Asia Stays Top of Mind

All week we're running a special report on what agents can expect from the travel industry in 2015. Here's our look at the industry as a whole, and here is a series of tips on how to be proactive with clients heading into the New Year. 

The Asia-Pacific region continues to stay hot on the minds of travelers looking for a major experience with a bit of culture shock. It is continuously the next choice for the experienced traveler, and always manages to keep itself relevant. Here is a look at some of what is ahead in 2015.


Royal Caribbean International made waves back in April with the announcement that its big new Quantum-class ship, Quantum of the Seas, would homeport in Shanghai for the spring/summer 2015 season. In 2015, China will represent 10 percent of RCL’s summer capacity, while Asia overall will be 15 percent of the company’s deployments, up from 12 percent this year, according to Robin Farley, a cruise industry analyst for UBS Investment Research.

Carnival Corporation also is strongly jockeying for position in China, sending Alan Buckelew, its chief operating officer, to Shanghai to head all Carnival brands’ operations there. By summer 2015, the company will have four ships based in China. Three are from Costa Cruises, including the new Costa Serena, homeported year-round in Shanghai starting in April 2015. That vessel will join two other Costa ships already there. Princess Cruises, which began sailing Sapphire Princess from Shanghai, is also a brand of Carnival Corp.

The new Four Points by Sheraton Bengaluru will be joined by three more Starwood hotels in India in 2015.
The new Four Points by Sheraton Bengaluru will be joined by three more Starwood hotels in India in 2015.

Brand new hotels heading into winter include the St. Regis Chengdu, Shangri-La’s Sanya Resort and Spa in Hainan and the Sunrise Kempinski on Yanqi Lake outside of Beijing. Look for the Sheraton Shaoxing Keqiao Hotel to open in March and Bulgari Shanghai and Jumeirah Nanjing to debut in 2016.

China Airlines and Virgin America have introduced codesharing for travel between several destinations in Asia and the U.S. The new agreement includes China using its airline code (CI) on Virgin America flights in select U.S. cities.


Foreign tourist arrivals to India were up 9.2 percent year over year in the month of September. The U.S. was the second highest percentage share of international arrivals following Bangladesh. An expected growth of 10 percent in arrivals is slated for 2015.

Starwood Hotels & Resorts is relocating its global headquarters to India in March 2015 for a month-long immersion. President and CEO Frits van Paasschen and the company’s top executives will split their time between Mumbai and Delhi. During the month, the team will travel to cities throughout India to meet with associates, customers, owners and prospective developers. They will be traveling to Bangalore, Chennai, Pune, Hyderabad and Kochi, and also throughout South Asia.

Starwood, which opened the Four Points by Sheraton Bengaluru, Whitefield, in July, has three more India properties on tap for 2015: Le Méridien Mahabaleshwar Resort & Spa and The Westin Bekal Resort & Spa are both preparing for a March 1 debut while W Retreat & Spa Goa is expected to launch in November.

Uniworld Boutique River Cruise Collection is adding the subcontinent to its roster with “India’s Golden Triangle & the Sacred Ganges” from New Delhi to Kolkata—set to debut in January 2016. The 12-night itinerary includes seven nights onboard the new all-suite Ganges Voyager II.

Visiting Asia


The latest news coming out of Japan is the new Bullet Train service that runs from Tokyo to the Hokuriku region. It will be only 2.5 hours, instead of a four-hour journey.

In 2015, Japan will open Moomin theme park, just in time to coincide with the centenary of the birth of Tove Jansson, the cartoon’s creator. (Moomin is a Finnish cartoon that began in 1945 and has been turned into an animated TV series that is popular worldwide.)

New daily flights between San Francisco and Tokyo’s close-in Haneda Airport will complement United Airlines’ existing service between the hub and Tokyo’s Narita International Airport. Good to know: The flight schedules will let customers use public transportation between Haneda Airport and central Tokyo and Yokohama. United also operates daily service to Tokyo/Narita from its hubs in Chicago, Denver, Guam, Honolulu, Houston, Los Angeles, New York and Washington.


In 2013, Myanmar launched plans to help improve the country’s tourism and economy, with 38 development projects in the pipeline. Tourism authorities, with the help of the Asian Development Bank and Norwegian government, are helping to expand the number of international tourists arriving at airports at Mandalay and Nay Pyi Taw. The plan also helps more cruises operate direct routes leading to Inle Lake, Ngapali beach and beyond.

In 2015, Avalon Waterways will introduce two new 36-guest Suite Ships on the Mekong and the river cruise line’s newest destination, the Irrawaddy River. AmaWaterways’ brand new ship, the AmaPura, will also sail the Irrawaddy on a series of 10- and 14-night cruises. 2015 will be the first full season for three Viking River Cruises ships specifically built to navigate the Mekong and Irrawaddy: Viking Mandalay, Viking Mekong and Viking Orient.


At the World Travel Mart in London in November, the Tourism Authority of Thailand unveiled its “2015 Discover Thainess” marketing campaign, which, in the words of new (appointed in September) Minister of Tourism and Sports H.E. Kobkarn Wattanavrangkul, “will offer the chance for foreigners to appreciate the essence of ‘Thainess’ through the Thai way of life, Thai culture and Thai experiences.” Those choosing to do so will have several new accommodations choices in 2015, including InterContinental’s Hotel Indigo Bangkok Wireless Road, Le Meridien Suvarnabhumi Golf Resort & Spa and Mövenpick Resort Laem Yai Beach Samui.


The Langham Sydney enters 2015 with a new look, having reopened in December following a five-month $30 million renovation. This follows on the heels of the Shangri-La Sydney’s $8 million face-lift of 90 rooms and suites on its top-five floors and the debut of InterContinental Sydney Double Bay, a lavish makeover of the former Ritz-Carlton. Melbourne’s Hilton on the Park is set to become the Pullman Melbourne on the Park on January 1, an Accor hotel.

New Zealand

Tourism New Zealand touted strong numbers generated in part by its “100% Middle-earth, 100% Pure New Zealand” campaign, which leveraged the “Lord of the Rings” and “The Hobbit” movie franchises, which were filmed there. For the year-period ending May 2014, “holiday arrivals” were up 8.9 percent over the previous 12 months, with the U.S., a key target market for the Middle-earth campaign, showing 15.3 percent growth. With the release this month of “The Hobbit: The Battle of the Five Armies,” there’s every reason to expect more good news when May 2015 rolls around.