Asia boasts an eclectic mix of destinations for any traveller, ensuring that it provides visitors with memorable experiences. Panayiotis Markides reports.
The continental giant that makes up Asia has long lured travellers from far and wide. Whether one heads to Singapore for commerce, or to Thailand for cultural immersion, there are no shortages of attractions and experiences to be had by potential visitors.
And the success that Asia’s tourism sector has traditionally achieved is only growing. CEO, Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), Dr. Mario Hardy informed TTG exclusively: “According to UNWTO statistics, inbound travel to Asia from Africa has tripled in the past decade and increased by five times from the Middle East.”
The statistics he referred to, from UNWTO’s Asia Tourism Trends – 2015 Edition, reveal that between 1995 and 2015, total arrivals into Asia and the Pacific went from 82,114,000 to 263,994,000, with 4.1 million of these coming from the Middle East (or five per cent of the total share), showcasing how travel and tourism is a key industry that all the destinations across the continent are intent on developing.
In light of the success that Asia’s tourism industry is witnessing, TTG spoke to key stakeholders across the breadth of the continent to find out more.
Incentivised by its growing status on almost every traveller’s bucket-list, Asia’s key destinations are focusing on creating memorable, high-calibre experiences.
Highlighting this quality-driven aspect was director – Dubai & Middle East, Tourism Authority Thailand (TAT), Chalermsak Suranant, who explained to TTG: “By marketing the kingdom as a ‘Quality Leisure Destination through Thainess’, we are positioning ourselves as a unique nation that serves the needs of luxury lovers while also meeting their religious requirements.”
He added that Thailand’s superiority as a destination is emphasised specifically for MENA travellers through TAT’s work with tour operators, hotels and other businesses – such as health centres and restaurants – to ensure that the needs of Middle Eastern visitors are met.
In the heart of South East Asia, Singapore is also taking steps to ensure visitors experience what Singapore Tourism Board (STB) has termed ‘Quality Tourism’.
Vice president and general manager, Shangri-La Hotel, Singapore, Reto Klauser informed TTG: “We have seen a strong focus on developing the high-yield business traveller and the MICE attendee customer segment which represents approximately one-fifth of Singapore’s overall visitor arrivals.”
Klauser noted that as STB continues to support quality MICE events which bring in large numbers of high-yield visitors, MICE stakeholders will stand to gain. Referring to the hotel’s own approach to improving its MICE facilities, Klauser revealed that Shangri-La Singapore last year completed its $8 million refurbishment of its Tower Ballroom.
In the picturesque Himalayas, although still recovering from 2015’s tragic earthquake, Nepali stakeholders are well-aware of the destination’s luxury potential. Sales and marketing manager, Dwarika’s Group of Hotels & Resort, Sheba Rana Shrestha told TTG that guests ranging from Hollywood and Bollywood celebrities, to political leaders and the royal families of various nations have stayed at the properties. The group’s portfolio boasts The Dwarika’s Hotel, Kathmandu, a family-run Boutique Heritage Hotel and The Dwarika’s Resort Dhulikhel, a holistic lifestyle retreat. Shrestha noted that the company aims to leverage Nepal’s direct flight offering from MENA destinations to attract guests from the region.
Being recognised as a vast land of both adventure and spirituality, Asia is keen on ensuring that when visitors step foot on the continent, they have ample choice in accommodation and travel is hassle-free. As a result, across the continent, destinations are bolstering infrastructure and opening new properties.
In preparation for welcoming more guests than ever, China’s Special Administration Zones, Hong Kong and Macau have a range of developments in the works, a Hong Kong Tourism Board (HKTB) spokesperson told TTG: “Hong Kong’s status as a gateway to Mainland China will soon be further enhanced with the completion of the Hong Kong-Zhuhai-Macao Bridge and the Hong Kong section of the Guangzhou-Shenzhen-Hong Kong Express Rail Link.” The spokesperson added that Hong Kong is also set to welcome new properties over the coming two years, namely: a five-star Kerry Hotel (a brand of Shangri-La Hotels & Resorts), Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel and Disney Explorers Lodge.
In Macau, director, Macao Government Tourism Office (MGTO), Maria Helena de Senna Fernandes enthused that the destination’s room inventory is climbing fast: “The Cotai area in Macau has seen the cluster of integrated themed resorts increase and more are in the pipeline.” She shared that in late 2015, the 1,600-room Studio City Macau opened and earlier this year, Wynn Palace was unveiled, adding 1,706 rooms, suites and villas. More recently, The Parisian Macao opened its doors and features a half-scale replica of the Eiffel Tower, 3,000 guest rooms and suites. Also in the pipeline is THE 13, MGM Cotai, according to de Senna Fernandes.
Meanwhile, marketing and communications manager, Japan National Tourism Organization – London, Hollie Mantle conveyed that Japan is also witnessing an enhancement of its luxury portfolio: “Several international luxury hotels have been opening up in Japan. The Four Seasons will open in Kyoto this autumn and a Conrad will open in Osaka early next year.” She noted that in the run up to the 2019 Rugby World Cup and the Tokyo 2020 Olympic Games, Japan’s tourism is ‘booming’. Adding to this, PR director, Okura Nikko Hotel Management, Ryutaro Suzuki told TTG that the Japan-based hospitality company with 46 hotels in Japan, 29 overseas and more on the way is promoting its ‘spirit of Japanese hospitality’ to travellers visiting Japan, and any of its hotels across Asia.
Also riding the crest of a strong visitor arrival wave is Taiwan, as director, Taiwan Tourism Bureau, Singapore Office, Arthur Hsieh informed TTG: “Growth in tourist arrivals has been strong ever since Taiwan began allowing large numbers of mainland Chinese citizens to visit the island in 2008, and last year Chinese visitors accounted for 40 per cent of the total.” In order to accommodate these rising figures, Hsieh stated that the country aims to upgrade its tourism infrastructure, including expanding the facilities at Taiwan Taoyuan International Airport, as well as improving the level of hotels and easing entry into attractions.
With countless appealing qualities, Asia is playing to its strengths in order to attract the global traveller.