The region, long a paradise for value-seekers, will offer tempting bargains once more.
Officially, the Asia travel pause at Kensington Tours has ended. The company’s monthly sales numbers were up by 80 percent in 2019 compared to 2019. Tourists are still going to Thailand, despite the rainy autumn season. They are booking temple stays in South Korea. They are going to India last-minute.
Jessica Vandermey is a director of Kensington Tours’ sales. She said that Vietnam is “absolutely bananas”. “And I’m getting incredible reviews from clients being there with a few people versus the mass,” Vandermey said.
Much of Asia has returned after a lengthy and costly pause in travel, which in some cases lasted more than two decades. Despite China’s continued closure to tourism, Japan has been adjusting its policy regarding independent travelers. However, hotels and tour operators report strong growth. Intrepid Travel stated that it is sending twice as many Americans to Asia in 2020 as it did in 2019. Bookings at Minor International in Thailand, a hospitality company that manages Anantara and Avani hotels, as well as other brands, have more than doubled since 2021.
“Consumers are moving beyond revenge travel and making travel part of everyday life again,” stated Brett Keller, chief executive of online travel agency priceline. In Asia, hotel searches have almost tripled in the last year, according to the chief executive of the company. This mindset is allowing them to go beyond the short-haul travel they have been limited to over the past two years, and to include long-haul, foreign trips in their lives.
The pandemic in Asia has reshaped the travel industry, just like the rest of the globe. Rarely are you able to find low-cost flights from or to the region. The place that has always been a valued-lover’s destination will offer travelers cheaper ground transportation costs and less crowds at famous attractions.
Higher prices for flights
Traveling to Asia’s first hurdle — getting there — is likely to be the most expensive, even if you compare it with cheap fares before 2020. Round-trip tickets to Asia are 53 percent more expensive than in 2019, which averaged $731. Priceline tracks round-trip tickets worldwide.
China’s closure has forced the cancellation of flights to China, which had some of Asia’s most competitive fares. Many of the top business destinations in the world, such as Beijing, Taipei, and Shanghai, remain closed or restricted.
According to the aviation analytics company Cirium flights between the United States of America and Asia have fallen 54 percent between August 2019 & August 2022, according to Cirium . According to United Airlines, it flew approximately 1,100 flights in August 2019 but only 482 in August 2022.
Scott Keyes, founder of Scott’s Cheap Flights (subscription service that searches for bargain airfares), stated that the frequency of business-oriented flights “had been such an upward force on airfare.” Many people were purchasing cheap flights to Beijing in order to travel to Hanoi and Bali. You won’t find the same amount of cheap flights if these flights aren’t there.
According to him, a good deal would cost 30-40% more than it would in 2019, depending on how you calculate it. The service recently offered $775 round-trip tickets from the East Coast to South Korea. A similar fare could have been as low at $550 in 2019.
“I believe that until we see a broad-based reopening major economies, that will become the new normal,” Mr. Keyes said.
The cheapest trans-Pacific flights that Priceline searched for were less than $1,100 round-trip and they were for airports located in Malaysia, Singapore, and Thailand. Priceline recently offered round-trip fall flights from New York to Bangkok starting at $830
Regional low-cost carriers might be a good option for those who arrive in the Asian capitals. For example, a recent one-way flight from Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, to Bangkok on Malaysian-based AirAsia was $62 before any extras like seat assignments.
Other low-cost carriers are IndiGo, located in India, as well as Australia-based Jetstar. These two airlines have recently experienced operational issues that left thousands of Australian tourists stranded in Bali last month.
To ensure you get the best deal, compare it with other low-cost airlines in your area, such as domestic or international, make sure to check the cancellation policy and inclusions. Food, seat assignments, and checked bags are often extra.
Other expenses might be less expensive on the ground. Priceline reports that average hotel rates are 7 per cent cheaper than in 2019, which averaged $120 per night. There are many hotels under $100 per night in Cambodia, Laos and Malaysia, Thailand and Vietnam. The best deals are under $50 in Varanasi (India); Kuchina (Malaysia); Da Nang, Vietnam, Iloilo City in the Philippines; Phnom Penh, Thailand; and Pattaya (Thailand).
You can get more for a little more. Avani+ Samui, and the Avani Chaweng Samui Hotel & Beach Club on the island Ko Samui, in southern Thailand, offer a package which includes two nights at each hotel and includes airport pickups and transfers.
A deal at FCC Angkor in Siem Reap (Cambodia) includes airport pickup and transportation by tuk tuk to. The guided tour of the temples and Angkor Wat will include breakfast, lunch, or dinner for two, as well as a couples spa treatment starting at $129 per night.
It’s a great way to stretch your spending budget. EF Go Ahead Tours offers a 14-day trip to Thailand. It includes hotels, tours, meals, and internal flights.
G Adventures provides a 10-day Vietnam tour starting at $999 per person.
Explore Worldwide offers an eight-day tour through India’s Golden Triangle, including Agra and Karauli. The price is $840 per person. The eight-day Highlights in Laos tour starts at $940 per person and visits Vientiane’s capital, Luang Prabang, as well as the limestone mountains surrounding rural Vang Vieng.
Japan is still very popular, and tour operators in Japan are trying to meet the demand. EF Go Ahead Tours offers a 14-day Japan tour starting at $5,300
Travel advisors suggest South Korea as an alternative with similar culture and culinary intrigue but a lower living cost. G Adventures’ eight-day trip to South Korea includes visits to Seoul, UNESCO World Heritage designated parks and temples, as well as the seaside town of Busan. The cost is $2,249.
For as low as $50 per night, independent travelers to South Korea can book a temple stay in a Seoul mountain monastery. This includes Buddhist rituals and meals provided by Templestay.
Future cruises now on sale
Large-ship cruises have historically been an economical way to visit many places. However, ship companies are now less able to sail in Asia due to the Covid regulations and the list of closures.
Many have delayed their departures from the region until spring or even fall 2023. Celebrity Cruises was one of the first to operate two ships in the area before the pandemic. It is now targeting September 2023 for its return.
Many cruise lines offer deals on 2023 or 2024 itineraries to fill the ships that are leaving in the future.
Princess Cruises offered a five-day sailing to South Korea and Japan next June starting at $497 per person. The itinerary included visits to Tokyo, Kobe, Kagoshima and Kagoshima, Japan, and the island Jeju, South Korea. The line requires a $100 deposit to reserve it.
Norwegian Cruise Line offers an 11-day sailing between Kuala Lumpur, Bangkok, and Singapore in December 2023. The price is $900 less than the original September price, and will continue through October. A 11-day trip around Japan from October 2023 will cost $1,919, which is nearly $1,300 less than the previous price.
Celebrity has several ambitious Asian itineraries planned for November 2023. These include 14 days in Thailand or Vietnam. Prices start at $1,400 per person (or $2,200 if you book a cabin).
It is important to read and understand the fare terms before making a booking. Also, be sure to look out for cancellation policies and flexible terms. According to a recent search for the Celebrity trip, an additional $386 per cabin was required to make the deposit fully refundable until approximately two months prior to departure.