Asia becoming more attractive for longhaul travellers


COMPETITIVE airfares and concerns over safety issues in the wake of Europe’s recent terrorism incidents are driving more longhaul travellers to choose Asia as a preferred holiday destination, according to trade feedback at PATA Travel Mart.

Asia appears to be an unexpected winner resulting from Europe’s recent terror woes, Pacto COO Umberto Cadamuro observed, as the Indonesian DMC saw an 80 per cent year-to-date surge in volume from Europe.

“Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Turkey are a no-go. The shorthaul operators in Europe are left with just Spain and Greece, so they have to start selling longhaul to survive,” he said. “There is always opportunity if you know where to look.”

For president of US-based Travelvision Jaishree Mehta, who deems Europe and Asia as equals in terms of travel costs for American travellers, what makes Asia more attractive now is the perception of Asia as “a safer destination” relative to Europe.

Furthermore, airlines’ aggressive promotions as well as the rise of longhaul budget carriers such as Eurowings have greatly boosted the affordability of a vacation in South-east Asia.

“Eurowings’ flights to Asia are very popular because Germans love a good deal and are willing to make a last-minute booking,” Urs Sandner, managing director, Zarva Travel Management remarked.

In a recent last-minute promotional deal from Germanwings during the low-season month of July, Urs told TTG Asia that he sold out the LCC’s Cologne-Phuket flights in just two weeks.

“With LCCs, travellers can choose between very affordable basic fares and more premium categories (unlike legacy carriers),” he elaborated.

This gels with Cadamuro’s observation of an emerging travel class from Europe. “There is a new wave of travellers who could not afford to travel longhaul before, but now they can travel,” he added.

Also seeing the relative affordability of Asia is Gene Harley, managing director of Chicago-based Advantage International. He said: “The taxes for a Europe round trip costs around US$700 to US$800 whereas the taxes for a similar trip to Asia is around US$100 to US$200.

“A 10-day holiday to Tokyo offers savings of (up to) US$1,000, compared with a trip to Rome,” he elaborated.

Shirish Trivedi, president of Travel Leaders based in Baltimore, said airfares from Washington to London and Rome were almost similar compared with airfares to Bangkok and Singapore – but what gives Asia an advantage is the lower cost of hotels.

He added: “A four-star hotel in Bangkok is 30 per cent cheaper compared with a hotel in London. When you spend 10 days or more on a holiday, the savings is significant.”

Trivedi has seen a 10 per cent increase in interest to Asia, with Cambodia and Myanmar topping the list of favourite Asian destinations.

Overall, trade members credit the Gulf airlines as a game-changer in the longhaul travel landscape by connecting their Middle Eastern home-bases with many cities in European countries.

Outbound travellers from Nice, for example, can now fly directly to the Middle East instead of transiting in Paris in order to connect to Asia, said Cadamuro. “Besides cutting flight time, it is also cheaper than the European and major Asian airlines.”

This has introduced pressure on legacy airlines to cut down on prices, making it more affordable to fly from Europe to Asia.

And amid the growing German interest in Asia, Sandner wants more budget connections to Asia. He said: “It is a good time for AirAsia X to launch direct flights from Malaysia to Germany to fill the gap that Malaysia Airlines had left behind.”

Additional reporting from Dannon Har, S Puvaneswary and Paige Lee Pei Qi

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