SE Asian outbound markets a force to be reckoned with

Regional and longhaul travel picking up in South-east Asian outbound markets

Much attention has been given to Asian travel markets with huge population bases like China and India, but overlooked markets in South-east Asia such as Vietnam, Thailand and the Philippines are proving to be formidable forces in travel.

In South Korea, Vietnam is now the top market for Nami Island, a destination popular with Thais, Vietnamese and Indonesians, according to marketing manager Kim Kyu Han. While the attraction’s initial claim to fame came from popular Korean TV series Winter Sonata over a decade ago, it has in recent years also received film crews from Thailand, Malaysia and Indonesia.

Regional and longhaul travel picking up in South-east Asian outbound markets

At the 280-key Flamingo Hotel in Penang, Thai travellers make up 15-20 per cent of total guests, compared to European guests, who add up to less than two per cent, according to Ronnie Ng, senior sales manager.

He said developing South-east Asian travel markets should not be underestimated or ignored, given their growing appetite for travel and rising affluence.

Agreeing, Bernard Gene Luna, operations manager at U-Travel Services in the Philippines, said leisure travel has become a larger part of life for many Filippinos in the past decade.

“Compared to previous generations, millennials are more willing to (dip into their savings) to travel. Travel is becoming such an aspirational part of their lives,” said Luna.

The most popular destinations at the Philippine agency are Japan and South Korea, where the visa application process is less of a hassle, he pointed out, while Taiwan is also rising quickly due to a recent visa-free facility for Philippine passport holders.

“There is also a growing number of seasoned Filipinos travellers. They tend to travel longer haul to France, Italy and the UK. For them, the visa application process is no issue.”

While China remains the strongest source market for longhaul buyers TTG Asia spoke to at the recent PATA Travel Mart (PTM) in Langkawi, many are upping efforts to target South-east Asia’s expanding travelling class.

Sellers at PTM also noted a rise in Asians looking for alternative European destinations to the traditionally popular hotspots of London and Paris.

Ralf Ostendorf, Visit Berlin market manager for Asia, said China is firmly the country’s top Asian source market, however, an increasing number of direct flight connections has spurred growing interest in Europe from other parts of South-east Asia.

Thailand, Indonesia and the Philippines are the strongest South-east Asian source markets, with Malaysia slowly picking up.

Hikmet Atilla, general manager of Raffinesse Travel, has also noticed more interest from South-east Asia for Turkey, with Istanbul being the main attraction.

Thailand, Japan and South Korea are the main markets after China, with the emerging outbound destinations of Myanmar and Cambodia starting to gain momentum.

Reporting by Yixin Ng and Marissa Carruthers

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