In this issue: ① Return to Growth ② Sustainability ③ Bali, Coming up for Air ④ The Dayak of Borneo ⑤ So Many Good Reasons to Work with LAT ⑥ Trans Rights in Asia ⑦ Southeast Asia Carbon Storage ⑧ Corals to be Planted ⑨ Sarawak Wings ⑩ The Meetings Show Asia Pacific
Growth and industry sustainability
Projected international arrival numbers in the Pacific area in 2023 range from 705 million in the mild scenario to 516 million in the medium scenario and approximately 390 million in the severe scenario. These figures suggest that visitor numbers in 2023 are anticipated to exceed the pre-pandemic levels of 2019 by 3.3% in the mild scenario.
By the end of 2024, in the mild scenario, the number of international visitor arrivals is expected to surpass the 2019 benchmark even further. In the medium scenario, the increase is estimated to be 6.7%. Both scenarios indicate a continuation of this upward trend in 2025.
Currently, at LAT, we are experiencing a growth rate of 3% compared to 2019, with the possibility of reaching as high as 5% to 6% by the year-end.
While these forecasts and our direct experience are encouraging, it is crucial for the travel and tourism sector to remain vigilant and adaptable to address ongoing challenges. Although Covid-19 is no longer at the global pandemic stage, it has not completely disappeared, and the industry must learn to coexist with it for some time.
One notable development is the increasing awareness and focus on sustainability in the industry and its impact on destinations—an issue that LAT has long been committed to. There is a noticeable rise in commitment to sustainability, and it is crucial to recognize the need for meaningful change. Tour operators play a vital role in driving these necessary changes by engaging travellers and enabling them to choose more sustainable options. However, achieving sustainability goals as an industry requires the establishment of unified standards and investments in decarbonizing business travel. This is an area where LAT has been actively involved, investing in decarbonizing projects in our region. Reputation management and driving positive impact are key drivers of LAT's engagement, and we are pleased to see that many companies primarily adopt sustainability practices for reputation management (84%) and to contribute positively to the planet (82%).
It is encouraging to note that more product and travel managers are now considering integrating sustainability features into their booking tools, with only 28% currently doing so, but many others are planning to follow suit. This is a good start and definitely the way forward. Industry-wide standards naturally take precedence, and there is a shared recognition of the need for harmonized standards on emissions measurement, accounting, and reporting. It is incumbent upon global travel industry leaders and governments to act in this regard.
In this context, Bali is facing challenges, constantly navigating through trial and error rather than relying on accurate long-term planning. The Government of Bali has recently made several announcements (once again) that could significantly impact travellers planning their trips to the island. These announcements include proposed bans on tourists driving on the island and hiking or climbing up the Balinese mountains. While there may be arguments supporting these proposals, the exact merits have not been clearly outlined during the announcements. It is regrettable to see that the Balinese government seems to attribute the threats to Bali solely to misbehaving tourists, without acknowledging the broader issues arising from consistent governance oversight, corruption, exploitative developments, and a lack of long-term urban planning. The island is in dire need of essential infrastructure, such as sewerage systems, road networks, power grids, internet connectivity, and education, among others. It is important to recognize that tourism plays a vital role in Bali's economy, and any decisions or policies that directly impact tourists should be carefully considered in light of the broader challenges faced by the island. Balancing the preservation of Bali's unique cultural and natural heritage with the needs and expectations of tourists is a complex task that requires comprehensive planning and sustainable development strategies.
The Dayaks of Borneo
Dayak, also spelled Dyak and formerly known as Dajak in Dutch, refers to the non-Muslim indigenous peoples of Borneo. Traditionally, they inhabited the areas along the larger rivers of the island. Their languages belong to the Indonesian branch of the Austronesian (Malayo-Polynesian) language family. It's important to note that "Dayak" is a broad term without specific ethnic or tribal significance. In Indonesian Borneo (Kalimantan), it encompasses the indigenous peoples of the island's interior, excluding the predominantly Malay population residing in coastal regions. In Malaysian Borneo (Sarawak and Sabah), the term is used more selectively and is often understood locally to refer specifically to the Iban (formerly known as Sea Dayak) and Bidayuh (formerly known as Land Dayak) peoples. As of the early 21st century, the estimated Dayak population of Borneo was approximately 2.2 million.
While establishing clear boundaries can be challenging, among the various Dayak subgroups, the Kayan (known as Bahau in Kalimantan) and Kenyah are prominent in southeastern Sarawak and eastern Kalimantan, the Ngaju are present in central and southern Kalimantan, the Bidayuh reside in southwestern Sarawak and western Kalimantan, and the Iban inhabit Sarawak.
Historically, the Dayak people practiced highly developed and intricate religious beliefs, which involved reverence for local spirits and animals as omens. Intertribal warfare was prevalent, and headhunting played a significant role. However, since the mid-20th century, Dayak communities have increasingly embraced Anglicanism, Roman Catholicism, and Protestantism. By the early 21st century, Christianity had become the dominant religion among the vast majority of the Dayak population.
Traditionally, these riverine communities resided in longhouses, typically comprising a few hundred members. Descent was traced through both the paternal and maternal lines, and the family served as the fundamental social unit. Children would remain with their parents until marriage. Despite the absence of unity among linguistically and culturally related groups, it was customary for a young man to seek a bride from outside his village and reside in her community upon marriage. However, contemporary Dayak society sees many young men and women leaving home before marriage, often to pursue education or employment in urban areas. Additionally, rural employment opportunities, particularly in timber camps or oil palm plantations, attract many Dayak individuals.
Among the Iban and Bidayuh, formal class distinctions have never existed. In contrast, the Kayan and Kenyah traditionally recognized three societal strata. The upper stratum comprised the family and close relatives of village chiefs, the middle stratum consisted of common villagers, and the lower stratum included war captives and individuals viewed with social disfavour. While older villagers still acknowledge these class divisions, they have lost much of their significance for the younger generation.
Most Dayak villages rely on shifting cultivation of hill rice for subsistence rather than commercial purposes. Fishing and hunting serve as secondary economic activities. Traditional iron tools, such as machetes and spears, retain importance, while blowpipes hold cultural significance as artefacts in the 21st century.
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
Trans rights in Asia
As trans rights activists convene in Geneva for the United Nations' Trans Advocacy Week, and as Pride Month draws to a close, it is disheartening to note that trans individuals in Asia continue to encounter violence, discrimination, and societal exclusion. The Asia Pacific Transgender Network (APTN) estimates that the region is home to approximately 9 million trans people. While certain countries in Asia have taken gradual legislative measures to protect trans individuals in recent years, the lack of effective enforcement, coupled with persistent social stigma, leaves their legal, social, and human rights, as well as their safety, compromised in most locations, as asserted by rights activists. Data compiled by Transgender Europe, a rights organization, suggests that between 2008 and 2022, 384 trans and gender-diverse individuals were murdered in Asia, with more instances likely going unreported. Trans activists across the continent share a common goal of achieving social acceptance, with the recognition of legal gender change being pivotal for acceptance as legal gender recognition for trans people helps combat systemic discrimination and promotes equality under the law. However, certain parts of the region, such as the Philippines, prohibit legal gender change altogether. In other areas, it is only permitted under specific conditions, such as undergoing sex reassignment surgery (SRS) or sterilization or being compelled to divorce existing partners. In their pursuit of gender affirmation, many trans individuals venture to Thailand, which serves as Asia's hub for SRS. Although SRS plays a significant role in affirming gender identity for numerous trans people, it is not without risks. Legal loopholes in Thailand result in many doctors offering these procedures lacking adequate certification.
Southeast Asia Carbon Storage
The largest national oil companies in Southeast Asia, namely Malaysia's Petronas and Indonesia's Pertamina, are increasing their efforts to develop carbon capture and storage (CCS) capabilities. Their top executives emphasize that this initiative aims to both decarbonize their operations and capitalize on emerging opportunities in the CCS industry.
Growing concerns about the potentially catastrophic effects of climate change have prompted countries to set targets for achieving zero net carbon emissions by the mid-21st century. In line with this, Malaysian state-owned energy producer Petronas recently signed an agreement with French oil major Total Energies and Japanese trading house Mitsui to collaborate on a CCS project in Malaysia.
Similarly, Pertamina of Indonesia is actively involved in feasibility studies for seven potential CCS projects, partnering with various foreign entities. These partners include the Japan Organization for Metals and Energy Security, a state-owned resource explorer, and U.S. oil major ExxonMobil. Pertamina's vision is to leverage numerous depleted oil and gas reservoirs spread across the vast Indonesian archipelago, transforming the country into a hub for carbon storage in Asia.
Singapore, Corals to be Planted
Singapore is undertaking its most ambitious reef restoration effort to date, aiming to plant and grow 100,000 corals in its waters starting from 2024. The project aims to enhance biodiversity in the waters and provide coastal protection against waves and storms. Over a span of at least 10 years, young corals, known as coral fragments or baby corals, will be cultivated in nurseries until they reach a size suitable for transplantation onto degraded reefs or new areas capable of supporting coral habitats. Significant portions of Singapore's reef area, approximately 60%, have been lost due to land reclamation activities. The remaining healthy reefs are primarily located in the southern islands, including Pulau Satumu, where Raffles Lighthouse is situated, as well as Pulau Semakau, Pulau Hantu, and the Sisters' Islands. In addition to the reef restoration efforts, one of the Sisters' Islands is scheduled to reopen for public visits in 2024, offering an opportunity for people to explore and appreciate the natural beauty of the area.
Sarawak, a state in Malaysia, is making plans to establish a new airline that will connect the region with destinations such as Kuala Lumpur, Singapore, Hong Kong, Bangkok, and several airports in Indonesia. The local state-owned charter operator, Hornbill Skyways based in Kuching, is expected to operate the fleet of turboprop aircraft for the new airline. In April, the Sarawak state government requested approval to establish a boutique airline that would serve destinations beyond Borneo. The Ministry of Transport, through the Malaysian Aviation Commission, will assess and consider the proposal once a completed application is submitted to the federal government. The potential rebranding of MASwings, an existing airline, following the takeover remains uncertain, as reported by Marketing In Asia. Further details regarding this matter will be provided once the takeover process concludes.
The Meetings Show Asia Pacific
Northstar Travel Group is launching The Meetings Show Asia Pacific, which will take place on 17-18 April 2024 at Sands Expo and Convention Centre, Marina Bay Sands, welcoming global exhibitors and an audience of pre-qualified and hosted buyers. Singapore was chosen as the host destination for the Asia Pacific debut of Northstar Meetings Group’s long-standing ‘The Meetings Show’ brand, which takes place annually in London. The Meetings Show Asia Pacific is supported by Singapore Tourism Board.