US visitors lead revival of struggling Southeast Asia
In the first five months of the year (1st January – 31st May), travel to Southeast Asia reached just 18% of pre-pandemic levels, whereas travel to Europe reached 55%, to the Americas 66% and to the Middle East & Africa 64%.
Looking ahead to the summer months (1st June – 31st August), flight bookings for Southeast Asia are at just 43% of pre-pandemic levels, whereas bookings for Europe are at 70%, for the Americas are at 78% and for the Middle East & Africa are at 85%.
Analysis of long-haul flight bookings this summer reveals that travel from the USA is set to reach 75% of where it was in 2019, before the COVID-19 outbreak. The next healthiest source market is Australia, where bookings are currently far behind, at 60% of 2019 levels. It is followed by the UK, at 47%, Germany, at 58%, and France at 57%.
The most popular destinations for US visitors are the Philippines, Singapore, and Indonesia. Helpfully, as US tourists are known for being high spending, average trip durations This visitor profile is also more affluent, with 17% flying in the front of the plane, compared to 9% in the equivalent months in 2019.
The destinations which are recovering most strongly are the Philippines and Singapore. Summer flight bookings for the Philippines are currently at 70% of pre-pandemic levels, for Singapore, 58%, for Thailand 35%, for Indonesia 41% and for Vietnam 32%. Travel to the Philippines is dominated by people returning to visit friends and relatives, whereas travel to other destinations is more for work and leisure.
Throughout the pandemic, airlines flying to Southeast Asia have provided more than enough seat capacity to accommodate passenger demand. However, in May 2022, the acceleration in demand started to outstrip capacity, which has been creating an upward pressure on air fares.
Government-imposed travel restrictions provide the
best explanation of the observed recovery trends, as the destinations that relaxed restrictions earlier, such as the Philippines and Singapore, have recovered more strongly. Some of the most significant dates and changes to travel regulation include:
- 10th February Philippines – opens to vaccinated travellers without quarantine but a pre-departure test is required
- 27th March India – opens to all travellers without quarantine
- 1st April Singapore – opens to vaccinated travellers without quarantine and tests
- 18th April Australia – opens to vaccinated passengers without quarantine but a pre-departure test is required
- 1st May Malaysia – opens to vaccinated travellers without quarantine and tests
- 1st May Thailand – opens to vaccinated travellers without quarantine and tests but pre-travel registration, with details of vaccination and insurance, is needed
- 15th May Vietnam – opens to all travellers with no Covid-related entry rules
- 18th May Cambodia – opens to vaccinated travellers without quarantine and tests
- 18th May Indonesia – opens to vaccinated travellers without quarantine and tests
- 8th June South Korea – opens to vaccinated travellers without quarantine but a pre-departure test is required
- 10th June Japan – opens to tourists in tour groups from 98 countries
- 31st July New Zealand – will reopen two months earlier than originally planned
Olivier Ponti, VP Insights, ForwardKeys, said: “Travel during the pandemic has been a function of pent-up demand pushing in one direction and pandemic protection rules pushing back in the opposite direction. The recovery of air travel in Southeast Asia is lagging because travel restrictions there have been tougher. China, which used to be Southeast Asia´s largest source market, is still effectively closed; Japan, another major market for travel, is reopening very cautiously and seat capacity, which is constrained, is leading to higher air fares, which in turn dampens demand.”