Top News Strong year-end tourism performance in more liberal Asian markets By Karen Yue / Posted on 28 January, 2021 16:49 A full year of pent-up travel demand has unleashed strong year-end holiday bookings for travel players in Asian markets with eased movement restrictions, particularly China and Singapore. Year-end holidays drew impressive domestic bookings Hotel deals aplenty to keep bookings coming after the festivities Public-private partnerships will help maintain booking momentum Asia’s hotel industry was the strongest performing region for year-end bookings A full year of pent-up travel demand has unleashed strong year-end holiday bookings for travel players in Asian markets with eased movement restrictions, particularly China and Singapore. Trip.com has seen “promising signs in Asian markets when and where travel is possible, with those able to travel opting for hotel packages and domestic tours”, revealed CEO Jane Sun in an interview with TTG Asia. Sun is hopeful of good tourism growth across Asia, as many nations have demonstrated a capability to contain the spread of the Covid-19 virus through technology-forward approaches taken by Asian leaders. A safe return to travel throughout the region will therefore be possible. In China alone, Trip.com saw a 50 per cent increase in thematic tourism product transactions during the October Golden Week holidays in 2020, with customers searching for holidays by activity. Top searches include skiing, hiking and outdoor activities. The number of small group tours during the 2020 National Day holidays rose by 100 per cent over 2019, with an average of three to five people per group, dominated by families. In November, five-star hotel reservations accounted for more than 70 per cent of total accommodation bookings. Referencing an STR hotel report, Sun said Asia’s hotel industry showed the strongest performance compared to other regions around the world. “Overall occupancy rates reached 62 per cent, the highest level since January 2020, while other regions’ rates remained below 51 per cent. Initiatives such as the launching of the air travel bubbles between Singapore, Hong Kong and Taiwan also reveal a potential path to the staggered return of regional travel,” she remarked, adding that similar staggered travel recoveries could be expected in other Asian markets. Pan Pacific Hotels Group (PPHG), whose global portfolio is dominated by Singapore properties, has also reported excellent year-end takings. Cinn Tan, chief sales and marketing officer, said the company’s eight hotels and serviced suites in Singapore “saw tremendous bookings”, with almost full occupancies on the weekends. Bookings came mainly from local families and young couples, whose overseas travel plans are disabled by continued air travel restrictions. Tan: Staycation demand over year-end period more than doubled at PPHG’s Singapore properties The Singapore government’s domestic travel stimulus programme, SingapoRediscover Vouchers, has also helped to fuel domestic staycation demand over the year-end period, noted Tan, who added that Singapore remains a key market for PPHG. “We saw more than double the demand compared to previous years in Singapore, with bookings concentrated around the key festive dates and weekends. Our hotels and serviced suites in Singapore exceeded our expectations in both rooms and dining,” Tan said. However, in other Asian markets where PPHG operates, such as China and Malaysia, performance potential was interrupted by the implementation of fresh Covid-19 restrictions, which slowed down demand in the second half of December. Maintaining momentum With the resumption of school and work routines in 2021, tourism players anticipate demand to contract – but not by a lot, as the Chinese New Year period this year coincides with Valentine’s Day. In Singapore, the school holidays also come around in March, which fuels hope for another staycation wave. Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore, which welcomed its first guests in early December, is optimistic that business will continue to “remain good” over the weekends and slow down on weekdays. The key to maintaining booking momentum after the year-end peak is the provision of continuous attractive reasons for local residents and expatriates to stay with the resort, opined general manager Eric Piatti. Banking on the resort’s co-location with Laguna National Golf Resort Club, Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore has curated unique experiences, such as the Stay and Play package, which offers guests access to a round of 18 holes on the golf course, access to the Short Game Practice Area, dining credits and spa discounts. It is also enticing bookings with the Weekday Break-cation package, Pause@Devarana Wellness spa day pass, and festive deals for Chinese New Year and Valentine’s Day. Noting that wellness tourism has gained importance over the past decade and even more so as a result of the pandemic, Piatti said Dusit Thani Laguna Singapore is focusing on holistic wellness – something that the property is able to excel in due to its extensive range of well-being activities and lush surroundings. PPHG, too, has been engaging guests across various marketing channels and rolling out varied staycation experiences with perks to keep guests coming. For example, Parkroyal Collection Pickering offers the Bait and Breakfast package that invites guests to sail away to the Southern Islands of Singapore for a private fishing trip for two, while the new Parkroyal Collection Marina Bay has an opening offer where guests can pick a picnic or go for kids’ amenities with pint tent, in-room sand art activity and unlimited ice cream. Collaborative approach is critical Sun believes that private and public partnerships are needed to spur recovery and maintain demand. To that end, Trip.com signed a three-year agreement with the Singapore Tourism Board to co-market the city-state globally. She regarded this as a “much-needed boost of confidence during this time of uncertainty”. The company is also one of the few select partners for the redemption of SingapoRediscover Vouchers. Trip.com’s Sun expects 2021’s first holiday season to see spike in travel bookings across Asia as vaccine fuels travel confidence At the height of the pandemic in 2020, Trip.com invested hundreds of millions of dollars into the industry as part of its Travel On campaign, aimed at helping trade partners weather the storm. The company also launched Trip.com LIVE, a weekly live-streaming series that supports key travel ecosystems in Singapore, South Korea, Japan, Thailand, Hong Kong, and Malaysia. It promotes hotel partners and incentivises consumers with exclusive, unique staycation packages. Casting her eyes on the future, Sun expects “a sharp increase” in travel across Asia during the first holiday season of 2021, with travel confidence stemming from the widespread rollout of vaccinations as well as the development of better Covid-19 controls by governments. “This may be preceded by more extensive domestic travel recoveries around the world, with incremental amounts of business and individual travel,” Sun concluded.