Ep 25: It's Been A Terrible Year for Travel Predictions

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About This Episode

2 Jul 2020

Well, we reach two milestones this week. We are halfway through 2020 – and what a year it’s been so far!! – and this is also our 25th podcast, so Happy Anniversary to us.

To celebrate, Gary and Hannah revisit their 20 for the 2020s Travel Wishlist – which featured in the first podcast of the year back in January.

Since then, of course, travel and tourism in South East Asia – and worldwide – has endured the most difficult 6 months in modern history. With some countries slowly starting to reopen for domestic travel, it’s time to accept that 2020 has been a tough year for travel forecasting.

How many predictions did we get right…? Listen to find out.

Show notes

02:11 Our first wish in the 20 for the 2020s list was that governments and tourism boards should stop annual tourism setting. Will this happen post-pandemic? Is it reasonable for governments to look at the number of their nation’s outbound tourists and “convert” them into domestic tourist numbers?

“It doesn’t help the industry, it puts too much pressure on to meet targets.” (Gary)

“The problem in Thailand is that you have lots of different tourism authorities making these predictions. You have the Tourism Authority of Thailand, the Thai Central Bank, the National Economic and Social Development Council, and Airports Thailand. So you have these different agencies creating these arbitrary figures, which somehow the tourism players have to live up to.” (Gary)

“Let’s just hope that one of these outcomes is that we look at tourism actually as an industry and not just a set of numbers.” (Gary)

“It’s just not a time to be forecasting now.” (Gary)

05:42 Another of our wishes was for South East Asia to become the most desirable outbound market, pursued by national tourism boards worldwide. In July 2020, are countries still trying to attract SE Asian travellers with marketing campaigns, even during the pandemic?

“Obviously no outbound travel is happening right now in SE Asia.” (Hannah)

“I still believe that SE Asia is a desirable market, especially now. The countries here have handled COVID-19 in a really professional way and flattened the curve. Right now, this is a market that is ripe for tourism boards to try to attract to their countries, if, and that’s a big if, the countries here allow their citizens to travel outbound.” (Hannah)

“One of the reasons we started this podcast was that we were getting the feeling that SE Asia was becoming one of the most dynamic regions for tourism. And that covered all aspects, inbound, outbound and domestic.” (Gary)

“In countries like Singapore, the Japan National Tourism Organisation have still been running campaigns encouraging Singaporean travellers.” (Hannah)

“I think it will be interesting as we will see some countries really hot in the pursuit, and Japan is a great example. And we will also see some other countries to step back, and that might be an opportunity for some of the not quite as popular countries to get into SE Asia.” (Hannah)

“Maldives did start to step up last year across the region.” (Hannah)

10:15 We also wished for better rail connectivity through SE Asia in January. Will people now switch from flights to trains? Rail connectivity was starting to become a hot issue at the start of 2020, with many infrastructure projects on the cards: the Philippines circular route, railways connecting Laos to China, Malaysia’s East Coast, Indonesia’s Jakarta to Surabaya.

“Pre-pandemic, this was an opportunity to get more business and short trip travellers to travel within their own region and across borders in SE Asia. You do feel that rail travel in the future will become more popular. It’s just whether these new networks being built can join up.” (Gary)

12:33 Is easing of visa restrictions for countries like Vietnam, the Philippines and Indonesia, on the cards as countries look for more tourists from COVID-safe countries?

“I do feel now that SE Asia has more of a position of power, especially countries like Vietnam. Vietnam has been supporting western countries with PPE, they’ve been doing a lot of smart political ploys.” (Hannah)

“I do just wonder that when countries are so desperate to get tourists back, they’ll be looking for COVID-safe countries, that’s what SE Asia is, and maybe also looking at countries who are offering a similar easing of restrictions.” (Hannah)

“If tourism is needed, maybe it won’t be about visas - maybe it will be about vaccinations, maybe it’ll be about COVID-safety.” (Gary)

“If the tourism industry really does want to get back up and running across the whole gamut of industry, it’s going to need government support to really relook at the visa issue.” (Gary)

“Perhaps the visa cost will be brought down, or the process will be sped up.” (Hannah)

15:40 Wish no. 8 in January was more airports that work: more Changi departure, less Changi arrival. This was definitely more relevant to pre-COVID times, but what will the airport experience be like now?

17:55 How can destinations balance instagrammability with overtourism? Now not an issue for 2020, but the pandemic could provide a time to consider how the tourism experience should be, once tourism bounces back.

“Destinations do still need to take this time to really think about how they can serve the community at large and not just tourists.” (Hannah)

19:24 January’s wish 13 was greater inter-ASEAN travel, or more attention paid to domestic travel trends. Is this a complete reset with a renewed focus on domestic tourism, or will this focus change as borders open up? Will ASEAN countries open up? Does Vietnam even need to reopen to foreign tourists?

“The way the industry was moving at the end of 2019 very much across SE Asia, was that China and India were starting to dominate tourism.” (Gary)

“Domestic tourism has been quite strong, but it’s never been a focal point in terms of marketing, resources and promotion.” (Gary)

“It tends to look just at leisure travel trips […] but it doesn’t really allow for the business travel aspect, which is a huge, important part.” (Gary)

“Will there be more ASEAN travel post pandemic? I think there will.” (Gary)

“When it comes to opening up borders, they seem to be miles apart.” (Gary)

24:37 We started 2020 saying no to commoditising travel through online shopping festivals, but realistically, that has to change, as hotels and airlines struggle to lift room occupancy and flight loads.

“In recent years, we’ve seen hotels and airlines jump onto these and start to offer special promotions […] This year they have no choice. There will be better deals, and more players will be doing so.” (Gary)

26:18 A comeback of the travel agent? We agreed on this wish back at the start of the year, before the onslaught of COVID-19. How can travel agents fight back against automation? Will travel agents who have been forced to seek alternative employment during the pandemic even consider returning to the tourism industry once it starts to pick up again?

“The only way they can continue to compete is by focusing on those areas that are more complicated for customers to put together themselves.” (Hannah)

“It’s likely we’ll see a lot of agents close down as they’ve exhausted their cash flow, and if they don’t have that infrastructure or the will to innovate, they’re going to die. The only agents who will survive this are the innovative ones who are looking for opportunities in this crisis.” (Hannah)

“Travel is not a stress-free industry, particularly to be a travel agent.” (Hannah)

30:11 Gary’s last choice for our 20 for the 2020s wishlist back in January was a high priority for health and safety in travel. Very prescient!

“We did not know that a pandemic was coming, or had predicted the scale of it.” (Gary)

“Will it be a requirement to be vaccinated to live or to travel in another country? Will that be a part of your insurance?” (Gary)

“There is this concern that we will only focus on COVID-19 in the future; let’s not neglect some of the other health worries that are out there.” (Gary)

Resources

People from poor countries pay more for visas graphic (The Economist) - link HERE

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