Hotspots to watch

From Kerala to Phu Quoc, here’s a look at destinations that have made Asian travel experts’ wow list for 2019


Kevin Hinahon, marketing and sales manager, Travel Experts, Philippines
Boracay. The island has always been the country’s most sought-after destination and next year won’t be any different. It has tickled the curiosity of both foreign and local tourists as to what improvements took place during its six-month rehabilitation. The hubbub of complex issues, although unintentional, proved to be an excellent publicity stunt, especially prior to Boracay’s October 26 reopening, as evidenced by the crowd and demand curve.

Flores, Indonesia

Renato Domini, CEO, Panorama Destination Indonesia
A destination to watch would be Labuan Bajo on Flores island. We are seeing a significant growth in interest for the destination, largely due to the wealth of amazing landscapes, spectacular scenery, unique cultures, otherworldly wildlife and beautiful beaches to be found on the surrounding islands, not least the natural wonders of nearby Komodo National Park.

Ally Bhoonee, executive director, World Avenues, Malaysia
Langkawi sees strong demand for tourists looking for beach stays. Adding to its allure is the availability of all categories of hotels, lovely beaches, and abundance of sea and land-based attractions for families such as cable car ride, crocodile farm, buffalo farm and ziplining through the rainforest. Payar Island in Langkawi is also very popular for snorkelling and diving.

Pirach Hansrisuk, CEO, 5H Tour, Thailand
Khao Yai will be a hot destination next year, especially among South-east Asian tourists. A two-hour drive from Bangkok, Khao Yai features beautiful landscapes particularly in the rainy season, and tourism booms during winter. Local hotels, attractions and tourism-related activities have been well developed and are ready to welcome foreign visitors.

Edwin Briels, managing director, Khiri Travel Myanmar
Southern Rakhine state will become more popular with the Arakan Nature Lodge’s recent opening, especially as Ngapali Beach is already offering one of the best beach experiences in South-east Asia. The opening of Wa Ale Resort in October 2018 and the upcoming launch of Awei Pila ensure Mergui Archipelago now offers top luxury accommodation.

Joseph Sze, senior project director, Siam Express Singapore
Tiong Bahru is getting popular with the Chinese market, as Chinese FITs and families have been researching places to eat and explore in Singapore. Tiong Bahru fits in with Singapore Tourism Board’s Passion Made Possible brand, which has also helped translate and present the neighbourhood’s story to visitors.

Houseboat in Kerala backwaters

Arun Anand, managing director, Midtown Travels, India
Kerala. The state has bounced back from the floods in terms of restoration of the connectivity, infrastructure and tourism experiences. The state government, and the local tourism and hospitality stakeholders, are aggressively promoting the destination. Through these efforts, we are expecting a healthy number of enquiries from our foreign tour operator partners for Kerala in 2019.

Ronni Dalhoff, managing director of Diethelm Travel (Cambodia)
The riverside town of Kampot and nearby coastal resort of Kep are becoming tourism hotspots as interest shifts from Sihanoukville. Many places in these destinations are now seeing high occupancy so we would like to see more four-star and mid-range accommodation in these areas to be able to offer a more rounded package.

Ronald Wu, director of sales and marketing, Gray Line Tours of Hong Kong
The world’s longest bridge-cum-tunnel sea-crossing, the 55km Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge linking northern Lantau to the western shore of Pearl River Estuary is an architectural wonder and attraction. Apart from driving across the mega structure, visitors can also view it from a boat.

Amber Halleday, mobile travel advisor, Mobile Travel Agents, Australia
Only 25 minutes by ferry from Townsville, North Queensland, lies the Magnetic Island. It has secluded beaches, crystal clear waters, abundant wildlife and easy access to the Great Barrier Reef. Two-thirds of the island is the national park, housing nearly 25km of amazing walking trails. The island comprises everything from luxury self-contained accommodation to backpacker hostels, plus many activities ranging from boat trips and guided tours to golf, diving and horse riding.

Devindre Senaratne, managing director Journey Scapes Travel, Sri Lanka
Sigiriya, where the famous rock fortress built by an ancient king is located, is gaining prominence over other locations in Sri Lanka. It is where you can see the largest land mammal (elephant) at a wildlife park, and the largest mammal (blue whale) on the shores off the eastern town of Trincomalee.

Avi Lugasi, owner and managing director, Windows to Japan
We are expecting a very busy 2019 thanks to the Rugby World Cup, even though Kyoto – where we are based – is not hosting any matches. We are very close to Osaka and fans will inevitably want to come here on days when there are no games.



Abdul Rahman Mohamed, general manager, Mayflower Holidays, Malaysia
Phu Quoc has seen a spike in demand since AirAsia commenced new services from Kuala Lumpur on November 2. The destination has unspoilt beaches, and makes a great weekend getaway for Malaysian travellers.

Amol Punni, managing director, Welcome Travels, Australia
Kerala. Although the destination suffered severe flooding in 2018, wellness tourism and beach destinations will bounce back and there will be a surge in tourist footfalls. Not only does it have a number of world- renowned Ayurveda and yoga resorts, Kerala’s natural beauty is unmatched. The Malabar Coast is adorned with palm-lined beaches, canal network, lush lands, house boats and wildlife sanctuaries.

Winter in Lapland, Finland

Mike Hain, group sales, Corporate International Travel & Tours, Philippines
Lapland. It’s the buzzword for Filipinos who’ve been there, done that and want to experience unique winter activities such as visiting Santa Claus’ home near the Arctic Circle, seeing the Northern Lights, staying in an igloo, and husky-sled, snowmobile and reindeer sleigh rides. Lapland can be combined with other Nordic countries and Tallinn in Estonia is just a ferry ride away.

Wong Yew Hoong, EU Holidays Singapore
There has been an increase in travellers signing up for tour packages to Uzbekistan as compared to five years ago, heralding the trend of travel to exotic and unique destinations in 2019. This is also evident in more than 100 travellers booking tickets for EU Holidays’ mass-chartered flight to Uzbekistan in December 2018.

Saint Basil’s Cathedral in Moscow

Johnny So, general manager, Sunflower Travel Service, Hong Kong
Eastern Europe like Russia. Numbers have been going up over the last few years as many travellers have been to Western and Southern Europe. Hotels and coaches were in shortage earlier, but post-World Cup Russia has seen more resources added, lowering costs and make the destination more affordable.

Surawat Akaraworamat, managing director, KTK Tour Enterprise, Thailand
An emerging outbound market of Thailand is Taiwan. Travellers need not apply for visas and it takes only about four hours to fly there with many airline choices available. The values of Taiwanese and Thai currencies are close. It is clean, well regulated, with convenient transport facilities. Taiwanese people are friendly and their food is compatible with Thais’ tastes.

Shibuya crossing, Tokyo

Andy Wu, managing director, Gray Line Tours Macau
Japan will continue to be the hottest destination owing to its culture and food. As FITs occupy a larger ratio of visitors, I foresee the traffic will venture beyond the key cities. With the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macau Bridge now operational, there will be more options for Macanese to fly to Japan via Hong Kong International Airport.

Shun Tsuzawa, supervisor of outbound marketing and strategy division, JTB
Hawaii. For many Japanese, Hawaii is still paradise and our largest customer segment is families, followed by couples on their honeymoons.

Bui Nhan, director, Ecosea Travel, Vietnam
For 2019, I expect more Vietnamese will visit European countries, with Paris, Italy and Sweden the most popular destinations. New destinations are emerging. South Africa is one country that will start to see more Vietnamese travellers because it is new and exciting.

Sinan Thourn, CEO and founder, B2B Cambodia
Interest in Tokyo and Taipei will continue to grow as popular destinations with Cambodians in 2019. These cities are still seen as new destinations and with direct flights to both, they are quick and easy for tourists to spend a few days for some sightseeing and shopping.


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