Bangkok currently ranks sixth in Agoda.com’s search lists, highlighting a resurgence of interest in international travel.
Vaccine rollouts, talk of Covid-19 passports and alternative hotel quarantine have triggered an increase in international travel searches, said the popular travel platform on Tuesday.
However, Agoda reported Thailand-based searches had zero international destinations in the top 30 this month, indicating Thais are happy to stay at home.
The platform said its search data highlights growing optimism across Asia that international travel will start to return, with Australia, South Korea, Japan and Indonesia witnessing an increase in the number of international destinations in their top 30 searches in March compared to December.
Travellers from these markets are joining China, Taiwan and Singapore in their optimism for the resumption of international travel, said Agoda.
“There are definitely reasons for the travel industry in Asia to start to feel more optimistic,” said Agoda CEO John Brown, citing vaccine rollout and tourism subsidy schemes such as TTogether in Thailand and GoTo Japan.
However, he said the pace of vaccination will vary, with markets such as Singapore fully vaccinated this year and others like Thailand, Japan and Vietnam likely waiting until 2022.
“So these heavily tourism-dependent economies need to consider how to accelerate the return to normality. … alternative state quarantine [ASQ], as launched in Thailand and Hong Kong, might prove to be a sensible solution in line with a vaccine programme.”
Agoda said it had collaborated with Thailand’s Public Health Ministry to allow Thai nationals and residents to choose their preferred ASQ accommodation direct on the travel platform. Agoda’s ASQ platform would offer the same flexibility to international tourists when Thailand opening its borders this July, the company said.
“With more markets exploring travel corridors [or “bubbles”], alternative state quarantine accommodation provides a solution to help resume international travel by enabling travellers to choose a quarantine property that best suits their needs,” said Brown.
The Greek physician and occasional philosopher Hippocrates, known as the ‘Father of Medicine’ put it best: “Nature itself is the best physician”
Although he wrote these words some 2,400 years ago, they have arguably never been truer than today. Even without a global pandemic, our fast-paced urban lives often disconnect us from the planet we inhabit.
But as we gradually recover from Covid, we can take the time to reconnect with nature – and with it find a sense of purpose and peace, benefitting both the body and mind.
A growing body of evidence suggests that spending time outdoors can reduce stress and anxiety, as well as lower blood pressure and heart rate.
So whether it’s swimming waters teeming with life or hiking peaks, the only question is which of these brilliant outdoor escapes to choose to help you re-set and relax like never before.
Snorkel in the Andaman Sea’s crystal-clear waters
The tropical paradise of Krabi in Thailand is home to Phulay Bay, a Ritz-Carlton Reserve resort which lets you discover Hong Island, Paradise Island and Pak Bia Island by traditional longtail boat. This island-hopping excursion to visit some of the Andaman Sea’s best-kept secrets provides secluded havens for swimming in crystal-clear lagoons that teem with wildlife. Back at the Phulay Bay resort, guests can relax further in the stunning natural beauty of Krabi that surrounds them, be that exploring the surrounding virgin rainforests, glistening beaches and majestic waterfalls where the only timepiece you’ll need is the sun.
When you stay at Vana Belle, a Luxury Collection Resort, Koh Samui, you’ll enjoy a complimentary round-trip boat excursion to Koh Madsum, better known as Pig Island. The tiny spot takes its name from the pigs that roam freely on the sand and in the jungled clad interior. It’s an idyllic environment in which to enjoy the perfect white sand beach, bathe in the clear blue ocean and marvel at the underwater world. The resort’s convenient location also makes it the perfect base to explore Koh Samui’s surprising and diverse landscapes and seascapes.
Hiking the trails of Taiwan
Taiwan’s mountainous hiking trails continue to draw walkers from around the world, visitors seeking the surprising and stunning walking routes which criss-cross the island. The capital is a fast-paced and buzzy urban metropolis, where W Taipei in hip Xinyi – the Manhattan of Taipei –provides a sanctuary of serenity and energy. But the city is also brilliantly connected to let you escape quickly to the hills. Located in the picturesque Yangmingshan National Park, Mt. Qixing, literally “Seven Star Mountain,” is the highest point in Taipei and offers outstanding views at 1,120m above sea level.
Close to the capital sits another spot enveloped in magnificent nature, Taoyuan, home to The Westin Tashee Resort, Taoyuan. Located in the forested hills, it’s perfect for ‘forest bathing’ as you immerse yourself in nature, but Taoyuan’s mountain range comes calling. Our choice would be the Full Moon National Forest Recreation Area. There, in the upper reaches of the Big Leopard Creek in the Three Gorges, on a tributary called the Gnat Creek, there is a beautiful world with stunning waterfalls and red maples to truly put the mind and soul at rest.
Hiking Hong Kong’s Trails
As a densely populated city with literally thousands of skyscrapers, it’s easy to forget that Hong Kong is also a natural wonderland, with countless trails, beaches, mountains and parks to keep even the most experienced hiker busy for a lifetime. The newly-opened Sheraton Hong Kong Tung Chung Hotel, situated in picturesque Tung Chung on Lantau Island, could not be better positioned to let you explore. The iconic Ngong Ping trail, Big Buddha and the challenging – but truly breathtaking – Sunset Peak are all right on your doorstep.
Over on the south side of Hong Kong Island, Hong Kong Ocean Park Marriott Hotel is another green urban retreat from the city center which reinforces the stunning diversity of the city’s landscapes. Connecting with nature doesn’t get easier as beautiful Deep Water Bay and Repulse Bay are minutes away, while picture-perfect hiking and jogging trails lead through some of Hong Kong’s finest coastlines and country parks. Don’t miss the splendid coastal views of Sham Wan, Ap Lei Chau and Lamma Island, all while breathing in the fresh country air.
Exploring Japan’s mountain ranges
A magnificent destination for those seeking time in nature, Japan dazzles both first time and regular visitors alike with its panoramas, hot springs, coastlines, forests and mountains. Hidden in Japan’s northern Kanto region and set along scenic Lake Chuzenji, The Ritz-Carlton, Nikko offers a pristine haven where nature is revered. Your accommodations overlook Lake Chuzenji or Mount Nantai, while there are endless opportunities to connect with the natural world. The surrounding waterfalls, lakes, wetlands, hot springs and plateaus of Okunikko were shaped by long-ago eruptions of Mount Nantai, a revered landmark that rises high above you. Dynamic beauty awaits explorers, be they hikers, cyclists or paddlers.
The Ritz-Carlton, Okinawa offers the magical island’s plethora of natural escapes and activities. Traces of the Ryukyu Kingdom era remain in the form of nine World Heritage Sites while beaches offer snorkeling, scuba diving and fishing. Accompanied excursions include a 30km Cycle Tour of Cape Manza with a Hotel Guide, as you travel from hotel to a scenic spot known as “Manzamo” or ‘elephant nose!’. Alternatively, for adrenaline on water join their Mangrove Kayaking tour on the Hija River to see completely untouched wilderness at its very finest, or discover the remarkable preserved Yanbaru forest.
Fairfield by Marriott Michi-no-Eki offers multiple locations from which to explore untouched wilderness, whatever your preferred mode of transport. The newly-opened Fairfield by Marriott Mie Odai, southeast of the historic city of Nara, lets guests immerse themselves in nature by swimming in the crystal-clear waters of Miya River or spending the day fishing for ayu sweetfish in the river. For those who prefer mountains, the hotel is near some of the most famous hiking trails in Japan, including Osugidani and Mount Somon, while the breathtaking Nanatsugama Falls are also close by.
Bali’s waterfalls and rice terraces
Located in Nusa Dua, The Ritz-Carlton, Bali is set on 12.7 hectares of expansive and beautifully manicured beach-front and cliff-top land. This expansive property is already a natural wonder in its own right, thanks to unobstructed views of the Indian Ocean and its dramatic location along the sweeping coastline. The luxury resort reinforces The Ritz-Carlton’s commitment to inspiring life’s most meaningful journeys, including in Nusa Dua’s lush volcanic mountains and verdant rice paddies. These experiences highlight and reinforce the healing power of nature – but guests are also encouraged to discover why Bali is a destination where people seek peace and quiet in every sense of life.
Finally, to the magical Indonesian island of Bali, renowned as one of the most spiritual destinations anywhere, as well as an island of extraordinary natural diversity. The Westin Resort & Spa Ubud, Bali sits in the historical royal capital, nestled in stunning tropical terraces
lush green hillside and picturesque rice paddle fields. As if that wasn’t already enough, then abundant natural beauty can also be seen at Ubud Monkey Forest and Campuhan Ridge Walk, a free and easy nature trek which takes you through temples, bridges, shrines and rice paddies. Other easily accessible outdoor adventures include mountain biking, rafting and ecotours.
In a bid to revive tourism in Phuket, resort group Laguna Phuket is set to kick-off a 19-day festival offering a series of exciting events that will showcase the island’s beauty and preparedness.
Running from March 31 to April 18, the “Laguna Phuket Revive 555 Festival” will include sports, music, cultural and community events over three weekends, including the Songkran weekend.
Headline artists Kong Saharat, Da Endorphine, Yes’sir Days, Pop Pongkool, LABANOON, Golf F Hero, Thaitanium, Ice Saranyu and Instinct taking part.
Hoping to boost Phuket’s economy and spur domestic tourism, the festival offers something for everyone. And there has never been a better time to visit the island – the Andaman Sea and beaches are pristine, the air clean, and people welcoming as ever.
“Phuket is ready to welcome tourists from all regions of Thailand,” said Phuket’s deputy governor Pichet Panapong. “The island’s natural beauty has been revived again. The beachfront Laguna Phuket is perfect for this festival – it is spacious and festival goers can enjoy the activities and facilities in a safe environment.”
“A lot of passion went into planning this festival,” said Ravi Chandran, the resort’s managing director. “While a Laguna Phuket initiative, the festival is a true collaboration of Phuket people and organisations. Now is the perfect time to visit and through this series of events we hope to spark interest in Phuket, whether you have visited before or not, and aim to highlight that Phuket is a welcoming island open to everyone.”
Laguna’s Revive 555 Festival official poster
Held at Xana Beach Club, the inaugural event is the Laguna Phuket Thailand Stand Up Paddleboard (SUP) Championship 2021 which runs until April 4. The Laguna Phuket Soundwave presented by Works.com, on April 3 and 4 at Laguna Grove, showcases world-class entertainment including famous Thai artists, while the Angel Market on the grounds of Cassia Phuket promotes local arts and crafts, and food.
Phuket province will host Roy Rim Lay from April 10 to 12 at Laguna Grove. The event gives guests the chance to sample Phuket’s famous, delicious local cuisine and enjoy on-site live entertainment. For active travellers, Xana Beach Club will host a beach run on April 11, ending the day with live entertainment and refreshments as the sun sets over Bang Tao Bay.
The Songkran holiday will be devoted to celebrating the LGBTQ+ community with the four-day Laguna Phuket Pride 2021 kicking off on April 12. The pride parade coincides with Laguna Phuket Sustainability Day and Night Community Activity – two events linked to the heart of Laguna Phuket’s corporate social responsibility endeavors. Golf-lovers can take part in a Laguna Golf Phuket tournament on April 14.
The final weekend of the festival on April 17-18, is sure to draw the trendiest of crowds. Cassia Phuket will host Laguna Phuket’s first-ever Surf Skate event against the backdrop of live music and entertainment in the form of Laguna Phuket Soundwave presented by Works.com.
The fast-growing sport has become a Phuket favourite in recent months, and festivalgoers are sure to enjoy the cool moves of the skaters. Concerts also return to Laguna Grove that weekend for an epic finale to the 19-day festival.
“We are confident that these collaborative events between the island and Laguna Phuket will boost domestic tourism and showcase Phuket for the unique and inclusive holiday destination that it truly is. Measures have been put in place to ensure that each event venue strictly adheres to high safety and well-being standards, ensuring that the Laguna Phuket Revive 555 Festival is not only a fun, but also safe event, for everyone,” Chandran added.
Each Laguna Phuket hotel will arrange exclusive fringe activities to complement the festival. Guests of Angsana Laguna Phuket, Banyan Tree Phuket, Cassia Phuket, Dusit Thani Laguna Phuket and Saii Laguna Phuket will have direct access to all events via Laguna Phuket’s on-site shuttle services.
Airbnb has jumped on the bandwagon for International Women’s Day (March 8) by pointing out that 55 per cent of its hosts in Thailand are female. Chiang Mai is home to the highest proportion of women hosts in Thailand (60 per cent) – 9th in Airbnb’s rankings of global cities with the highest number of female hosts.
“In Thailand, our women Airbnb hosts are breaking down barriers and blazing new trails. They recognise Airbnb as a valuable platform that provides them with the opportunity to earn extra income. They see Airbnb as a way for them to become financially independent and a way to support their local communities and neighbourhoods,” said Amanpreet Bajaj, Airbnb general manager for India, Southeast Asia, Hong Kong and Taiwan.
To celebrate International Women’s Day in Thailand, Airbnb is launching two new experiences hosted by leading women chefs – Chef Gai (Thananya Kaikaew), owner of dessert cafe Brioche from heaven, and Chef Nooror (Nooror Somany Steppe), owner of Blue Elephant restaurant.
Thananya KaikaewNooror Somany Steppe
Next Saturday (March 13), guests will enjoy a tour of Chef Gai’s cafe while learning the art of making the perfect brioche.
Meanwhile, Chef Nooror will launch the Airbnb “Cooking Experience with Blue Elephant” on March 11, revealing the secrets of her signature lamb massaman curry.