Xin Nian Kuai Le!
The Lunar New Year of the Ox has commenced. Let’s hope it proves happier, healthier and more auspicious than the Year of the Rat.
Chinese New Year, Lunar New Year, Lunisolar New Year, Spring Festival or Tet – whatever term you prefer – was an underwhelming travel period in much of Asia Pacific.
The second consecutive Lunar New Year under the dark shadow of COVID-19 saw the lowest holiday travel figures in China for almost two decades.
Domestic travel was not permitted in Malaysia. Indonesia, Vietnam and Thailand implemented movement restrictions. Singaporeans remain unable to take an overseas trip.
Japan has wrestled down case infections and intends to resurrect its Olympic dream – albeit with little popular support. By contrast, South Korea’s Jeju Island raised concerns about ‘excessive’ holiday visitors.
Australia, a popular destination for Chinese travellers during Spring Festival, still has its borders closed. Plus, a flash lockdown in Melbourne sparked more internal rancour.
Meanwhile, New Zealand instituted a flash lockdown in Auckland after recording its first COVID-19 death for months.
So what were the lessons of this year’s Spring Festival, and how will they be applied in 2022?
On this week’s The South East Asia Travel Show, we discussed 5 key takeaways:
Worse Before It Gets Better?
Will Chinese New Year 2021 be remembered as a turning point in the battle against COVID-19? Following winter case spikes in North East Asia, did it have to get worse before it gets better?
More optimistically, vaccine programmes are gaining momentum in North America, parts of Europe, Asia Pacific and the Middle East. Total weekly case infections worldwide are showing a downward trend.
Perhaps travel and destination marketers can start planning a strong rebound for 2022 Lunar New Year!
Does The Travel Marketing Model Need to Change?
Pre-pandemic, vast tourism marketing resources were dedicated to Chinese New Year. This is especially true in North East Asia, South East Asia and Australia, whose geographies enable them to capture short-trip travellers from China and other Asian markets over the holidays.
Will this change in future?
With travel likely to be less frequent for the foreseeable future, will travellers save up their time and money for longer trips later in the calendar year?
And should more attention be paid to emerging trends before the pandemic struck?
By 2019, Chinese outbound travel – in particular – had become a year-round phenomenon with less emphasis on the two Golden Weeks than a decade ago.
Intra-Regional Travel Was Non-Existent in 2021
South East Asian nations normally welcome plenty of visitors from neighbouring countries for Chinese New Year. Ongoing border closures and quarantine rules prevented this in 2021.
How will this impact the way that ASEAN destinations promote themselves to travellers from other member states when travel restarts?
There will be huge competition to attract travellers. That said, some South East Asian nations are unlikely to complete their vaccine programmes before the Lunar New Year 2022.
So destinations may need to expand their marketing scope, and be more creative with their promotional campaigns ahead of next year’s highly anticipated holiday period.
Small Outbreaks, Big Impacts
Small COVID-19 outbreaks and the emergence of new clusters severely dampened holiday travel flows.
This may create both an operational and a psychological impact.
Will more travel businesses – which have come to rely on a Spring Festival revenue boost – run out of cash as a result?
In some countries, many travel agencies are currently closed, as are numerous hotels. Tour operators are craving for inbound customers to return.
How many will be able to survive the coming months if borders remain closed?
Some big-name airlines are reporting horrific 2020 financial results. Will there be more casualties in the aviation sector?
If so, how will the region’s travel infrastructure repair itself? And to what degree will it have recovered (or otherwise) by Lunar New Year 2022?
The 2022 Beijing Winter Olympics
Chinese New Year 2022 coincides with the Beijing Winter Olympics.
As reported in Issue 26 of Asia Travel Re:Set, this could be a decisive factor for outbound tourism flows.
A huge national celebration is being planned in China. The capital Beijing – which will share the 2022 Winter Games with the northern ski destinations of Yanqing and Zhangjiakou – will become the first city in history to host both the Summer and Winter Games.
The 2022 Beijing Games commence on 4 February 2022 – 3 days into the Chinese New Year – and continue until 20 February.