(Re-adds the dropped letter in the CEO name)
by Chayut Setboonsarng
BANGKOK (Reuters) – The new CEO of online travel agency Agoda said late on Monday that Asian tourists are only expected to gradually resume international travel to pre-pandemic levels by 2024.
The Asia-focused company expects that tourists from Asian countries, excluding China, will take about six months after COVID-19-related restrictions are lifted to travel with confidence, said Omri Morgenstern, who took over at Agoda in July.
“Korea opened its doors two months ago…but the numbers are 40% of what they were before, so it’s not jumping,” he said.
Agoda’s booking volumes across its Asian markets are back to 2019 levels, Morgenstern told Reuters in an interview, but more so in domestic travel, in contrast to the stronger and faster tourist recovery in the United States and Europe.
“In the United States or Europe, it is as if everyone decided that Covid was over,” Morgenstern said, noting that travel resumed quickly there and many stopped wearing masks.
But in many Asian countries – such as Thailand, South Korea, Singapore and Indonesia – people generally kept masks even after mandates were dropped.
Morgenshtern added that Agoda is launching more products to allow customers to plan their entire travel itinerary on the platform with the promise of even more discounts.
In 2020, the company, a unit of Booking Holdings (NASDAQ: Inc), cut 1,500 jobs to cut spending amid the pandemic. Now, the number of employees is back to pre-COVID levels, he said.