Travel shows and talkfests are back

SINGAPORE, 18 August 2022: Covid-19 is still around, but it hasn’t stopped event organisers from bringing back their “in-person” events with a vengeance starting as early as this October.

Travel shows and talk festivals are back, claiming our attention, as can be seen from this week’s announcement that the Mekong Tourism Forum will return to Vietnam’s Quang Nam province from 12 to 13 October after being moth-balled for two years. Then within a week, travel executives are expected to pack a suitcase and head for Singapore to attend ITB Asia, which will make a complete comeback with a 100% in-person format from 19 to 21 October.

MTF. Hoi An”s UNESCO heritage river view.

Nothing changes; the travel industry is back doing what it does best; meeting and greeting, selling and networking. But let’s not forget the massive amount of working hours burned on academic discussions that have little value business-wise. They dominate events such as the Mekong Tourism Forum, and companies will scrutinise their worth in these tough post-pandemic times.

Airfares have almost doubled, and airline services to many destinations in Southeast Asia are still well below the pre-Covid-19.

ITB Asia is lucky to be hosting the event in Singapore, a destination that has seen the fastest return of airline networks and already, flights are climbing back to match around 80% of the levels in 2019.

 Fares are higher, but at least ITB Asia delegates can get to the destination on direct flights. Messe Berlin (Singapore) is throwing open the show doors from 19 to 21 October 2022 at Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands. ITB Asia 2022’s conference will also deliver a variety of conference themes, focusing on MICE, corporate, leisure and travel technology.

We are not so sure about the availability of airline routes to get travel executives to the doors of the Mekong Tourism Forum that will reconvene for face-to-face gatherings in Quang Nam province 9 to 14 October 2022.

Admittedly the theme has all the right “Rs” when Nguyen Trung Khanh, Chairman of the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism, says the forum will discuss the need to “Rebuild Tourism and Rebound with Resilience.” at the beachside venue in Quang Nam province.

But getting to the venue, Hoiana Resort & Golf (Hoiana), close to Hoi An town and south of central Vietnam’s Danang, will be challenging financially and time-wise. Rebuilding and the catching up that needs to be accomplished after the forum’s absence for two years will be a logistic challenge. However, the lack of direct flights and connecting flights to Danang’s international airport is of more concern.

MTF is best known for its discussions and academic presentations. It will recruit experts who will be there again to focus on tourism recovery, digital transformation, supply chain localisation, social enterprise business models, and best practices for a resilient travel sector rebound, especially using the latest technologies.

Speakers will include leaders from the Vietnam National Administration of Tourism (VNAT), representatives from other GMS national tourism organisations, the Asian Development Bank, Destination Mekong, Agoda, the Pacific Asia Travel Association, OAG, YAANA Ventures, EXO Travel, Travelife and the ASEAN Tourism Association.

The venue could not be better if you are on holiday. Hoiana Resort & Golf (Hoiana) stands on a beach just south of Hoi An the UNESCO-listed heritage town. Danang international airport is 40 minutes from the conference venue.

The good news is the airport to hotel transfers for forum delegates on 11 and 13 October are free. Flying to Danang is not, and most delegates will need to buy connecting fares with downtime in Ho Chi Minh City or Hanoi. If you are a tourism expert resident in India, the trip to Danang will take 15 hours, and the airfare could cost USD466 roundtrip. There are few direct flights to Danang, but nothing on the scale we all enjoyed back in 2019. There are direct flights from Hong Kong and Singapore to Danang with fares around USD390. One consolation for delegates; The Mekong Tourism Forum is free to attend for “genuine Greater Mekong Sub-region travel and tourism stakeholders.”

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