News Round Up January 30- February 3, 2019

ASEAN, China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Philippines, Singapore, Thailand, Vietnam, aviation, data


How many Chinese tourists travelled to ASEAN in 2018?

Final accounts for each country in ASEAN has not been completed yet but there is at least one certified fact; Chinese visitors are ASEAN number one inbound market. This is due to the proximity of the country to its Southeast Asian neighbours, the rapid development of air links, simplified visa conditions and relatively cheap packages for groups. According to estimations, a total of 28.44 million Chinese travellers visited an ASEAN country in 2018. Thailand and Vietnam generated alone over 55% of all arrivals with respectively 10.6 million and 4.97 million arrivals. Singapore and Malaysia recorded each over three million Chinese arrivals, Indonesia passed for the first time the two=million mark. Cambodia, Laos and the Philippines saw over a million Chinese travellers.

Cambodia should actually pass this year the 2-million Chinese visitors’ mark while Laos hopes to see for the first time a million Chinese in 2019. Both countries have launched a special Visit Year for Chinese travellers as their respective government is looking at boosting arrivals in an efficient and spectacular way.

Market share of each ASEAN country in Chinese tourism in percentage in 2018 


New Alila Hotel opens in Central Jakarta

A new five-star hotel, the Alila SCBD Jakarta, is to officially open its doors on Feb. 6, just on time to welcome Chinese population celebrating the Chinese New Year. Situated in Central Jakarta’s retail and business district near Grand Indonesia shopping mall, the hotel offers 227 studios and suites, event spaces, an outdoor pool, a gym, a spa and dining concepts.

The hotel features the New York-style Vong Kitchen and 24-hour joint Le Burger, helmed by Michelin-starred Jean-Georges Vongerichten and son Cedric. There is also a Hakkasan specialty restaurant offering modern Cantonese cuisine.

The hotel was designed by Bangkok-based architectural firm IAW using the irregular-boot-like shape of the site to advantage. The building’s façade features a unique overlapping pattern of aluminium sticks and canopies, while its shape allows guest rooms to be laid out in different configurations. Original art works have also been integrated on both outside and inside facades.



Cheap packages to boost arrivals from China to Laos

As Lao PDR officially launched its Visit Laos-China Visit Year on January 26 in the capital Vientiane, Laos is looking to turn around three consecutive years of tourism decline after the failure of its Visit Year Laos 2018. The country is pinning its hopes to attract mass tourism from its giant neighbour, as highlighted by the Vientiane Times in an interview with the Vice President of Laos National Chamber of Commerce and Industry Daovone Phachanthavong,

Lao local tourism-related businesses should make adjustments for more Chinese tourists. Hotels, restaurants, guesthouses and travel agents should try to deliver services at prices that will meet with the expectations of Chinese visitors,” he was quoted.

Lao authorities expect a million Chinese tourists out of an overall total of 5 million to visit Laos this year, explained the newspaper. Last year, some 805,000 Chinese visitors came to Lao PDR, up by 26% over 2017. 

Among possible improvement, Phachantavong sees better Chinese language skills and signage in the country as well as easy visa formalities.

Renovation for the Army History Museum in Vientiane

Vietnam Ministry of Defense granted over US$150,000 (LAK13 billion) for a restructuring and renovation of the Lao People’s Army History Museum. The Museum is located near to the Ministry of Defense and That Luang. Opened in 1976, the museum contains a collection of weapons, tools, and photos of the Lao People’s Army from the struggle to independence in 1950 until the establishment of the Lao People’s Democratic Republic in 1975. There is an important collection of army vehicles as well as statues exulting the struggle of Laotian heroes in their fight against foreign powers.

The ground breaking ceremony for the renovation of the museum occurred in Vientiane on January 19 in the presence of Lao Minister of Defence Chansamone Chanyalath, his Vietnamese counterpart Ngo Xuan Lich as well as the Vietnam Ambassador to Laos Nguyen Ba Hung. The renovation is due to be completed before the end of the year.



Malaysia finally scraps US$20 billion Chinese contract over the East Coast Rail Project

A multibillion dollar China-backed rail project in Malaysia has been scrapped, government officials announced at the end of January, adding that the cost of developing the infrastructure was too high.

Economics minister Azmin Ali said Malaysia made the decision two days ago on the 81 billion ringgit ($19.6 billion) east coast rail link (ECRL) that would have connected the eastern and western coasts of the peninsula. “The cost of the ECRL development is too big, so we have no financial ability at this time,” he told reporters of various national news agencies. The minister added that the project would have translated into annual interest payment of MYR500 million for the country.

The railway project aimed to connect Port Klang on the Straits of Malacca to Pengkalan Kubor in Kelantan, on the eastern border to Thailand. Malaysia Rail Link was appointed to oversee the East Coast Rail Link with China Communications Construction as the main contractor. Malaysia has in recent months suspended several major projects signed under the country’s previous government, in a bid to cut the country’s massive debt.



Japan’s All Nippon Airways steps into the capital of Philippine Airlines

Parent company of All Nippon Airways, ANA HOLDINGS INC., will invest $95 million US dollars in PAL Holdings Inc.  and acquire 9.5% of PAL Holding’s outstanding shares. PAL Holdings is the parent company of Philippine Airlines. The purchase underscores ANA confidence into Philippine air travel market and heralds  a new era of growth for PAL. The Filipino carrier has embarked on a full-scale expansion program that has seen its fleet and network grow to almost 100 aircraft and 80 destinations in four continents.

ANA operates 14 flights weekly on two routes to the Philippines while Philippine Airlines currently operates 84 flights weekly on 9 routes to Japan. The two carriers have codeshare operations on Japan – Philippine routes and domestic routes within Japan and the Philippines, linking a total of 16 Japanese and 11 Philippine destinations.



New record year for Changi Airport

Singapore Changi Airport handled a record 65.6 million passengers up by 5.5% while aircraft’s movement reached 386,000, up by 3.4%. Last year, Europe, South Asia, the Americas and Africa recorded double digit growth. Among Changi’s top 10 markets, India and Japan registered the strongest growth rising 12% and 10% respectively. This was followed by China and Vietnam which experienced growth of 7%. Changi Airport’s top 10 routes remained unchanged although there were slight changes in the rankings. Bangkok and Denpasar (Bali) each moved up one spot to second and sixth position respectively. Six of Changi’s top 20 routes grew by at least 5% — Denpasar (Bali), London, Manila, Melbourne, Mumbai and Sydney. Traffic between Singapore and India, Changi’s sixth largest market, rose to 4.76 million in 2018. Terminal 4, which opened last year, served 8.3 million passengers in 2018.

During the year, Changi Airport welcomed three passenger airlines – Guangxi Beibu Gulf Airlines, LOT Polish, and Shandong Airlines. Seven new passenger city links were also established, to China (Nanchang), Germany (Berlin), India (Guwahati, Pune, Vijayawada), Indonesia (Belitung), and Poland (Warsaw).

Berlin and Warsaw helped strengthening connectivity with Europe. Changi has now connections to 19 European cities, a 10-year high with new services launched by Lufthansa to Munich and by Qantas to London. On the ultra-long-haul front, Singapore Airlines launched the world’s longest flight to New York (Newark) as well as non-stop services to Los Angeles. Traffic between Singapore and continental USA increased 21% in 2018 with 74 weekly services.



New hub in Chiang Rai for AirAsia

Chiang Rai has officially being launched as AirAsia newest hub in Thailand. The Northern city has seen last week the launching of its seventh hub in the Kingdom. Chiang Rai was previously linked to Bangkok Don Mueang and Hat Yai. From now on, new flights are serving Kuala Lumpur, Macau, Phuket and Singapore. AirAsia Thailand is basing an Airbus A320ceo at Chiang Rai’s Mae Fah Luang International Airport. Frequencies are as follow:

  • Chiang Rai-Kuala Lumpur is served Monday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
  • Chiang Rai-Macau is served Wednesday, Friday and Sunday.
  • Chiang Rai-Phuket is served Wedneday, Friday and Sunday.
  • Chiang Rai-Singapore is served Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday.

Thailand tourism breathing again as Chinese are back

A sharp resurgence in Chinese visitor arrivals in December helped Thailand close 2018 with a total of 38.27 million arrivals, generating tourism expenditure of just over US$63.8 billion (THB 2 trillion).

In total, Thailand’s international visitors were up by 7.54% over 2017, and the estimated 2.007 trillion Baht in tourism revenue was up by 9.63%. For the first time, ten countries and one SAR territory (China, Malaysia, South Korea, Lao PDR., Japan, India, Russia, USA, Singapore, Vietnam and Hong Kong SAR) generated more than one million visitor arrivals. Chinese visitors represented  a total of 10,535,955, up 7.44% over 2017. 

All regions grew well except the Middle East and Oceania. Visitors from East Asia totalled 26.06 million (+9.30% including 10.28 million from ASEAN), Europe 6.76 million (+3.86%), the Americas 1.60 million (+3.82%), South Asia 1.98 million (+11.82%), Oceania 922,520 (-1.74%), the Middle East 739,494 (-6.39%), and Africa 201,519 (+7.63%).

For 2019, the Ministry of Tourism and Sports is forecasting 41.1 million foreign tourists (+ 7.5%) generating an estimated 2.21 trillion Baht in tourism revenue (+ 10%). This is based on a forecast of 11.69 million tourists from China (+11 %), 11.31 million tourists from the ASEAN countries (+ 10%), and 6.90 million visitors from Europe (+ 2%).



First regular international flights for Can Tho

Can Tho in the Mekong Delta in Southern Vietnam will turn international as AirAsia is launching two new routes to Bangkok and Kuala Lumpur. Can Tho will be linked by four weekly services from Kuala Lumpur starting April 8, 2019 and will be followed on May 2, 2019 by 3 weekly services to Bangkok Don Mueang. The airport was opened in 2011 with a capacity for two million passengers. It is so far served international by charter flights of Vietnam Airlines to Taiwan as well as Thai Vietjet to Bangkok Suvarnabhumi International Airport.

Can Tho is the Mekong Delta largest trading centre with a population of 1.5 million. It is located three hours and a half by road from Ho Chi Minh City. It is also the gateway to the region for travellers with its pictorial canals and floating markets along the Mekong, its historical pagodas and ancient cities with many French style houses. The city is 90 minutes away from Rach Gia and its famed waterfront of Sa Dec, home to French writer Marguerite Duras. The latter wrote her famous novel ‘the Lover’ with his mansion being today a busy museum including a small bed and breakfast hotel.