It occurred to me that I might be in trouble. Because Asia is a huge continent to cover! It occupies a third of the world’s land area and its 4.5 billion person population is bigger than that of the other continents combined.
And then there’s me, located in a tiny red dot on the world map, Singapore, covering the whole of Asia for Skift.
The continent I’m covering is also not a Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon, to borrow Ang Lee’s film title. It is leaping for everyone to see. Quick recap: Two out of the three largest economies in the world are in Asia: China (second) and Japan (third). Other Asian economies are rising quickly: India is projected to be fastest-growing economy in Asia this year, with a 7.8 percent increase in GDP. Southeast Asian countries Cambodia, the Philippines, Myanmar, Laos, Vietnam, Indonesia, and Malaysia are all expected to rope in GDP increases of 5 to 6 percent this year.
For most Asian countries, travel and tourism as a sector has become a pillar of growth. I can’t believe that Bangkok is the top destination city in the world, and that it beats New York (sixth) in not only international overnight stays (20.05 million vs 13.13 million) but in average spend per day (U.S. $173 vs. $147), going by Mastercard’s 2018 Global Destination Cities Index. Of the top 10 destination cities, half are Asian cities, like Bangkok, Singapore, Kuala Lumpur, Tokyo, and Seoul.
Outbound, Asian markets account a lot for the record 4.1 billion passengers flown last year, and why IATA is forecasting 7.8 billion passengers by 2036 worldwide. China, now the largest source of outbound tourists in the world with 129 million trips made last year, will be issuing 100 million new passports over the next decade. Add to that the rising middle class in populous India or Indonesia who have a new-found propensity to spend and want to splash it on travel.
All this will have a bearing on infrastructure, resources, talent, sustainability, culture and heritage, livelihoods, in not just Asian countries, but globally.
Every travel and tourism sector in Asia — hospitality, aviation, tour operators, online travel, cruising, technology, and travel startups — is firing on all cylinders. Everywhere I turn, there is a story.
So how do I cover Asia?
To answer this, I find myself going back to the reason why I joined Skift. I was drawn to its underlying premise “to be fanatically focused on documenting and helping the travel industry understand the changing business.”
Also, to Skift’s Manifesto 2020, the whole thing, but in particular:
“The future of travel will be defined by those who build around trendlines, not headlines.”
“For the first time since the European renaissance, the locus of travel is moving eastward. Both consumer and business travel trends are now being defined and tested out in regions other than the U.S. and Europe.”
“Watch out for the rise of Southeast Asia, that cauldron of teeming humanity that is very mobile and very social.”
Southeast Asia will be my focus area, but also China, India, Japan, South Korea, and Australia. And I want to cover Asia meaningfully for Skift. I won’t be going for quantity but quality of stories. In each, you’ll feel the heartbeat of Asia travel and tourism, learn who are the crazy rich, not-yet-rich, soon-to-be rich Asian entrepreneurs, which companies are building their future around trendlines, not headlines, and what the macro trends are in the consumer, business and technology worlds.
I’ve a bit of a head-start from covering the business of travel in Asia for 18 years. This arms me with some understanding of the workings of the various industry sectors, and a precious address book of industry leaders, operators and experts throughout the region whom I can call on.
I’m also lucky I have the talented editorial team at Skift who I can now call colleagues. I’ve been following them and they too, have been covering Asia, because the travel business has gotten global — recent examples include Booking buying a stake in Grab and IHG relaunching a much-loved Asian brand Regent. Together, we will bring you more of Asia