In Asia, emerging destinations like Sri Lanka and the Philippines are shining brighter on the global tourism stage as a growing demand for experiential travel and improved air links are encouraging travellers to venture farther for holidays.
Philippe Roussel, tour operator at Asie Voyages in France, is looking for “off-the-beaten-track” destinations in South-east Asia that offer local immersion and CBT programmes, as the French are increasingly showing a preference for experiential, eco-conscious travel.
The Philippines, in particular, is gaining popularity.
Although there is currently no direct air connection between France and the Philippines, the Gulf airlines have opened up “many possibilities” of travel from Europe into South-east Asia through their Middle Eastern hubs, and along with it interest in the Philippines as a travel destination, Roussel added.
Another emerging contender is Sri Lanka, said Roland Galka of Private Travelling. The Germany-based luxury tour agent has observed a spike in interest and enquiries in Sri Lanka among his clients, driven by the destination’s improving infrastructure, growing crop of hotels, and diverse offerings ranging from nature and culture to food.
“The numbers (to Sri Lanka) have gone through the roof the last couple of years,” he said.
Meanwhile, Galka noted that Indonesia is another up-and-coming destination in Asia for Europeans, pointing to the many undiscovered locations like Rajat Ampat.
“I’d like to push Indonesia again (as a holiday destination); it did very well 20 years ago until the Bali bombings,” Galka said.
The wheel of fortune is clearly turning in favour towards Indonesia, as more international airlines mount direct flights to Indonesia, opening up opportunities to connect longhaul markets to the country.
Ethiopian Airlines, which began thrice-weekly Addis Ababa-Jakarta flights via Bangkok on July 20, has anchored Ethiopia as a new source market for Indonesia, particularly the family market.
Panorama Destination, Ethiopian Holidays’ groundhandler for Indonesia, has seen families travelling to Bali during the last school holiday season.
Ricky Setiawanto, director of business development Africa, Europe, and Baltic States for Panorama Destination, commented: “As they are new to Indonesia, they took the two-day Jakarta/five-day Bali package, which is common among first-timers.”
Ricky said what the market needs going forward is greater awareness of Indonesia and easier visa application. Ethiopia is not on the visa-free or VoA list.
Coming up are direct flights from Moscow to Bali, which will be jointly operated by Aeroflot and Rossiya Airlines (under Aeroflot’s SU code) starting October 29. The thrice-weekly service is expected to boost Russian arrivals to Indonesia.
The new connection is aligned with Pacto’s plans to expand the Russian market. Ade Rachmadi, world product manager of Pacto, said: “Last year, we appointed a (sales) representative there. And recently, we went on a sales mission to Russia to introduce ourselves to the local players and learn about the market profile.” – additional reporting by Mimi Hudoyo