Saturday, January 16, 2021

Asia is leading the way in travel recovery: Booking Holdings’ Agoda

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SINGAPORE – Travel is recovering more quickly in Asia than in the West — but its the domestic market that’s driving that recovery, an online travel agency told CNBC this week.

“Asia is generally leading the way,” said John Brown, chief executive of Agoda, a subsidiary of American online travel firm Booking Holdings. “We’ve seen again in markets like Taiwan, certainly places like Thailand, where they really have the best control over Covid — those are the markets where we see the domestic bookings doing the best.”

The best pockets of recovery are domestic travel in Taiwan, Thailand and increasingly, Vietnam, he said.

Taiwan has reported 617 confirmed cases so far and has been free of domestic transmissions for more than 200 days. Thailand and Vietnam have also been successful in containing the pandemic, with 3,920 and 1,307 confirmed cases respectively, according to data compiled by Johns Hopkins University.

“Those domestic markets are even better off than they were last year, for domestic [travel] only,” Brown told “Street Signs Asia” on Monday.

This photo taken on October 20, 2020 shows tourists posing for photos next to anti-landing spikes placed along the coast of Taiwan’s Kinmen islands, which lie just 3.2 km from the mainland China coast in the Taiwan Strait.

Sam Yeh | AFP | Getty Images

The travel industry has been hammered by the coronavirus pandemic that saw countries closing their borders to tourists earlier this year. Some markets have since reopened, but demand has been weak.

“Generally, it’s been a domestic story, we’re still waiting for the international [demand] to come back,” he said.

In Europe and the U.S., there are pockets where domestic travel also looks “relatively good” despite coronavirus cases surging, Brown noted.

“But really, all eyes globally are looking at Asia to see how we manage this both domestically, and again with regard to the travel bubble between Singapore and Hong Kong, and the many others that we hope … will open up pretty soon,” he said.

The two cities were set to begin quarantine-free leisure travel on Sunday, but authorities announced on Saturday that the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble arrangement would be deferred for two weeks after Hong Kong reported a rise in cases.

Brown said he thinks it will still come online “soon enough” and that other markets will follow suit.

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