Travel Daily Asia’s Review of 2015

shutterstock_341432264With the world seemingly lurching from one crisis to another, it’s nice to have one success story to rely on: tourism.

Despite the countless setbacks of recent years, from the global economic crisis to health pandemics, natural disasters to manmade catastrophes, global tourism has continued to grow at a relentless pace. And much of this growth is being driven by the booming Asia Pacific region.

So what did 2015 have in store? Following a broadly successful 2014, would the Asian travel and tourism industry continue to thrive, or would other factors come into play? Here is Travel Daily Asia’s round-up of a year in the Asia Pacific travel industry…

JANUARY

SIA's new Indian airline, Vistara, launched in January
SIA’s new Indian airline, Vistara, launched in January

The year got off to a tragic start as rescue workers searched for the wreckage of AirAsia flight QZ8501, which crashed in Indonesia on 28 December. Tony Fernandes called the incident his “worst nightmare”. Meanwhile Thailand tried to shrug off its turbulent 2014 with the launch of its ‘Discover Thainess’ tourism campaign, and two new airlines were launched: Singapore Airlines’ Indian venture, Vistara, and Guangzhou’s first low-cost carrier, 9 Air. Expedia acquired Travelocity from Sabre for US$280m and Marriott announced its intention to reach one million rooms – not an idle boast as it would turn out.

 

Asian airline passenger traffic:    +4.7% year-on-year – IATA
Asian hotel revPAR:                       -2.7% year-on-year – STR Global
Asian visitor arrivals:                    +3.1% year-on-year – PATAmPOWER

FEBRUARY

Langham unveiled its new Cordis brand in February
Langham unveiled its new Cordis brand in February

Two new hotel brands were unveiled in February, with Langham launching its upscale Cordis concept and Hyatt revealing its new Centric brand. Qatar Airways, which had recently launched its first Airbus A350 flights, acquired a stake in BA’s parent company IAG, and Scoot welcomed its first Dreamliner aircraft. Expedia’s acquisition strategy continued as it increased its stake in its joint venture with AirAsia, and Starwood’s CEO Frits van Paasschen stepped down. And sadly there was more Asian aviation tragedy as a TransAsia Airways aircraft crashed into Taipei’s Keeling River.

Asian airline passenger traffic:    +10.4%
Asian hotel revPAR:                        -7.0%
Asian visitor arrivals:                     +9.8%

MARCH

Genting acquired Crystal Cruises in March
Genting acquired Crystal Cruises in March

March was marked by two major acquisitions in the hotel and cruise industries, as China’s Jin Jiang took control of Louvre Hotels in a US$1.4bn deal and Genting Hong Kong acquired Crystal Cruises for US$550m. Genting would have big plans for its new business, which would be revealed later in the year. There were contrasting strategies in the hotel sector, as Best Western launched three new brands and Preferred consolidated under a single name. And in China, the world’s largest human migration saw 2.8 billion trips taken over the 40-day Chinese New Year holiday. The world also marked the anniversary of the disappearance of flight MH370.

Asian airline passenger traffic:    +11.1%
Asian hotel revPAR:                        -6.2%
Asian visitor arrivals:                      +2.8%

APRIL

A huge earthquake struck Nepal in April
A huge earthquake struck Nepal in April

A huge earthquake struck Nepal in April, devastating the country and its tourism industry. Two Thai hotel groups expanded their horizons, as Absolute launched its first property in Europe and Dusit signed a joint venture in the Middle East, while Accor returned to Yangon for the first time in more than a decade. Philippine Airlines announced its first full-year profit in four years, but results from Macau’s major integrated resorts slumped as gambling revenues plunged in the wake of a Chinese corruption crackdown. And Seoul’s Incheon Airport unveiled plans for a huge 1,000-room integrated resort with casinos and a film studio.

Asian airline passenger traffic:    +9.0%
Asian hotel revPAR:                        -4.1%
Asian visitor arrivals:                     +5.9%

MAY

Asia's first Nobu hotel opened in May
Asia’s first Nobu hotel opened in May

Manila was showered with some Hollywood glitter in May, as Robert de Niro arrived to open Asia’s first Nobu Hotel. Elsewhere, Marriott launched its first two hotels in Macau, including Asia’s largest JW Marriott, and Carlson Rezidor introduced its Park Inn brand to China. In a landmark year for the Chinese online travel sector, Priceline increased its stake in Ctrip, while in the airline sector Qatar Airways launched Asia’s first A350 flights to Singapore, and Cebu Pacific rebranded Tigerair Philippines as ‘Cebgo’. Meanwhile, the Chinese government announced plans to blacklist unruly air passengers.

Asian airline passenger traffic:    +9.4%
Asian hotel revPAR:                        -5.7%
Asian visitor arrivals:                      +7.0%

JUNE

Myanmar International Airlines started revamping its fleet in June
Myanmar International Airlines started revamping its fleet in June

One of the stars of 2015 was Myanmar International Airlines, which started transforming its operations in June with the arrival of its first new Boeing 737 aircraft. The revitalised national carrier would later launch its first flights to Singapore and Hong Kong. Elsewhere Etihad started flying to Hong Kong and Emirates touched down in Bali, and the world’s most advanced cruise ship, Quantum of the Seas, arrived in Singapore for the first time. Meanwhile Starwood unveiled its ‘Sheraton 2020’ strategy, including the launch of the new Sheraton Grand concept, and Frasers Hospitality acquired UK boutique group Malmaison.

Asian airline passenger traffic:    +6.8%
Asian hotel revPAR:                        -0.3%
Asian visitor arrivals:                      +2.6%

JULY

Sabre completed a deal for Abacus in July
Sabre completed a deal for Abacus in July

The world’s travel technology giants flexed their financial muscles in July, with Sabre completing a US$411m acquisition of Abacus and Amadeus acquiring Navitaire from Accenture for US$830m. And following is purchase of Crystal Cruises, Genting unveiled plans to launch a series of new ventures, including river cruises, expedition cruises and luxury air tours. Vietnam Airlines embarked on a new long-haul era with the arrival of its first A350 and B787 Dreamliner aircraft, and Thai Airways finally started flying its A380 to London. But an ash cloud forced Bali Airport to close – not the last time we’d be hearing that in 2015.

Asian airline passenger traffic:    +8.5%
Asian hotel revPAR:                        +3.2%
Asian visitor arrivals:                      +3.1%

AUGUST

Bangkok was rocked by a bomb in August
Bangkok was rocked by a bomb in August

Bangkok was rocked by a devastating bomb attack in August, causing concerns for the country’s recovering tourism sector. But in Nepal, climbers return to the slopes of Everest for the first time since April’s devastating quake. Singapore Airlines launched its new premium economy class, Outrigger continued its “best beaches” strategy with the opening of its first resort in the Maldives, and Donald Trump – one of 2015’s most divisive figures – unveiled plans for a luxury resort in Bali. And hopes were raised that the MH370 mystery would be solved when the first piece of debris from the missing aircraft washed up on Reunion.

Asian airline passenger traffic:    +7.7%
Asian hotel revPAR:                        +2.3%
Asian visitor arrivals:                     +3.4%

SEPTEMBER

The new Malaysia Airlines launched in September
The new Malaysia Airlines launched in September

Following the MH370 breakthrough, Malaysia Airlines entered a new chapter in its troubled recent history as it relaunched as a new company. Expedia continued to hit the headlines with its US$1.6bn acquisition of Orbitz, while Genting Hong Kong fuelled its cruise expansion plans with a deal for a German shipbuilding company. And it was a big month for Thailand’s budget travel sector, as Thai AirAsia launched a new base at Pattaya, US economy hotel chain Red Roof unveiled plans for a major Thai expansion, and Absolute signed an agreement to bring the Travelodge brand to the kingdom.

Asian airline passenger traffic:    +6.8%
Asian hotel revPAR:                       +1.6%
Asian visitor arrivals:                     +5.2%

OCTOBER

Singapore was shrouded in haze in October
Singapore was shrouded in haze in October

Banyan Tree opened its first Cassia hotel in Phuket and unveiled its fourth brand, Dhawa, while Best Western undertook a major rebrand and launched its new Glo hotel concept. Jin Jiang continued its ascent up the global hotel rankings with a deal for Plateno Hotels, and Ctrip effectively merged with its long-time rival Qunar following a share swap. Singapore Airlines revealed plans to relaunch direct flights to the US using a new ultra-long-range aircraft, but closer to home the skies were a lot hazier, as smoke from Indonesia’s forest fires caused airport disruption as far north as Phuket. And Carnival revealed plans base two more cruise brands in China.

Asian airline passenger traffic:    +8.6%
Asian hotel revPAR:                        +2.6%
Asian visitor arrivals:                      +4.5%

NOVEMBER

Marriott acquired Starwood in November
Marriott acquired Starwood in November

November was a month of multi-billion dollar deals, including Marriott’s US$12.2bn acquisition of Starwood and Expedia’s US$3.9bn purchase of HomeAway. The Marriott deal, which will go through next year, will make it the world’s biggest hotel group. On the subject of huge hotel developments, the first phase of the 338-hectare Treasure Bay complex opened in Bintan, and Accorhotels announced a deal with Samsung for a new era of “smart” hotels. Cathay Pacific unveiled its new livery, while Fiji Airways revealed plans to fly direct to Singapore and Genting Hong Kong capped off a successful year with the launch of its Dream Cruises brand.

Asian airline passenger traffic:    N/A
Asian hotel revPAR:                        N/A
Asian visitor arrivals:                      N/A

DECEMBER

AccorHotels snapped up Fairmont-Raffles in December
AccorHotels snapped up Fairmont-Raffles in December

Following another tumultuous year, Thailand ended 2015 on a high by reaching 28m visitors and setting a new full-year record. Thai Airways also breathed a sigh of relief after the EU decided not to ban it from European airspace. Not to be outdone by Marriott, Accorhotels sealed a US$2.9bn deal for Fairmont-Raffles, and Design Hotels was officially incorporated into the Starwood portfolio, becoming its 11th brand. China’s aerospace ambitions took a step forward as the country delivered its first homemade regional jet, and a major new player emerged on the aviation scene in Shanghai as Yangtze River Airlines launched passenger flights.

Asian airline passenger traffic:    N/A
Asian hotel revPAR:                        N/A
Asian visitor arrivals:                      N/A

—————————-

TRAVEL DAILY ASIA’S PERSON OF THE YEAR

KT Lim
KT Lim

Tan Sri Lim Kok Thay

As chairman and chief executive of the Genting Group, KT Lim has overseen a significant expansion of the company’s business in 2015. The acquisition of Crystal Cruises was followed by the announcement of multiple new ventures, including river cruises and luxury air tours. And not content with ordering new ships, Genting also purchased a German ship-building company to drive its growth. It then launched Dream Cruises, Asia’s first premium cruise brand, opened Genting Jeju, and started work on Genting Las Vegas. Not a bad 12 months’ work.

—————————-

THE YEAR IN NUMBERS

1

Scoot became the first airline in the world to operate an all-Dreamliner fleet

3

The number of major acquisitions made by Expedia in 2015, worth more than US$5.7bn

4

The number of new hotel brands launched by Best Western in 2015

8

The total number of days Bali Airport was closed in 2015, due to volcanic ash

3,300

The approximate number of hotels Jin Jiang added through its acquisitions of Louvre and Plateno

28,000,000

Thailand welcomed more than 28m international visitors for the first time this year

2,800,000,000

The number of trips taken by Chinese travellers during the 40-day Chinese New Year holiday

12,200,000,000

The value, in US dollars, of Marriott’s purchase of Starwood

————————–

Of course this is just a round-up of the many and varied events and that took place in 2015, so we apologise if your company’s big news wasn’t featured. These are some of the key moments that we believe defined the year, and will continue to shape the Asian travel industry in 2016 and beyond.

We hope that you and your company enjoyed a prosperous and profitable 2015. With the travel economy continuing to grow, demand for hotels, flights and travel services on the rise, and new alliances, mergers, acquisitions and innovations taking place across the industry, this is an incredibly exciting time for the Asian travel and tourism industry.

We look forward to reporting on all the major stories – and some not-so-major ones – in 2016. Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year!

** (please note that this review was written in the third week of December; any events happening after this will not have been included) **

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