Asia to do well due to safe image, say operators


Matthias Rotter, managing director, DER Touristik Frankfurt 

GERMAN tour operators interviewed said Asia would do well this year, citing its safe image overall as one of the reasons for this assessment.

Safety has become the major influencer in German consumers’ travel decision-making process after the recent terror attacks, ongoing conflicts and the refugee crisis that are affecting travel to destinations such as Egypt, Turkey, Tunisia and Greece, according to tour operators.

“These are difficult days and it’s a huge problem to sell the African part of the Mediterranean, said DER Touristik Frankfurt managing director, Matthias Rotter.

“Fortunately DERTOUR and Meier’s have a big portfolio of destinations and we’re able to compensate for a loss in one with a gain in another,” he said.

Rotter expects longhaul business to remain steady with a slight increase to Asia and a larger one to South Africa due to pent-up demand after the Ebola crisis a few years ago. In Asia, Sri Lanka is doing “extremely well” for DER, as is Japan – again due to pent-up demand following the Fukushima tragedy. Thailand and the Philippines are at the same level as last year.

“Sri Lanka contracts in euro, whereas the Thai baht’s link to the US dollar has caused a 15 per cent increase in rates due to the strengthening of the US dollar against the euro,” Rotter pointed out. But he said suppliers in Thailand had been cooperative in not raising rates.

Marco Polo Reisen’s managing director Holger Baldus also said there were no major price increases in traditional destinations in Asia like Thailand, but what was more attractive to Germans was not pricing but that Asia was seen as safe. “The red and yellow shirts, Erawan bombing, etc, are all but forgotten now. People are travelling to where they feel it is safe. Price comes second,” he said.

For Marco Polo Reisen, Indochina, India and China are “back on track” after a decline of 12 per cent, nine per cent and 26 per cent respectively last year. But the real star is Japan, which rose a whopping 73 per cent last year.

“We expect a bit more growth this year, after last year’s substantial one. That’s more than 1,000 guests to Japan. For its high prices that’s a lot of guests. Again, it’s not about pricing. Japan is seen as safe,” said Baldus.

He added: “Asia is looking good…In the end, Germans will continue to travel. Our economy is doing well. It’s a question of where and business is being re-divided according to safety perceptions.”

Thomas Cook Touristik product manager Asia, Arabia and Indian Ocean, Jens-Jochen Lauff, agreed: “The clients are never more concerned about safety and security than now. The reservations people are getting the question, ‘Is it safe to go?’ all the time. Clients are now very aware of (hazards) be it a virus or terror. This is especially so for families than couples. So the travel agent has quite a lot of influence in helping clients decide where to go. If they say Bali is safe, it can influence the clients to go,” said Lauff.

Bali, Thailand and Vietnam are all doing well for Thomas Cook. The Maldives however is down, with Lauff saying there is a shift from the Maldives, which contracts in US dollar, to Mauritius, which contracts in euro. On top of that, he said, Maldives’ high-end hotels were over-pricing themselves.

Read more stories from our ITB Berlin TTG Asia Show Daily here.

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