Asian travel appetite holds strong against rise of Covid infections

Fresh waves of Covid-19 infections are rolling across the world, impacting several countries that are both important tourism source markets and destinations, such as Australia, Indonesia, Singapore, Thailand, South Korea and the US. Despite urgent headlines spotlighting the infection trends, travel companies say travellers are pressing ahead with their plans.

Pascal Gekko, vice president, international accommodation, Traveloka, told TTG Asia that travellers are not deterred by the global resurgence of Covid-19 cases.

Despite headlines around the world spotlighting the resurgence of Covid-19 infections, travellers remain undeterred and still make travel plans

“There is still a strong appetite for travel, and we have been seeing a steady uptick of bookings on our platform. We have not seen higher cancellation rates, while weekly traffic and transactions on our platform remain uniform,” detailed Gekko.

Traveloka continues to see a “significant number of travellers who have made plans for the September and December holidays”. Indonesia, Malaysia, Singapore and Thailand top the list of destinations booked by customers for the rest of the year.

Chan Brothers Travel, one of the leading outbound travel specialists in Singapore, also reports an absence of impact on forward bookings.

Even with South Korea tightening its on-arrival PCR testing requirements from July 25 to curb the spread of Covid infections, with a test now needed within 24 hours instead of 72 hours, the agency’s spokesperson Jeremiah Wong said customers booked for the popular North Asian destination would not be troubled.

“This change will not affect our customers as we have always arranged for them to do their PCR test upon arrival at the airport. Our tour leaders will be fully assisting and guiding customers on our group tours through the process as well,” said Wong.

Gekko believes that the pandemic has reshaped consumer behaviour. Not only are travellers bearing higher expectations of travel as a holistic experience, they are also more resilient and largely undeterred by the various challenges present today.

“We have observed that travellers are taking into consideration the unexpected and equipping themselves with the necessary information and preparation. Rising airfares, for example, have encouraged travellers to book their flights earlier and opt for flexi flights, instead of last-minute fixed bookings in the pre-pandemic days,” he said.

As travellers persist with upcoming plans, they continue to be cautious about health guidelines, and are opting for suppliers that can deliver on safety and flexibility promises.

Chan Brothers Travel maintains its Travel Safe Travel Smart initiatives that highlight safety and hygiene protocols such as ensuring there are no more than 25 or 30 travellers per tour group.

Traveloka keeps its safe travel page regularly updated with current travel safety requirements and offers flexibility within its products and services to take the stress of travel planning off its customers. Refundable options are available for flights and hotels, and customers can also choose to pay later or upon check-in. A round-the-clock customer support team is on standby for unexpected situations.

“While we move towards travel in a post-Covid-19 world, it is important to note that the situation remains fluid and regulations may change easily, disrupting travel plans,” Gekko said.

When asked which of the numerous obstacles that continue to batter travel and tourism’s recovery, from airport disruptions to extreme weather in some regions, are the biggest disruptors of travel confidence among customers, Wong pointed out a few stemming from demand outstripping supply.

“Rising airfares caused partly by limited seat inventory is being scrutinised now. Due to global travel resurgence, there is also the issue of limited room inventory – case in point, the unique igloo accommodation, which is one of the highlights of Northern Lights tours,” he said.

“Other than these, if governments around the world revert to stricter travel rules, testing measures and border restrictions, travel sentiment among Singaporeans will be affected,” he added.

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