Chuan Spa at the year-old Langham Shenzhen: This is one of six Langham hotels in mainland China, with six more set to open by 2016.
FIT travel to Asia is without a doubt on the rise. Once considered to be an extremely exotic destination, it was easier for tourists to tackle Asia as part of a group. But lately, travelers are tired of going to Asia in large groups. They desire the flexibility that FITs have to offer. Additionally, consumers traveling to Asia are getting younger and younger, between 35 and 45 years old, and are hunting for deals that will earn them more bang for their buck. They are booking Asia much closer to their desired dates of travel, which is a huge change from previous years, when travel was booked from nine months to a year out. This shows the accessibility that Asia now offers tourists.
According to the Pacific Asia Travel Association, visitor arrivals to the Asia Pacific region will continue to grow, with an average annual growth rate of 4.1 percent over the period 2013-2017 and reach 581 million by 2017. Northeast Asia will maintain a dominant position in the inbound market of Asia Pacific, and its market share will reach 53 percent by 2017. China will continue to be the top inbound destination in the Asia Pacific, with Hong Kong poised to be the second largest in 2015.
Cambodia, the Maldives, Chinese Taipei, Bhutan and Mongolia are the top five fastest growing destinations in terms of visitor arrivals over the period 2013-2017. As part of the US Tour Operators Association’s (USTOA) annual survey of travel forecasts and trends, members were asked to name the top “off-the-beaten-path” or emerging destinations that will gain popularity in 2014. Four Asian countries led the pack, with Myanmar taking the honor for the second year in a row, followed by Vietnam and Cambodia (tied for second) and India. Here is a look at some tours being offered to these emerging destinations.
Cox & Kings has some new FITs for 2014. Its Enchanted Island itinerary in Bali follows destination expert Pamela Young’s itinerary from beach resorts to the highlands. Activities include rafting the Ayung River, Balinese cuisine cooking lessons and snorkeling in coral reefs. Its Bhutan itinerary, The Hidden Kingdom, visits Thimphu, Punakha and Paro. Other tours include a 12-day journey to Laos and Cambodia.
Abercrombie & Kent is offering new luxury adventure itineraries in Asia for 2014. Travelers can cruise Myanmar on the new Sanctuary Ananda. In Sri Lanka, travelers can visit ancient cities, tea plantations and hill stations, as well as wildlife, temples and beaches. In Mongolia, they can go on a Gobi Desert ride on a Bactrian camel through dunes and the Flaming Cliffs.
Backyard Travel has released a new tour to Luang Prabang, Laos, visiting some of the region’s top sites. The History and Arts of Luang Prabang trip takes travelers to visit the region’s attractions, such as Wat Xieng Thong and Pak Ou caves.
Kensington Tours is launching their new Land and Cruise Series, which is a collection of customizable 25- to 30-day cruise and tour fusions. These itineraries consist of two cruises woven together and bookended with private guided tours. In Asia, Kensington will offer China Highlights, Yangtze, Vietnam, Mekong & Cambodia by Land & Cruise.
GOOD TO KNOW: Are you a transit passenger flying through China? The country is on a mission to bolster tourism numbers by easing visa requirements. Chongqing is the latest in a string of Chinese cities to relax immigration rules to promote local tourism. Visitors can now score a 72-hour visa-free stay in the city. Chongqing’s official tourism office will be partnering with local tour operators to offer tours of the Three Gorges dam and culinary experiences.
DESTINATION NOTES: In Taiwan it has become increasingly popular to travel with a purpose; for example, to learn Chinese or for something cultural like a cuisine tour.
Macau is promoting its cuisine, which fuses Chinese, Indian, African and Portuguese influences. But the biggest news there is the bridge that is being constructed to be complete in 2016, bringing together Hong Kong, Macau and China. Once it is constructed it will be possible to drive from Hong Kong to Macau in 20 minutes.
AIR LIFT: China’s Hainan Airlines has been approved to provide nonstop service from Boston to Beijing as of June 2014. It will initially offer four flights a week.
All Nippon Airways will make its first flight to Vancouver on March 30, 2014. After that the airline will begin daily non-stop service between Vancouver International Airport and Tokyo Haneda Airport.
Experts have said that Asia is sorely in need of regional carriers, which will open up the destination. Last month, Nantong Tongzhou Bay Aviation placed an order for 30 Q400 aircrafts, which it will use to launch its new regional venture, Sutong Airlines. This is part of China’s five-year plan that calls for the expansion of regional airlines. By 2015, Sutong Airlines plans to launch operations carrying between 70 and 86 passengers on short-haul routes.
HOTELS ON THE HORIZON: Asia is rife with hotel investment and development, so there is much to look forward to going into 2014 and beyond. Here are a few names to have on your accommodations radar.
Global luxury hotel chains are expanding their presence in China’s second-tier cities as affluent Chinese are willing to spend on accommodation. Ritz-Carlton, Langham Hotels International and St. Regis are just some of the brands making their presence known in these destinations. Ritz-Carlton has opened hotels in Tianjin and Chengdu. Langham will add six in second-tier Chinese cities in the next three years.
W Hotels Worldwide has announced its intention to more than double the brand’s presence in Asia by late 2018. Recently launching the W Hotel brand in Singapore and Bangkok, the group has signaled it will open another 11 properties in Asian gateway cities, bringing its total to 20 W Hotels. The W Guangzhou Hotel & Residences is due to open shortly. Also in the pipeline for Asia in 2014 are the W Shanghai – The Bund, W Beijing, and W Changsha.
The brand will be launched in India with the opening of the 105-room W Retreat & Spa Goa in 2015 followed by the W Mumbai.
Marriott International reported that it has opened two JW Marriott properties in India, specifically in Bengaluru and New Delhi, with new plans to open 12 new hotels in India by 2015.
Accor has announced a plan to open a total of 47 hotels in India by 2015.