Asia urged to be strategic about restive Middle East

EGYPT is expected to bounce back quickly with the UK market, even causing a small percentage of clients to switch from Asia, but there still is opportunity for Asia to position itself as an alternative destination to the restive Middle East in the coming months, say tour operators.

“Sri Lanka is taking some good share from Egypt, still coming in that bit less expensive than Thailand,” observed Tamara Diethelm, Kuoni UK vice president market management & pricing, who said this could be the perfect opportunity for hoteliers in Asia with empty beds to field strong tacticals, with key partners who could promote them as good alternatives to Egypt.

“We have seen the UK traveller getting more and more resilient to destination challenges around the world. However, if alternatives are available within budget, many will choose what they perceive a ‘safer’ option and any real bounce back for Egypt is unlikely to occur in full force for some months.”

Operators said they were already seeing strong offers from hotels in Egypt and charter companies being forced to cut prices to fill their planes, which are perking the interest of bargain hunters to book. This, coupled with rising flight costs as a result of increased APD and fuel costs, will be a challenge for Asia to match in due course.

Said Diethelm: “Asia does have a genuinely unique offering, but I think it is essential to bear in mind that clients are not as loyal to destinations anymore, so it really must consider its competition on a global scale if it wants to position itself correctly for the UK market. Good tour operator partners can guide their friends in Asia on flight costs, taxes, hotel offerings in other parts of the world to help them make these comparisons.”

Chic Locations UK director David Kevan said the UK market had become “a nation of opportunist vultures” descending on troubled spots to pick on a carcass of bargains.

“Those looking for a cheap two-week beach holiday are more likely to find it in Egypt than Thailand, but for us it is a totally different client. However, where I do see an impact for us is availability issues on direct flights to the Far East. Many budget-conscious travellers to the Far East choose a carrier like Qatar Airways or Gulf Air because they’re cheaper than direct flights. These clients are now scared of even a transit in the region, so that is causing sudden availability issues on direct flights. If this continues, it will have an impact on sales.”

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