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Daily Intelligence Briefing

Tuesday, February 15, 2022

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Asia’s Tourism Rebound Will Boost the Global Travel Industry, Aviation, and Emerging Markets

Summary: Travel restrictions are being eased across Asia as plans for new hotel construction on the continent reach all-time highs. With a tourism rebound on track, Airbus expects demand for thousands of new planes in the Asia-Pacific market. Travel and tourism will continue to be a key driver of improving economic conditions in Asian emerging markets.

From Bangkok to Bali, the tourism recovery will be felt most imminently in Southeast Asia, where travelers from most nations have been welcomed back in recent weeks. CDC guidance considers Japan remains a “very high” risk destination and the Japanese government is proceeding toward any re-opening with caution. Meanwhile, China is grappling with their own “Zero-COVID” policy that threatens to curtail a full recovery for other tourism markets as well.

Related ETFs & Stocks: Defiance Hotel, Airline, and Cruise ETF (CRUZ), iShares MSCI Emerging Markets ETF (EEM), Marriott International, Inc. (MAR), Hyatt Hotels Corporation (H), Airbus SE (EADSY)

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Asian Nations Attempt to Overcome Omicron, Open Their Borders

Though Bloomberg writes that some parts of Asia, most notably China and Hong Kong, are maintaining their “COVID-Zero” strategies, other nations across the continent are taking steps to rejuvenate their travel industries as they learn to live with the reality of the coronavirus – unlikely to disappear anytime soon.

Southeast Asia has seen some of the most significant developments in recent weeks:

The Philippines reopened to international tourists from 157 countries last Thursday for the first time in almost two years.

In neighboring Indonesia, tourist hub Bali has expanded its re-opening to most international vacationers after green-lighting travelers from just 19 countries since October. For now, international arrivals will still need to quarantine for three days after entering the country, but Indonesia is considering lifting all quarantine requirements for inbound travelers by April.

Just yesterday, Vietnam lifted coronavirus restrictions on international flights. Commercial passenger flights can now arrive in Vietnam from any country for the first time since it sealed its borders in March 2020 to prevent the spread of COVID-19 via air travel.

Each of these easings are subject to vaccination requirements.

It may be some time before we see similar re-openings in other regions of Asia. According to CNN, Japan was added to Level 4 (the highest level) of the CDC’s list of high risk destinations this month, which has swelled to almost 135 places, up from around 80 destinations listed in January. Level 4 now has more destinations than all the other CDC categories combined, largely due to the accelerated spread of the omicron variant through the end of January.

The Japan Times has reported the government plans to begin accepting more than 1,000 people per day soon, and gradually raise the cap to several thousand, but students and business visitors will be getting priority and take up most of that cap.

Return of Tourism Business a Major Boon for Asian Economies

Asia is home to some of the largest and fastest-growing emerging market economies and travel is a major key to that vibrancy. As Liz Ortiguera, CEO of Pacific Asia Travel Association (PATA), recently told Skift, “Pre pandemic, the travel sector has been such an engine for growth in terms of jobs creation ― 
one in ten jobs in Asia Pacific is travel and tourism related. And it will return to that…”

The hotel business seems to agree with that assessment, planning a major expansion of accommodations across the continent. According to the recent Construction Pipeline Trend Report from Lodging Econometrics (LE), Asia Pacific’s total hotel construction pipeline, excluding China, at the end of the fourth quarter of 2021 stands at 1,814 projects, representing 397,089 rooms. Project counts are up 5%, while room counts are up 8% YoY. Per HNR Hotel News, project and room counts in the early planning stage are at all-time high at the end of Q4 with 535 projects/111,822 rooms and those currently under construction stand at 899 projects with 207,693 rooms. Projects scheduled to start construction in the next 12 months closed the year at 380 projects/77,574 rooms. As for China, both projects and rooms in the construction pipeline are at record highs, marking the highest totals the country has ever seen.

Hotels in Asia-Pacific are likely to receive investment of more than $9 billion this year, a 30% increase from 2021, according to JLL. Total capital outlay is expected to hit around US$200 billion, a 15% rise from the full year estimate for 2021, the property consultancy said in a report, highlighted by the Bangkok Post.

Marriott International will be a driver of that investment as the company is slated to debut nearly 100 hotels in Asia in 2022 – and its 1,000th in the region by year’s end. Similarly, Hyatt will soon be rolling out its Caption by Hyatt, Destination by Hyatt and Thompson Hotels brands in the Asia Pacific market.

More accommodations likely means a greater need for transportation across the eastern hemisphere. Per Bloomberg, Airbus SE sees the Asia-Pacific region needing more than 17,600 new planes over the next two decades as travel rebounds from the coronavirus pandemic. Airbus Chief Commercial Officer, Christian Scherer, sees regional travel reaching 2019 levels between 2023 and 2025. The Asia-Pacific new-plane forecast represents more than 40% of the demand seen by Airbus globally.

It is important to note, however, strict COVID-19 policies in China are likely to be a major barrier to a full tourism recovery in other nations as well. As very few outsiders can enter China, the flow of people out of China also remains restricted. Per the New York Times, China has announced that international flights would be kept at just 2.2% of pre-COVID levels during the winter. Since August, the country has almost entirely stopped issuing new passports, and it has imposed a 14-day quarantine for all arrivals. Returning to China also requires mountains of paperwork and multiple COVID tests.

This is dampening news for virtually all global tourism markets, considering Chinese tourists spent roughly $260 billion in 2019, exceeding all other nationalities. Asia is the top continental destination for Chinese travelers.

Thailand is trying to set up a bilateral “travel bubble” with China, but nothing is set in stone with Omicron cases recently on the rise. Of Thailand’s nearly 40 million foreign visitors in 2019, more than a quarter of them were Chinese. According to the Thai central bank, the number of tourist arrivals in December did accelerate from the previous month, especially those from Europe.

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