SINGAPORE – Travel is recovering faster in Asia than the west – but it is the domestic market that is driving that recovery, an online travel agent told CNBC this week.
"Asia leads the way in general," said John Brown, managing director of Agoda, a subsidiary of American online travel company Booking Holdings. "We have seen again in markets like Taiwan, certainly places like Thailand, where they really have the best control over Covid – these are the markets where we see the domestic bookings doing the best."
The best pockets of recreation are domestic travel in Taiwan, Thailand and, increasingly, Vietnam, he said.
Taiwan has reported 617 confirmed cases so far and has been free of domestic transmissions for more than 200 days. Thailand and Vietnam have also successfully contained the pandemic with 3,920 and 1,307 confirmed cases, respectively, according to Johns Hopkins University.
"These domestic markets are even better off than last year, only for domestic markets [travel]," Brown told Street Signs Asia on Monday.
This photo, captured on Oct. 20, 2020, shows tourists posing for photos next to anti-landing spikes on the coast of Taiwan's Kinmen Islands, just 2 miles from the mainland China coast on the Taiwan Strait.
Sam Yeh | AFP | Getty Images
The travel industry has been hit by the coronavirus pandemic, which saw countries close their borders to tourists earlier this year. Some markets have since reopened, but demand has been weak.
"In general, it's been a domestic story, we're still waiting for international [demand] to come back," he said.
In Europe and the US, there are bags in which domestic travel also looks "relatively good," despite rising coronavirus cases, Brown said.
"But really, all eyes around the world are looking to Asia to see how we do it, both domestically and with the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble and the many others that we hope will open soon "said he said.
The two cities were slated to begin quarantine-free leisure travel on Sunday, but authorities announced on Saturday that the Singapore-Hong Kong travel bubble deal would be postponed for two weeks after Hong Kong reported a surge in cases.
Brown said he thinks it will go online "soon enough" and that other markets will follow suit.