“It’s time to travel again”: Optimism, camaraderie at Asia Now event
Emily Chan, marketing specialist for the Korean Tourism Organization (all photos courtesy Jean Sorensen)

“It’s time to travel again”: Optimism, camaraderie at Asia Now event  

VANCOUVER — A spirit of post-COVID optimism prevailed at the Asia Now event held Sept. 16 at Vancouver’s Shangri-la Hotel as travel advisors packed the room to hear about four key Asian destinations – Taiwan, Korea, Singapore and the Philippines.

“It is time to travel again,” said Maria Lu, manager of Asian sales for Air Canada, an event sponsor along with the four tourism boards.

Lu said Air Canada kept its links to the Asian countries strong and noted that the airline built relations with other carriers in the region to provide extensive coverage from two key Canadian cities, Toronto and Vancouver, the West Coast gateway to Asia.

Lu echoed what many of the attending agents were saying – that it has been a tough haul through the pandemic but agents see a market return occurring and a greater willingness among clients to travel again.

A common note from all four of the tourism boards in attendance was that COVID travel restrictions and quarantine requirements were easing for vaccinated inbound visitors, making it easier to enter and exit countries. They also noted that their destinations provide good value against the strong Canadian dollar.

Toronto-based Randy Snape, assistant director of the Korea Tourism Office (KTO), told agents that the Canadian dollar as of Sept. 8 was equal to 1,058 KRW, the official currency of South Korea. “That is a lot of bang for your buck,” he said. Agents should consider adding Seoul as a stopover for those travelling to other Asian points, he added.

KTO, present at the mini-tradeshow that accompanied the presentations and dinner at the Sept. 16 event, offered agents the Visit Korea Official Travel Guide as well as information about UNESCO sites. Contact Snape at randy@knto.ca  for more details.

Soleil P. Tropicales, tourism attaché for the Philippines, told agents that the Philippines can offer a range of adventure and diving activities. The Canadian dollar also goes a long way, she added. “One dollar Canadian will buy a beer,” she said. While Tropicales is based in San Francisco, she attended the event with Vancouver-based Lyra E. Ocampo, consulate general for the Philippines.

James Chi, marketing specialist for the Taiwan Tourism Bureau and based in Vancouver, told agents that Taiwan is one of the safest countries in the world. “Even at night,” he said, adding that it is also culturally diverse; it is recognized as a Muslim-friendly country and was the first Asian country to recognize same sex marriages.

Whether for a day-tour or a week-long stay, there are a range of tours that can be arranged for clients in Taiwan, said Chi, including cycling which is popular with round-the-island tours. Contact Chi at ttbsf.yvr@gmail.com.

Jayne Yeo, representing the Singapore Tourism Board out of the San Francisco office, said Singapore has never been easier to travel to and from than now, as it is open to vaccinated and non-vaccinated and has no quarantine restrictions.

As well, she said, Singapore serves as a jumping off point to visit a number of surrounding countries such as Vietnam, the Philippines, and Indonesia and “most are quarantine free.”  Gregory Yap from the San Francisco office also attended representing Singapore.  Yeo can be reached at jayne_yeo@stb.gov.sg.

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