Skift Travel News Blog

Short stories and posts about the daily news happenings around the travel industry.

Tourism

Thailand’s ‘Meaningful Relationship’ Campaign Romanticizes Tourism

8 months ago

The Tourism Authority of Thailand unveiled a new marketing campaign “Meaningful Relationship” at the World Travel Market event in London on Monday.

The heart of the campaign is to encourage tourists to create more than just travel memories, it’s about fostering connections with the people, communities, nature and Thailand itself.

In tune with evolving travel trends, Thailand recognizes the modern traveler’s inclination towards prioritizing experiences over ticking off bucket-list destinations.

The “Meaningful Relationship” campaign seeks to tap into this shift, inspiring travelers to form connections that transcend the ordinary and ultimately foster a bond with oneself.

The Film

The advertising film features tourists from Korea, France, and Portugal, showcasing the attractions of Kanchanaburi, Chumphon, Nakhon Phanom, and the vibrant metropolis of Bangkok.

Thapanee Kiatphaibool, Governor of the Tourism Authority of Thailand, shared the campaign’s vision, stating, “The new ‘Meaningful Relationship’ marketing communication concept is designed to encourage travelers to engage in a meaningful connection, whether it is with themselves, the local people, the community, nature, or even with Thailand. When travelers form a relationship with the people they meet and the place they visit, they will have an opportunity to create lifelong friends, cherished recollections, and enjoyable moments.”

Moreover, December will also witness the launch of the “Thailand Always Cares” campaign, emphasizing Thailand’s commitment to ensuring a memorable experience for tourists.

Latest Tourism Figures from Thailand

Thailand’s ambitious goal is to attract 25-30 million tourists and generate THB 1.5 trillion ($43 billion) in revenue by the end of this year.

According to the latest available data, in the first 10 months of 2023 (January 1-October 31), Thailand recorded over 21.6 million arrivals and generated over THB 927 billion ($26 billion) in tourism revenue. The top five source markets being Malaysia, China, South Korea, India and Russia. 

The 2024 target is set at total revenue of THB 3 trillion ($84 billion) with THB 1.92 trillion ($54 billion) coming from the international market.

After granting visa free entry to Chinese tourists from September onwards, Thailand announced last week that it would grant visa-free entry to citizens from India and Taiwan from November 10 till May 2024.

Tourism

Thailand Now Grants Visa-Free Entry to Indians

8 months ago

After much speculation, Thailand finally announced on Tuesday that it would grant visa-free entry to Indian citizens from November 10 till May 2024.

Indians will be allowed to stay in the country for a maximum period of 30 days as part of this arrangement.

Last week, Sri Lanka announced that Indian travelers would not require a visa to enter the country till March 31, 2024.

As Thailand gears up for peak tourism season, the country wants to make sure that securing a visa is not an impediment for travelers in one of its top source markets.

Thailand had scrapped visa requirements for Chinese tourists in September. Along with India, Thailand will also be allowing visa-free entry for Taiwan nationals.

According to the latest government data, Thailand welcomed 22 million visitors to the country from January to October 29, generating $26 billion in revenue. The country is targeting to welcome 28 million arrivals this year.

In March, Thailand revised its initial estimate of 1.4 million Indian arrivals to 2 million.

In 2022, India claimed the second spot as the leading source of tourists for Thailand, right after Malaysia. Over a million Indians visited Thailand that year.

Back in 2019, nearly 2 million Indian tourists flocked to Thailand, solidifying their position as the third-largest group of foreign nationals to explore the country.

The delay in visa processing has often been cited as a major deterrent for Indian travelers.

Skift’s earlier articles have explored how Indian travelers are now opting for destinations that don’t require them to navigate the maze of visa applications. 

Tourism

Chinese Cite Financial Impact From Covid for Not Wanting to Travel Abroad

1 year ago

Chinese travelers cite financial constraints over the last three years as the leading reason for not wanting to travel abroad even as China decided to end its zero-Covid policy by easing travel restrictions, according to a report.

Chinese marketing solutions firm Dragon Trail International published a report on Thursday following a survey of more than 1,000 Chinese travelers between January 4 and 7 to gauge the consumer sentiment around outbound travel.

More than one-third of travelers said they would be staying at home because of time constraints, or because of the inconvenience of applying for a passport or visa.

China had stopped issuing passports at the start of the Covid pandemic in early 2020. Following the easing of restrictions, the administration had said it would start taking passport applications from January 8.

Even as more than 60 percent of survey respondents said they wanted to travel outside of mainland China this year, travel spending will be somewhat constrained for many in the aftermath of Covid.

Around 45 percent of those surveyed said they would keep travel budgets within $3,000.

In 2019, Chinese tourists took 150 million trips overseas per year while spending $255 billion.

Of those who plan to travel overseas, 71 percent said they would do so for 5-10 days – a point to consider when creating travel products for the Chinese market in 2023.

Another interesting insight that the survey highlights is the increasing relevance of social media platform Xiaohongshu, more popularly known as the Chinese version of Instagram, not just for travel inspiration, but also for planning.

Skift Megatrends 2023 has also highlighted how short-form video content has become such a dominant format, particularly for destination storytelling.

Recovery of outbound travel in China is expected to pick up in the second half of the year with July witnessing a strong comeback.

The survey expects a bumper 8-day Golden Week holiday from September 29-Octover 6 for mid-autumn festival and China’s National Day.

However, Chinese travelers will be travelling closer home as the most popular outbound destinations in 2023 are all in Asia with Hong Kong leading the way, while Thailand is by far the most popular foreign country.

Airlines

Tony Fernandes Steps Down as Acting Group CEO of AirAsia X

2 years ago

Tony Fernandes has stepped down as the acting group CEO of Capital A’s long-haul budget carrier AirAsia X citing “other commitments,” the airline announced in a note to investors on Monday.

“I’m now going to focus on delivering significant value to shareholders of Capital A, including the AirAsia Aviation Group, aviation services, logistics, travel, fintech and the e-commerce lifestyle platform,” Fernandes said in a press statement.

Having served as the non-independent non-executive director of AirAsia X, Fernandes stepped in to the role of acting group CEO in July this year.

Mahmood Fawzy has now been appointed as the independent non-executive director of Thai AirAsia X.

AirAsia X had entered a court-overseen debt restructuring process during the pandemic. The airline completed the debt restructuring in March.

Fernandes, in a press statement, mentioned that his job had been to restart AirAsia X and bring it back to profitability and growth after the hibernation. “I am happy that this has been accomplished with a very edifying plan for 20 aircraft for the AirAsia XGroup — 13 aircraft for AirAsia X and seven for Thai AirAsia X.”

He went on to note that following the restructuring the airline has improved the cost structure, and created a cargo business, which has contributed about 20 percent to the airline’s revenue during the pandemic and will continue to play a vital role in its recovery.

The airline in a statement in August had noted that it would be ramping up flight frequencies and would return to daily services to most destinations before 2023, with optimised aircraft utilisation of 15 hours by December.

Tourism

Dubai’s Global Hotel Alliance Sees Upside From Asia’s Reopening

2 years ago

United Arab Emirates-headquartered Global Hotel Alliance has seen a strong post-pandemic travel rebound from its Asian properties, as well as a shift in travel behaviors.

Its hotels in Phuket and Bangkok, Thailand, reported growth in revenue of 535 percent and 345 percent respectively for the first nine months of this year, compared to the same period in 2021.

Total revenue generated by the 22 million members of its GHA Discovery loyalty program reached $900 million for the period, up 68 percent on 2021, and reaching 84 percent of pre-pandemic levels on a like- for-like basis.

August was also the alliance’s second strongest-performing month in its history.

The umbrella organization for independent hospitality brands was also boosted by improved performances across Europe. Earlier this year Madrid-headquartered NH Group joined Global Hotel Alliance, bringing with it over 350 hotels and 10 million loyalty program members

London experienced growth of 300 percent.

More than 60 percent of GHA Discovery revenues came from international stays, with this proportion growing strongly over the summer months. The highest-spending international travelers came from the U.S. ($76 million), UK ($71m) and Germany ($60m).

The average length of stays across all markets globally increased further in the third quarter of 2022 versus the same period in 2021. Europe, for example, has a 64 percent increase. The average was 20 percent.

Business travel has fared less well. The average daily rate for corporate transactions went up by 27 percent In the first half of the year, compared to the 2021 first quarter, but international business travel lagged at 60 percent in the first half of 2022, but the company said it was expecting that figure to increase in the second half. However, Domestic business travel has recovered to 90 percent of 2019 levels.

Ground Transport

Southeast Asian Destinations Steer Tourists Towards Road Trip Holidays

2 years ago

In a bid to encourage tourists to explore the region by road, the 10 member states of the Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) have come up with a driving tourism manual.

The guidebook contains information on driving in Thailand, Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, and Vietnam and also includes a list of suggested tour routes.

Available for free download, the guidebook is an initiative under the ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025, with Thailand’s Department of Tourism as its main coordinator.

The ASEAN Tourism Strategic Plan 2016-2025, sought to implement the agreement on the recognition of domestic driving licenses issued by ASEAN members states to promote drive/overland tourism across the region.

The information in the manual has been collated to help make the self-drive journey a seamless one among destinations in the region, based on connectivity, openness and mutual sharing of tourism experiences.

Designed to help driving tourists create their own itineraries, the guidebook contains information to help tourists traveling to Southeast Asia by land, including visa and entry requirements, vehicle permits, cross-border procedures, required documents, speed limits as well as emergency contact numbers.

A map also indicates the countries that drive on the left side of the road and those that drive on the right side.

To encourage tourists to explore lesser-known destinations, the guidebook also recommends self-drive routes for each country covering major highlights and second-tier destinations, and cross-border routes combining different countries.

The self-drive tourism manual is meant for travellers coming from within Southeast Asia as well as for international tourists coming from other continents, Yuthasak Supasorn, the governor of Tourism Authority of Thailand said in a press statement on Monday.

“International travelers could, for example, combine a visit to Thailand with visits to Laos, Myanmar, Cambodia, or Malaysia to be enjoyed at their own pace, along their own routes while exploring the many diverse cultures, attractions, and landscapes of this fascinating region,” Supasorn said.

Hotels

Standard Hotels Bets Big on Thailand

2 years ago

U.S. hotel operator Standard International is betting on Thailand’s post-pandemic tourism recovery. Bloomberg said Standard is hoping to power an expansion in Asia that will see it open properties in popular and less-explored destinations. Thai developer Sansiri is the majority owner of Standard.

The plan is to open boutique hotels under the flagship brand ‘The Standard’ in the seaside resort town of Pattaya and tourist island Phuket by 2025.

They also aim to manage as many as five properties under the Bunkhouse brand for the first time in Asia in smaller towns such as Chiang Mai. Besides Chiang Mai, Standard is also considering historically-rich Thai towns Sukhothai and Ayutthaya, as well as the seaside province of Krabias possible locations for new hotels.

The plan follows the opening of The Standard in Bangkok’s Mahanakhon Tower in July.

The company plans to open more of its branded hotels in Singapore and Melbourne next year, with eight more lined up for Europe and North America, taking the worldwide tally of properties under its management to at least 20 by 2026.

Story by Bloomberg. This summary appeared today in Daily Lodging Report, which offers essential industry news for hospitality and lodging executives. Subscribe here.

Tourism

Thailand Ups Visa Game by Granting Longer Stays to Tourists and Digital Nomads

2 years ago

Keen to offer a boost to the country’s tourism sector, Thailand will allow longer stays for foreign tourists from October 1 to March 31. The Southeast Asian destination has also proposed a 10-year golden visa program mainly targeted at wealthy digital nomads.

Foreign arrivals from 18 countries entering Thailand under the visa-on-arrival scheme, including India, will be allowed to extend their stay from 15 days to 30 days, while those from 50 countries, including Canada, U.S. and UK, who are currently eligible for a 30-day visa on arrival will be able to get a 45-day visa stamp.

From September onwards, Thailand will also be extending a 10-year golden visa option to four categories of travelers with an annual income of $80,000 and at least $1 million in assets. The visa also comes with a work permit and travelers would not need a Thai sponsor to live long-term in the country. 

The processing fee for the 10-year visa with multiple entries is around $1382.

The Thai government expects the 10-year residence visa to generate around $27 billion worth of revenue.

The visa extension is crucial as Thailand prepares to transition to a post-pandemic era with the return to normalcy. The visa programs are also timed perfectly with the Thai government planning to declare Covid-19 endemic in October.

Thailand plans to welcome around 10 million tourists this year and has been working hard to lure tourists back to the country. In its latest effort, Thailand had been looking to legalize casinos.

Thailand’s Centre for Covid-19 Situation Administration will also meet next month to consider lifting the state of emergency, put in place to control the spread of the disease since March 2020.

Tourism

Efforts to Tame Overtourism Come Under Pressure

2 years ago

Covid gave Southeast Asia a break from overtourism. Now what?” That’s the question The Washington Post asked on Saturday.

Pandemic-related lockdowns and reduced tourism let many destinations take a break from heavy volumes of visitors. But now, many destinations are divided. Some want to preserve the benefits of lower tourist impact, such as wildlife recovery. Others want to discard many restrictions because they’re eager to max out the job-creating potential of their tourist landmarks and attractions.

Here are a few examples:

  • In Thailand, the ministry of natural resources and the environment has ordered the country’s 155 natural parks to shut down at least a month every year. The idea is to give nature a chance to heal from heavy visitor footfall and boat traffic. The decision came after the parks were closed for the first time in 2020.
  • In Indonesia, officials recently tried to limit visits to the ancient Borobudur Temple in Yogyakarta to 15 at a time while also hiking prices for foreigners from $25 to $100 to pay for conservation. (The historic temple has nine stone tiers that support statues and relief panels of the Buddha.) Local opposition has since appeared, however, and the price hikes are now on pause.
  • Indonesia’s effort to raise prices on a heritage site and national park featuring Komodo Dragons has also stalled, Nikkei reported.
  • Before the pandemic, officials in the Philippines shuttered the island of Boracay for half a year and then reopened it with some restrictions. “But in April [of this year], Boracay exceeded its daily visitor cap multiple times,” the Post reported.

Overtourism is a term Skift came up with years before the pandemic. Overtourism continues to be a thorny challenge for the tourism industry during the recovery that Skift will continue to watch closely.

Covid gave Southeast Asia a break from overtourism. Now what?

Hotels

Asia-Pacific Hotel Investment Volumes Rose to $7 Billion in First Half of 2022

2 years ago

Investment in the hotel sector in Asia Pacific continued to recover as investment volumes totaled $6.8 billion in the first six months of 2022, according to real estate brokerage firm JLL’s report.

Capital deployment into the region’s hotels sector showed a return to pre-pandemic levels, registering a 12 percent increase compared to 2019.

Countries in the Asia-Pacific region are expected to experience a fast pace of recovery in the second half of 2022, Skift Research noted recently in its Asia Pacific Accommodation Sector Market Estimates 2022.

In terms of investment volume Japan received the maximum capital —  $1.8 billion, followed by Korea’s $1.7 billion, and Greater China, including Hong Kong ($1.6 billion).

A strong domestic and international tourism demand and the recent devaluation of the Japanese Yen would drive investors to acquire hotel assets in Japan, JLL noted.

JLL also expected further price reductions of hotel assets and forecasts China’s hotel transaction volume to total approximately $2 billion in 2022.

Strong recovery was witnessed in countries like Singapore ($899.7 million), Maldives ($205.5 million), and Indonesia ($159.6 million).

The activity was more subdued in Australia ($145.5 million) and Thailand ($37.7 million), however, JLL noted that these countries would witness greater investment in the second half as numerous marque deals would be closing.

More hotels are entering the Thai market as sellers are under pressure to sell, noted JLL and forecast that transaction volumes would reach close to $300 million this year.

While the 75 transactions in the first half of 2022, were down 33 percent compared to the first half of 2019, the 19,822 rooms transacted during the first half of 2022 was 30 percent higher compared to the first half of 2021 and 9.4 percent compared to 2019.

“The increase in deal activity was influenced by a spike in portfolio transactions as institutional investors sitting on dry powder seek to deploy their capital more efficiently,” the report noted.

However, according to JLL, ongoing momentum will likely be challenged by growing macroeconomic and geopolitical headwinds in the second half of 2022.

“We remain steadfast in our conviction that total Asia Pacific hotel investment volume will cross the $10 billion mark despite the scarcity of assets coupled with macro and geopolitical headwinds that will continue to influence capital activity,” said Mike Batchelor, CEO, Asia Pacific, JLL Hotels and Hospitality Group.