Skift Take

Destinations are looking to fill the China void by luring international tourists with incentives. And while we'd have to wait to see how effective these schemes turn out to be, travelers surely should make the most of it.

Asian destinations may have started late in the easing-of-restrictions race, but this is not likely to hold them back as they get serious about playing catch up with the rest of the world.

While reports such as Skift Research’s Travel Health Index for the past do two months note that Asia continues to remain an outlier in the global travel industry’s steady recovery, destinations are keen to change that.

And they all seem to have a plan to win tourists back. Some have gone the flexible visa regime way, some are offering great bang for the buck while others are dangling a hard-to-resist carrot in the form of free airline tickets.

While an Asia recovery is incomplete without China’s reopening and destinations are well aware of the current geo-political and economic headwinds, most are confident about their ability to attract both leisure and business travelers.

One of the last few destinations to announce the scrapping of institutional quarantine, as late as September 26, Hong Kong recently announced that it plans to give away 500,000 airline tickets, worth $255 million once the city state lifts the remaining Covid restrictions, which may be by early 2023.

A few days before Hong Kong’s announcement, Japan announced that it would be reopening fully on October 11, allowing visa-free entry to independent tourists.

Will the Falling Yen Up Japan’s Tourism Sector?

Hoping to benefit from windfalls brought by the yen’s recent fall to a 24-year low against the dollar, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida pledged to raise inbound tourism spending to more than $34.5 billion a year.

However, Sharad Sharma, co-founder at Nippon Taiyo Hospitality, noted that the yen fall may not benefit much as the global economy has been hit and inflation is at its peak. “Even airfares to Japan are at an all-time high,” he added

The Japanese government is also starting a domestic travel initiative this month offering transportation and accommodation discounts, similar to its 2020 Go To Travel campaign.

Ambitious, considering that the country’s hospitality industry is infamous for its low wages. The business units will have a tough time luring back employees who have moved on to other better-paying industries.

A sentiment echoed by Sharad Sharma, co-founder at Nippon Taiyo Hospitality as he turned attention towards the broken supply chain in hospitality sector that Japan has been battling with.

SmartRyde, a ride-hailing app in Japan, is expecting a three-fold increase in business and the number of airport transfers that it’s been receiving confirms this, said Sota Kimura, its CEO.

But not before Kimura added a disclaimer, “Unfortunately, geopolitical situations change rapidly, and tourism is sensitive to these changes.”

Indonesia’s Pitch to Digital Nomads

One of the last few destinations in the world to remain closed to unvaccinated travelers, Indonesia has brought back its visa-free regime for nine Asian destinations and has also resumed the visa-on-arrival regime for most countries, provided travelers are vaccinated.

Understanding this may not be enough, the Indonesian government has introduced a flexibile “digital nomad visa,” which allows remote workers to stay tax free in Bali for five years.

Indonesian Tourism Minister Sandiaga Uno had earlier said that according to statistics about 95 percent of digital nomads surveyed said Indonesia was their “priority” destination for remote work and they were willing to travel to the country.

The digital nomad visa is expected to further broaden the attractiveness of Indonesia as a work-cum-travel destination enticing more foreign freelance and remote workers to the archipelagic nation, said Joshua Sughandi, managing director of Netral Port Indonesia.

“This would bring in a new segment of long stay visitors who will boost local tourism and also eventually attract more tourists with better and higher quality tourism services provided by such nomad visa holders,” he said, adding that Indonesia should witness a significant and broader recovery by the early part of 2023.

Singapore Means Business

Singapore realises that lifting all entry restrictions may not be enough, hence the destination is making sure that it promotes itself competently as a meetings, incentives, conferences and events destination.

With its recent lifting of vaccination-differentiated safe management measures, the city state hopes it will benefit organisers of upcoming international meetings in Singapore. “We expect it will reduce costs and make events more commercially viable,” said Keith Tan, Chief Executive, Singapore Tourism Board.

Firmly on the road to recovery, the city state has a robust events calendar to boast of.  

Visitor arrivals in September 2022 have exceeded the figures of September 2019 by more than 50 percent, Tan noted, attributing this to strong pent-up demand for travel, following the border reopening and easing of restrictions.

However, the city state is not ready to rest on its laurels. “We are not standing still,” said Tan. “Our strategy to create, attract and grow high quality meetings, incentives, conferences and events out of Singapore is integral to our recovery. We want Singapore to be home to best-in-class events, and to grow our position as the global Asia node for business tourism.”

Having enjoyed the status of the world’s largest travel region for the past decade, the Asia Pacific region may soon lose its title to Europe, according to a CAPA report. Destinations in the region understand the way back would be tough.

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Tags: asia monthly, asian travelers, bali, business travel, coronavirus recovery, hong kong, indonesia, japan, mice, singapore

Photo credit: Hong Kong tee2tee / pixabay

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