Sign up | Log in
View Samples AseanAffairs Magazine
Mar - Apr 2009
Testimonials –
What our Readers
are saying about us
  COVER STORY                
  ASEAN TALK read...
  • ASEAN MONEY       
  • BEYOND ASEAN read...
  ASEAN TECH   read...


Asean’s Growth Driver
It seems that every corner of the world has at last been drawn into the vortex of recession. And the situation is expected to be worse than any other recession since 1929. It is hardly surprising that most of the forecasts for tourism, be it global or regional, are rather gloomy.

Yet, while there is great uncertainty about the present situation there is a lot of contradictory information – either exaggerated or alarmist. The crisis is certainly real. The fact is tourism proved incredibly resilient in the past, and if the downturn is expected to be dramatic, the recovery could prove to be even more so.

Globally, tourist arrivals grew two percent last year to more than 900 million although the growth was negative in the second half. Asia and the Pacific remained the world’s second best performing region in terms of arrivals in after the Middle East although there were signs of slowdown in the last quarter.

Southeast Asia, the decline in arrivals began to hit destinations from Manila to Singapore late last year. Visitors to the region totaled 58 million, down from 62 million a year earlier.
The economic downturn, combined with the current uncertainties and extreme market volatility and a decline in both consumer and business confidence, are expected to continue taking their toll on demand for tourism at least in the short to medium term, the World Tourism Organisation (UNWTO) has warned.

Yet, there are chances of an early recovery provided that economies, boosted by stimulus packages, return to growth. The danger, however, is the over reaction to the global crunch by both individuals and businesses whose belt-tightening unnecessarily hurt the economies and the travel industry as well.  

Prospects for Southeast Asia could be brighter than one could possibly see. Prompted by the global crisis impact, the ten-nation Association of Southeast Asian Nations (Asean) is launching a slew of tourism promotional campaigns while individual members have their own plans to boost arrival numbers. Thanks to plummeting exports, the drive to boost tourism revenue tops the agenda of every Asean government. Visa-free access and one-priced tourism campaigns are among the group’s aggressive moves to attract tourist dollars.
Gradually, the media attention will have to shift from the financial crisis, bankruptcies and job losses to how credit lines are being restored, consumer spending returning to normal and businesses making a comeback.

The drop in oil price, delayed by hedging, finally came. The revival of tourism industry, particularly in Asean, should come faster for it is now the main driver of growth.       

Opportunity Amidst the Crisis
Doomsayers of tourism industry will not believe it. Good news rarely makes the front pages. Tucked away in the pages inside are reports of aggressive business expansion on the hotel property front, for example, in Thailand, Vietnam and Singapore, all of which have posted declines in tourist arrivals lately.

In Thailand, US hotel-management firm Marriott International has signed management contracts with 10 properties in Thailand scheduled to open between this year and 2011.
"The crisis in this region became our opportunity. We believe that the hotel industry will grow in the long term,” said  Geoff Garside, the firm’s executive vice president for the Asia-Pacific region.

The group will manage 10 new hotels with 1,751 rooms located in major tourist destinations. The first two properties - Marriott Executive Apartments with 300 units and Sathorn Vista Marriott Executive Apartments with 187 - will open in Bangkok this year.
Next year, the group plans to manage two hotels with a combined 401 units under the Marriott brand in Phuket and Rayong and another 513 rooms in Phuket and Bangkok under the Renaissance brand.

The group is also set to manage another Renaissance in Bangkok's Sukhumvit Road area and a Marriott Executive Serviced Apartments in the capital in 2011 for a combined 350 units. Besides, the group is also looking to manage hotels in Chiang Mai, Chiang Rai, Cha-am and Hua Hin.

In Vietnam, Moevenpick Hotels and Resorts is making its mark with the upgrade of its properties in Ha Noi and Ho Chi Minh City. The Moevenpick Hotel Saigon, located close to the Ho Chi Minh International Airport and the city’s new E-Town business cluster, will begin a major refurbishment of rooms and public areas next month. In Ha Noi, the Swiss hotel management group has almost completed a $9 million renovation after closing the hotel for five months.

In the coastal city of Nha Trang, central Khanh Hoa province, Sheraton Hotels Group is building an international hotel & spa which will be put into operation in mid-2009. This is Sheraton's third luxury hotel in Vietnam, after two facilities in Hanoi and Ho Chi Minh City.

In the city-state of Singapore, the $5.4 billion Marina Bay Sands is on target to open by year-end. The construction of its hotel towers has passed the halfway mark and is due to be “topped out” in July.

With the current downturn and parent company Las Vegas Sands running into money problems, there were concerns about the impact on the Marina Bay project. But the company said funding is not an issue.

Marina Bay Sands said at least half of the property will be operational by year-end. It is in discussions with Singapore authorities on the timeline.

The distinctive hotel towers - that slope at a 26-degree angle - with 2,600 rooms have reached the halfway mark at about 28 floors, with hotel rooms being fitted out in tandem.

The hotel towers may have reached their halfway mark, but Marina Bay Sands has yet to face its biggest construction challenge - that is, when the floors go up all the way to the 55th level and they have to construct a sky park across all three levels.

When completed, the sky park, which is about the length of four and a half A380 airplanes, will have pools, gardens and a rooftop club. But will all these facilities bring in the crowds that the Singapore government is banking on?
Singapore’s visitor arrivals fell almost 13 percent in January to 771,000 from the same period a year ago. However, despite the recent gloomy tourist arrival numbers, Marina Bay Sands remains confident the cards are stacked in its favour.
Nigel Roberts, president, Marina Bay Sands, said: “In spite of the market, we will come on line with something everyone will want to come to. It is going to be a ‘must do’ place to come (to).”

The company plans to make Marina Bay Sands a global attraction, but the markets it is targeting first are China, India, Indonesia, Malaysia and Thailand, as well as the Middle East and Russia.

Those are the developers that defy the downturn but believe in the bounce-back of tourism.

Winners: Value-for-Money Destinations
Yet as the UNWTO has reminded, it is important to realise that unlike major previous crises such 9/11 and SARS, the current downturn does not impact so much on the desire to travel. The major concern is about whether one can afford to travel, or wants to spend on travel, given the uncertain economic condition.

Though certainly not immune to economic woes, tourism has so far resisted the economic downturn better than other industry sectors, such as car manufacturing or construction.
Despite the lingering uncertainty, there is a fairly bright outlook for tourism industry. Taking the advantage will be destinations offering value for money and favourable exchange rates as price becomes a key issue.


Home | About Us | Contact Us | Special | Features | News | Magazine | Events | TV | Press Release | Advertise With us

Our Products | Work with us | Terms of Use | Site Map | Privacy Policy | Refund Policy | Shipping/Delivery Policy

Version 5.0


Copyright © 2007-2011 TIME INTERNATIONAL MANAGEMENT ENTERPRISES CO., LTD. All rights reserved.
Bangkok, Thailand