Millions of Chinese tourists expected to head for Southeast Asia. Lao gets new PM. WHO update on global COVID.
UPDATE: The Long Mekong Daily looks at Chinese outbound tourism potential and the reception being readied by Mekong countries. Considering that ASEAN and China have approx 5% GDP growth for 2023 prospects are good for a steady return to pre-COVID levels of travel. Covid-19 gets a WHO update and Laos has a new Prime Minister with some ambitious plans, tourism revival is one of them. 新年快乐！Happy Chinese New Year!
Outbound tourism to thrive in 2023 with more Southeast Asian countries set to welcome Chinese tourists
Outbound tourism bookings during the Spring Festival holidays has seen a boom following the country optimizing COVID-19 rules and is expected to resume pilot outbound group tours from February 6 with the outbound air tickets booking recorded a fourfold increase on year-on-year basis.
Countries such as the Philippines, Indonesia and Vietnam warmly welcomed Chinese tourists, for example, by organizing local officials to hold a welcome ceremony at the airport, presenting flowers and performing dance, and even offering red packet of lucky money to Chinese tourists.
Chinese travel agencies and online tour operators will be able to restart pilot outbound group tours and provide travelers with airline and hotel packages from February 6, according to notice issued by Chinese Ministry of Culture and Tourism on January 20.
The optimized measures have been well received by many Chinese visitors and several online travel agencies have observed a significant resurgence in outbound travel during the Spring Festival.
In the first four day into the Spring Festival holidays, the number of outbound air tickets booked by mainland tourists increased over four fold year-on-year, and the number of outbound hotel bookings surged by more than two times year-on-year, the Global Times learned from Chinese online travel platform Trip.com.
According to online travel platform Fliggy, bookings of outbound travel-related products in 33 countries and regions have more than doubled year-on-year during the Spring Festival, according to the data as of Friday night.
Among them, bookings for Thailand, Maldives and New Zealand have increased more than 10 times year-on-year, according to the platform.
20 countries, including Thailand, Indonesia, Cambodia, Maldives, Sri Lanka, the Philippines, Malaysia, Singapore, Laos, the United Arab Emirates, Egypt, Kenya, South Africa, Russia, Switzerland, Hungary, New Zealand, Fiji, Cuba, and Argentina, are designated pilot destinations for outbound group tours, according to the notice of the ministry.
The Philippines and Indonesia are among the countries that held grand ceremonies to welcome the first arrivals of Chinese tourists after the Chinese government optimized its COVID-19 rules and is expected to see recovery of the outbound tourism industry in 2023.
Read full article here.
Laos expects to welcome 1.4 mln tourists in 2023
Laos has set a goal of attracting 1.4 million international tourists in 2023, well below the number that arrived in 2019 before the pandemic.
Laos’ Ministry of Information, Culture, and Tourism held a national-level meeting this week, with Minister Suanesavanh Vignaket urging officials in the tourism sector to work harder to strengthen tourism operations, improve local infrastructure, and create new tourism products.
The ministry believes that it could net up to USD 340 million from the tourism sector if tourists stay an average of seven days per visitor.
Deputy Minister Vansy Kuamua noted that the Ministry will strive to improve the Lao National Ecotourism Strategy 2023-2030, as well as upgrade tourism sites and improve the quality of hotels and guesthouses to meet ASEAN standards.
The Lao Thiao Lao domestic tourism campaign continues in 2023, with the government hoping to continue attracting domestic tourists as well as visitors from abroad.
Meanwhile, the country has begun preparing for the arrival of Chinese tourists after Laos was listed among 20 nations greenlit by the Chinese government for outbound group tours.
At a public-private dialogue meeting held last week, private sector stakeholders and government representaties discussed the country’s readiness for a potential influx of Chinese tourists.
Many raised concerns about a chronic labor shortage being experienced in Laos since the Covid-19 pandemic, which saw unskilled labor flock to Thailand and other nieghboring countries for more work and higher pay.
The Ministry has said it will work with businesses to compile information on the number of workers in the tourism sector to try to understand labor demand.
Meanwhile, the Tourism Promotion Department is to improve signage around the country to include Chinese langauge, as well as improve access roads and toilet facilities at tourism sites.
Lao Airlines is set to launch new routes between Lao sand China, including flights to Guangzhou, Shanghai, Chengdu, Changzhou, and Hangzhou, however, the Laos-China Railway has remained tight-lipped about when it may offer connecting services between Laos and China.
Read more here.
A Touch of Populism and Austerity from Laos’ New PM
A month after his appointment, Sonexay Siphandone has given some indication of how he plans to tackle the country’s severe economic challenges. Sonexay Siphandone is less than a month into his premiership, and we’re now getting an idea of his government’s agenda.
After a recent two-day cabinet meeting this month, the media was briefed that, as one newspaper paraphrased it, “a greater focus will also be placed on repaying money owed by the government to private companies that carried out state-funded development projects.” Quoting a government spokesperson, it added: “the government will not launch any nonessential state-funded projects, but will instead concentrate on poverty reduction programs.”
That’s all for the birds. The same briefings have been made for years: the government says it wants to cut spending, reform state-owned businesses, and eventually run a budget surplus. Austerity is always pledged. Many of its briefings read like a precis of a World Bank recommendation. But do the numbers back this up? Last weekend, the finance ministry announced that government expenditure will grow from 34.5 trillion kip to 43.4 trillion kip (around $2.5 billion) this year. And it reckons state revenue will grow by 21.7 percent to 38.4 trillion kip, a rather ambitious target since revenue collection rose rather considerably last year and, as the World Bank pointed out, that was “partly reflecting high inflation.” It added in its November update that “revenue collection remains below pre-pandemic levels. Generous tax exemptions continue to undermine revenue mobilisation.”
Read full article here.
Globally, nearly 1.9 million new cases and over 12 000 deaths were reported in the week of 16 to 22 January 2023 (Figure 1, Table 1). In the last 28 days (26 December 2022 to 22 January 2023), over 11 million cases and over 55 000 new deaths were reported globally – a decrease of 25% and an increase of 13%, respectively, compared to the previous 28 days.
Since early December, reported deaths have been increasing and the reported deaths do not yet include the 72 596 COVID-19 related hospital deaths announced by China (excluding Hong Kong special administrative region (SAR), Macao SAR, and Taiwan) for the period of 8 December 2022 to 19 January 20231,2, as we await detailed data disaggregated by week of reporting. As of 22 January 2023, over 664 million confirmed cases and over 6.7 million deaths have been reported globally. Additional information about the COVID-19 situation in China is presented in Annex 2.
Weekly and monthly trends need to be interpreted carefully considering the reduction in testing and delays in reporting in many countries during recent holidays. Therefore, data presented in this report, especially for the most recent weeks, are incomplete, and any decreasing trends may change as updated information is incorporated.
Download the full report here.
Vietnam’s tourism forecast to strongly rebound in five years
In 2024, Vietnam's tourism revenues are expected to reach US$11 billion, which will surpass the pre-pandemic amount of $10.8 billion in 2019. Vietnam’s tourism industry is forecast to strongly grow in the coming five years, with more than 22 million foreign visitors and total revenue of US$13.2 billion.
The prediction was made by Fitch Solutions’ latest report. “It’s a rosy outlook for a country that’s heavily dependent on international travelers and their spending,” the report noted. The British market research firm reckoned that by 2024, revenue from tourists in Vietnam is expected to reach $11.1 billion, which will surpass the pre-pandemic levels of $10.8 billion in 2019.
The year 2022 marked the spectacular return of the tourism industry after a long period of impacts from Covid-19. Revenue from tourists was estimated at VND495 trillion ($20.9 billion), up 23% from the year's plan and equivalent to 66% of the 2019 amount, according to the Vietnam National Tourism Administration (VNAT).
This year, the country aimed to welcome 110 million visitors, including 102 million domestic visitors and eight million foreign arrivals. Its revenue is estimated at VND650 trillion ($27.5 billion).
Read full article here.
High hopes on tourism boom as Thailand cheers Chinese tourists' return
After a three-year lull, Thailand is welcoming back Chinese tourists to its golden beaches, striking temples and fancy shopping centers, expecting an influx of Chinese tourists to help restore its pandemic-battered tourism sector.
"This is the first trip we travel abroad since the outbreak of the pandemic. We are so excited and happy. We can feel we're so welcomed in Thailand," said Liu Lingling, who came from the city of Wuhan in Central China's Hubei province and planned to spend the Chinese New Year holiday in Thailand.
Liu, whose family would head south to a seaside resort after a few days in Bangkok, was among the legions of Chinese tourists who chose Thailand as the destination for their first outbound travel since China's optimized COVID-19 strategy took effect on Jan 8.
On Jan 9, the second day after the optimization, Thai Deputy Prime Minister and Public Health Minister Anutin Charnvirakul and other senior officials welcomed the first group of Chinese tourists at the Suvarnabhumi Airport with flowers and gifts.
The high-profile event reflected the importance Thailand placed on wooing back Chinese tourists to help boost the tourism industry and economic recovery, analysts said.
In downtown Bangkok, the atmosphere of the Chinese Lunar New Year overspreads, with shopping malls decorated with Chinese New Year elements in an effort to cash in from an influx of Chinese tourists during the first "Golden Week" holiday after China optimised its COVID-19 strategy.
Read full article here.
Cambodia Tourism Surge
Cambodia recorded about 1.04 million domestic and foreign tourists during the celebrations of the Chinese Lunar New Year, or the Spring Festival, Tourism Minister Thong Khon said on Wednesday (Jan 25). Some one million locals and 42,056 foreigners travelled in the South-East Asian nation during the festival from Jan 21 to Jan 24, he said in a report.
The country's three top tourist destinations are Preah Sihanouk coastal province, Siem Reap cultural province, and Battambang province, Khon said.
"For tourists to Preah Sihanouk province, most of them travelled to the province in the morning and returned home in the evening by travelling on the [Chinese-invested] Phnom Penh-Sihanoukville Expressway," he said.
"Security, safety and public order during the festival had been well maintained, and there were no remarkable problems during the celebrations," he added.
Although it is not an official holiday in Cambodia, the Chinese Lunar New Year is widely celebrated in the kingdom.
Read more here.
Myanmar Travel Fair 2023 to be held starting from 27 January
The Myanmar Travel Fair 2023 will be held at the Secretariat Office in Yangon starting from 27 to 29 January. The event will include over 40 booths of travel companies, airlines, hotels, restaurants, handicrafts, local products, local foods, insurance companies, healthcare companies and travel agencies from Thailand and Malaysia.
The event is organised by the Myanmar Tourism Entrepreneurs Association and aims at encouraging the revival of the tourism industry in January, the beginning of the tourist season, according to officials.
Most visited sites were Bagan, Popa, Pindaya, Inlay, Ngapali, Chaungtha, Ngwehsaung, Myeik Archipelago and historical pagodas. The Myanmar Tourism Entrepreneurs Association and partnership associations together provide services for the pleasure trip to be quick and smooth.
Myanmar attracted 170,357 international visitors in the first eight months of the 2022-2023 fiscal year starting in April, data from the country's Ministry of Hotels and Tourism has showed. The figure was up from 82,048 visitors who arrived in the country in the same period of the previous fiscal year, the figures showed.
Official data showed that more than 4.36 million tourists visited Myanmar in 2019 prior to the Covid-19 pandemic. The number of tourists who visited Myanmar sharply dropped to 900,000 in 2020 and 130,000 in 2021 due to the pandemic, official figures showed. As of 17 January 2023, Myanmar had recorded a total of 633,709 Covid-19 infections, including 19,490 deaths and 608,341 recoveries, according to the health ministry.
Read more here and here.
The Long Mekong is a reader-supported publication. To receive new posts and support my work, consider becoming a free or paid subscriber.