And the smelliest news of the year goes to…

In case you missed the news, duly and diligently reported by TTG Asia’s network of correspondents in the region, Raini Hamdi trawls through our bounty this year and presents this collection

The Chedi one day, Anantara the next. See unfriendliest news of the year 

Most inspiring news of the year
Travel agencies in the region are crossing boundaries in order to expand the size of their market. Some examples: Australia’s Corporate Travel Management acquisition of Westminster Travel Hong Kong, effective January 2014, giving it a springboard to China; STIC Travel Group India, which set up its first overseas office in Singapore to capture Asian outbound to India and bring more Indian tourists to South-east Asia; Luxury Travel Vietnam, which opened a JV, Asia Premium Travel, in Cambodia, possibly the country’s first high-end tour operator; Flight Centre Australia, which opened its fourth store in Singapore and promised to be a game-changer in how it engages today’s customers; Holdings, which inked an agreement with China Xinhua Travel Network Services to power its online wholesale system.

Most shocking news of the year
The collapse of Oad Reizen. The outbound travel company in the Netherlands had been around since 1924, sending tour groups to some 60 countries across the world. Indonesian hoteliers and ground operators said they saw numbers from OAD declining but did not see its bankruptcy coming.

Over in Spain, one of the country’s leading integrated travel groups and Asia specialists, Orizonia, also collapsed, while another, Globalia, announced plans to axe 175 of its travel agencies, a major source of clients for its longhaul tour operator, Latitudes.

Saddest news of the year
Mother Nature wielded a strong hand this year, destroying many lives and tourism livelihoods. Central Philippines is still reeling from the impact of Typhoon Haiyan. In October, Central Vietnam was whipped by a second typhoon in less than a month as Nari passed through, forcing the airport and coastal resorts to shut. Also in October, a 7.2-magnitude earthquake shook Bohol and Cebu, disrupting airport and ferry operations and destroying Bohol’s road network.

In September, Typhoon Usagi, or Odette, resulted in flight delays and cancellations to countries in its path, Philippines, Hong Kong, Macau, China and Taiwan.

In mid-June, flash floods devastated the northern Indian state of Uttarakhand. Even though only Kedarnath was affected, arrivals plunged 85 per cent.

Happiest news of the year
Om Prakash, director of Inorbit Tours Mumbai and ex-chairman of the Travel Agents Association of India Western Region, issued an open invitation to travel consultants to beat stress by joining daily laughter sessions at the Laughter Club of Worli Seaface in Mumbai. According to Prakash, laughing helps us relax our muscles, activates our immune system, reduces our stress levels, and aids us in sleeping, eating and healing.

Sounds better than Eat, Pray, Love. Make sure you laugh your way through 2014.

Friendliest news of the year
Two fiercely competing NTOs, Japan and South Korea, joined hands to offer a single vacation combining the two destinations. The initiative was a first between Japan National Tourist Organization and Korea Tourism Organization, and was driven by their directors in the Singapore office.

The ‘Kimchi & Sushi’ initiative was timely: Japan had recovered from the 3/11 tsunami, while South Korea’s Gangnam Psy-ched the NTOs up for a successful tie-up. Four carriers and 13 local travel agencies were roped in to twin the destinations in time for the NATAS Travel Fair in February this year.

Unfriendliest news of the year
Minor Hotel Group (MHG) was jubilating that it signed up its 100th property, The Chedi Chiang Mai, and was rebranding it Anantara – but we noticed legal actions being initiated by General Hotel Management (GHM) against the owning company and MHG over the management takeover. GHM said “the manner in which it was carried out was wrongful and violated key conditions and criteria from the existing agreement”.

Incidentally, has anyone noticed that the acronym MHG is GHM in the reverse?

2013 saw a string of other high-profile owner-chain partings, including Mandarin Oriental Hotel Group from the Dhara Devi in Chiang Mai (“different aspirations for its management and long-term development”), Starwood Hotels & Resorts from Le Méridien Khao Lak (effective January 15, 2014) and Hilton Worldwide from the Iru Fushi in the Maldives (“unforeseen and due to factors outside Hilton’s control”).

Sickest news of the year
A proposed plan to charge all foreign visitors to Thailand an entry fee of 500 baht (US$15.50), the money collected to solve a problem caused by a tiny number of sick or injured foreign tourists who checked into hospitals in Thailand for treatment and left behind unpaid bills, running into millions of baht a month. So the health ministry came up with the idea of how the government could foot this bill, through the entry tax. Apparently the tourism ministry supported it.

Most glamorous news of the year
And the winner goes to…Zhangjiajie National Forest Park in Hunan province, which we reported had gained greater stardom following the premiere of 2009 science-fiction movie, Avatar. The movie was filmed at the natural attraction which has spectacular columnar land formations. Bet you didn’t know that.

The number of tour groups to the national park had tripled since the movie hit the screens. There are now 854 hotels in the park, 53 of which are star-rated. Two- to three-day photography tours are even offered to avid Avatar fans who want to be photographed at specific film locations.

Least surprising news of the year
The number of international standard rooms in Yangon is set to soar within the next four years as brands enter the as-yet untapped Myanmar market, predicted Jones Lang LaSalle’s (JLL) Hotels and Hospitality Group.

While Myanmar’s Ministry of Hotels & Tourism counted 9,110 hotel rooms in the city, JLL estimated that only 1,500-2,000 were of international standard due to previous economic sanctions that kept European and American hotel operators out. This would quadruple to about 7,000 rooms by 2017, it said.

Smelliest news of the year
A 4D3N Deluxe Durian Tour Package, jointly offered by Tourism Malaysia and EGL Tours Hong Kong, sold 800 packages, recording sales of RM1.3 million (US$406,758) for 15 group departures to Penang in June and July. The package included durian sampling and buffets, along with a tour of Penang’s popular heritage sites.

Our story, Durian tours spiked sales, led us to another trail, thanks to a reader, Lindsay Gasik, who directed us to her durian blog,

We must say the Durian Porn section under Photos is juicier than porn – go check it out.

We wrote. You read and responded. Here’s a recap of the hottest stories in the Asian travel trade as covered by TTG Asia‘s team of reporters in the region


This article was first published in TTG Asia, December 13, 2013 – January 16, 2014 issue, on page 2. To read more, please view our digital edition or click here to subscribe.

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