Pakistan. It’s not exactly on every solo female traveler’s bucket list. But that doesn’t mean that it shouldn’t be. Especially if you ask vlogger and content creator Eva zu Beck, who thinks Pakistan could be the world’s #1 tourism destination.

And she doesn’t say this lightly. Having visited 60 countries and with more than 381,000 followers on Instagram, 421,000 followers on Facebook, and 324,000 YouTube channel subscribers as a result of the incredible travel content she creates –  from videos exploring forgotten islands in Yemen to exploring Aleppo, Syria alone – she knows a thing or two about the world’s most under-the-radar destinations.

But it wasn’t just her fearlessness that caught my eye, it was her content on Pakistan that really pulled me in. Because she didn’t just visit for a week or two, she lived there for an extended period of time (10 months to be exact), taking her time to really dig into what Pakistani culture, and it’s people, are truly like, creating videos and telling stories on her experiences there that are unlike anything else I’ve seen out there.

She head straight into “Taliban Territory” to live with a local family. She trekked to the base camp of the world’s second tallest mountain. She traveled to the world’s highest paved international border crossing. She met with female carpenters to hear their stories. She took on Karachi alone. And she’s appeared on Pakistani TV.

And while she developed her content independently of the government and tourism board, they took notice. Even inviting her to meet Prime Minister Imran Khan at a tourism conference, presenting to him her impressions of Pakistan as a travel destination from a foreign visitor's perspective (and where she originally shared her thoughts on Pakistan having the potential to be the #1 tourism destination in the world).

So, being curious about what lead Eva to Pakistan originally and for more insight into what it’s really like to travel through the country alone as a solo female traveler, I asked her about these experiences and more. Here’s what she had to say.

Breanna Wilson (BW): What initially attracted you to explore and travel to Pakistan alone? It isn’t your typical travel destination.

Eva zu Beck (EZB): I’ve never been one for “easy” travel. The trips that brought me the most satisfaction were always the ones that were difficult to organize or involved traveling to places you wouldn’t find on a typical bucket list.

So, when I started traveling full-time, I knew that Bali or Thailand would not be part of my itinerary – I wanted to make videos about places that people around me knew very little about.

The opportunity to visit Pakistan came very early on, as soon as I started my travel adventure. A friend whom I hadn’t seen in 14 years got in touch with me, saying she’d been living in Islamabad for a few years, and that I must come visit her. What started as a bit of a personal gamble and a joke between two old friends, eventually began to develop into a more tangible idea, as my Pakistan Google searches revealed a land of tall peaks, lush valleys, and rich heritage. And when I eventually got my visa, the deal was done. I knew this was the beginning of an incredible adventure.

I could have never predicted, however, that I would spend over 10 months traveling across Pakistan full-time, making films and vlogs about the country, working with local creatives and helping people consider it as a very real travel destination.

Nobody had ever asked me to start promoting Pakistan as a travel destination; nor was this part of my plan at all. But while traveling and creating content about everything I saw, I guess this is what ended up happening – unknowingly, unwittingly, unexpectedly, but in a pretty wonderful and life-changing turn of events.

BW: Were you nervous before you went?

EZB: Yes, absolutely. With all my friends and all the media outlets I knew warning me against traveling to Pakistan, the moment I stood in the queue to board my first flight to Islamabad, I admit I wasn’t sure whether I was in the right place. It’s very hard to extract yourself from all the common preconceptions about Pakistan as a person living in the Western world and consuming Western media. After all, the one single image of the country we are given is that of an unsafe, unwelcoming place – which is of course very wrong.

But as I stood in that queue, I had people approach me, asking where I was from and whether this was my first time in Pakistan. Those wrong preconceptions quickly began to wither away before I even landed on Pakistani soil. And from what I know, this seems to be a pretty standard change of sentiment among foreign visitors.

BW: Are there any special planning tips you recommend for travelers, especially solo female travelers, planning a trip to Pakistan?

EZB: I spent such a long time in Pakistan that I ended up traveling in all sorts of constellations: in a group, with friends, with a team, and of course solo. I would say that traveling solo, as a foreign woman, gave me the greatest scope to meet new people and get to know the country’s diverse cultures.

There is this idea that traveling solo as a woman in Pakistan is dangerous – but see, on the contrary, I’ve found that whenever I traveled alone, people really went out of their way to help me, make me feel secure and comfortable, without me ever asking for help. I think there is a cultural force at play here: not many women travel solo in Pakistan, so one that does immediately becomes a kind of “sister,” and people are very conscious about making you feel welcome. There is definitely a sense of protectiveness towards women in general here – and while this isn’t necessarily always a good thing, in the specific context of travel it has meant that I’ve always felt safe.

It’s also important to note that Pakistan hasn’t had much international leisure tourism in recent years, which I think makes people a little bit more curious about why you’re there, what brought you to the country, and… it’s not uncommon for people to give proof of Pakistani hospitality by being exceedingly welcoming to foreign travelers.

However, there are some things you need to keep in mind while traveling here, out of sheer respect.

Pakistan being a pretty conservative country, female travelers should pay attention to what they’re wearing. Officially, there are no laws around clothing, like in Iran for example. But culturally, respecting local customs might mean wearing ankle-length trousers and loose-fitting tops - though no headscarf is necessary in Pakistan, unless you are visiting a mosque or a very conservative area.

Of course, I am saying all of this from the perspective of a woman who has traveled solo across much of Asia and the Middle East. For a beginner solo traveler, Pakistan could be overwhelming in its intensity and relative trickiness in getting around and finding access to typical travel infrastructure. While I do recommend it to Western solo female travelers, a smart move would be to travel elsewhere around South Asia or even the Middle East first, before venturing out to Pakistan.

BW: For someone planning a trip to Pakistan, what are some of the must dos – which cities, sites, and experiences are at the top of your list?

EZB: This is the thing about Pakistan I love the most: there’s something here for every kind of traveler.

My personal list starts with the mountains in the north. After all, this is the country where the mighty peaks of the Karakoram, Hindu Kush, and Himalayan ranges converge! The north is also home to four of the world’s 14 tallest mountains (all above 8,000 meters).

The best way to take in these wild, rugged landscapes is by doing a trek: my favorite has been a two-week expedition to the foot of the mighty K2 (the world’s second tallest mountain), which takes you through glaciers, ice and the Karakoram wilderness. If you’re strapped for time, you can also trek to the base camps of Rakaposhi or Nanga Parbat (“The Killer Mountain”), which are much more accessible and still offer incredible mountain views.

While you’re in the north, essential stops include the sky-blue Attabad Lake, which was formed after a giant landslide blocked off a valley in the Hunza region; Khunjerab Pass, which is the world’s highest paved international border crossing, between China and Pakistan; and the historic Silk Route, parts of which run along the stunning Karakoram Highway. The fascinating thing about this region is how seamlessly nature and history intertwine here: the landscape shaped the history of this region, and marks of this history can be experienced all across the northern regions.

If history is your thing, I would recommend starting in Pakistan’s cultural capital, Lahore, where you can learn about the history of the Mughals. From there, head to the south of the country. Across the province of Sindh, you can explore the remains of the ancient Indus Valley Civilization (the oldest-known civilization in the world! They had sewers 4,500 years ago!), and then move on to the Sufi trail – a mystical movement in Islam which has produced some stunning shrines and musical traditions, still alive in Sindh today.

BW: What’s one common misconception that you wish people didn’t have about visiting Pakistan and the Pakistani people?

EZB: I feel that over the years, Western media has contributed to building a very one-sided, and one-sidedly negative picture of Pakistan. From news stories on TV, to shows like “Homeland,” much of what we hear about the country internationally can lead us to believe that it’s an empty and violent land filled with dangerous people; a no-go zone.

But, see, my personal experience of Pakistan could not be further from this image. And while the landscapes, culture and food are wonderful, the best thing about Pakistan is the warmth of the people there. Those very people we are told to fear – those same people have been the kindest and most approachable I’ve encountered on all my travels.

And this is what pains me: in the West, we are told to fear Pakistan and Pakistanis. The reality is totally different.

On several occasions in Pakistan, I heard the heart-breaking words: “Just tell your friends and family back home that we are not bad people.” Nobody should ever have to say this to a visitor, and I still recoil when I remember these words.

Of course, Pakistan has gone through some very troubling times in the past, but the security situation has improved enormously over the last few years. Karachi, its largest city, was pretty much a no-go zone less than a decade ago; right now, it’s a blossoming metropolis and key economic hub. Certain areas of the north were under Taliban control up until a few years back; but now, they’re extremely safe, with the government investing heavily in tourism infrastructure like hiking routes, new resorts, and skiing facilities.

BW: That all sounds great for the country and the people. You mention Pakistanis being very approachable – what about when it came to eating out? Were you eating out alone most of the time during your travels or did you receive any interesting invitations to eat with local families?

EZB: I think I had a meal alone only once or twice during my 10-month tenure in Pakistan! As a foreign tourist, even if you are sitting alone in a restaurant, even if you WOULD LIKE to be alone, you’re almost guaranteed to attract guests to your table. People in Pakistan are so friendly to travelers that sometimes entire families will come over and invite you to share their meal.

For one of the largest ethnic groups, the Pashtuns, hospitality is even part of their explicit Code of Honor (the Pashtunwali), which dictates that guests must be respected under all circumstances, even if they are your sworn enemies. Don’t be surprised if people randomly invite you to their house for food or ask if you’d like to join their table – and don’t refuse the honor, either!

On one of my trips, I got a chance to travel as part of a delegation to Waziristan, an area of Pakistan that is still very much off-bounds to tourists. Here, the Pashtunwali truly reigns supreme. Despite the instability in the region and its perception as a conflict zone, it was hard not to see and feel the hospitality of the people there. Everyone we came across invited me to their house to meet their wives and daughters (a privilege granted only to women, of course) and share a meal with them. Trust me: when you’re eating with your hands from a single large dish and sharing that meal with others… it really brings you closer together.

A word of warning to those with sensitive stomachs: Pakistani food is an explosion of flavors and a flurry of ingredients, so while it's super delicious, it's not for the faint of heart!

BW: On one of your most immersive experiences in Pakistan you lived with a Wakhi family in Jamalabad for a week. You created an incredible vlog on the experience and the five life lessons they taught you. But my question is, how did you plan this experience? Was it particularly difficult to get to this region and to the family?

EZB: The village of Jamalabad is one of the very last settlements in the country before the Chinese border. Getting there involves a 24-hour drive from the capital Islamabad, or taking a flight to Gilgit, the nearest airport (very prone to cancellation) and a long drive.

But once you reach it, it’s the kind of place you stay in for a while. The village is surrounded by snow-capped peaks in all seasons and explodes with greenery in the summer. The families who live there live quiet and peaceful lives, farming and herding animals. Every morning, a couple of villagers gather all the sheep and goats from all the households and take them all to the pastures to graze – they work in shifts, with a different family performing the shepherding duties every day.

This, remember, is the land the West thinks of as “Taliban territory.”

It’s an idyllic place for a visitor, but very much a real place for the people who live there. I got to stay with one of the families through a friend, who put me in touch with a household that had a French visitor staying with them a few years back. I wanted to get away from the hustle and bustle of my life at the time; and they were happy to welcome a foreign girl traveling alone in those parts. That’s how they became my “Wakhi family.”

I actually ended up spending three weeks living with them: after my initial visit, which led to the vlog you’re talking about, I came back a couple of months later to help organize a family wedding. It’s hard not to feel like you’re part of the family when everyone does their best to welcome you as their daughter.

BW: What was your favorite memory with the family?

EZB: It was the mundane, daily routine that creates a spectrum of happy memories we shared. Those moments spent sitting around the stove (“bukhari”) in the one room of the house, helping out with lunch and dinner preparations, performing the duties of a chai (tea) maker – or apprentice, I should say. It was those bursts of laughter when the women of the house would rate my kneading skills as subpar, when selfie-taking sessions were followed by selfie-approval sessions, when we collected hay from the land, and milked the cow in the morning.

Life like this exists in many parts of the world, but not everyone knows that such a peaceful, quaint way of life can also exist high up in the mountains of Pakistan.

BW: With all of these remote regions to explore and travel between, what are the best ways to get around?

EZB: Although it was a popular destination for international tourists in the 1980s and 1990s, the events of recent years meant that the government didn’t invest in tourism infrastructure for many years. Even today, getting around the country can be tricky for the inexperienced traveler – but a fun adventure for those of us who don’t mind leaving our comfort zones once in a while.

A network of public buses – as basic as they may be – run across the country, and a few airlines operate flights between the main cities. Flights to the north, however, are easily disrupted by weather conditions, and the mountain roads can be tough and tiring to navigate. Pakistan may not offer the same level of convenience as some of its neighbors to the east, but that always made my travels there feel all the more accomplished. If you want to fully enjoy the experience of traveling In Pakistan, you just have to come prepared with patience, a solid dose of trust in human beings, and a sprinkling of intrepidity!

BW: How many vlogs have you created around your adventures in Pakistan? I hear you want to develop your own TV show around traveling here…

EZB: I’ve produced more videos than I can count about Pakistan! And even these videos don’t fully reflect the scope of my incredible experiences in the country. Many of them have gone viral, but more importantly, I believe that they contributed – even in small ways – towards a better understanding of Pakistan as a potential travel destination by the international public.

The video that I believe attracted the most attention was my take on “Why I Believe Pakistan Can Be the World’s #1 Travel Destination.” People tend to chuckle when I tell them this, but there’s nothing to laugh about. In this video, I argue that the country has the ultimate potential: it has sweeping beaches lining the edge of the Arabian Sea; it has cities overflowing with culture and energy; it has 4,500 years of history; its Northern regions are blessed with the world’s greatest mountain ranges. There is still a very long way to go until any of this could actually happen, but, in the meantime, this video certainly stirred a heated debate on social media, attracting several million views across various platforms.

In 2018, I worked on a travel show with a local film crew. We traversed the whole country, north to south and east to west, meeting inspiring people, exploring local customs and witnessing incredible sceneries. The project is still in its edit stages, but I hope you will all be able to watch it in the coming months.

BW: And, last but not least, what’s left for you to explore in Pakistan?

EZB: Pakistan is vast, deep and nuanced. Every time I go back to the same places, I find something new to learn, something new to experience. But in the future, I would like to help expand the opportunities for outdoors adventures in the mountains. Every time I see those peaks, I start dreaming of the incredible opportunities for skiers, riders, mountaineers, and trekkers out there. While some facilities do already exist, I would love to take part in the renaissance of Pakistan as a world-class adventure destination, which I know is coming.

On a more personal level, I look forward to returning to Jamalabad to spend time with my Wakhi family. I want to continue learning their local Wakhi language (this is different from the main national language of Pakistan, which is Urdu), which could fuel future trips to places like the nearby Wakhan corridor in Afghanistan. Ultimately, if I ever have a family, I would like my children to spend their summers in the peaceful village of Jamalabad, learn Wakhi and take in the beautiful culture of my favorite place in the world.

As our island Bali made it once again to this year’s “Best Islands In Asia” rankings by Condé Nast, might we expect even more tourists to come experience all that Pulau Dewata has to offer?  

Bali may have gotten a little tourism scare (if you can call it that) last month, what with the government and House of Representatives (DPR) almost passing a draconian revision to Indonesia’s criminal code, which includes articles criminalizing sex outside of marriage and cohabitation; sending many foreign news outlets to a panic over these particular aspects of the bill.  

Coconuts Bali is here to remind you, once again, that there is currently no premarital sex ban in Bali and passage of those revisions has been delayed indefinitely.

Read more: Dear tourists: No, you won’t be jailed for having sex with your unmarried partner in Bali

Now, as Condé Nast Traveler has so nicely described in The Best Islands in the World: 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards: “There’s nowhere quite like Bali.” 

We’re inclined to agree, as this is where travelers can expect an eclectic mix of beautiful beaches, stunning forests and active volcanoes, all of which exist alongside the vibrant traditional culture and dynamic lifestyle scene that the island is famous for. 

“Despite high–and still growing–tourist numbers, you can still find vestiges of old Bali in small villages surrounded by rice paddies, where you’ll hear the twinkling chimes of neighborhood gamelan ensembles rehearsing,” wrote Condé Nast’s Valerie Marino. 

The survey, published this week, separated the best islands in the world by region, with Bali ranking 5th for Asia’s Top 5. Title for best island in the region goes to Boracay in the Philippines, while two other Philippine destinations – Cebu and Visayas Islands and Palawan – as well as Penang, Malaysia, also joined the ranks. 

Earlier in July, Bali was ranked the third best island in the world by Travel + Leisure readers in their survey, which effectively made it an honoree of the World’s Best Award Hall of Fame, meaning that the destination has been voted onto the Best Islands in the World list for the past 10 consecutive years. 

In 2018, over six million foreign tourists visited Bali. According to data from the Central Statistics Agency (BPS), more than four million foreign tourists have visited the island up until August of this year. 

Boracay’s six-month closure for environmental rehabilitation in 2018 may have brought the beloved tourist spot’s sanitation concerns into the international spotlight, but if this year’s “Best Islands In Asia” rankings by Conde Nast are any indication, those issues are a thing of the past.

Conde Nast Traveler‘s The Best Islands in the World: 2019 Readers’ Choice Awards named Boracay as having the best beaches in Asia. Two other Philippine island chains also joined the top five — Cebu and Visayas Islands placed second, and Palawan came in fourth.

Rounding out the top five was Penang, in Malaysia, in third place, and perennial beach bum destination Bali creeping into fifth place. The 32-year-old annual travel survey lists the 30 best islands in the world, and according to Conde Nast, a record-breaking 600,000 registered voters participated in the survey.

Traveler noted Boracay’s rehabilitation had been a tourism problem, and that work is still ongoing despite the beach’s reopening. But it still coasted to the top of the heap on the strength of its “gentle coastlines and made-for-Instagram sunsets,” folded in with its thriving nightlife scene. The list also plays up the fact that the quaint “itty-bitty island (just under four square miles) in the Western Philippines is as close to a tropical idyll as you’ll find in Southeast Asia.”

Cebu and Visayas Islands, meanwhile, are praised for their swimming holes, waterfalls, and peaceful spots, which draw in nearly 2 million travelers annually. Palawan was recognized for being a UNESCO World Heritage Site known for its otherworldly subterranean caves, underground rivers, and blue lagoons.

In July of this year, all three islands were also featured in  Travel + Leisure‘s Best Places to Travel in 2019. The Tourism Department welcomed the addition, with Secretary Bernadette Romulo-Puyat in a July press statement saying the inclusion “validates our efforts towards attaining a sustainable tourism industry.”

She added that it encouraged their department to “work even harder on this advocacy, creating a tourism environment that is recognized and lauded not only today but for the generations to come.”

Find all episodes of The Coconuts Podcast

Business Chief counts down the top 10 hotels in the APAC region, with reference to Travel and Leisure’s Top 100 Hotels in the World 2019 list.

10. Gangtey Lodge, Phobjikha Valley, Bhutan

Gangtey Lodge is located in the Himalayan kingdom of Bhutan, which only became open to tourists in 1974. The Gangtey valley, after which the hotel is named, is renowned for being home to endangered black necked cranes that spend the winter there. The 12-roomed hotel is modelled after a Bhutanese farmhouse, and is intended to blend in naturally with the surroundings. Travel and Leisure placed it 26th worldwide

9. The Oberoi, Mumbai

The first of two Indian hotels appearing on this list (the only country appearing twice), the Oberoi is located in Mumbai on the western coast of India. Possessing six bars and restaurants as well as a spa, swimming pool and fitness centre, the hotel is also close to some of Mumbai’s most famous landmarks such as The Gateway of India, a 26m tall archway built to commemorate a 1911 visit from King George V.

8. Southern Ocean Lodge, Kangaroo Island, Australia

Located on Australia’s third-largest island, Kangaroo Island, Southern Ocean Lodge overlooks the rugged Southern Ocean coastline. Named for the western grey kangaroo which lives there,  the island also features an array of creatures such as fur seals, koalas, sea lions and ospreys. The lodge is flanked by a number of national parks, including Flinders Chase and Cape Bouguer. Ranked 21st worldwide by Travel and Leisure, the hotel has also secured a five-star rating on TripAdvisor.

7. Six Senses Yao Noi, Thailand

Six Senses Yao Noi is an island resort on the eastern side of Ko Yao Noi island. Looking out over Phang Nga Bay, elevated sea view villas look over the ocean, while mountain view villas look out over a plantation of rubber trees. Sights include the limestone pinnacles of Phang Nga Bay. Ranked 14th worldwide by Travel and Leisure, the resort scored 9.4 on Booking.com. The peak season is between December and May.

6. Turtle Island, Fiji

Turtle Island is a private island spread over 500 acres in Fiji’s Yasawa Islands group. It possesses only 14 villas with a private beach for each, and is consequently highly exclusive. Each guest is provided with a personal concierge for their entire time on the island, and facilities include a spa, bars and restaurants and land and water activities. Ranked 12th worldwide by Travel and Leisure, the island has a five-star rating on TripAdvisor.

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5. Rosewood Beijing

Rosewood Hotel Group was founded in Hong Kong in 2005. The Beijing branch of the hotel is located in the centre of China’s capital, and touts its authentic Chinese hospitality as a selling point. Chinese artworks are located in both the communal and private areas of the 283-room hotel. Featuring six restaurants, a spa, swimming pool, gym and yoga studio, the hotel also claims to have the most landscaped outdoor space of any Beijing luxury hotel.

4. The Mulia, Bali, Indonesia

Located in Indonesia’s Bali province, the Mulia hotel features 111 beachfront suites across a 1km stretch of beach in Nusa Dua, an area in southern Bali known for a concentration of five-star resorts. Personal butler services are available, alongside a Jacuzzi in every suite. With an infinity pool and five swimming pools, the Mulia also includes some 10 eateries and bars. The Mulia was ranked seventh worldwide by Travel and Leisure.

3. JW Marriott Phu Quoc Emerald Bay Resort & Spa, Vietnam

Emerald Bay, Vietnam’s top ranked hotel, is located on Phú Quốc island. Featuring a spa, fitness centre and pool, the resort was ranked 6th worldwide according to Travel and Leisure. The seafront property features five restaurants and bars with separate themes and cuisines as well as Khem Beach exclusively for the use of its guests. Formerly a 19th century French university, the resort retains the French colonial architectural style and maintains a five-star score on TripAdvisor.

2. The Farm at Cape Kidnappers, Hawke's Bay, New Zealand

Lying on Hawke’s Bay on the eastern side of New Zealand’s North Island, Cape Kidnappers, or Te Kauwae-a-Māui in the Māori language, derives its unusual name from an attempt by indigenous Māori to kidnap a Tahitian member of Captain Cook’s crew when he made landfall there in 1769. The Farm at Cape Kidnappers consists of a number of lodges on the hills and ridges making up the landscape. Amenities include a gymnasium, pool, spa and library, and the location boasts views of the picturesque Hawke’s Bay landscape. https://www.robertsonlodges.com/the-lodges/cape-kidnappers

1. The Leela Palace, Udaipur, India

Located in Udaipur in Rajasthan, a state in the north west of India, the Leela Palace features 72 rooms with views of the local Pichola Lake, and eight suites with dedicated butler service. Local sights include a number of lakes, such as the aforementioned Pichola, which was created by the city’s 16th century founder. Opened in 2009 by founder Krishnan Nair, as part of his portfolio of Leela Palaces named after his wife, the hotel was ranked first worldwide by Travel and Leisure, supported by a 9.2 score on Booking.com and a five-star rating on TripAdvisor.

Vietnam Airlines has announced two new routes as part of an expansion within Southeast Asia. The Vietnamese flag carrier will operate new routes from Ho Chi Minh City to Phuket, Thailand and Bali, Indonesia beginning at the end of October.

A Vietnam Airlines Jet
Vietnam Airlines has announced new routes within Southeast Asia. Photo: USAFE AFAFRICA via Flickr

Vietnam Airlines recently announced a fresh selection of routes that will connect Ho Chi Minh City with the popular tourist destinations of Phuket and Bali. Commencing 27 October, Vietnam Airlines will operate five flights to Denpasar Airport, Bali every week.

The initial Ho Chi Minh City-Denpasar schedule will see flights every Monday, Tuesday, Thursday, Friday and Sunday. Flights out of Ho Chi Minh City will leave at 11:10am and flights from Bali will leave at 4:50pm.

The Ho Chi Minh City-Phuket service will be less regular, only operating three times per week, on Tuesdays, Fridays and Sundays. On this route, flights from Ho Chi Minh City will depart at 3:50pm, whilst flights out of Phuket will leave at 6:40pm.

According to reports by Vietnam Plus, this schedule will run until late March 2020, after which flights will operate seven times per week. The airline will also be resuming its flights from Da Nang, Vietnam to Bangkok, Thailand.

Tourism in Southeast Asia

Southeast Asia is one of the most popular regions for travelers and backpackers from around the world. Vietnam is a top destination in Southeast Asia, welcoming 15.4 million tourists in 2018.

A Vietnam Airlines Airbus A330
Vietnam is a growing source of tourists. Photo: Masakatsu Ukon via Flickr

But it sits behind both Indonesia and Thailand, which welcomed 15.8 million and a whopping 38.3 million tourists respectively. Travelers from outside southeast Asia will often hop between the region’s popular tourist countries and destinations during one trip.

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But tourism from elsewhere is not the only market that shows potential for airlines within Southeast Asia.

Vietnam Airlines hoping to capitalize on domestic demand

Vietnam itself is one of the up and coming countries in the region, with a growing number of citizens looking to travel abroad. Mastercard has predicted that by 2021, there will be 7.5 Vietnamese traveling outside the country annually.

With a number of popular tourist destinations on their doorstep, as well as visa-free travel to ASEAN member nations for 30 days, Vietnamese travelers are a growing economic force. There is clearly a lot of potential for airlines offering convenient flights between Southeast Asian countries, which seems to be the motivation behind Vietnam Airlines’ new routes.

A VietJet Air jet
VietJet Air is Vietnam Airlines’ main domestic competitor. Photo: Blue Stahli Luân via Flickr

The carrier already operates two routes to Thailand and one to Indonesia, so it must be confident in the demand for more.

Vietnam Airlines’ plans further afield

Vietnam Airlines also recently announced plans to fly to the United States. It has already received a license to begin operating direct flights from Vietnam to the US. While there is likely less demand and more risk involved in launching a Vietnam-US route, it is clearly a signal of intent for Vietnam’s flag bearer.

Vietnam Airlines is already competing domestically with VietJet Air, as well as many big players within the region. If it wants to set itself apart from the rest, then bold decisions are probably the right way to go.

Get a little end-of-week motivation by having a peruse at all these new industry appointments! Or drink wine at your desk and seethe with jealousy like the rest of us.

Flight Centre Travel Group’s global procurement network appoints high-profile hotel executive

Yon Abad

Flight Centre Travel Group’s global procurement network (GPN) has appointed senior hotel executive Yon Abad to the role of vice president (VP) corporate suppliers relationships and distribution platforms.

Based in the United States, Abad brings to the position more than 15-years’ experience in global corporate travel, as well as hospitality contracting, distribution and technology.

Abad has spent the past decade working for a global travel management company (TMC), where he most recently led the global hotel supply division. He also spent five years as head of a corporate travel consulting business operating in North and Latin America.

As part of his new role within GPN, Abad will source and manage a portfolio of FCTG’s corporate global land supplier relationships. He is also tasked with driving the growth and development of corporate content within FCTG’s new hotel distribution platform.

Hayman Island by Intercontinental appoints Arpad Romandy as general manager

Arpad Romandy - General Manager

Hayman Island by InterContinental has appointed hospitality heavyweight Arpad Romandy to its senior management team as general manager of Australia’s most iconic private island resort.

Romandy brings decades of experience in the hospitality industry, with recent roles at standout properties such as Shangri-La Sydney and Amora Hotel Jamison Sydney making him the ideal candidate to take the reins of the island’s new era of luxury.

Romandy is no stranger to InterContinental Hotels Group and the wider InterContinental brand, having spent 18 years working in pivotal leadership roles for InterContinental Hotels in the UK, Spain, USA and Canada.

Romandy previously held roles as  general manager/hotel manager at the Harbor Court InterContinental Baltimore, Barclay InterContinental New York & Willard InterContinental Washington DC.

Barry Mayo appointed interim chairman for CT Partners 

This week’s announcement that TravelEdge is being acquired by Helloworld has resulted in TravelManagers’ Barry Mayo being appointed as interim chairman, stepping into the role vacated by Grant Wilson whose company is exiting from CT Partners as a result of its sale.

CT Partners is an alliance of 21 of the largest independent corporate travel management firms and premium leisure agencies in Australia, with a combined annual total transaction volume (TTV) of AU$1.5 billion.

Air New Zealand appoints new board director

Air New Zealand has appointed Laurissa Cooney to its board of directors.

Cooney is of Te Āti Hau Nui a Pāpā Rangi (Whanganui) descent and is a professional independent director with several iwi-affiliated entities, as well as chief financial officer for Te Whare Wānanga o Awanuiārangi.

She has previously held senior auditing and consulting roles with Deloitte in New Zealand and Deloitte Touche in London.

Virgin Australia announces change of director

Virgin Australia has announced Lan Xiang has stepped down from his tole as non-executive director of the board of the Virgin Group.

Kevin Xing has been appointed to take Xiang’s place as the nominated member for the Nanshan Group.

Voyages welcomes new GM for Ayers Rock Resort’s hotel division

Philip Logan

Voyages Indigenous Tourism Australia has appointed Philip Logan to the position of general manager for the hotel division of Ayers Rock Resort, commencing 15 October 2019.

The role includes oversight of Ayers Rock Resort’s five hotels, all food and beverage outlets including outdoor catering, and the retail department.

Most recently the general manager of the Sofitel Sydney Wentworth, Logan has extensive experience in senior leadership roles with both Accor and Starwood across the UK, the Middle East, India and the Asia Pacific.

Emirates announces commercial team changes

Emirates has announced key appointments and rotations in its global commercial operations.

Salem Obaidalla, currently senior vice president of aeropolitical and industry affairs, will take over as senior VP of commercial operations for the Americas.

Adil Al Ghaith, currently senior VP of commercial operations for the Gulf, the Middle East and Iran, will take on additional responsibility for the UAE and Oman.

Orhan Abbas, currently senior VP of commercial operations for Africa, will take over as senior VP of commercial operations for the Far East.

Badr Abbas, currently senior VP of commercial operations for the Far East, will take over as senior VP of commercial operations for Africa.

Thierry Aucoc, currently senior VP of commercial operations for Europe and the Russian Federation, will take on additional responsibility for Germany and the UK.

Ahmed Khoory, senior VP of commercial operations for West Asia and the Indian Ocean, retains his current portfolio.

NCLH announces new ANZ sales directors for Regent Seven Seas Cruises and Oceania Cruises

Gillian Seller 2

Norwegian Cruise Line Holdings Oceania Cruises (OCI) and Regent Seven Seas Cruises (RSSC) has announced the appointment of travel industry veterans Gillian Seller (pictured above) and Trevor Thwaites as part of its trans-Tasman executive team.

Seller has been appointed to the newly created role of director of sales for Australia and New Zealand at RSSC.

Seller brings with her over 30 years experience in the luxury hotel and travel industry, most recently working as Accor’s director of luxury sales for the Pacific region.

Thwaites has been appointed to the newly created role of director of sales for Australia and New Zealand at Oceania Cruises. He brings with him over a decade of sales experience – including over 10 years in the cruise industry, most recently as national sales manager at Princess Cruises.

Seller and Thwaites both joined the company in September.

The Walshe Group adds Vistara to its portfolio

Vistara aircraft

Vistara, an Indian full-service carrier and a joint venture of Tata Sons and Singapore Airlines, appointed The Walshe Group as its representation company in Australia.

As the highest-rated Indian airline on Skytrax and TripAdvisor and the winner of several ‘Best Airline’ awards, Vistara brings the combined experience of its parents Tata Sons, one of India’s largest and most respected business houses, and Singapore Airlines, one of the world’s most respected airlines, to Indian aviation.

The airline now connects 30 destinations and operates nearly 200 flights a day with a fleet of 23 Airbus A320 and nine Boeing 737-800NG aircraft. The airline has flown more than 16 million customers since starting operations in 2015.

Celestyal Cruises appoints new BDM

Mary_Wiliams

Celestyal Cruises has announced the appointment of Mary Williams as business development manager for Australia. Williams is an accomplished sales professional with more than 10 years’ experience spanning across sales, business development and travel consulting.

Williams has been asked to develop and maintain Celestyal Cruise’s presence in the Australian market through active and effective business and client relationship development.

Sangha Retreat by Octave institute appoints John Reed as chief operating officer

SANGHA Retreat by OCTAVE Institute has announced the appointment of John Reed as chief operating officer, effective 8 October 2019.

Reed brings more than 35 years of experience in the hospitality industry in the US, Australia, Thailand, Myanmar, Bali and Bhutan.

He has worked at the helm of several renowned hospitality organisations and has deep knowledge and understanding of the markets in South Asia and Indochina, especially Bhutan, where he spent a significant part of his career building the AMAN brand.

Reed will report to chairman and founder of OCTAVE Institute, Frederick Chavalit Tsao.

Paying the piper

Last Thursday as Australia’s Foreign Minister Marise Payne was talking up the role of values in foreign policy to a business audience in Canberra, Indonesia was promoting its tourism investment opportunities to a different business gathering in Sydney.

It will probably never be clear how the intersection of these two different perspectives on international relations played out in President Joko Widodo’s dramatic last-minute intervention on Friday against the proposed changes to his country’s Criminal Code.

And while it is not clear that Widodo’s move to delay the criminalisation of sex outside marriage will prevail in the long term, the demonstrations against the proposed changes this week show the changes were already testing the limits of the country’s increasingly illiberal democracy.

Students rally in Jakarta on 25 September (Photo: Goh Chai Hin/AFP/Getty Images)

But this showdown raises some interesting issues about the role and power of tourism in economic diplomacy, in contrast to the better-known levers – trade and investment regulation.

Only two weeks ago, Asian Development Bank president Takehiko Nakao was visiting Australia talking up the role of tourism in offsetting lost manufacturing jobs right across Asia. The ASEAN+3 Macroeconomic Research Office (AMRO) produced a study earlier in the year making the point that Southeast Asian countries like Indonesia needed to pay more attention to tourism capacity building for the same reason.

This looks like quite creative use of Australia’s one million annual travellers to Bali to make a point about the benefits of mutual economic integration.

It was certainly a key theme of the Indonesian government pitch to Australian investors at the Indonesia-Australia Business Summit last Thursday, with representatives of three eastern Indonesia localities talking up their need for Australian investment in hotels and leisure facilities to serve Australian tourists, and others.

These are some of the putative ten new Balis which Widodo has been touting and which have been a key marketing pitch for the newly signed bilateral trade agreement from his top foreign investment adviser Tom Lembong.

Australia’s change to its travel advice on Indonesia released last Friday, which warned about the impact on tourists of the planned changes to the Criminal Code, was dressed up like a normal update.

But it was anything but that, given that by its own assessment the changes wouldn’t apply for two years. It looks much more like front-footed economic diplomacy in line with Payne’s speech to the Committee for the Economic Development of Australia, which argued that values-based diplomacy is “good for business”.

It is hard to see how Lembong’s quest for an Australian-led high-quality leisure boat tourism boom in eastern Indonesia would gather pace if DFAT was telling people to stay away for fear of being arrested. And the Philippines, Thailand, and Vietnam would quickly fill the void.

So, this looks like quite creative use of Australia’s one million annual travellers to Bali to make a point about the benefits of mutual economic integration, which has been harder to make in other cases such as the beef trade.

A display from the “Contemporary Worlds Indonesia” exhibition (Photo: Timothy Tobing/DFAT)

But having set this precedent, the interesting thing now is when this lever will be used again, especially given how Southeast Asian tourism resorts from Phuket to Cebu usually tolerate plenty of poor behaviour by their Australian customers. They don’t always make good ambassadors for Payne’s Australian values.

And before the hubris about this new economic diplomacy power sets in, it’s worth noting that the Australian tourism dollar is not what it once was. Chinese visitors have been challenging Australians as the top Bali visitors over the past year, and Indians are rising fast. Outbound tourism by Southeast Asians themselves has roughly doubled in the past decade.

These travellers probably don’t like the implications of criminalisation of unmarried sex any more than Australians, but they and their governments are more likely to deal with it in a low-key way.

Category killer

Prime Minister Scott Morrison may not be aware of Nobel Prize–winning economist Simon Kuznet’s idiosyncratic division of countries into four categories: developed, developing, Japan, and Argentina.

But Morrison has certainly reopened a hornet’s nest of debate about how to categorise countries in a disrupted world economy with his definition of China as a “newly developed economy” during his US trip.

For the record, this is a more pointed definition than he used in his June headland foreign policy speech, where he said China had reached a “threshold level of economic maturity”. Although his more general point about the need for China to change its behaviour in the World Trade Organisation (WTO) was quite consistent.

Prime Minister Scott Morrison addresses the UN General Assembly (Photo: Cia Pak/United Nations)

China has played a more productive role in the WTO than peers such as India and South Africa, but in an institution where countries self-define their development status, it has not sufficiently recognised its own rapid economic evolution since it joined two decades ago.

But these definitional dilemmas run rife. A good example is the US Central Intelligence Agency’s own widely quoted World Factbook, which treats China as a developing economy because it aligns with International Monetary Fund definitions. South Korea, Singapore, Mexico, and Turkey have all been subject to debate about how they should be categorised by different institutions at different times. And Russia is not a developed country, despite once being an acknowledged superpower.

China needs to change the way it categorises itself in international institutions, for example, by joining the Organisation for Economic Cooperation and Development aid measurement system, given the significance of its Belt and Road Initiative.

But having a big debate about its appropriate development category is not going to end the global uncertainty over a trade war.

Sweet spot

Vietnam’s status as the biggest winner from the US-China trade tensions has been underlined by Asian Development Bank analysis of how production supply chains have shifted in Asia this year.

While US imports from China fell 12% in the first six months of the year, they rose about 10% from the rest of developing Asia dominated by Vietnam (up 33%), Taiwan (up 20%), and Bangladesh (up 13%). The bank’s economic outlook update says the trade war has escalated a pre-existing shift of upstream production from China to lower-cost sites outside the country.

New foreign direct investment (FDI) in Vietnam from China and Hong Kong rose 200% in the first seven months of the year, while in Thailand FDI applications doubled, led by Japan and China. Meanwhile in Malaysia, approved FDI in manufacturing, mostly from the US, rose more than by 80%.

While this used to be called the “China Plus One” strategy, the ADB argues so much of the offshore investment is from China that ties between China and South East Asian countries, in particular, are only likely to strengthen. It says:

Given that production now occurs mostly along global value chains, the ripple effect of the conflict on global trade is likely much stronger than it would have been two decades ago.

Women-only hotel rooms were once portrayed as an eccentric marketing trend, but this movement is experiencing a resurgence due to the burgeoning number of women business and leisure travellers.

In addition, more women now demand an increased level of security and autonomy in their accommodations. Safety, empowerment, and pampering rank high up in the list of factors that influence their decision regarding where to stay. 

We suss out the newest women-only hotels around the world for your next vacation, solo or otherwise.

1. BLISS SANCTUARY FOR WOMEN, BALI

No children, no couples, and only a handful of women allowed at any one time so they can experience serenity and exclusivity. The newly renovated villa offers five- to seven-day packages that include meals, with unlimited massage and spa treatments, and more.

For more information, visit www.blisssanctuaryforwomen.

2. SUPERSHE ISLAND, FINLAND

Wake up on an island to the gorgeous view of the Baltic Sea. Start the day with meditation after breakfast and have a facial at the spa right after. Since the luxury resort’s opening last year, this off-the-grid vacation spot has become an oasis for professional women to connect with one another over leisure activities.

For more information, visit https://supershe.com

3. JOSEPHINE'S GUESTHOUSE, ZURICH

It feels more like a cosy home than a three-star hotel. A breakfast buffet is served at a large table every morning for everyone, and there’s an open kitchen and laundry room. The recently spruced-up rooms with minimalist interiors are popular with leisure and business travellers.

Address: Lutherstrasse 20, Zurich, Switzerland

4. HOTEL ZEN, TOKYO

The latest capsule hotel looks like a craftsman’s workshop on the outside. Inside, expect minimalist wood panelling and traditional motifs. Choose from five types of rooms – each equipped with a lockable box and free Wi-Fi – from single-bed to semi double-bed ones, and rooms with tatami mats that provide more floor space.

For more information, visit www.hotelzen.jp

5. LUTHAN HOTEL AND SPA

Luthan Hotel and Spa is the first of its kind in the Middle East. This woman's only property aptly called the "Sanctuary", is a unique urban retreat. The goal is to create a peaceful respite away from the stresses of the external world and help to rebalance the body's energies, to ensure complete relaxation of the physical, emotional and spiritual self. 

Expect unparalleled spa facilities such as the Aqua Meditation Room, Reflexology pool, Sound pool, Cysternae, Salt Inhalation Room, and a soothing Herbal Sauna.

For more information, visit http://www.luthanhotel-spa.com/

6. SOM DONA HOTEL

The four-star Som Dona hotel opened in the luxurious resort of Porto Cristo in Mallorca in June with 39 exquisitely furnished  rooms catering to female-identifying customers over the age of 14.  

The hotel is curating a range of bespoke wellness packages in the coming months that will focus on fitness, health and detox, as well as packages to help solo female travellers bond and explore Mallorca's cultural offerings together.

The spa also offers a range of holistic treatments and a restaurant serving a sumptuous variety of dishes which are said to be "flavourful, healthy and sustainable."

For more information, visit https://somhotels.es/hotel-som-dona/

7. NINE HOURS WOMAN KANDA

The hotel is popular for its minimalist and futuristic decor.

Nine Hours Woman Kanda is the first female-only facility located in Kanda area which is a stone's throw away from Tokyo Station and Akihabara area.

Guests rave about how clean and comfortable the hotel is. Free WiFi is provided throughout the entire property so you will always be connected too. 

This article was first published in Her World Online .

Australian boutique travel brand, Luxury Escapes, has suddenly become very visible across Asia. In fact, it’s hard to escape its emails or its social ads if you’re living in Asia and that’s because the company is ramping up its business in the region.

It appointed a head for Asia, Graham Hills, earlier this year and it now has close to 20 staff members in partnerships, marketing, and customer service in Singapore and India.

A key breakthrough is the acquisition of its trademark in India where it used to operate under Escapes Club. By the end of this month, it will operate under Luxury Escapes, giving the brand a foothold in a key Asian market, said Hills. 

Graham Hills: The brand is best known for its hotel and resort packages “which sell the full experience.”

Luxury Escapes has an interesting history. It started out of
daily deals business six years ago by Australia’s Lux Group, a privately-owned business based in Melbourne founded in 2009 by
Jeremy Same and Adam Schwab. (Lux Group has more than 150 team members
globally, with major offices in Sydney, Melbourne, Bangalore, Singapore and San
Francisco. In addition to Luxury Escapes, the Lux Group is a joint venture
partner with the Catch Group in Scoopon, Cudo and TreatMe.)

Its Luxury Escapes brand has grown by leaps and bounds, with Australia generating more than 500,000 room nights to date for its partners around the world, according to CEO Cameron Holland (in this video).

Holland, who worked with Lonely Planet and later Jetstar Australia, took a break from travel when he worked with health, wealth and living group Australian Unity, and returned to the industry in October 2018 with Luxury Escapes, becoming CEO in March this year.

At the time, Holland said it was an easy decision. In a
media interview, he said, “Luxury Escapes is a business showing no signs of slowing
down, and I’m looking forward to the challenge of working in a rapidly changing
environment.”

His mission is to take the Melbourne-based group from start-up to scale-up, as well as expansion across other travel verticals. Currently, Luxury Escapes has more than three million members across Australia, New Zealand, Singapore, India, Hong Kong, the US and the UK. Naturally, Australia accounts for the bulk of subscribers, up to 70%, said Hills, and clearly the intent is to grow the customer base in Asia.

The brand is best known for its hotel and resort packages “which sell the full experience”, said Hills, including transfers, breakfast, cocktails, massage, meals, among other features. Typically, each hotel deal (minimum two nights) runs over two to three weeks and Luxury Escapes designs a marketing campaign around the deal, using both offline and online channels.

Luxury Escapes has expanded offerings to include flights (powered by Amadeus), homes and villas, tours and cruises, and the latest, Experiences (powered by Rezdy). Only flights have yet to launch internationally.

As with its hotel and resort packages, Experiences are carefully curated, said Hills, who knows the sector well due to his past experience with B2B tours & activities platform, BeMyGuest.

“We aim to keep our Experiences offerings tailored to each destination and in-line with what we know about our customers. As such, we will never have multiples of the exact same experience product shown to our customers for them to sift through and decide the way many other platforms do.”

With the launch of this Experiences product (see video below), customers will have the option of returning to the site to book their tour and activity, after they have made the hotel booking “instead of having to book it at the same time as the hotel”.

There are clear differences between the Australian and Asian markets, of course, said Hills. Marketing campaigns in Asia tend to be more of a digital play, with print used selectively depending on the markets. Bookings are largely made on mobile vs desktop in Australia.

The bulk of bookings happen within the first few days of a
campaign, with a pick-up towards the end. The best-selling resort group-wide is
Finolhu Maldives and more than half of customers buy upgrades on check-in.

The Asia demographic is also younger – 30-40-year-olds. Deals targeted at markets in Asia therefore tend to be more family-led with shorter stays. And there is a stronger preference for branded hotels “perhaps because Luxury Escapes is still new in Asia and people want the comfort”, said Hills.

The top 10 destinations in Asia are Maldives, Thailand, Bali, India, Japan, Dubai, Malaysia, Vietnam, Singapore and Australia, while the top 10 in Australia are domestic, Indonesia (lead by Bali and Lombok), Thailand, Maldives, Singapore, Vietnam, Fiji, Japan, Dubai and the US.

“What we do is offer members the complete holiday experience – from flights (just added in Australia) to in-property and in-destination,” said Hills. “We will be rolling out the other verticals market by market.

“We are like the modern-day tour operator and digital is our
biggest asset,” added Hills.

Asked how an Australian travel brand can have success in
Asia – the Australian leisure market is very different and homogenous while
Asia is highly fragmented with different markets having different behaviours,
Hills said that one challenge is the pace. “Things move very fast in Asia and
pace is something foreign brands have to work on. Another thing is mobile – you
have to think mobile first in Asia while Australia is still largely desktop.”

In terms of localisation of languages, Hills said that was being worked on. Right now, all Luxury Escapes’ offers are in English.

Note: Luxury Escapes’ CEO Cameron Holland will be speaking at WiT Singapore 2019. Check out programme here.

All images (featured imageFinolhu Maldives) and video credit: Luxury Escapes

Singapore Airlines offers great promotions to its top destinations, so whether you want to travel to Malaysia or Australia, you needn’t break the bank in the process

If you are looking for a holiday that won’t break the bank and fancy flying in supreme comfort, you’ve come to the right place. With a choice of four daily flights from London, five weekly flights from Manchester and regional departures available with partner airlines, Singapore Airlines can take you to over 135 destinations in more than 39 countries and territories. Here, we choose 10 of the best promotions for the discerning traveller.

1 Singapore from £505

Singapore Airlines’ home city is the archetypal melting pot that swirls together myriad strands of regional cuisines and cultures into one beguiling mix. It’s slick and modern, but historic and beguiling too. Singapore is also family friendly and fun with Sentosa Island a tempting leisure getaway that attracts 20 million visitors a year.

2 Sydney from £680

Australia’s largest city is a glorious harbour gateway boasting such world-famous icons as the Harbour Bridge and the Opera House. It’s also laced with epic beaches like Manly and Bondi, with a buzzing nightlife and food scene where you can spend the dollars you’ve saved on your ticket.

Iconic: Australia's largest city, Sydney, is home to world famous landmarks

Credit:
Getty

3 Perth from £685

The world’s most remote state capital is a city break star and the gateway to the Margaret River wine region to the south and the marine mammal-rich oasis of Exmouth to the north. Perth has been reinvented of late with hip hotels, bars and restaurants backing up its bountiful parkland.

4 Siem Reap from £550

A vibrant city in its own right, this Cambodian bolthole’s chief attraction is nearby Angkor Wat. This Unesco World Heritage-listed temple complex is truly one of the wonders of the world, best enjoyed in the morning mists or with a spectacular sunset. You will want to visit again and again. 

5 Bali from £570

Yes, it is world famous for its glorious beaches and popular resorts, but this Indonesian holiday isle offers so much more. We are talking atmospheric waterfront temples, brooding volcanoes, startling marine life – whether scuba diving or snorkelling – and picture postcard rice paddies. Not to mention mouth-watering cuisine.

Cultural treasures: visit one of Bali's atmospheric waterfront temples

Credit:
Getty

6 Kuala Lumpur from £445

The Malaysian capital is one of Asia’s great cities, an eye-catching collage of the ultra-modern and the dreamily historic, best enjoyed from the viewing deck of the iconic Petronas Towers. The streets are alive with markets and malls, while the street food is legendary too.

7 Christchurch from £805

This stately, graceful city in New Zealand offers a charmingly relaxed lifestyle, one that warmly welcomes visitors. It is a city of British-style churches, green spaces and old-world buildings. It is also a superb base for setting out to explore the spectacular natural oasis of South Island.

8 Bangkok from £460

With a cheap fare and one seriously good-value city, even your bank manager is going to be happy with your choice of the Thai capital. Ornate temples tempt, as do traditional massages and some of the world’s most celebrated street food. Mix in glitzy malls and royal palaces and it’s a spicy and delicious mix. 

9 Phuket from £480

If you are seeking that paradise beach with pristine white sands backed by swaying palms and fronted by aquarium-clear waters you’ve just found it. This Thai island offers a rich necklace of beaches and accompanying resorts, plus boat trips out to even more idyllic island oases. Being Thailand, great food is a given.

Idyllic oasis: experience an island boat tour in Phuket

Credit:
Getty

10 Ho Chi Minh City from £535

This dynamic, rapidly growing city is one of Asia’s most fascinating metropolises. Dodge the ubiquitous bikes and you can delve into museums that explore the country’s rich and turbulent history, drift through ornate temples and explore teeming markets. A moving experience is visiting the nearby Vietnam War-era Cu Chi Tunnels.

And don’t forget, passengers are eligible for a Singapore Stopover Holiday, including a one-night hotel stay, one-way airport transfers and free admission to more than 20 attractions. You can explore it all with a Singapore Stopover Holiday – and it will cost you as little as £1.

*All prices quoted are for return travel for one person up to 30 June 2020. They must be booked by 16 September 2019.

Icons of the sky

Travellers who value the journey as much as the destination choose Singapore Airlines.

To find out more about the Singapore Airlines experience, visit singaporeair.com