Journey.com, AirAsia and Oyo on tourism restoration from Covid

Increasing vaccination rates for Covid-19 will help fuel the recovery in the travel and tourism industries, a panel of experts told CNBC.

Vaccinations are the only comprehensive way to combat the effects of the coronavirus, said Ritesh Agarwal, CEO and founder of Indian budget hotel chain Oyo Nancy Hungerford during the virtual CNBC Evolve Global Summit On Wednesday.

The global travel and tourism sector was hit hard last year and many airlines are still struggling to stay afloat. The coronavirus pandemic has closed borders and suspended most international travel. With vaccination rates increasing, especially in the West, many countries are slowly opening their economies and borders.

“I believe travel is here to stay. Domestic travel will lead to recovery, but vaccination is the only comprehensive and conclusive solution,” said Agarwal.

Oyo, op SoftBank-supported start-up has more than doubled its daily bookings for the summer season in Europe, where vaccination rates are relatively high, said the CEO.

Travelers tend to book rooms at hotels where staff have been vaccinated, he said, adding that Oyo issues certificates that prove their employees have been vaccinated, Agarwal said.

Asia’s vaccination campaign

In terms of vaccination rates, some of the more populous countries in Asia have lagged behind their counterparts in Europe and the US.

Information compiled through scientific online publication, Our world in data, showed that by June 15, 40% of North Americans had received at least one dose of Covid vaccine and 36% in Europe. In comparison, in Asia only 21% received at least one vaccination, although vaccination rates are increasing in the region.

AirAsia Chief Executive Officer Tony Fernandes said he remains very optimistic about vaccination rates, especially in Southeast Asia.

“The distribution is there, the demand is there and now the supply is going to be constant,” he said, adding that he expects most of Southeast Asian countries to reach 60% vaccination rates for a first dose by September.

I believe travel is here to stay. Domestic travel will lead to recovery, but vaccinations are the only comprehensive and conclusive solution.

Ritesh Agarwal

CEO and Founder, Oyo

But he’s less optimistic about the possibility of one internationally recognized vaccination certificate – a digital app on a smartphone that can access a person’s health data to confirm whether they have been vaccinated against Covid-19.

Support for digital health passports is split. Critics point out concerns about how secure an individual’s data will be as third-party apps communicate with databases that contain sensitive personal health information.

What the travel industry needs, however, is uniform regulation, according to the head of the low-cost airline.

On the first day of the Dragon Boat Festival on June 12, 2021 in Wuhan, Hubei Province in China, passengers crowd at the Wuhan Railway Station.

Zhao Jun | Visual China Group | Getty Images

“If you have two vaccines, you don’t need a quarantine. That seems to be different from country to country, ”he said. Nations should also accept all vaccines approved by the World Health Organization, Fernandes added.

Important trends among travelers

Domestic travel is already on the rise in countries like China, which have managed the pandemic relatively well. Cases have remained comparatively low while the vaccination rate has increased.

Millions of people rushed to travel last month during a five-day Labor Day holiday in the country as bookings for hotels, car rentals, and other travel skyrocketed.

Jane Sun, CEO of China travel booking website Trip.com, said she was looking forward to a strong rebound in domestic travel in China. “We saw a lot of catching up to do with the data on our search volume,” she said.

Sun stated that three trends can be seen among those who have been traveling again since the pandemic began.

First, they book more with hotels, airlines, and local operators who provide masks, hand sanitizer, and other security measures. Second, people are now traveling in much smaller groups. Finally, they choose flexible packages that allow them to change, cancel or postpone their trips.

AirAsia’s Fernandes agreed that the current situation required operators, including low-cost airlines, to adapt and offer travelers more flexibility – even if it was not a sensible business choice.

“There’s too much uncertainty,” he said, adding that the airline may bring back some of its older, stricter policies once it becomes safer to travel.

Journey.com up greater than 4% in Hong Kong IPO, bullish on China journey in Might

Online travel agency Trip.com made a strong debut in Hong Kong on Monday, with shares rising around 4.55% from issue price.

The China-based company is now joining other U.S.-listed Chinese tech heavyweights such as: Alibaba, JD.com and Baidu who have returned closer to their homeland through second offers in Hong Kong. The IPO was valued at $ 268 Hong Kong per share and $ 8,478 million (US $ 1.09 billion) was raised unless the over-allotment option is exercised.

The secondary listing comes as a Chinese tech companies remain at risk of delisting in the US, clouded investor sentiment.

This May vacation we already have … some of the inbound people and we’re seeing a record number of travelers in China – likely double digit growth from pre-Covid levels.

James Liang

Chairman of the Board of the Trip.com Group

James Liang, CEO of Trip.com Group, told CNBC that the “main reason” for listing the company as a secondary listing in Hong Kong was to make it easier for global investors in Asia and China to trade stocks.

“Most of our customers are in Asia. I think it’s pretty natural for us to be listed in Hong Kong,” he said in an interview with CNBC’s Street Signs Asia on Monday.

“Very optimistic” about the May vacation

Even if much of the global travel market continues to stall due to the coronavirus pandemic, Trip.com expects a “record number of travelers in China” for the long vacation ahead in May.

“This May vacation, we already have … some of the numbers that are coming in, and we’re seeing a record number of travelers in China – likely double-digit growth from pre-Covid levels,” Liang said. Labor Day holidays are May 1-5 in China.

In particular, upscale accommodations like resorts and short-haul travel are expected to see “very, very rapid growth” that could actually more than offset the decline in international travel, Liang predicted.

An employee walks through the reception area at the headquarters of Trip.com Group Ltd. on Thursday, February 4, 2021. in Shanghai, China.

Qilai Shen | Bloomberg via Getty Images

“The money people save by buying international airline tickets is what people are spending on hotels, especially high-end hotels and cars, you know, on local transport,” he said. “While the total transaction amount may not hit record levels, we are very optimistic about the number of travelers and margins.”

China was the first country to report on the coronavirus pandemic. After tight lockdown measures launched across the country weeks after the earliest Covid-19 cases occurred in Wuhan city in late 2019, the country largely managed to contain the spread of the virus and stepped as one of the few major economies in 2020 that expanded this year.

In contrast, authorities in other countries continue to struggle to vaccinate their populations in the face of increasing viral infections and potential mutations.

One example is India, which has seen a second wave of coronavirus infections since February Brazil overtook last week to become the second worst affected country after the US