The impact of the Coronavirus on tourism in Asia
An Interview with Carlos Pereira
How has life changed in Thailand and for other countries in Asia since the outbreak?
Well, concerning my day-to-day life, not too much has changed. The most important thing is to make sure you sanitize your hands more often, which means always remembering to carry hand sanitizer in your pocket! It’s also important to wear a mask more often out of respect to others. But in Asia, wearing masks in periods of high pollution is already quite common. I have often noticed, however, a visible tension when I’ve been traveling on public transport or flights, but also, some others that don’t seem too bothered. There are also many people that are more alert when eating out, avoiding contact and of course sanitizing hands more.
How has the outbreak affected outbound travel from China?
Arrivals from China are down. Chinese tourists represent around 30% of the tourism in Southeast Asia. And, as the world’s leading source of tourism spending, Southeast Asia has really felt the brunt of the crisis. You just have to speak to our colleagues within the industry here in Thailand. I’ve heard so many stories about the loss of revenue within the tourism sector.
To put it in perspective, a source from Global Data stated, that the loss in tourism-related revenues is expected to reach at least $3 billion in Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Malaysia, and Singapore.
What can hoteliers do to mitigate this drop of tourists from China?
Our hotel partners have certainly seen a decline in business. But, through refocusing their strategies, we have seen particularly good performances in direct bookings from the domestic markets in Thailand and Indonesia.
We are working with our clients to help them be less dependent on more traditional source markets, distribution channels, and marketing strategies. We are placing a specific focus on increasing the bookings from domestic travelers. And, this strategy has helped mitigate the loss of tourism from other source markets, especially China.
Malaysia has also seen a steady rate of domestic travel. Just last week I was traveling through Kuala Lumpur, and unlike Changi Airport (Singapore), Kuala Lumpur International seemed quite busy!
You mentioned Singapore, can you explain about the impact to your hoteliers there?
Singapore has been one of those countries most severely affected. Many international flights have been canceled due to how badly it has been hit with the virus. And although staycations are popular in Singapore, the local population is too small to compensate for the drop of international passengers.
Also, travel to Vietnam has suffered because of its dependence on tourists from China and South Korea. Especially in destinations like Da Nang, where some of our partners’ have seen a sizeable decrease in occupancy levels.
We, of course, are still working closely with our clients there, helping them to diversify their source markets and distribution channels.
How is Roiback as a company in Asia handling the Coronavirus outbreak?
Our presence is rapidly expanding in Asia. We now have offices in Bangkok, Bali, and Singapore. All of which are major tourist hubs… So, we are somewhat exposed! We are of course following all recommended protocols set by the medical and state authorities. This means to sanitize hands regularly and keep hand to mouth contact to a minimum. The Thai authorities have also recently placed a compulsory self-quarantine for any passengers from the 11 countries and territories that have been considered "dangerous communicable disease areas.” And our global Human Resources department, from the beginning of the outbreak, has been continuously placing protocols to minimize any risk of infection. For example, we have already been encouraged to work from home for 14 days if anyone might have been at risk, through travel or hosting family members that have traveled to any impacted areas.