Asian tourism leaders greet the new year with air of optimism

Positive adjectives are showing up in Asian tourism leaders’ 2024 outlook, with most expecting the new year to bring continued strength in industry improvement and growth.

Melissa Ow, chief executive of the Singapore Tourism Board, believes that the city-state’s continued investment in new products and experiences as well as industry players’ ability to respond to emerging travel trends will place Singapore in a strong position to compete for leisure travellers.

Clockwise from top left: Singapore Tourism Board’s Melissa Ow; Indonesia Ministry of Tourism and Creative Economy’s Sandiaga Uno; Hong Kong Tourism Board’s Dane Cheng; Japan National Tourism Organization’s Atsumi Gamo; Tourism Malaysia’s Ammar Abd Ghapar; and Macao Government Tourism Office’s Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes

“Key development projects such as the Mandai Rejuvenation Project, Bay East Garden and the rejuvenation of Orchard Road are underway, further enhancing Singapore’s attractiveness as a leading destination,” Ow detailed.

Sandiaga Uno, Indonesia minister of tourism and creative economy, said the country’s tourism and travel industry players “are well prepared and more optimistic about facing the year 2024”.

Industry confidence is boosted by healthy business in 2023. According to data available at press time, Indonesia’s 2023 arrival target of 8.5 million was achieved in September; 2023 is expected to conclude with 11 million visitors.

Despite being one of the last countries in Asia-Pacific to reopen to the world, Hong Kong has established strong tourism recovery momentum, opined Dane Cheng, executive director, Hong Kong Tourism Board.

Cheng expects to see a stronger return of travellers from the US and Europe in 2024, as long-haul air capacity to Asia scales up further.

“US president Joe Biden and Chinese president Xi Jinping have committed to increasing scheduled passenger flights in 2024. That’s very good news,” he remarked.

Optimism continues across the sea from Hong Kong. Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes, director of Macao Government Tourism Office, told TTG Asia that “a good start to the new year” is expected, as the destination has been been “doing a lot of promotions as well as investments in diversifying our tourism offerings”.

“Not only did the recovery rate of visitor arrivals increase steadily each month, from 40 per cent in January 2023 to 90 per cent in November 2023 (against 2019 numbers), visitors are also staying longer and spending more,” she said.

Commenting on what travel and tourism operators must do to thrive in 2024, Ammar Abd Ghapar, director-general, Tourism Malaysia, urged his community to prioritise safety and health, integrate technology to enhance customer experiences, and diversify their offerings.

Meanwhile, the Japan National Tourism Organization will support the industry on a sustainability transformation. Its president, Atsumi Gamo, said sustainable tourism is one of the key pillars in the government’s Basic Plan for the Promotion of a Tourism Nation. A goal is set for 100 regions to be sustainable by 2025, with half of that being recognised by international bodies; in 2023, 10 regions were listed in the Top 100 Green Destinations, and four were named Best Tourism Villages by the UNWTO.

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