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LATest e-bulletin January '23


In this issue: ① A Turbulent Start ② The Sadomaso Need for Chinese Tourism ③ Indonesians Protest the New Criminal Code ④ Myanmar, to Go or Not to Go ⑤ LAT Updated Catalogue & Tariff and Booking Portal ⑥ Taking a Stand ⑦ Sulawesi, All Gendered Priests ⑧ So Many Good Reasons to Work with LAT ⑨ Malaysia Female Novelists ⑩ Garuda Shares Trading ⑪ AirAsia Expands its Routes ⑫ Singapore and Gay Sex Legislation ⑬ Meet us at FITUR


A Turbulent Start

We start this new year bracing for an influx of Chinese tourists in our destinations as Covid restrictions in China are dismantled. While some operators – including LAT – are wary, others are preparing packages to cash in on the expected spike in travel. Checks such as Covid testing on arrivals from China are put in place at the entry ports of Malaysia. Singapore and Indonesia are expected to follow suit.

These are positive news even considering the huge external cost and impact of Chinese tourism in this region. The Chinese tourists ground to a virtual halt during the pandemic, left a gaping hole in the ASEAN market, where countries had depended on China as the largest source of foreign visitors. There will be an increase of air capacity that hopefully will lead in time to a moderation of airfares which have seen spikes up in the past months eroding the spending power of many travellers.

In Indonesia, the Government is set to come face to face with leaders of the biggest wave of student demonstrations in two decades, as it seeks to avert a full-blown political crisis over unpopular legislation. The announcement came after days of protests, some violent, by university and high school students in Jakarta and regional cities, calling for the scrapping of controversial bills and laws. The protesters' targets include the proposed new criminal code – which would criminalise insulting the president and government in public and outlaw extramarital and gay sex, among other acts – and the enacted revisions to the anticorruption law, which critics say weaken the watchdog. A cartoon seemingly depicting the President shooting water cannons at protesters, not at the raging Indonesian forests, is gaining popularity on Twitter.

Myanmar goes from bad to worse. Aung San Suu Kyi, Myanmar’s former leader, had seven years added to her prison sentence, bringing the total to 33. Since a military coup ousted the democratically elected Ms Suu Kyi in February 2021, she has been convicted of a variety of trumped-up offences, most recently corruption. This is a further disgraceful event the brings again to the forefront the dilemma of whether tourists should go or not to Myanmar. In a state where so much business is cornered by the regime and a privileged crony class, tourists can easily end up spending money in the wrong places – for example, via the new mandatory Myanmar health insurance guarantees for travellers. This is provided by government owned Myanma Insurance, which is widely believed to be a money-spinner for the military. There is also a crippling official exchange rate that hands the regime extra cash. Worse still, tourists can inadvertently put lives at risk. Vast tracts of Myanmar are now unsafe, not only for tourists, but potentially for locals with whom they interact – not least because outsiders may be unaware of military informers and rival provincial interests. A foreigner, visiting a village may pose a danger for the people living there more than one may realize. Last but not least any tourist entering the country hands a small public relations victory to the military regime.

During the month of January LAT will distribute the new updated Catalogue & Tariff. 2022 has been a very difficult year for contracting, most of the hotels and suppliers have been holding back, up to December the release of rates and prices for 2023/24. Having overcome hundreds of unforeseen technical glitches (tech-men say) our online booking portal will go live in January as well. You will receive notification soon.

2022 has seen a new wave of corporate activism, encouraged by consumers, employees, and shareholders alike proving that markets respond when companies take a stance. In 2023 companies may be judged on their approaches to climate change and the energy transition, gay and transgender rights, racial diversity, and ethical labour practices. Getting more involved and taking stands do not oblige companies to be progressive while consumers tend to reward those companies that show consistency in sticking to principles of any hue, rather than just pandering to the latest fad.

LAT always takes clear stands on social issues and actively work and participate to the awareness and development of the countries and communities where it operates. Our constant intellectual engagement and responsible behaviour are testimony to that and so we will continue to do and be in 2023 and the years to follow.


Sulawesi, All Gendered Priests

Bissu - Oil on Canvass by Wolfgang Widmoser, Courtesy of Fabio Delisi


The Pangkajene and Islands Regency, is a regency of South Sulawesi Province of Indonesia. The regency lies primarily on the mainland of Sulawesi's southern peninsula, but also includes the Spermonde Islands off the west coast of that peninsula, as well as other small islands further west and southwest. In this area and across the South Sulawesi lives a community of non-binary priests, the Bissu. Less than 40 Bissu remain, according to some anthropologists, and they now perform cultural and shaman-like roles to prevent their traditions from dying. Nani, a Bissu in their 60s who was born male, said they faced opposition from their family when they experienced a gender identity crisis as a child, but was now at peace with who they are. “My family disliked it, especially my older brother,” they recalled. “He kept beating me to force me to be a real man. I’ve tried to change but I could not.” In the 1950s, a rebellion led by the Islamic State of Indonesia group sought to create a caliphate in the country, leading to many Bissu being accused of violating Islamic principles and facing persecution. They were hunted, murdered, or forced to behave as masculine men. Since then, Bissu no longer wanted to show themselves, they disappeared, and they didn’t want to do any cultural activities. They were scared and decided to hide. The community is now on the brink of extinction, seeing their numbers dissolve into the majority Bugis ethnic group in South Sulawesi. Bugis people believe in five genders: “Makkunrai” or cisgender woman; “oroane” or cisgender man; “calabai” or men who take on traditional roles for women; “calalai” or women who take on traditionally male roles; and the “Bissu”, who are neither male nor female but embody all genders. Older Bissu have died and without financial or cultural support, not enough of the younger generation are replacing them. The remaining few, however, are trying to keep their heritage alive. Discover customs and cultures of Sulawesi with LAT unique packages.


So Many Good Reasons to Work with LAT

Established in 1991

Independently owned and operated

Purely B2B with travel industry partners

Online booking engine with immediate

confirmation of hotels, tours and transfers

Skilful Contents Provider and Technology user

Knowledgeable and efficient reservations personnel

Long and proud association with the MICE industry in all Lotus destinations

Fully committed to Sustainability and CSR; ‘Travelife’ partner

Carbon Neutrality for all packages and services on offer

Extensive selection of scheduled group departures and innovative product lines

Direct access to a vast pool of local professional contributors

Owns small boutique island hotels strategically located

LAT Indochina subsidiary operating in Thailand and Vietnam

Multilingual guides in all destinations

Operations offices throughout its destinations

Centralised bookings and payments for multi destination tours

Assistance in language


THE TATTLER

Malaysia Female Novelists

Two novels, by Malaysian female authors Karina Robles Bahrin and Preeta Samarasan, published in September and October 2022, both reflect on issues of race and identity in the multiethnic, predominantly Islamic Southeast Asian nation.

"The Accidental Malay," by Karina (published by Singapore’s Epigram Books and winner of its 2022 Book Prize, the region’s most valuable literary award) is a sharp satire on Malaysian racial stereotypes seen through the eyes of businesswoman Jasmine Leong. She has made a fortune selling bak kwa (pork jerky) and aspires to become her company’s new CEO, but risks losing everything when she discovers she was born a Malay Muslim and is not ethnically Chinese, as she had believed.

Investigating the reasons why Malaysian identity is splintered is also the focus of "Tale of the Dreamer's Son," the second novel by Indian Malaysian writer Preeta Samarasan, who lives in rural France with her family. Her first novel, “Evening is the Whole Day,” was published in 2008 by the U.S. imprint Houghton Mifflin Harcourt and is one of the few contemporary novels to describe the lives of Tamil Indian Malaysians, who “are 7% of the population.

Published by World Editions, an independent literary house launched in 2013 by Dutch publisher Eric Visser, Samarasan’s new book took more than a decade to write and to find a publisher willing to support its vivid, lyrical, and critical outlook on the shaping of modern Malaysia, a focus that may have been too narrow for a mainstream U.K. or U.S. publisher.


HIGHLIGHTS

Garuda Shares Trading

Garuda Indonesia resumes trading in its shares after issuing around $80 million in Islamic bonds. This gives hope to a renewed capability of the airline to raise capital in the stock market and revitalize its operations.


AirAsia expands its Routes

Malaysia's AirAsia X this month said it will continue rapid expansion into Australia with flights to the Gold Coast commencing in February 2023. The route will be the airline's fourth destination in Australia after resuming flights to Sydney, Melbourne, and Perth earlier this year.


Singapore and Gay Sex Legislation

Singapore's parliament has finally voted to repeal a controversial law that criminalised consensual sex between men, in a landmark victory for the city-state's LGBTQ community. At the same time, however, the legislature made it clear that it supports defining marriage as being between a man and a woman.


Meet us at FITUR

Meet the LAT team at FITUR 18-21 January 2023 in Madrid and discover the new world of LAT tours and hospitality services. Write to us here for appointments.

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