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ASEAN Beyond COVID-19: Are We Ready for Different Travel Markets?

An insightful two-part webinar series aimed to provide a better understanding of different travel markets to the ASEAN region, and how specific ASEAN member states are managing domestic tourism and preparing for the resumption of international tourism. The events were co-organised by various institution members of ATRA such as Taylor’s University, Malaysia; James Cook University, Singapore; Universitas Pancasila, Indonesia; Lyceum of the Philippines University, Philippines and Prince of Songkla University, Thailand were held on 15 April and 6 May 2021.

The first webinar session was moderated by Dr. Lilibeth Aragon from the Lyceum of the Philippines University, Manila and Dr. Jenny Panchal, ATRA Board Director from James Cook University (Singapore/Australia) that focused on the Muslim and Chinese travel markets were graced by Mr. Fazal Bahardeen, Founder and CEO of Singapore-based Crescent Rating and Halal Trip and Dr. Tingzhen Chen.

Mr. Bahardeen identified frameworks, scenarios, models and tools based on the Mastercard-Crescent Rating Travel Readiness Report (COVID-19 in ASEAN 2020). He also emphasized on the Muslim travel market growth projection, the importance of Muslim millennials as travellers, and the faith-based needs of Muslim travellers in general. In comparing Muslim millennial travellers and general Muslim travellers. Mr. Bahardeen concluded that while there are key differences between these groups, the need for halal food, leisure, and safety and security while travelling are the common characteristics that they share.

Dr. Chen, an expert in tourism seasonality in the Asia Pacific from James Cook University, Australia, elaborated on some myths and realities about Chinese tourists and identified current key trends that are developing within the market. She explained that ASEAN destinations have cultural, administrative, geographic and economic factors that are advantageous in attracting Chinese tourists and recovering popularity within the Chinese travel market.

In the same webinar, Prof. Datuk Seri Dr. Victor Wee, Secretary-General of ATRA and Professor from Taylor’s University, Malaysia along with Mr. Mochamed Nalendra, CEO & Founder of Wise Steps Consulting, Indonesia and Advisor to the Chairman of Bali Tourism Board explained the preparedness of the ASEAN region, and Bali’s Tourism Recovery Model, respectively. Mr. Nalendra elucidated how Indonesia’s ongoing support system through recovery programs, digital innovation and product diversification serve as pillars for different courses of action such as the establishment of travel corridor arrangements (TCA), cleanliness, health, safety and environment (CHSE) certification, creation of hybrid MICE systems and national promotion programs.

Prof. Datuk Seri Dr. Wee suggested that although the road ahead is still uncertain and challenging, “greater cooperation is needed between and within governments… to ease the burden on travellers with safeguard measures to restore traveller confidence…”

The second webinar session was moderated by Prof. Dr. Abhishek Bhati from James Cook University (Singapore/Australia) and hosted by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Pornpisanu Promsivallop, ATRA Vice President from Prince of Songkla University, Thailand on the European and Indian travel markets were discussed by Assoc. Prof. Dr. Frederic Bouchon, Director of Education Quality, Institut Paul Bocuse, France and Asst. Prof. Dr. Toney K Thomas, Mahatma Gandhi University, India.

Dr. Bouchon identified the key characteristics of European outbound travellers in COVID times. On the other hand, Dr. Thomas also explained that Indians have unique characteristics as tourists because they are mainly millennials, retirees and families; they are some of the highest spenders in the world tourist market, particularly on shopping and city tours, they prefer online travel agents, they are family-oriented and yet profiled as the eighth business travel market in the world.

The importance of the Indian travel market is believed to be an emerging market compared to others. In COVID times, however, Dr. Thomas identified impacts of travel formalities on Indian tourists and changes to their travel behaviours and preferences for virtual travel experiences, hybrid business events/MICE, staycations (domestic tourism). He also observed some shifts in demographic markets, the confidence of other countries as well as changes in local and national policies.

Asst. Prof. Chayanon Phucharoen, Deputy Dean for Research & Graduate Studies from Prince of Songkla University, Thailand shared the impacts of COVID-19 on Phuket’s economy and how the Phuket Tourism Sandbox is believed to be the country’s ‘unstoppable mission to save Phuket and Thailand.”

Mr. Glen Agustin, Chief Tourism Operations Officer of the Market Development Division in the Philippine’s Department of Tourism, also shared how market research and product development for domestic tourism, trade development and support, consumer activation to support product development are important strategies given that the Philippines is an archipelagic country. Further, he said that a robust tourism response and recovery plan (TRRP) is a critical program to assist tourism businesses and local governments and tourists and travellers across the country.

The two sessions provided opportunities for tourism and hospitality academics, students, researchers, entrepreneurs and practitioners.


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