We have finally stepped into the year of hope and revival – 2021. The world is still looking forward to relaxed border restriction as mass vaccinations have started to inspire international travel revivals.
One could say that it is time for travel enthusiasts to begin earmarking their funds for all those travel trips planned for 2020, which they never embarked on.
However, it appears that the travel sector has come a long way from the dismal abyss of the last year, pushing through the toughest challenges.
The COVID-19 pandemic was no doubt a terrible news for the tourism-related businesses that were left behind the eight ball with multiple revenue streams choked during the crisis. The restrictions and travel bans were a bane to the ailing sector that was eventually left to survive on government stimulus, which proved to be inadequate in most cases.
In the Asia-Pacific region, the travel industry was the first to be hit with the pandemic blues and will probably be among the last to recover, contributing millions to the number of unemployed. The consequences in the region have been pretty grave, wherein the travel industry suffered a loss of US$1475 billion in the initial ten months of 2020.
However, there lies hope in the darkest of the places, and sometimes even the most catastrophic events break ground for something magnificent.
For the Asian travel players, coronavirus came as a wake-up call highlighting the pain points while also charting the long-term development course. Let us explore the key business opportunities created by COVID-19 in the South-East Asian travel setting.
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Rising investment prospects
While business activities remained dormant for a significant chunk of the previous year, the growing opportunities could end the drought spell. As per the JLL Hotels and Hospitality Group, despite keen interest from investors, Thai hotel invest value declined during 2019 compared to 2018 due to lower availability of investment-grade hotel assets.
The year 2020 was also about to carry forward the depressed investment trends, but then struck the pandemic. The choppy ride and urgent liquidity needs ended up putting many hotel assets on sale, thereby presenting a significant investment opportunity in distressed hotel assets. Asset management companies are eyeing better entry prices with steep discounts to beef up their footprints in the Asian travel sector.
Transformed vacation style
The new normal has triggered a plethora of changes, and apparently, the next on its target is – the style of holidaying. The striking juxtaposition of concerns and zeal for travel has pushed many travel fanatics to identify new approaches to soothe their contradictory demands.
Although travel frequency could remain affected amid the need for precautions and added travel formalities, remote work trends could mean extended stays for longer distances. At the same time, staycations could be another trend fuelled by the coronavirus.
With South-East Asia faring better in reviving the industry which remains the powerhouse for their economic growth, the governments and travel providers can remodel their travel space as per the changing trends using the tech-driven services.
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The pandemic highlighted many vulnerabilities and shed light on the relevance of long-term approach for the travel industry. Although near-term positive trends continue to sparkle with several developments, the responsible recovery of travel sector heavily relies on building resilience and sustainability. It would accelerate the healthy growth of current travel players and ensure that the potential stakeholders are not bereft of survival opportunities.
Taking cues from the recent trend, the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT) has introduced a ‘Green Travel’ section on the nation travel portal to cater to the tourists’ informational needs for eco-friendly travel.
Meanwhile, Malaysia unveiled the national tourism policy for 2020-2030, which seeks to strengthen the competitiveness of the travel industry on the back of eco-tourism initiatives and future disaster plans.