ASEAN travellers are back in Europe after an uncertain 2016 where many countries suffered a downturn in booking intention from Southeast Asian travellers. Research consulting company Forwardkeys predicts a rise of almost 10% of Asians travelling to Europe up to April 2017.

Asia outbound travel has been largely affected in 2016 by safety issues due to terrorist attacks in many iconic European destinations such as Brussels, Istanbul, Paris and most recently Berlin.

In its research over bookings for ASEAN* travellers from November 2015 to October 2016, ForwardKeys recorded a growth in bookings by Southeast Asian visitors during that period of 1%, with some destinations particularly affected by disaffection: France saw bookings collapsing by 14% compared to the same period of 2014/15 followed by Germany, down by a more modest 1.6% and Italy progressing by only 0.5%.

Among large outbound markets from ASEAN to Europe, Thailand recorded a decline in bookings of 2.8% – the largest of any significant outbound markets in the region- while strongest growth in booking were recorded for the Philippines – up by 5.5%, and Indonesia –up by 4.6%, as well as Malaysia (+2.3%).

Europe is the second largest destination for ASEAN travellers. The continent represents 12.2% of all bookings of Southeast Asian travellers between November 2015 and October 2016. Top destinations are the UK with 19.3% followed by Germany with 13.4%, France with 11.5%, Italy with 9.9% and Holland with 9.4%.

ForwardKeys analysed trends by booked cities: Once more, Paris is leading with a decline of 15% followed by Madrid down by 9% -however balanced by a growth of 11% to Barcelona- and Frankfurt down by 8.9% -although Munich grew during the same period by 3.9%. Both Milan and Rome were also down by respectively 6.4% and 0.7%.

However, they are some good news in the air: tourists from Asia are back — and particularly tourists from ASEAN countries. While Europe did not lose its appeal for Southeast Asians, the consulting company observes a shift in destinations within the continent.

Booking trends between November 2016 and April 2017 foresee a growth of bookings of 9.6%. Once more there are some fluctuations from one European region to another. While demand to Western Europe continues to level off (-0.1% over the period), ForwardKeys foresees stronger booking trends to Central Europe — up by 49%, followed by Northern Europe up by 20% and Southern Europe by 8.4%.

The surge of both Northern and Central Europe is explained by the perception of these countries are deemed “safer” than other destinations within Europe. It is also the consequence of a surge in non-stop flights from ASEAN to these regions. Helsinki and Copenhagen are turning into important hubs to Europe with Finnair and Norwegian adding new flights. Vietnam Airlines looks to introduce in the near future flights from Hanoi to Prague, Singapore Airlines will launch a route Singapore- Stockholm next spring while LOT Polish Airlines is looking at converting its charter flights Warsaw-Bangkok into a permanent scheduled flight.

Recovery for all ASEAN markets but Malaysia

Morad Ayebi, Regional Director ASEAN of ATOUT France, the French tourism agency, forecasts that Indonesia will soon be Europe’s largest inbound market from ASEAN due to the rapid emergence of a strong middle class.

His analysis is confirmed by numbers from ForwardKeys: Indonesian b ookings for the period November 2016-April 2017 are up by 38%, followed by a recovery of Thailand, up by 21%. The rise in disposable income in Vietnam translates into a surge in bookings to Europe by 9.3% while Singapore is also gaining strength with bookings up by 8.6% during the same period.

Malaysia is the only disappointing market over the next few months: ForwardKeys observes a decline in bookings of 21% over the period Nov-2016 to April 2017, due mostly to the very weak exchange rate of its local currency. The Ringgit has been down by 15% on average in 2016…

  • by Luc Citrinot

*ASEAN: Association of Southeast Asian Nations integrating Brunei, Cambodia, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam.