With international travel at its lowest point in seven years, prospective travelers are oft surprised to learn that hip travel agencies are recommending this recessionary period as the best time for long-haul travel to Asia.
With countries such as China and the Philippines leading the pack, these once-in-a-lifetime journeys are becoming extremely value oriented in order to compete with short-haul destinations for North American visitors.
“While airfare to Asia is still generally expensive due to fuel costs, one can save quite a bit when purchasing in conjunction with a full vacation package as there is greater room for discounting with hotels and land activities,” said Evan Chan, Managing Director for Los Angeles-based Ritz Tours www.ritztours.com, which offers air-inclusive packages to China starting at $1,251 per person, including fuel surcharges and travel protection.
First time visitors may want to opt for the Ritz Tours’ China Special, incorporating Beijing (pictured right) and Shanghai from $1,479 per person with air and travel protection.
For a unique treat for second time visitors, Ritz Tours offers a six-night Yunnan program to scenic Southeastern China – including mystical Jade Dragon Mountain and the Stone Forest of Kunming – from $1,432 with air and travel protection.
Ritz Tours also offers affordably priced packages to most of Asia, including Thailand, which is currently available from $1,043 per person, “roughly the cost of airfare alone if booked separately,” noted Chan.
Victoria Cruises ; www.victoriacruises.com), the pre-eminent cruise line with the largest fleet of five-star vessels on China’s Yangtze River, has announced a 30% discount on 2009 sailings across the board for direct bookings on cruises through Aug 31.
“We’ve felt the pinch along with everyone else, however, we’ve actually been able to increase market share thanks to our reputation as the undisputed leader on the Yangtze and our ability to negotiate advantageous relationships with virtually all major tour operators,” said Larry Greenman, Manager of Public Relations and Customer Service for Victoria Cruises.
The cruise line is expanding its five-star fleet on Sept. 6, 2009 with the debut of the Victoria Jenna, the cruise line’s most luxurious vessel to-date. With a passenger capacity of 378 – including 35 junior suites, three deluxe suites and two Shangri-La Suites (pictured right) – the Victoria Jenna be will the largest, most technologically advanced river cruise ship in the world.
“With the completion of the Victoria Jenna, we will have daily departures in each direction of our popular ‘Three Gorges Highlights’ program, reflecting our optimism about future business,” noted Greenman.
Victoria Cruises is the exclusive provider of Yangtze River travel experiences for Ritz Tours, as well as other well known tour operators including Gate 1 Travel ( 800-682-3333 ; www.gate1travel.com), General Tours World Traveler ( 80… ; www.generaltours.com), Globus/Avalon Waterways, ( 877… ; www.avalonwaterways.com), Isram’s Orient Flexi-Pax Tours ( 800-54… ; www.orientflexipax.com), Pacific Delight Tours ( 800-… ; www.pacificdelighttours.com), Tauck ( 800-46… ; www.tauck.com), Trafalgar ( 86… ; www.trafalgar.com), Travcoa ( 800-99… ; www.travcoa.com) and Uniworld River Cruises ( 800-… ; www.uniworld.com).
The Philippines – an archipelago of 7,107 tropical islands traditionally seen as the best value in Asia under normal conditions – has become an even greater deal in recent months as a growth spurt in the destination’s hotel sector has led to increased competition.
“While our rate of growth has slowed in the current economy, tourism in the Philippines is actually doing quite well as our established reputation for value is attracting many visitors from markets in the U.S. and Canada as well as our neighbors in China, Korea and Japan,” said Emma Ruth Yulo, Director of The Philippine Department of Tourism – New York.
Philippine specialists such as New York-based Pacific Asia Leisure ( 212-661-3270 ; www.pacificasialeisure.com) is offering seven nights in Manila for as low as $1,635 per person with air. The package includes tours of the walled Spanish Colonial city of Intramuros and the World War II ruins at Corregidor, as well as Tagaytay, known for picturesque Taal Volcano (pictured right).
New York-based Pacific Holidays ( 80… ; www.pacificholidaysinc.com) has a six-night package that combines Manila with the Philippines’ oldest city, Cebu, for $1,535 per person including air. Travelers can expand their vacation to include the paradisiacal island of Boracay – known equally for its pristine white sand beach and its nightly party scene – from an additional $260 per person.
For high-end travel, Orient Flexi-Pax Tours can custom design vacations with palatial accommodations fit for royalty at the cost of three- or four-star hotels in other destinations. The New York-based tour operator is currently promoting an eight-night package to Manila, Cebu and Boracay.
The program includes a one-day excursion to Bohol, a lush island in the country’s idyllic tropical region famous for its uniformly shaped “Chocolate Hills” which resemble miles of oversized Hershey’s Kisses during drier months. The package is available from $2,819 per person with air.
For more information on bargains to Asia and tourism trends in the region, the travel media are encouraged to contact KTCpr at 516-59… . High-res images are available as well as interviews with experts on the region.