Is Southeast Asia Ready For Indian And European Travel Markets After Covid?


Europe and the UK are easing travel and social restrictions as summer approaches and people venture overseas. Meanwhile, many parts of Asia are grappling with a resurgence in Covid-19 infections and deaths. When the virulent strains subside and the masses are vaccinated, will European and Indian tourists return to the countries of Southeast Asia? Also, will South Asian travelers be welcome?

  • Post-pandemic leisure and VFR travel expenses may be affected due to declining income
  • The receptivity of Southeast Asian countries may influence the willingness of Indian tourists to travel abroad
  • Southeast Asia’s rural and natural offerings have the potential to attract distant European workers and special interest travelers
Southeast Asian countries with a rural hinterland may attract distant workers who seek to escape to sunnier climates; Rice terraces at Mu Cang Chai, Yen Bai, Vietnam shown

Europe and the UK are easing travel and social restrictions as summer approaches and people venture overseas. Meanwhile, many parts of Asia are grappling with a resurgence in Covid-19 infections and deaths. When the virulent strains subside and the masses are vaccinated, will European and Indian tourists return to the countries of Southeast Asia? Also, will South Asian travelers be welcome?

These questions were addressed by the ASEAN Tourism Research Association during a webinar on May 6. Two professors described the characteristics of their respective markets and new travel trends that can be exploited to attract tourists when the health situation stabilizes.

Toney K Thomas, Assistant Professor at Mahatma Gandhi University in Kerala, spoke about middle class leisure tourists and those visiting friends and relatives. Pleasure travelers range from millennials to families and retirees.

“The level of spending is high compared to tourists from other countries,” he said. “However, incomes are expected to decline after the pandemic, with the middle class shrinking by 32 million people.” The national economic stimulus policy will have an impact on discretionary spending, such as travel abroad. Indian inbound traffic to Thailand, Singapore and Malaysia reached nearly two million, 1.4 million and 600,000 visitors, respectively in 2019.

Individual decision-making will also be influenced by “belief in health,” Thomas noted. But it may be more important to monitor destination attitude and receptivity to Indian travelers. He said Covid-19 is unevenly distributed across India. However, much of it depends on the governments’ decision to “keep the Indian market”.

“Ultimately, how receptive are Southeast Asian countries to Indian tourists, given the current dire situation? There are perception issues. The confidence of the receiving market could therefore be more important than the willingness of Indian tourists to go abroad, ”he concluded.

Frederic Bouchon, associate professor at the Paul Bocuse Institute, cited characteristics such as the UK and Germany preference for package holidays booked through tour operators, while French and Dutch tourists favor independent travel booked through OTAs.

“The pandemic has given priority to travel safety and proximity. European tourists also favor unique travel experiences and authenticity, especially in non-traditional destinations where they can mingle with locals, ”said Bouchon.

Covid-19 has accelerated a trend towards a slower type of tourism, allowing stressed urban residents to reconnect with themselves, nature and a simpler way of life. National rural tourism has exploded in many countries. Long-haul destinations can also benefit.

He added: “People favor authentic experiences in different cultural and natural encounters, such as local cuisine and bird watching. The rural supply of Southeast Asia fits well with this trend. Slow mode transportation and infrastructure are important, such as bike paths, farms, and low density environments. “

Bouchon also proposed to tap into “digital nomadism and work”.

The remote work model offers the option of moving permanently or temporarily to sunnier or more affordable locations. Those who are willing to relocate like sunnier climates, while still keeping a comfortable income. This has sparked great interest in destinations like Barbados and Madeira. Southeast Asian countries with a rural hinterland could target this segment.

“However, this presents challenges for the hospitality industry. Hotels will have to rethink the room layout, including office space, and adjust their offerings. Other considerations include immigration regulations, visa duration and income level, ”Bouchon said.

“The nomads of the gigantic economy have high mobility patterns. Salaried employees are the new opportunity, with more stable income and residence for “work” – even longer periods of up to six months. This could benefit more remote locations, especially with longer term rentals: service apartments, condos and resorts, ”he added.

It remains to be seen whether the major cities of Southeast Asia and the rural areas of Indochina and Brunei, for example, will be able to attract European work and special interest travelers, respectively, starting this winter.


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