Asia set the tone for the new year at this week’s Selling Travel Connect Event in London – the first Selling Travel Connect event of the year.
The roadshow saw over 60 agents gather at The Caledonian Club to learn more about the fascinating region.
There were updates from top-selling suppliers, including Travelpack, Royal Brunei Airlines, Tourism Authority of Thailand, Okinawa, Gulf Air, Hachinohe, All Nippon Airways, Thai Airways, Korea Tourism Organisation, Destination Explore Malaysia and BuBu Resort.
Agents and suppliers enjoyed an evening of speed networking, enticing Q&A sessions and an exciting prize draw, including chocolate hampers and Japanese treats.
Warisara Dowden, Marketing Executive for Tourism Authority of Thailand, wanted to promote lesser-known spots in the country. “Although clients may think Thailand is busy and crowded, there are still many peaceful and quiet destinations to be explored. We want to bring these ‘secondary cities’ to the attention of UK tourists.”
Another off-the-beaten-track destination is Okinawa. Most people travel along Japan’s familiar Golden Route (Kyoto, Hiroshima, Miyajima Island and Tokyo), said Visit Okinawa’s Trade Sales and Marketing Manager Sandra Kwan. But Okinawa deserves a place on a Japan itinerary. “Okinawa is a good way to end a Japan trip,” she said. “The most attractive thing about the prefecture is its beaches. There may be a theme park opening in 2025, too. It would be based in the north part of the main island. Watch this space.”
Also promoting a hidden gem in Japan, Yuki Koyama, PR & Marketing Consultant for Visit Hachinohe added: “Hachinohe is quite a hidden place. Clients can immerse themselves in breathtaking nature and tuck into delicious food, experiencing authentic Japanese culture. Our destination is popular for the Michinoku coastal trail, which is our most attractive selling point.”
Director of Yaktivities Lorna Allen introduced two Malaysian products to the UK market: Destination Explore, a DMC ground handler, and BuBu Resort, a villa and hotel on the east coast. “Destination Explore is the go to stop for high-end bespoke tours. It hasn’t really been publicised in the UK. Similarly, BuBu Resort hasn’t ventured into the UK market until now. The resort is based in the lesser-known Perhentian Islands. It’s perfect for clients who are looking for something completely different that is not on the main tourist track.”
On the move
The Korean Wave is huge right now, said Ruby James, Marketing Manager at the Korea Tourism Organisation. “It’s an exciting time for Korea at the moment. We are celebrating the Visit Korea Year 2023 – 2024. There are lots of enticing government initiatives to boost tourism, too. Korea has so much to offer — from history and culture to dynamic modern cities, wellness and beaches.”
Numerous airlines were represented at the event, including Gulf Air, with Key Account Manager Nadia Spita highlighting a host of new developments to look forward to. “We are starting to fly to China and AlUla soon. As well as our new airport (thanks to a huge renovation in 2021), flights have commenced on our new 787 Dreamliner. The plan is to extend the frequency every day from Manchester by the end of this year.”
Royal Brunei Airlines is also preparing for a busy year ahead, said Heidi Atkins of Flight Directors. “The airline has successfully bounced back from Covid. We have our 787 Dreamliner, which flies from Heathrow. Departures are three days a week, with the flight currently via Dubai. The stopover opportunities in Brunei are endless.”
Thai Airways is keen to promote the airline’s recovery post Covid, too. Tina said: “Our services have now returned to normal and we still have two daily flights from London. Perth is recommencing in April, followed by the introduction of Oslo and Milan from July.”
Asia is a key selling destination for Travelpack, said Business Development Manager Jenny. “One of our USPs is we can book three years in advance with a price guarantee. Clients don’t have to wait and sit on the inquiry — they can come to Travelpack to get the quote. It works well for those who want to go on a big value holiday but need time to plan and save.”
Yoshimi Ogura, Marketing Specialist & Assistant Manager at All Nippon Airways, added: “ANA has announced its summer schedule that includes a significantly expanded operation across Europe for 31 March to 26 October 2024. Beginning in July, ANA will increase frequency on the Haneda-Munich and Haneda-Paris routes to a daily service. This will be followed by the resumption of the Haneda-Vienna route in August. In addition, during the 2024 winter schedule, ANA will launch the Haneda-Milan, Haneda-Stockholm and Haneda-Istanbul routes.”