Cuba, Rwanda make their move on APAC travel market

Cuba, which has in past years seen the fast boom and bust of the American feeder, is now targeting APAC's high-end travel market

Asia-Pacific’s luxury travel markets are attracting new suppliers from non-traditional destinations, hoping to bank in on the recent interest they’re seeing in their countries.

For the first time this year, representatives from Cuba and Rwanda participated in Australian luxury trade event Luxperience, telling TTG Asia they are encouraged by the response from agents.

Cuba, which has in past years seen the fast boom and bust of the American feeder, is now targeting APAC’s high-end travel market

“We noticed there is much more demand for Cuba as a destination from Australia and New Zealand,” said Senses of Cuba’s general manager, Bernd Herrmann.

The demand increase is seen from Asia-Pacific in general, but Australia and New Zealand are particularly important for higher-end travel and incentive groups, he added.

Meantime Rwanda introduced itself to the luxury market with a delegation of five tourism companies at Luxperience, including the Rwandan Development Board, which is responsible for tourism.

“Statistics show Australia is the number three source market for gorilla trekking so there’s a lot of potential,” said One and Only’s Nyungwe House’s marketing manager Bonita Mutoni. “We want to make sure we are in market trying to understand the needs and better sell our destination”.

Linda Liu, chief marketing officer for China’s Nuo Travel says she was keen to find out more about Rwanda’s offering as her company was getting more requests for Africa from clients.

“Rwanda is a very special destination especially for families with kids,” she told TTG Asia. “Our clients are interested in opportunities for their children to see animals in the wilderness and to learn about environmental issues”.

But some agents expressed concern that destinations like Cuba and Rwanda do not yet offer a total luxury product.

“(They are the kind of destination) people want to tick off their bucket lists,” said Anne Mullins from Mobile Travel Agents. “You have to sell them to the right clients, especially something like gorilla trekking where clients have to be fit to see them in their natural habitat”.

Both Liu and Mullins also expressed that clients need to be made aware that hotels in Cuba aren’t on par with international standards.

However, Herrmann said Cuba is well on the road to developing into a luxury offering with new hotel chains like Kempinski and Banyan Tree, and quality gastronomic offerings now in market.

Similarly in Rwanda, Mutoni noted that brands like Singita and Wilderness Safaris have joined One and Only to appeal to affluent travellers.

Mutoni also observed that Rwanda’s recent efforts to start courting Asia by participating in travel fairs in Hong Kong, Beijing, Singapore and Shanghai this year are paying off. “The response has been fantastic,” she said. “It was the first time I’ve been in market and been able to confirm bookings in the space of a month, which has never happened before”.

[Senses of Cuba’s Bernd Herrmann: increasing demand from APAC, with Australia and New Zealand of particular importance]

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