Alta Thoughts (January 2023)
By Rakesh Patel
I have just arrived in Thailand, and the optimism in tourism abounds. The Russians have evidently returned, particularly as the EU has tightened visa entry post the Ukraine conflict. Russian visitor numbers at the end of 2022, rose to over 100,000 per month, compared to around 23,000 in January 2022. And the Chinese are not far behind. According to Trip.com, more than half of Chinese overseas travellers prefer Thailand for longer holidays.
By contrast, I was back in London before Thailand, and you can see how much the UK hospitality is still being impacted post-Covid. There are global challenges (energy prices), alongside domestic issues. Widespread transport strike disruption is correlated to the cost living crisis. And the lack of action around managing labour supply issues in a Brexit framework is not helping. The FT reports GBP1.5bn in lost business for the hospitality industry last month due to rail strikes alone.
Below are a few of our recent comments posted on LinkedIn. As always, good to hear your feedback and exchange ideas.
China is back! It’s been 3 years of lockdowns, but Chinese travellers are finally beginning their “revenge travel”.
Pent-up demand has been triggered by the sudden relaxation of Covid rules. Trip.com reports that air ticket bookings from mainland China to Southeast Asia increased by 864% yoy, with Thailand being the most popular long-stay destination. Further, Singapore expects an additional SGD2bn annually of revenues from Chinese travellers.
With a further relaxation of rules for group bookings from February 6th, expect Chinese outbound trip numbers to accelerate through 2023.
The No-normal. The Expedia / Hotels.com / Vrbo travel trend survey makes for good reading and gives some insight into the next stops for travellers in the year ahead. For 2023, look out for a shift from “revenge travel” at any cost, to more discerning trips, with experiences booked without compromise.
Traveller tastes are changing, but is the hospitality industry really keeping pace?
Travellers are increasing traveling with purpose and in search of experiences. This is apparent in the search for sustainable offerings, the ballooning demand for wellness travel, and blurred lines between work and leisure travel.
As an industry, the delivery of this must be positioned as a core purpose, go beyond superficial change, and most importantly, be authentic.
With 90% of our time spent indoors, feeling well inside well-designed buildings has become an increasing priority. The pandemic accelerated this focus, and for the architecture industry this has meant understanding the impact of building design on the physical and mental health of inhabitants.
Wellness design is not new of course. The Greeks and Romans were famed for harmonious townscapes and harnessing of natural elements, whilst Chinese and Indian building design tradition centred around wellbeing practices like Feng Shui and Vastu.
Going forward, expect architectural output to pivot towards biophilic design creating connectivity with nature, sustainable architecture to minimise the impact on inhabitants, lighting design to harmonise with circadian rhythms, and better material choices.