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Khiri Travel at 25: Founder Willem Niemeijer shares 5 x 5 Truths and Predictions on tourism

Khiri Travel celebrated 25 years in business in 2018. Looking back on a quarter century in travel in Asia, Khiri Travel founder, Willem Niemeijer, shares 5 x 5 insights that inform his travel industry decision making in 2018 and plans for 2019 and beyond:

By The Phuket News

Saturday 22 December 2018, 10:14AM

Khiri Travel Founder Willem Niemeijer.

Khiri Travel Founder Willem Niemeijer.

5 Truths

1. When you choose a career in travel, don’t make money your motivation. There are other industries out there where you can make more, and easier money. Work in the travel industry to serve guests and local communities alike, while preserving the environment. It is the only sustainable way forward for our industry.

2. Environmental certification (such as Travelife) for a DMC is not only – morally – the right thing to do, it pays dividends for companies, such as Khiri, who are committed to the triple bottom line of people, planet and profit.

3. People are king. Finding, hiring and retaining the right personnel can make or break a company. It’s the biggest challenge out there.

4. Email and instant messaging are great business tools, but do not replace face-to-face contact. Do take time and effort to see your friends, business relations, suppliers and clients as often as you can.

5. Good travel is defined by human connection more than place. You may discover respect for a community. Or a one to one connection. Or both. Either way, people make a destination.

5 Trends

1. China will continue to transform not just the travel industry in Asia and the world, but the global economy and culture. India will continue where China leaves off. The West better get used to it.

2. The rise in independent travel booking with people creating their own holidays using the internet will become more pronounced. In an era when LCCs establish new destinations, and more businesses put their product offers online, the challenge will be in navigating the increasing density of online offers.

3. As the supply of new tourists from major markets continues to flow to destinations where overtourism already is a problem – or rapidly is becoming one – travellers from mature markets will increasingly seek new destinations away from crowds.

4. Single-use plastics will disappear from the travel industry. For guests from markets such as the USA and Western Europe this is already the norm. They expect this to be followed by the places they visit on their holidays. Private companies and discerning consumers will take the lead. Government policies will catch up later.

5. In a time of mergers of the travel giants, smart investments in the travel industry will give rise to a slew of new niche specialists. This will continue to be more pronounced in the hospitality and the tour operating segments. There is power in agility and specialisation.

5 Wishes

1. For governments to listen to residents more. And use money to improve tourism dispersal to areas where tourism income would make a difference. Tourism shouldn’t be measured in arrival statistics.

2. For fewer or no visas – or at least make applications easy online affairs.

3. In mainland Southeast Asia, make overland travel by car easier for locals. Use Europe as an example. Create Asean-wide car insurance and unlock potential.

4. For the tourism industry to do more than pay lip service to sustainability; to actively contribute to environmental conservation while helping local communities that host tourism.

5. For political stability in Asia. It’s a region where many countries have a fractious relationship with democracy. Tourism is quickly derailed when political crises occur.

5 New Destinations

1. Nan – Northern Thailand. This province is home to many amazing national parks and is a cultural hub. Access to Luang Prabang in Laos will help it secure a firm place on the map of discerning travellers.

2. Flores – the gateway to Komodo will develop further as a wonderful new destination in Indonesia.

3. Cambodian Islands – like Koh Rong Samloem and Koh Rong will feature more in programs, making Cambodia a stand-alone destination. Super luxury resort brand Song Saa will be joined by Six Senses soon. Other big brands will follow.

4. Mergui Archipelago – exciting new exclusive resorts in the remote Southern part of Myanmar are already in the final stages of development. Accessibility from Southern Thailand offers exciting possibilities.

5. Kumana National Park in Sri Lanka. It’s close to Yala National Park but receives much fewer visitors and is better for wildlife safaris.

5 Predictions

1. Augmented Reality will be a breakthrough technology in travel. The potential to add meaningful value to museums, national parks, restaurants, and travel trade shows will be mind boggling.

2. In an increasing age of overtourism and commodification of travel, the industry will have to redouble its efforts through responsible initiatives to protect its reputation.

3. Financial crashes, currency volatility, oil price swings, natural disasters, terrorism, and outbreaks of disease will all continue to wreak occasional short-term havoc on tourism. However, recovery times will be faster.

4. More realism in travel advertising will be mandatory – i.e. no more empty paradise beaches when the reality is otherwise. Institutions like the EU will increasingly define advertising parameters – and punish transgressors who mislead or fall short on promises.

5. Space Tourism will finally become reality and will rapidly become more accessible, while remaining the ultimate bucket list item for many.



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