by Peter J. Bates

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

The State of Tourism in Asia

I have been privileged to visit Asia many times during the course of my career, and the destination continues to surprise and delight me. Having just completed a three-week tour of the region from Tokyo to Shanghai with many cities in between, I remain impressed by the vitality and ingenuity of the tourism and hospitality industry there.

While oversupply in some markets and staff retention seem to be key issues, it is quite apparent that tourism and hospitality are healthy and resilient in nearly every case.

Japan continues to face challenges from the earthquake and tsunami earlier this year, however the WTTC recently announced that business is beginning to return. Here is a link to the informative WTTC report:

During my stay in Tokyo, I learned that business travel is back and leisure travel enquiries are beginning to show some momentum. It appears the last few months have seen an improvement in occupancy at the top end of the market.

Unfortunately, Thailand continues to face severe problems and my heart goes out to the Thai population as they battle the floods. Having secured a stable new government, the country has now been hit by the worst flooding in memory leading to enormous cancellations and low hotel occupancies.

Last week in China, I was fortunate enough to accompany a distinguished group of 65 travel agency owners and managers during the Virtuoso Chairman’s Event, and these individuals were amazed by the quality of China’s tourism and hospitality product – stunning hotels, extraordinary events that showcased the country’s very best, memorable experiences, and a level of service that few anticipated. The Chairman’s Event brings together the top-producing agency owners from within the Virtuoso network across the U.S., Canada, South America and Australia, so the fact that the attendees were so significantly impressed is a tremendous accomplishment for the country.

Asia is of great – and increasing – interest to today’s luxury consumers, and travel there continues to gain momentum. According to the Travel + Leisure Travel Trends Study (Spring 2011), U.S. travelers took two international leisure trips (over 17 days) in the past 12 months; ¼ plan to take a long-haul trip in the coming year, with Hong Kong representing the number one Asian destination. A testament to the fact that Americans are indeed traveling to Asia, American Express Publishing Cardmembers spent $1,227,844,757 on their American Express Cards alone while in Asia in 2010, which represents an increase of 18 percent compared to 2009.

This was an equally special and enlightening trip, and I look forward to what I’ll discover during my next adventure in the region.

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