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  • Writer's pictureRosanna Neophytou

Southeast Asia based DMC set to kickstart 2021 with microadventures

Updated: May 20, 2021

ASIA DMC were one of the first companies to sign up to the Adventure Travel Networking Marketplace due to take place in February 2021. We spoke with Guilhem Cavaillé who heads both the production and business development departments within the company. He has been facilitating the development and growth of their partners’ sales volumes in Southeast Asia through smart and innovative products and sales strategies.

He kindly agreed to talk to us about what is happening on the ground in Southeast Asia on the back of Covid-19 and the upcoming opportunities for welcoming tourists back to the region including the importance of microadventures.

1. What do ASIA DMC do?

ASIA DMC is a B2B-only destination management company. The company is headquartered in Vietnam with offices in Laos, Cambodia, Myanmar and Thailand. We have been pioneering our destinations and delivering positive travel experiences to guests from all over the world for the past 24 years. Our adventure department specialises in operating tours in Vietnam, Laos and Cambodia mainly. Our products include adventures of various types and levels, active challenges, charity programs and school trips in remote areas. Cycling, hiking and kayaking tours, but also urban adventures taking people off the usual routes straight to the heart of the destinations and their people.

2. What's happening on the ground in Southeast Asia, are there any tourists there?

Most of the Southeast Asian countries are still keeping their borders totally closed to tourists’ arrivals with no clear indication of when and how they will reopen again. Cambodia is officially welcoming tourists into the country but with a mandatory cash deposit upon entry and a very limited number of flights and flying routes allowing access. During summer, the domestic travel market helped the sector to cope with the crisis. Thanks to a very good sanitary situation and well implemented safety protocols at airports and in hotels, cruises and resorts, people felt safe to travel and could enjoy extremely good offers from all the industry players. Since September, people keep traveling during weekends, going for a family cruise to Halong Bay for example, or traveling to the mountain to experience the rice harvesting season.

3. How are the local people managing to survive?

Economically, this is very hard for tour operators, hotels, transportation companies, guides but also for all the indirect beneficiaries of the tourism and hospitality industry. A little town like Hoi An for example, where most locals used to live from tourism through a long list of diverse activities such as renting bicycles, rowing boats, working in restaurants or selling vegetables to these same restaurants, they all found themselves unemployed and the city is facing an unprecedented social crisis. But the people of Southeast Asia are resilient and resourceful. A lot of them found temporary jobs and are managing their way through the crisis. Some people could keep their jobs part-time and are now thinking of new ways to move the travel industry forward. We still see some positive signs with the opening of new luxury hotels and services during this hard time. The building of a Four Seasons hotel in Hanoi is continuing on, Zannier Hotels and Fusion Hotels added new properties on the Vietnamese coast and Kampot Province (one of our preferred regions for adventure in Cambodia) also saw the opening of a new beautiful boutique resort.

4. What country will most likely open up first and who's next etc.

Cambodia is technically opened but they will have to ease the restrictions and get the airlines to fly in again to really see a return of travellers. Vietnam will probably lead the way, opening up to some countries first and then expanding to other regions of the world step by step. We anticipate short-haul destinations to be allowed in first. Korea, Japan, Taiwan… as travellers from these destinations are coming mostly for short staycations. They do not travel much across the countries and thus the related contamination risk is limited and much easier to control. The opening to countries of Europe and Australia might come next, hopefully around the first quarter of 2021.

5. What are the overall opportunities for adventure travel in Southeast Asia?

This crisis is offering us the opportunity to develop something that we already started to promote at ASIA DMC and that is clearly the trend in Europe: microadventures.

Commuting less and exploring fewer destinations but more in depth and with a more experiential focus. We developed a range of cycling tours taking this direction. Traditionally in our region, adventure tour operators promote cycling tours that always cover huge distances and thus impose a very fast travel pace and include a considerable amount of motorised transfers every day. Our approach is to offer cycling adventures that minimise the time spent in vehicles for travellers to go beyond just cycling and to indulge some privileged time immersing with the locals in their fascinating cultural and natural environments. This crisis has surely made people even more aware of the importance of keeping a healthy lifestyle. Adventure will prevail for the coming years, maybe in its softest forms sometimes but active holidays with plenty of time outdoors is what people will seek. This will be the age of microadventures and it will help some more remote regions to appear on the travel map for the benefits of both the hosting communities and the travellers.

6. What's new for 2021/22 with ASIA DMC - what will you be bringing to the marketplace?

In the coming years, we will keep innovating with more microadventures options in less travelled regions. Some remote mountainous areas in North and Central Vietnam offer incredible grounds for these multi-days adventures; as well as Kampot region in Cambodia or the Bolovens in Laos.

In line with these, we also have developed some longer or shorter engine-free programs that can be part of a tour. Being able to go engine-free, even if just for a few days, is something extraordinary; not only for the sake of our planet but also for the different and positive experience it brings to people while they travel. They genuinely go at the pace of the country. They take the time to meet people, to never miss a chance to stop and contemplate. They go in harmony with the destination and truly bond with it. We really want to help tour operators venturing away from the comfort and security of their traditional programs to truly innovate, help the development of new adventure concepts and set the experience itself back at the heart of their production.

Finally, cities and main tourist spots such as the Angkor temples are our showpiece; this is where we believe things can really change and where operators have the biggest chance to differentiate themselves. So we have re-engineered our approach to city tours and have developed new concepts such as the urban hikes. The idea is to take people to some hidden districts and to unveil cultural parts of the city they would have never seen otherwise. Again this is very exciting but needs a promotion and marketing effort from the trade for the travellers to understand the different concepts and travel differently.

To speak further with Guilhem and to start planning your company's Asia product, make sure you register for the virtual marketplace on Thursday 4th February 2021.

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