Before the pandemic, Laos was starting to expand its nascent tourism industry with a surge in arrivals from China and strong visitation from Thailand and Vietnam. Outbound tourism was also booming, But while the pandemic halted those upward curves, Laos has only recorded a total of 39 (yes, thirty-nine!) cases of COVID-19. So what's it been like to live and work in the tourism sector in a genuinely COVID-safe country? This week, Gary and Hannah chat with Jason Rolan, editor-in-chief of Laos Airlines’ in-flight magazine, senior partner at RDK Group, and former country manager for EXO travel, Khiri Group and Buffalo Tours. In this fascinating chat from KL to Vientiane, Jason discusses his involvement in a government campaign to boost domestic trip demand, and his own travels around a tourist-free country. Looking ahead, we analyse the potential impact of the Chinese-built Vientiane-Vang Vieng Highway and the China-Laos High-Speed Railway, which is set to open in late 2021. We also touch on the future of eco-tourism and the challenges ahead for the Laos tourism sector in 2021.
The Singapore-Hong Kong Air Travel Bubble kicks off on Sunday 22 November, but concerns are resurfacing across Asia about volatile new COVID-19 waves. Soon after the ATB was launched, Asia's media was rife with speculation about which other countries might launch travel bubbles - either with or without Singapore and Hong Kong. But they seem no nearer to fruition. This week, Gary and Hannah scan the region for signs of travel bubble activity, and report the latest from Australia and New Zealand where hopes for a two-way bubble in 2020 are starting to recede. Plus, there's news of a 'private' travel bubble between Qatar and Maldives, and an assessment of the long-mooted ASEAN Travel Corridor. Will it ever happen?
Singapore and Hong Kong are both important Asian aviation hubs, commercial centres and travel destinations. But they aren't - or weren't - key source markets for each other in terms of travel and tourism. So, will the Air Travel Bubble create new patterns of travel demand, or is it simply a small stepping stone towards an uncharted era? This week, Gary and Hannah discuss the (pre-COVID-19) travel landscapes of both cities and the vital roles that aviation, airports and airlines contribute to their economies. We also dissect the fine details of the new Air Travel Bubble, and analyse its potential impact in both destinations. And might this agreement catalyse more regional bubbles in South East Asia and beyond - and, perhaps, kickstart concurrent bubbles for Singapore and Hong Kong?
In episode 8 of The Friday Rewind, Gary and Hannah zip through this week’s 5 top talking points in South East Asian travel and tourism - in less than 20 minutes. This week's hot topics include:
- Hungarian Foreign Minister Tests Positive in South East Asia
- Philippines Sets a Ceiling Price for COVID-19 Tests
- Indonesian Flights Take Off in October
- ASEAN-Korea Tourism Pavilion Opens in Seoul
- Tuk-Tuk DJs Tour Phnom Penh in Style
In episode 7 of The Friday Rewind, Gary and Hannah zip through this week’s 5 top talking points in South East Asian travel and tourism - in less than 20 minutes. China features prominently this week, with the topics under discussion being:
- Thailand Teams With China for a High-Speed Rail Take Off
- Cambodia Wants a China Travel Bubble, or Does It?
- Laos Plans Fast Track Travel for China & Vietnam
- 'Jurassic Park' Dragons Are Endangered in Indonesia
- Malaysia’s Tourism Challenges Keep Multiplying
It's 6 months since Australia and New Zealand first floated the concept of Travel Bubbles. Ever since, it has dominated travel talk as a potential way to safely reopen borders between two countries without requiring a quarantine. But the 2020 travel realities (and the coronavirus itself) have made bilateral bubbles extremely difficult to negotiate, agree and implement. This week, Gary and Hannah discuss the different definitions of air travel bubbles, corridors, fast tracks and green lanes. They also assess three high-profile travel bubbles - Hong Kong-Singapore, Australia-New Zealand and India-Maldives - which illustrate the political, geographical, public health and operational challenges that stand in the way of more agreements.
Well, things certainly seem to be moving, with plenty of travel announcements, gossip and rumours. But the region’s aviation industry is still struggling after several months in international inactivity. This week, Gary and Hannah discuss two pieces of positive news, the Hong Kong-Singapore Air Travel Bubble and the Philippines enabling its citizens to travel outbound. But airlines in Malaysia and Indonesia are desperately trying to restructure their mounting losses and debts. Will more big-name carriers fall, or instead will they shift their operations to low-cost subsidiaries? And where are new airline licenses being awarded and new airports nearing completion? Plus, how are South East Asia's primary and secondary airports faring after months of near-derelict terminals?
Having brought COVID-19 under control, Singapore has provided a clear outline of its Travel Bubble intentions for the coming months. Now in discussions with Hong Kong, Asia's other global aviation hub, Singapore wants to open up more business travel Green Lanes. This week, Gary and Hannah analyse the latest developments in Singapore, discuss green shoots of hope for domestic travel in the Philippines, and the prospects for charter traffic in Lao. Gloomier news in Malaysia and Myanmar, where daily infections are causing renewed concern. Elsewhere, we try to dissect the strategy behind unilateral travel agreements, Thailand's ever-more mystifying Special Tourist Visa and Private Travel Bubbles in Vietnam, Maldives and Bali.
It's 6 months since Bali-based travel publisher and commentator Stuart McDonald joined us on the podcast in April, which seems like a distant era. This week, Gary and Hannah chat with Stuart about the outcome of Bali's reopening to domestic tourists, and its postponed attempt to reboot inbound tourism. Stuart provides some poignant and revealing insights about how the island is coping without mass tourism. We also discuss Thailand's special tourist visa, Singapore's decision to allow Australian and Vietnamese air passengers to return, and we look at what happens next for countries in ASEAN that are stubbornly refusing to open their borders. Is a vaccine the only way to revive the region's devastated tourism industry? All this, plus a soothing soundtrack of surf waves from Stuart's beachside perch.
The Friday Rewind 6: KLIA Transit Troubles, Positive Vibes in Vietnam & Tourist Trash Returns to Sender
In episode 6 of The Friday Rewind, Gary and Hannah zip through this week's top talking points in South East Asian travel - in just 15 minutes. Today’s topics are:
- HKIA Bans KLIA Flights After Transit Passengers Test Positive
- Yogyakarta Pleas for Tourists, Not Financial Aid
- International Flight Finally Departs Vietnam... With More to Come In & Out?
- Regional ‘Travel Bubbles’ in The Philippines
- Tour Agency Sparks Online Fury by Mis-locating Angkor Wat
Khao Yai National Park Mails Back Tourist Trash