Tourism leaders spot signs of recovery

Domestic business has become the bearer of hope for three tourism companies in Asia, with corporate group stays and staycations being the biggest drivers of re-emerging demand.

Speaking at an edition of WiT Virtual webinar series today, which tackled the topic of possible recovery in North Asia, Jennifer Cronin, president of Wharf Hotels, Hong Kong said her sales offices in Beijing and Shanghai were starting to receive business event enquiries for April to June while various hotels across China were beginning to see a pick up in business.

Beijing hotels are starting to get some business event enquiries

While Cronin said the occupancy rate is nowhere near what it should be at this time of the year, she acknowledged that a 20 per cent occupancy “is certainly a lot better than” a single-digit performance.

“We are definitely seeing those green shoots starting to appear in China,” she remarked.

Cronin is keeping her eye on China’s domestic travel performance this May Day holiday, and shared that at present travel vouchers for 2H2020 “are appearing to be very popular”.

Beyond China, recovery sightings are still vague.

Over in South Korea, where the government has suspended all festivals and discouraged outdoor gatherings, Min Yoon, CEO of Tidesquare travel services specialist, said most of the domestic hotel bookings he gets now are for after May.

KK Day Taiwan, co-founder & COO, Weichun Liu, opined that the signs may only be clearer in two months’ time.

“Despite this, we are seeing domestic travel demand from almost all our markets except those under lockdown,” said Liu.

The online tour and activity platform has seen an increase in bookings for outdoor activities such as water sports in Taiwan and Japan, while camping is hotting up in Singapore and Taiwan.

“All camping sites are fully booked up until June in Taiwan,” Liu revealed.

He observed that demand patterns in Taiwan are typically mirrored in Hong Kong, so “whatever we are developing to meet demands in Taiwan right now can sell into Hong Kong later on”.

Liu reasoned that the domestic market is helping to drive recovery because with borders still closed in many overseas destinations, entertainment can only be found on home ground.

“Clients are getting bored at home, and are starting to search what they are going to do. It’s a very good time for marketing campaigns, and we are diversifying our products and services to offer such things as food delivery promotions done in partnership with a couple of delivery firms,” he added.

Rebound in Hong Kong is expected to be slow, as her borders remain closed and compulsory quarantines are ordered for arriving travellers. However, Cronin said Wharf Hotels is picking up staycation demand from people hungry for a weekend treat amid the gloom and from families wanting to stay away from other members returning from overseas.

She shared that her Hong Kong hotel performance is also “not completely single-digit”.

Meanwhile, the three speakers agree that rebound for Asia-Pacific will come after China is free from outbreaks.

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