While French demand to ASEAN countries remains strong, unsecure feeling about Muslim countries has a negative impact on Indonesia and Malaysia.
A sense of comfort, friendliness, beautiful beaches, good climate and fair value: these are the main assets that French travellers see when thinking of Asia for a holiday, according to PATA French Chapter at a press conference hosted during France’s largest B2B travel trade show, IFTM Top Resa.
Most influential criteria for choosing the Asian continent are people’s warm welcome and the safety feeling there. French favourite destinations according to Trip Advisors pages views were from January to August 2015 mostly for Thailand, India, Japan, Vietnam and China. Thailand represents 8% of all views by French on Trip Advisors.
Looking at aggregated data from bookings collected by ForwardKeys, demand is going rapidly up for Thailand – up by 9%- between January and September 24, 2015 while demand for Vietnam and Singapore is respectively up by 3% and 4%. Meanwhile, Indonesia demand is collapsing. The country is suffering under the double negative image created by a general French travellers’ defiance to travel to Muslim countries and headlines around imprisoned French citizen Serge Atlaoui – accused of smuggling drugs.
The Southeast Asian archipelago registers a decline by 17% of French travellers from January to September 24, 2015. Indonesia which was getting close to Vietnam for French travellers in 2014 is likely to finish the year with only 175,000 to 180,000 travellers from France.
According to Jean-Paul Chantraine, the CEO of tour operator Asia, Muslim destinations are generally down for French holidaymakers following the tragic killing at satirical magazine Charlie Hebdo last January. And the trend is likely to continue as a series of violent events in France was linked to terrorism acts from fundamentalists.
Consequently, not only Indonesia is down but also Malaysia (-11% in first quarter of 2015) and even Singapore (-2.3% from January to June ). Singapore acts as a traditional hub to Indonesia and Malaysia and is certainly affected by French arrivals’ decline to both countries but also while French economic uncertainties also impact business travel demand.
ForwardKeys data for French travel until the end of October show that Indonesia is still down by 13% while Thailand continues to attract French with bookings up by 6%. The recent Bangkok bomb does not seem to impact adversely the destination. Thailand Office of Tourism in Paris remains confident of a double-digit growth from French travellers until the end of the year. From January to July, French to Thailand already progressed by 9.5%.
According to Gael de la Porte du Theil, who has been appointed a representative for Indonesia tourism in France, the situation seems now to stabilize as holiday makers start to understand that acts of violence can occur anywhere in the world. Bu Indonesia will also need to make an effort of promoting itself into the French market by emphasizing positive elements.
Surprise comes meanwhile from the Philippines, which continues to perform very well in France: arrivals to the country grew by 18.02% during the first half year of 2015.