Travel Daily Asia’s Review of 2013

TD Guest Writer

Guest Writers are not employed, compensated or governed by TD, opinions and statements are from the specific writer directly

Who were the winners and losers in Asian travel in 2013?
Who were the winners and losers in Asian travel in 2013?

So another year has passed; how was it for you?

Asia’s travel industry began the year with high hopes, following record tourist arrivals in 2012. Despite the eurozone slump and problems in the US, intra-Asian tourism was driving the industry forward. New visitors from China, India and ASEAN countries began travelling in their millions, leading to record tourist arrivals in countries like Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Taiwan and the Philippines.

Catering for these arrivals, hotel companies were adding thousands of new hotel rooms across the region, designing products specifically catered to Asian guests. And new airlines were forming, offering increased flights aboard fast-expanding fleets of modern aircraft.

Travel to Asia’s new and emerging destinations was booming and the outlook for the year ahead was promising, but how would 2013 play out? Welcome to Travel Daily Asia’s review of 2013…


The world's Dreamliners were grounded in January
The world’s Dreamliners were grounded in January

Unfortunately the year got off to a bad start – especially for Japan’s airlines. Problems with the batteries on Boeing’s brand new Dreamliner forced the global grounding of the aircraft, with ANA and JAL hardest hit. The B787 would stay grounded until late April. But Myanmar’s emergence on the international scene continued, with the announcement of plans for a new hotel zone in Yangon. Also, Thailand’s Dusit International formed a new hotel company in China, and Malaysia’s state-run airport operator unveiled plans to launch its own hotel brand.

Air passenger traffic:    +0.1% (for Asia Pacific airlines, provided by IATA)
Hotel occupancy:    +7.7% (for Asia Pacific hotels, provided by STR Global)


In February, American Airlines and US Airways confirmed plans to form the world’s biggest carrier, although several obstacles still lay ahead. The aviation landscape was also changing in India, where AirAsia unveiled plans to form a new Chennai-based airline, but the final nail was driven into Kingfisher Airlines’ coffin, when its airport slots were withdrawn. In the hotel sector, Thailand’s Minor acquired Life Resorts and Marriott signed seven hotels in Thailand. And Royal Caribbean unveiled the designs for its new Quantum-class of cruise ship.

Air traffic:        +4.5%
Hotel occupancy:    -8.1%


Accor unveiled its Indonesian hotel brand in March
Accor unveiled its Indonesian hotel brand in March

The eyes of the hotel industry were fixed firmly on Southeast Asia in March, with a series of new brands and developments. Hilton, Accor and Best Western became the first international companies to sign properties in Myanmar, while in Indonesia Archipelago launched two new brands, Carlson signed its first 20 hotels in the country, and Accor unveiled a new brand targeted specifically for Indonesian travellers. Also in Indonesia, Lion Air placed a record order for 234 new Airbus jets, while a row was brewing in the US about allowing knives on planes.

Air traffic:        +5.4%
Hotel occupancy:    -1.0%


This was the month that China was revealed as the world’s biggest international tourism market, with Chinese tourists spending a staggering US$102bn in 2012. Also in April, the Boeing 787 Dreamliner was cleared for relaunch, and it was joined in Asia’s skies by the Boeing 747-8 International, which made its regional debut on a flight to Hong Kong. Qantas and Emirates officially commenced their joint venture, while Lion Air followed up its record aircraft order with the launch of Malindo Air in late March and Batik Air in April.

Air traffic:        +2.4%
Hotel occupancy:    -0.5%


Costa announced a round-the-world cruise from China in May
Costa announced a round-the-world cruise from China in May

Cruise operators have been expanding their Asian operations this year, and in May Costa unveiled plans for the first ever world cruise originating in China. Meanwhile the Dreamliner’s return gathered pace with the delivery of the first Boeing 787 to a Chinese airline, and Phuket was connected to the Philippines for the first time with the launch of a new direct Cebu Pacific flight. Also a study by MasterCard revealed that Bangkok is now the world’s most-visited city, overtaking London with almost 16 million visitors.

Air traffic:        +3.7%
Hotel occupancy:    -1.3%


As one Asian low-cost carrier fell, another was given a fresh hope in June. AirAsia and ANA announced that their Japanese joint venture would close, just a year after it launched, while Jetstar Hong Kong received investment from Shun Tak Holdings. Also in Hong Kong, the Kai Tak Cruise Terminal was unveiled on the site of the city’s famous old airport, and Marriott revealed its new company branding. But the Asian aviation industry was also blighted by the crashes of Chinese-made MA-60 aircraft in Indonesia and Myanmar.

Air traffic:        +5.5%
Hotel occupancy:    -0.4%


The Asiana tragedy occurred in July
The Asiana tragedy occurred in July

Minor International’s year of expansion continued in July with the acquisition of Maldivian hotelier Per Aquum, while Virgin Australia also completed a deal for the newly-rebranded Tigerair. There was welcome news for Philippine Airlines, which was finally taken off the EU’s aviation blacklist, and it celebrated by announcing plans to fly to London. Garuda’s planned London route was postponed however, due to problems with Jakarta Airport’s runways. But there was tragedy in the US as an Asiana Airlines plane crashed in San Francisco, killing three people.

Air traffic:        +6.3%
Hotel occupancy:    +0.3%


The planned merger of American Airlines and US Airways hit a major snag in August, when the US Department of Justice filed a lawsuit to prevent the deal. But in Japan, ANA’s expansion plans were proceeding far more smoothly, as the airline bought the Pan Am Flight Academy and a stake in Myanmar’s Asian Wings Airways. Australia’s Mantra Group moved into Asia for the first time with the opening of a hotel in Bali, and Auckland launched its brand new cruise terminal. But Thailand’s pristine shores were hit by an oil spill that washed up on the island of Koh Samet.

Air traffic:        +8.6%
Hotel occupancy:    +3.0%


VietJet Air purchased 100 Airbus A320s in September
VietJet Air purchased 100 Airbus A320s in September

The industry was in full expansion mode in September, as rising confidence drove new developments. Seoul’s Incheon International Airport commenced a project that will double its capacity, while VietJet Air placed a huge order for 100 new aircraft (pictured). China’s Spring Airlines announced plans to launch a Japanese low-cost carrier, and Singapore Airlines tied up with Tata Sons for a new Delhi-based carrier. And luxury resort operator One&Only entered Australia for the first time, with a deal for Great Barrier Reef resort, Hayman Island.

Air traffic:        +8.5%
Hotel occupancy:    -0.7%


New aircraft were the order for the month in October, as BA launched its A380 to Hong Kong, Jetstar and Royal Brunei welcomed their first Dreamliners, and JAL placed its first major order with Airbus. There were also new Asian products for the hotel and cruise industries, as Marriott launched its Fairfield brand in the region, Kerzner announced plans for an Atlantis resort in Sanya, and Star Cruises unveiled plans for a new mega-ship. But tragedy struck again when a Lao Airlines plane crashed into the Mekong River, killing everyone onboard.

Air traffic:        +7.8%
Hotel occupancy:    +3.1%


Middle Eastern airlines stole the headlines in November
Middle Eastern airlines stole the headlines in November

Just as optimism among Asian airlines started to rise, the Middle Eastern giants of Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways announced combined orders for almost 500 new aircraft. Meanwhile in China, the government introduced a range of measures supporting the development of new low-cost carriers, and TransAsia Airways unveils plans for Taiwan’s first LCC. David Beckham entered the Asian hotel scene, partnering Sands China to develop new hotel concepts in Singapore and Macau, and Changi Airport started development work on its new Terminal 4 project.

Air traffic:        n/a
Hotel occupancy:    +1.1%


And as the year draws to a close, there was no shortage of news and controversy in December. Sri Lanka’s government gave the green light for three major casino projects, while Qantas outlined plans to cut 1,000 jobs. There was better news for American Airlines however, which finally completed its merger with US Airways and celebrated by buying up to 220 new aircraft. Asia’s attraction sector got a boost, with plans for a Madame Tussauds in Singapore and a 20th Century Fox Park in Malaysia, and two new low-cost airlines were born in Thailand and Taiwan.

Air traffic:        n/a
Hotel occupancy:    n/a

Final word

So that was the year that was. We hope that 2013 was a highly successful year for all of our readers, and would like to thank you very much for your continued support. It has been a pleasure reporting on all the industry’s developments over the past 12 months, and whatever 2014 has in store, Travel Daily Asia will be there, providing all the latest news and updates.

Merry Christmas and a happy and prosperous New Year!

Mark Elliott
Travel Daily Asia



Australia’s Mantra Group opened its first ever Asian hotel in Bali this year


Sri Lanka has approved three integrated resort projects, including hotels and casinos


The number of hotels signed by Accor in Myanmar this year – the most of any international company


The number of days the global fleet of Boeing 787 Dreamliners was grounded


The total number of new aircraft ordered by Emirates, Etihad and Qatar Airways at the Dubai Airshow in November

Rusdi Kirana
Rusdi Kirana


Rusdi Kirana, CEO of Lion Air

Following up his huge Boeing order last year, the Lion Air CEO oversaw another record-breaking aircraft deal with Airbus, and launched three new airlines in three different countries: Malindo Air in Malaysia, Batik Air in Indonesia and Thai Lion Air in Thailand. Not a bad 12 months’ work…


“We will do whatever we need to do to secure the Qantas Group’s future.”

Alan Joyce comments on the massive restructuring plan that will include the loss of 1,000 jobs

“The pace of development in Myanmar over the past few years has been nothing short of extraordinary… but there is still a severe shortage of hotels.”

Best Western’s Glenn de Souza outlines the hotel situation in Myanmar

“Nothing that we’ve seen in this case indicates a relationship to any previous 787 power system events.”

A Boeing statement following the fire aboard a JAL Dreamliner in early January, before the global grounding

“The unique features on Quantum will boggle our guests’ minds.”

Richard Fain, chairman & CEO of Royal Caribbean Cruises, talks-up his new Quantum class of ship

“These proposed changes will… endanger the lives of all flight attendants and the passengers.”

A US flight attendants’ union slams a decision to allow passengers to carry penknives on planes
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