 aviation sub-regions monitored by OAG. Southern Africa was the next worst (-45.8%).
Takeaway: It’s a long road to an air travel recovery in South East Asia. Ticket sales for Singapore’s VTLs are frozen with reduced arrivals caps set for the eventual resumption, while Thailand’s Test & Go tourism entry is indefinitely suspended. Vietnam and Laos have heavily controlled reopenings in place, and while Cambodia claims to be the most open country in South East Asia, only a small number of flights are arriving and departing. Elsewhere, lengthy on-arrival quarantines are designed to deter, rather than explicitly ban, travel for now.
4) Kiwis’ Cook Islands Exclusivity
Vaccinated New Zealanders will be the only visitors to the Cook Islands, when it reopens for travel on 13 January. “New Zealand will remain our only international gateway for the time being,” said Prime Minister, Mark Brown.
Takeaway: Whatever you wish to call them, Vaccinated Travel Lanes or Bilateral Travel Bubbles, island nations are likely to remain cautious when reopening their borders. Some will cherry pick their preferred markets. Whether this is a short-term response will depend on the impact and duration of Omicron.
5) Space Tourism Take-off in Vietnam?
Is space tourism destined for Vietnam? A Thai hydroelectric power, cement production and real estate conglomerate reportedly plans to build a USD1.3 billion space tourism resort and rocket launch site in Phu Quoc – Vietnam’s largest island – by 2026.
Takeaway: Such mega tourism investment projects make headlines, but the path towards development and eventual opening can be fraught, and rightly so. An example is Nagaworld’s Angkor Lake of Wonder casino resort near Angkor Wat, which was halted once the initial hype crashed headlong into environmental reality. Watch this space!