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As the demand for travel to Asia continues to grow, especially among luxury travelers, it is increasingly important for agents to know about the latest travel trends and hot spots to this diverse and wide-ranging region. This is a key message for agents, according to Bruce Lowell Lazarus, vice president of marketing for Remote Lands, a New York- and Bangkok-based FIT tour operator that specializes exclusively in high-end, customizable travel to Asia.
“Our ultra-luxury clients are increasingly more widely and better traveled than ever before, and they are not just interested in seeing the standard destinations that most other luxury travelers go to,” Lazarus said. “We are seeing more of a demand for quality from our clients, by which quality is not defined by conventional luxury or opulence but on having the most unique and profound experiences and Asia certainly delivers that.”
Even in some of the most popular Asia destinations — including China, India and Vietnam — more travelers, said Lazarus, are seeking to travel beyond the traditional sites and cities to seek out far more remote and one-of-a-kind experiences.
“The bread and butter of our business continue to be trips to Vietnam, Thailand, Cambodia, Indonesia and India’s Rajasthan region,” he said. “China is also very popular.”
Moreover, clients are becoming increasingly more aware of the overall travel experience, with more interest in having a diverse and varied vacation.
“It’s all about the quality of the trip,” Lazarus said. “It’s not just about the hotel anymore; we know that our clients are looking for more sophistication. And while the best hotel suites and spas are still important, clients are still willing to spend a considerable amount of money on services that add to their convenience, such as private jet service within Asia. It’s about making more efficient use of their vacation time.”
The following is a list of key trends and current market descriptions for Asia destinations of growing interest among Lazarus’ luxury clientele.
Cambodia“Traditionally, many of our clients have only been interested in stopping in Cambodia for a few days just to see Angkor Wat,” said Lazarus. “Now, however, they are more interested in exploring other areas, including Battanbang, Kep and Phnom Penh.”
China“Even if our clients are traveling to China and are planning to see all of the major sights — the Great Wall, the Terra-Cotta Warriors, the Yangtze River, for example — we are finding that they want to go beyond that,” said Lazarus. “Travel to central and Western China and even to Tibet is increasingly in demand.”
Lazarus also pointed to the highly developed tourism infrastructure improvements that have recently been made throughout China, enabling luxury travelers to have the ease and accessibility of high-end accommodations wherever their China itineraries take them.
JapanAlthough Japan is often regarded as one of the most expensive destinations to travel to in Asia, Lazarus said that the quality of travel experiences offered in Japan is unparalleled in terms of service and execution.
“A flawless quality of experience can be had there,” he said. “More and more of our clients are also going beyond Tokyo, and they love the ability to experience both old Japan — the traditions and history — as well as the new Japan, which is cutting-edge and modern.”
Lazarus added that winter trips to Hokkaido are becoming exceedingly popular among ski enthusiasts.
LaosAs with travel to Cambodia, Lazarus said that more travelers to Laos are also extending their itineraries to include more than just a single city.
“Most of our clients used to spend two to three days in Luang Prabang but now, we are developing more possibilities that enable them to travel to some amazing temple sites in southern Laos which are not nearly as visited by tourists,” he said.
Malaysia“We’ve noticed that this is a country that more and more of our clients are just beginning to take more interest in,” said Lazarus. “Many of our clients might know about Phuket, Thailand, but they didn’t know about Langkawi, for example. There are also a great number of opportunities to experience wildlife here, particularly on Borneo.”
North KoreaFor the past five months, Remote Lands has been working with its one-the-ground partners in North Korea to send its luxury clients. And while arranging such trips can be rather challenging, Lazarus said that many luxury clients view the exclusivity of a private tour to North Korea as a truly unique, one-of-a-kind lifetime experience.
SingaporeWith so many new developments taking place in Singapore, Lazarus highlighted the city-state as another destination of interest for his ultra-luxe clientele. And while the new integrated resorts are drawing the most attention these days, Lazarus said that his clients are more interested in exploring Singapore’s rich cultural heritage than its latest gambling establishments.
“Our clients seek to understand what makes Singapore tick, to delve into the heritage of Singapore, especially since it is such a melting pot of Southeast Asian cultures,” he said.
Sri LankaFollowing the conclusion of the Sri Lankan Civil War in 2009, Lazarus said that there is renewed interest in travel to the South Asian island, which is located some 19.3 miles off the southern coast of India.
“Sri Lanka represents a great value for luxury clients,” Lazarus said. “A two-week trip to Sri Lanka really allows clients to get a good deal and to see a great deal in this culturally rich and unique location. The prices here have not risen as much as they have in other countries such as India, for example, so clients can truly have the best of the best for the best value.”