Year-end Special: TTG Asia’s hottest stories of the year

What kept you glued to us? Here are a few of our most viewed, most read stories on and TTG Asia social media this year

Hotelbeds buys way to bedbank dominance
Hotelbeds Group swoops in on its rival, Kuoni GTA, for an undisclosed price, which together with its recent acquisition of Tourico Holidays, will make it the dominant global B2B bedbanks player.

While the Tourico deal will strengthen its footprint in North America, the GTA buy will give Hotelbeds significant presence in the fast-growing Asia-Pacific and Middle East markets. GTA sells around 40,000 room nights per day online, and these are particularly sourced from fast-growing markets in Asia, the Middle East and Africa.

Hotelbeds Group was bought over from the TUI Group last year by a consortium led by Cinven and Canada Pension Plan Investment Board.

At the time, the new owners emphasised they were keen to consolidate the highly fragmented wholesale accommodation market.

Myanmar safe for travel: local trade
While areas such as Rakhine, Kachin and Northern Shan are off-limits, Myanmar Tourism Marketing circulated a map showing tourist hubs of Yangon, Mandalay, Bagan and Inle Lake within safe parameters.

Mount Popa in Myanmar

Edwin Briels, managing director of Khiri Travel Myanmar, said: “It is impossible to accidentally travel to a restricted area. I think Myanmar continues to be one of the safest places on earth to travel.”

However, an anonymous tour operator, said: “If the situation continues, we will see visitors for this high season drop. Also, travellers might not commit to a Myanmar trip next year in this booking peak.”

More than just honeymooners for Maldives
The Maldives needs to market to tourism segments beyond honeymooners and couples to give arrivals a boost, as the destination faces room oversupply and falling rates, industry players said at the inaugural Travel Trade Maldives show in July.

“Two years ago, a room in a five-star property in Maldives was sold from US$700 with breakfast. Now, five-star room rates start from US$500,” Suresh Dissanayake, corporate general manager – sales & marketing, Adaaran Resorts in the Maldives, said.

He added: “The Maldives should look at organising international sporting events and entertainment events using international celebrities to promote Maldives.”

As well, Haikal Idris, head of business development, Tripfez, suggested that the Maldives could also look at attracting Muslim tourists.

Meanwhile, Asian millennials are driving a boom in budget travel to the Maldives, with the islands located within a three-hour speedboat ride from Malé, the biggest beneficiary of this new market force.

IHG shocks with Asia HQ shift to Europe
InterContinental Hotels Group (IHG) announces the creation of a new mega operating region combining Europe, Middle East, Asia & Africa (EMEAA) based in the UK, effectively relegating the current regional office in Singapore covering AMEA (Asia, Middle East and Africa) to a subdivisional office.

This is the first major move by IHG’s new group CEO, Keith Barr, who rose to the top in July.

Given the challenges of managing Asia from Europe, Robert Williams, partner and head of hotels & hospitality Asia-Pacific, Withers Worldwide, said: “Strong and empowered management on the ground in Asia and a clear mandate for them to execute strategy will be key.”

Choe Peng Sum, CEO, Frasers Hospitality Group, is concerned that this spells to IHG-managed hotel owners a deprioritisation of Asia.

IHG’s Barr however assures that the EMEAA region will operate through strong subregional divisions based in locations including Singapore to keep business “close to hotel owners, guests and colleagues”.

JTB swoops in on Kuoni Travel Services
Hot on the heels of Thomas Cook India’s purchase of Kuoni Global Travel Services’ DMC network in Asia, Australia, the Middle East, Africa and the Americas, JTB Corporation has acquired all shares of Kuoni Global Travel Services for an undisclosed price.

The move is part of JTB Corporation’s ambitions to become a top global DMC, as the partnership is expected to strengthen the inbound business services and increase its market share in Europe. It will also support the expansion and strengthening of the global MICE services in Europe and the US markets, which is complementary to existing JTB MICE business.

Thomas Cook’s acquisition does not include Kuoni Destination Management Europe and Kuoni Destination Management US, which remain in the portfolio of Kuoni Global Travel Services.

Kuoni Global Travel Services said in a statement it will continue efforts to be a neutral land operator to work with many companies other than JTB, paying full attention to the protection of any sensitive information.

Cambodia finally gets tourism marketing body
A central tourism marketing and advertising council has been launched to help Cambodia achieve its target of seven million visitors by 2020.

Tourism minister Thong Khon said the council’s main aim is to promote Cambodia to the international market through campaigns and initiatives, and also encourage the private sector to market and advertise the destination.

Khon added that the tourism industry is a vital economic pillar for the country, with the seven million visitor target translating to an estimated revenue of US$5 billion, and more than one million direct jobs.

A five-year tourism masterplan has also been developed, focusing on the creation of new tourism products and keeping resorts and their surroundings clean.

Other elements include infrastructure development, promoting green resorts, building new roads to reach resorts, and increasing quality and manpower within the sector.

Liquor ban leaves Indian hotels high and dry
A ban on liquor sales at establishments within 500m of state and national highways, effective April 1, has struck a serious blow to India’s hotel industry.

Hotel sources said about 50 per cent of hotels in the country come under the ambit of the ban. This includes the Oberoi Gurgaon, Westin Mumbai, Le Meridien Kochi and Radisson Guwahati, to name a few.

The Federation of Hotel & Restaurant Association of India estimates it would result in the closure of more than 100,000 establishments and a loss to both states and the industry to the tune of 20,000 crore rupees (US$3.2 billion).

The impact on banquet business is expected to be massive. Sudesh Poddar, director, Nataraj Group of Hotels, said half of a hotel’s revenue comes through F&B sales. “We expect that 60-70 per cent of the banqueting business of hotels close to the highways will be gone,” he said.

S M Shervani, managing director of The Shervani Group, foresees many hotels will be forced to close down.

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