By Mandeep S Lambaand Dipti Mohan
COVID-19 is an inflection point for medical tourism in India. Initiatives taken by the government in the last one year, coupled with the country's reputation of being one of the most affordable medical tourism destinations globally, will go a long way in making India a global medical tourism hub going forward.
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On 20 April 2021, Singapore-based Far East Hospitality Management (“Far East”) has announced its strategic partnership with Indonesia-based ARTOTEL Group (“ARTOTEL”), a boutique hospitality and lifestyle group, to collaborate on operations, branding, and training, as well as support business growth across markets. The move is part of Far East’s larger plan to increase its footprint within the region. Arthur Kiong, Chief Executive Officer of Far East Hospitality Management mentioned that he expects to see strong synergies for both Singapore and Indonesia as both are key inbound markets for their respective tourism sectors. Under the Strategic Alliance agreement, both Far East and ARTOTEL will be represented as an "Affiliate Brand" in their ecosystem and distribution channels. ARTOTEL will be able to capitalise on this opportunity to enhance its presence in Indonesia and obtain meaningful market share while Far East will be able to tap on ARTOTEL’s large network in the market. Apart from the Indonesia market, Far East is also expanding its presence in Japan and Singapore. Slated to open in June 2021, the 277-key Far East Village Hotel Yokohama follows the 306-key Far East Village Hotel Ariake that opened in July 2020. In the second half of 2021, Far East will also open the 191-key Oasia Resort Sentosa, its fourth property on Sentosa island that is managed and operated internally.
On 15 April 2021, UK-based IHG Hotels & Resorts (“IHG”) has announced that a conversion agreement has been signed with Japan-based Iwate Hotel & Resort Co., Ltd. The agreement consists of the opening or refurbishment of three hotels in the Appi region of Japan, where these hotels will be inducted into the IHG brand by December 2021. The three hotels will cater to the luxury, upscale and midscale segments, and feature 18 restaurants and bars, more than 3,000-square-metres of meeting and conference space, several retail outlets, ten health and recreation venues, including a 2,000-square-metres onsen facility. IHG’s Vice-President of Development (Japan, Australasia & Pacific), Abhijay Sandilya, stated that IHG is confident the new hotels would be able to cater to every type of traveller in the Appi Region and foresees a strong domestic and international demand. With more than 1,000 rooms joining the IHG Japan portfolio, this marks the biggest deal that IHG undertook in Japan since its joint venture with ANA in 2006, which included the ANA InterContinental, ANA Crowne Plaza, and ANA Holiday Inn Brands.
On 7 April 2021, the Public Works and Housing Minister of Indonesia, Basuki Hadimuljono, has announced that the government plans to spend IDR4.01 trillion (USD275.15 million) in 2021 on 108 basic infrastructure projects in five prioritised tourist destinations to entice visits. The projects are related to roads, raw and clean water supply, waste management, sanitation, residential improvements and more. The “five new Balis”, are Lake Toba in North Sumatra, Borobudur in Central Java, Labuan Bajo in East Nusa Tenggara, Mandalika in West Nusa Tenggara and Likupang in North Sulawesi. The funds were divided into IDR1.07 trillion for 21 infrastructure projects in Lake Toba, approximately IDR900 billion for 19 projects in Borobudur, IDR950 billion for 17 projects in Mandalika, IDR630 billion for 26 projects in Labuan Bajo and IDR480 billion for 25 projects in Likupang. According to Tourism and Creative Economy Minister, Sandiaga Uno, the government hopes that the five new destinations will raise the contribution of tourism and the creative economy to 12% of the gross domestic product (“GDP”) within ten years, up from 7.3% presently. The government also expects the five destinations, along with Bali itself, to spur domestic travel and thereby help Indonesia’s tourist industry to recover in 2021.
On 7 April 2021, Tourism Australia launched their new AUD12 million media creation program. Coined as the National Experience Content Initiative, this program seeks to aid tourism businesses to better market their offerings and experiences in order to drive visitations and tourism recovery. Slated to begin in June 2022, Tourism Australia would work closely with State and Territory Tourism Organisations (“STOs”) and various Regional Tourism Organisations (“RTOs”). The involved parties would evaluate and select the best tourism experiences for this initiative. The selected businesses must encompass Tourism Australia’s brand pillars of natural beauty, food and drink, wildlife and culture. In addition, they must demonstrate their commitment to sustainability. The initiative is forecasted to support up to 1,800 tourism experiences across 57 regions of Australia, where high quality imagery and videos would showcase their offerings and experiences. Tourism Australia stated that this program was created in response to the COVID-19 pandemic, where many tourism businesses significantly reduced their marketing budgets and further emphasised the importance of quality visual imagery in the consumer’s research, planning and booking of travel.