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HomeColumnsInterviewsJean Paul Chantraine, CEO Asia-Groupe de l’Asie – “Travellers’ knowledge through internet makes our job more complicated”

Jean Paul Chantraine, CEO Asia-Groupe de l’Asie – “Travellers’ knowledge through internet makes our job more complicated”

French veteran in Asian tourism Jean Paul Chantraine, head of the tour operator Asia- France leading tour operator to Asia with a turnover of € 61 million in 2012- highlights for TDN Asia the expected evolution of the demand from France as well as emerging destinations in Asia.

How did Asia perform in 2012 and how is 2013 looking?

Jean Paul Chantraine – I must confess that we are perfoming well as the Asian continent generally popular for French travellers. We recorded a growth of 8% of our turnover in 2012 and expect this year a further growth of 5%. In 2014, I even anticipate an acceleration of that growth with possibly our turnover being up by 10% to 15%. This success is certainly due to the positioning of Asia as a brand. According to a survey from the Huftington Post, we are among the 10 favourite travel agencies in France and we have constantly been offering a very coherent model with a brand easy to understand…

How far do you feel that the Asian continent is affected by the French recession?

J.P.C. – Asia has been relatively immune from the French recession. I suppose that among long-haul destinations, the continent is still generating dreams with a strong hint of exotism. By then the continent remains popular as it has all the ingredients which make a destination today successful: it is easily accessible with literally hundred of airlines serving cities such as Bangkok, Hong Kong or Singapore; it is also easy to travel domestically there; travellers can find any category of hotels at relatively reasonable costs; and finally service remains of high quality as locals carry this deep sense of service as well as this natural ability of welcoming foreign travellers. All of this explains why Asia records year after some of the world’s highest tourism growth. The only downside to all these positive points is that Asia is exposed more than Europe to unpredictable events –natural or political. But it generally bounces back quickly…

What did deeply change over the last decade in the expectations of travellers coming to Asia? How do you adapt yourself to new trends in tourism?

J.P.C. – Internet has been of course the biggest revolution for our industry as it not only made borders and distances vanishing but also helped travellers to become more aware of all the offers on the market. Travellers are then turning increasingly sophisticated and that forces us to become even better. Our clients now request often little known destinations. We see it for example for China or Indonesia where we increasingly treat demand for travelling out of the well-established destinations. Travellers’ knowledge makes our job more complicated: It requests then from us to be even more specialized and able to offer a complete tailor-made product to our clients.

What are the favourite destinations among French travelling to Asia? Are they any new emerging destination?

J.P.C. – The international political environment is playing in favour of Asia for the time being as those countries remain generally more stable than in other parts of the world. Among the favourite destinations, I must say that Thailand continues to grow in a remarkable way. This is a strong comeback compared to a few years back. The country remains a favourite among first-time travellers to Asia as it is an easy destination to assess, bringing a true exotic experience and also still reasonably priced. India remains as the land of great travels. It indeed incarnates Asian exotism at its best! Indochina remains also a hit among French due to our common history.
Among the new emerging destinations, I observe generally a demand for second-tier destinations. Among emerging new travel destinations, I see an increased demand for Sumatra in Indonesia, Laos – I expect it to be one of the fastest growing destinations of the coming years- but also a return of the Philippines, especially as direct air flights are due to come back as well as good growth for Malaysia. In the longer term, I think that Central Asia will bear all its promises. Travel to Uzbekistan or Mongolia is today still in its infancy but I expect it to take off.

Which are the most active Asian countries for promotion in Europe?  

J.P.C. – I must admit that the growth of regional travel markets within Asia has been detrimental to the quality of promotion towards Europe. I generally feel that Asia presence in terms of promotion weakened in recent years. This is a shame as European travellers still spend more money per capita than their Asian counterparts. I must however say that Thailand, Malaysia and Australia continue to be extremely active in France. But other countries are not that strong. This is why we do organize ourselves a roadshow to present destinations to our trade partners. During six months, 40 companies from Asia go all around France to meet travel agents and show them their production.   We call this event “Asia in your town”.

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Luc Citrinot a French national is a freelance journalist and consultant in tourism and air transport with over 20 years experience. Based in Paris and Bangkok, he works for various travel and air transport trade publications in Europe and Asia.