We asked Jameson Wong, Director, Business Development, Asia-Pacific for ForwardKeys to forecast the future by telling us how he sees the near-term outlook for the travel industry in the region. Are the good performances registered in the last few years likely to continue in the region?
I predict that the next three years will be interesting to watch, because I feel convinced that we are heading into a global recession in the two years to come. There are many reasons for this pessimistic approach, from trade tensions to a slowdown of the Chinese economy, and from currency fluctuations to safety issues. What will be interesting to watch out for is how the travel industry can be prepared and weather the possible storm.
I believe that travel will continue to grow especially but at a much lower pace
Do you feel then that the number of travellers is likely to decline?
I do not think so. I believe that travel will continue to grow especially but at a much lower pace. There is still a strong desire among Asians to travel outside and to know the rest of the world.
How do you see the Chinese market evolving?
Chinese outbound is an unavoidable element for the tourism industry of most countries in Southeast Asia as it can represent up to 60% of all arrivals. This number carries the risk of high dependency. Countries must then be sure that they can control three factors which are extremely influential to Chinese travellers’ decisions. They are currency exchange, safety and visa regulation. We saw last year how a safety issue in Thailand did translate into a sharp decline of Chinese tourist arrivals. We currently see that the very strong Baht exchange rate has a repelling effect on Chinese who are now looking at cheaper countries. Visa regulation can have on the contrary a positive effect such as in Myanmar or Japan where the government recently decided to provide online visa services for Chinese citizens living in Beijing.
Chinese travel between September and December is ahead by 8.1% with booking to Europe in double-digits, ahead by +14.3%
Which role does air transport play to stimulate China travel?
It is simple. The more connections you have, the more Chinese are travelling to a destination. We have seen in recent months a growth in air links between China and Europe. According to the data we aggregated from booking engines, Chinese travel between September and December is ahead by 8.1% with booking to Europe in double-digits, ahead by +14.3%. Bookings to Finland are for example up by +37.1% as air capacity between Finland and China increased by +20.9% from January to September and is scheduled to increase by +43.9% for the next four months.
Do you think that sustainability is likely to play a role in Asian travels such as in the case of the “Flygskam” [flight shaming] in Sweden?
Asians are awakening to issues of sustainability, including in their travel habits. We see more initiative to ban single-use plastic in many countries and new ways to reduce our carbon footprint. However, I do not see Asian people renouncing to fly somewhere and instead taking a boat or a train. Probably because we do not have here in Southeast Asia –unlike Europe- alternatives to flying.