TRAVELING IN ASIA 2021: TRENDS & INSIGHTS FROM INSIDERS

With COVID-19 vaccines gradually making its way to Asia, alongside the cautious easing of restrictions, it seems like there’s finally some glimmer of hope at the end of the tunnel. While the ongoing pandemic looks set to be a long-drawn battle, the travel landscape in the region is primed for recovery thanks to burgeoning demand for domestic travel and the launch of air travel bubbles between countries like Singapore, Hong Kong, and Taiwan.

Despite all the uncertainty, one thing we do know for sure is that travel will never be the same again, with strict safety measures being the new normal for every stage of the journey—from booking one’s flight to checking into a hotel, and even embarking on tours. To shed light on how travel in 2021 might look like in Asia, here are some insights by Trip.com, one of the world’s largest online travel agencies.

When will global travel recover?

Closed international borders remain the primary obstacle for a global travel recovery. Air travel bubbles, green travel lanes and other initiatives offer potential solutions to enable the resumption of international travel. Plus, the widespread rollout of vaccines will be a key step in revitalising global travel. Vaccinating populations around the world will also set a solid foundation for the complete recovery of global travel.

What the future of travel looks like…

Thanks to huge pent-up travel demand, there will be a sharp increase in travel the first holiday season following the widespread rollout of vaccinations. This may be preceded by more extensive domestic travel recoveries around the world, with incremental amounts of business and individual travel, followed by larger scale travel movements during holiday seasons to come. Industry and governments ought to ensure measures are in place to ensure the secure resumption of international travel.

How about travel within Asia?

Many Asian nations have shown the capability to contain the spread of the virus, especially with technology-forward approaches that are key to leading recoveries in the continent. According to a Smith Travel Research report, Asia’s domestic hotel industry recovery showed the strongest performance compared to other regions around the world. Overall occupancy rates reached 62 percent, the highest level since January 2020, while other regions’ rates remained below 51 percent. Initiatives such as the launching of air travel bubbles between Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan reveal a potential path to the staggered return of regional travel.

New initiatives for domestic travel…

In November, Trip.com Group and Singapore Tourism Board signed a three-year agreement forging a global partnership to co-market the “Garden City”. Singapore Tourism Board’ s SingapoRediscovers Vouchers scheme also launched on December 1 last year, which offered nationwide discounts to attractions, hotels, and transport for all Singaporean citizens. In Japan, the Go-To campaign saw millions of Japanese tourist set out to explore their homeland, buoyed by discount rail tickets and hotel rooms with flexible booking options to encourage travelers to book their next trip.

How has the pandemic changed travel?

Most significantly, the pandemic has digitalised the travel industry and increased investment in digital infrastructure. COVID-19 was a catalyst for touchless technologies, which travelers now expect in order to minimise physical contact with people and surfaces. Technologies such as AI chatbot, RFID wristbands, smart tour guides, and smart reservation analysis enable seamless travel and better management of visitor flows.

How has China’s domestic tourism recovered?

Once the epicentre of the pandemic, China’s successful measures to control the spread of the virus has generated greater consumer confidence in the ability to travel safely. Domestically, travelers are going on shorter trips and demanding premium products at affordable prices, with the flexibility to tailor their trip. The Golden Week holiday, occurring in early October, shows demand for driving tours, skiing, hiking, and outdoor activities at local destinations.

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