Customers interested in Asia but apprehensive about booking? Laura French seeks experts’ recommendations for this year and next.
What’s the brief?
A couple is looking for a culture-filled trip away from the crowds, offering local explorations as well as beach-time. They might be concerned about the current situation and want somewhere that’s relatively easy to get to with direct flights, but where they don’t have to worry about getting visas sorted weeks in advance.
Kerry Golds, managing director of Abercrombie & Kent (parent company of Cox & Kings)
Vietnam; it has done a good job of containing Covid-19, with restaurants, tourist sites and hotels having started to open back in May. For clients concerned about travelling through airports, there’s a fast-track service available on arrival into Hanoi and Saigon to speed up the visa process, and from the beginning of July, UK citizens will be able to apply for a $25 e-visa processed in three working days, so it’s a wise choice for late availability.
In terms of where to go, we’d recommend a cruise around the less-visited Lan Ha Bay as an alternative to the busier Ha Long Bay, which sits next to it. It has a similar landscape with towering karsts and secluded beaches, but it gets far fewer visitors. Exploring the Mekong Delta by boat is also a must with its quiet, rural villages, as is a visit to the ancient town of Hoi An – recommend the beachfront Boutique Hoi An Resort for a peaceful couples’ retreat.
“For clients concerned about travelling through airports, there’s a fast-track service available on arrival into Hanoi and Saigon to speed up the visa process.”
In terms of when to visit, December to March is the best time, with clear skies and sunshine in the south, and cooler temperatures in the north (14-20C), making it ideal for exploring the country’s cultural sites without the heat of the summer monsoon season.
Book it: Cox & Kings has a 14-day Spirit of Vietnam tour departing January and February 2021 from £2,495, including accommodation, some meals and flights.
What’s the brief?
A family is seeking a winter-sun trip where they can combine island-hopping with nature and wildlife experiences, but they’re apprehensive about booking. They want direct flights and good value for money, with the option of private villa accommodation in quiet, secluded areas where they won’t encounter too many others.
John Parker, product manager for Premier Holidays
Thailand has seen low infection numbers and was the first in the world to implement a post-Covid health and safety certification scheme (SHA), which all hotels, restaurants and shops have to adhere to before they can open.
For those looking for a holiday away from the tourist hotspots, we’d recommend islands such as Koh Tao, Koh Lanta, Koh Samet or Koh Chang. Koh Samet and Koh Chang have the added appeal of being accessible without a domestic flight from Bangkok, as clients can transfer by road and boat. We’re seeing growth in interest for secluded island getaways and villa options, and there are some superb deals available.
“Suggest Elephant Hills Luxury Tented Camp in Khao Sok National Park, which offers elephant experiences and other family-friendly activities.”
If it’s a family after something a little different, suggest Elephant Hills Luxury Tented Camp in Khao Sok National Park, which offers elephant experiences and other family-friendly activities with eco-friendly, luxury tented accommodation.
And for clients concerned about booking, highlight flexible policies; our policy allows customers to change their trip to a new date within the next 11 months, any time up to 11 weeks before the original departure date, so use this to provide peace of mind.
Book it: A 12-night trip including two nights’ full-board at Elephant Hills, four nights in Phuket and six nights in Khao Lak in June 2021 costs from £1,299 per person, including flights from Heathrow.
3. South Korea
What’s the brief?
Clients are looking for an off-the-beaten track adventure where they can meet local people, sample traditional food and experience a new culture. They might have already travelled to the more popular parts of Asia and now want something a little different, with options for hiking and other activities as well as sightseeing.
Chris Greener, Southeast Asia & China Regional Product Manager, InsideAsia Tours
InsideAsia was due to officially launch South Korea as a new destination this year, as we’d noticed there were more people asking about it as a destination. We believe South Korea offers a less-visited option for clients after an alternative to Japan, with excellent food, mountains and vibrant cities providing a similar cultural experience (albeit with its very own identity).
“You can’t go wrong with a food tour of the city to try the likes of bibimbap and kimchi, or a visit to a pocha (traditional bar) to get a glimpse into local life.”
The buzz of super-modern Seoul is amazing, and you can’t go wrong with a food tour of the city to try the likes of bibimbap and kimchi, or a visit to a pocha (traditional bar) to get a glimpse into local life. Gyeongju is the country’s history capital with its temples, pagodas tombs and ruins, while Jeonju is renowned for Hanok Village, where guests can stay in a traditional Korean guesthouse (they’re actually available all over the country, with varying levels of luxury!).
In terms of who to sell to, it definitely suits someone prepared to step outside their comfort zone and try new things. I believe its strong anti-Covid response bodes well for future interest, and I also believe sustainability will play an ever-more important role post-Covid. If people are going to get on that plane, they will want to make it count with a big trip, memorable trip that takes them somewhere different.
Book it: InsideAsia offers tailormade trips to South Korea and will be launching an official programme in 2021.
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