Indonesia government reviewing proposal to close Komodo by 2020

There have been some recent reports in the media centred on the closure of Komodo Island in 2020, and Asian Trails Indonesia would like to inform you of the current situation to ensure that you and your clients are well informed. Currently plans are very much in the discussion stages and no decision has been made as to whether this will actually come into effect. Discussions are ongoing and a decision is likely to be made towards the end of this year or beginning of next year.

If a decision is made to close Komodo Island this will only affect visits to the island itself, with the rest of the national park to remain fully open to the public to enjoy. Komodo Island is one of two islands where Komodo Dragons can be found the other being Rinca Island. Rinca Island is the smaller of the two and sightings of Komodo dragons as well as other wildlife are common here than Komodo and the trekking options on Rinca offer more varied trekking routes, making the overall experience on Rinca to in many case be considered a more rewarding experience than Komodo Island itself.

Therefore we would like to communicate with you and your clients that there is no cause for any concern and that Flores/Komodo will continue to offer the same amazing experience, even if the decision is made to close Komodo Island.

We look forward to welcoming your clients to Flores/Komodo in near future.


The CEO Story: Countdown to new train journeys in South East Asia

I recently travelled to Vang Vieng in Laos together with Thuy Tien, our Managing Director in Indochina and Virginie Kury, our General Manager in Laos. The purpose of the trip was to see what’s new in Vang Vieng and the region, as well as to inspect the new railway presently under construction.

As part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative (BRI) new railway tracks are under construction from Boten, the northern most point at the Laos border with China to the Thai border south of Vientiane. The project, built entirely by the Chinese, is well under way and is scheduled for completion by 2021.

The new railway will not only revolutionise travel within Laos and the transport of goods but will also connect to China’s high-speed train network, making it possible for millions of Chinese to easily travel from China to Laos.

Part of the railway goes through stunning mountain scenery, with magnificent views in the northern stretch and also from Laos’
historical former capital of Luang Prabang to Vang Vieng. What today takes 6-7 hours over a mountain road will soon be a mere 1½ to 2 hours by train.

For tourism this will mean vast new possibilities to explore Laos in more comfort than ever before, the creation of new and shorter itineraries and the switch from domestic air travel to domestic rail travel. 2022 will be the year when all these will happen.

What this will also mean is a large influx of new travellers who will propel Laos from a niche destination to a large-scale destination. New infrastructure will have to be built to accommodate the increase in traveller numbers, and protectionist policies must be implemented to protect nature, the ecosystem and the culture of the local people.

The prime ministers of Thailand and Cambodia have just presided over the opening ceremony of two new train stations and rail tracks, which will enable cross border rail travel between both countries. Even though it is just a mere 1.3 kilometres between the stations of Ban Klong Luk in Thailand and Poi Pet in Cambodia this is a significant step, as rail travel between the two countries has been interrupted for the past 45 years. This short stretch will link Thailand’s rail network with that of Cambodia in the next couple of years. If your dream is to travel by train from Bangkok to Phnom Penh it is now one step closer to reality.

It is just a matter of time before China’s rail network running from the country through Laos connect to a (high-speed) rail network in Thailand, connecting Vientiane and Nong Khai. Newspapers in the region have reported widely on the politics of this undertaking, and I predict that in less than a decade it will be possible to travel by rail from Singapore to Beijing.

Vietnam has been connected to China’s regular train network for decades, with cross-border rail travel between the two countries popular with enthusiasts of this mode of transport. This is slow travel in the real sense of the word, as the trains run on regular tracks and carriages are of local quality but are air-conditioned. Additionally, the journey from Ho Chi Minh City in Vietnam to Kunming in China is long but one that invites travellers to explore the local culture and the natural beauty of the region.

China’s BRI will have a significant impact on travel to and within South-east Asia. Many of our readers will be familiar with the Silk Road high-speed rail network in China that is already operational, and for which we offer several tours. The line will extend into neighbouring countries, such as Kyrgyzstan, and eventually connect Europe to China through the southern route. This is of massive geopolitical importance and will, in particular, change the way in transporting goods from Asia to Europe.

Asian Trails is already offering a vast number of rail journeys in many of our destinations in Asia. We will update you as and when we create new, exciting railway adventures through the region.

Stay tuned for more …


Vote for Asian Trails for the 2019 TTG Asia Travel Award

Asian Trails is very pleased to announce that one of Asia-Pacific travel trade’s most anticipated awards, the TTG Travel Awards, is back for its annual instalment to celebrate the amazing feats of organizations.

Supported by the various TTG publications and trade resources under the TTG Travel Trade Publishing umbrella, this will be a unique opportunity to cast your vote for Asia Trails and acknowledge our contribution to raise the tourism bar to new levels. As a trade partner, your voice and vote is of great importance for us to and it acknowledges our contribution to the region as a positive one.

Founded in 1999, the Asian Trails Group has been on the forefront of operating cutting-edge travel proposals to seamless operational standards that is second to none in Asia. Headquartered in Bangkok, the group continues to provide client-focused destination management services in all of its 9 destinations; Cambodia, China, Indonesia, Laos, Malaysia, Myanmar, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam. Our ‘East-meets-West’ ownership structure enables us to provide personalized, unique and cost-effective travel products and services unrivalled anywhere else in Asia.

On behalf of all of us, we thank you very much for your vote!

Click here to vote for us

(voting closes 10 July 2019)

About Asian Trails
Dedicated to tailoring highly-personalized experiences to discerned explorers, Asian Trails captivates the essence of its Asia through its own-managed destinations in East and South East Asia. Each tour is carefully crafted and is an example of the passion all of us have for delivering a unique personality that matches the requirements of today’s demanding traveller. At the core of all this, since we opened our doors in 1999, remain the pillars of our operation: technology, innovation, sustainability with a human touch.


Coronation of H.M. The King of Thailand | Situation in Bangkok

From 2 until 6 May 2019, The official coronation of H.M. King Maha Vajiralongkorn as King Rama X will be celebrated. During these days, many roads, particular near the Grand Palace and some parts of the Chao Phraya river will be closed. All excursions around the Grand Palace have to be cancelled.

The crowing of H.M. King Maha Vajiralongkorn will take place on Saturday, 4 May with Monday, 6 May instilled as a public holiday for the whole country. Celebrations and ceremonies in relation to the coronation are expected to take off during this three day royal and religious event.

Various roads and landmarks in Bangkok’s Rattanakosin de extremely tight which may result in operational changes and possible congestion in other parts of the city.

Asian Trails Thailand is taking all measures to ensure that we continue to run our operations as smooth as possible. During these days, we will monitor the situation closely and continue to offer alternative tour options for in-house guests. Should any major incidents impact our customers in relation to this event, we will inform you accordingly.

For any questions and clarification, please contact your contact in Asian Trails in Thailand or send an email to As always, our dedicated emergency numbers remain on standby 24/7.


Novel Approaches and Creative Twists at this year’s IMEX

Asian Trails is pleased to confirm its attendance at the 2019 IMEX in Frankfurt, Germany. As one of the leading trade shows for the incentive and conference industry, this annual event will once again be a showcase for the progressive and sustainable approach for business professionals in this field.

From 21 until 23 May 2019, Asian Trails Malaysia, Singapore, Thailand and Vietnam will present the latest trends, new means to spice up events and destination management service standards and fill in the blanks when East and South East Asia are in your customer’s scope. Held at the impressive Messe Frankfurt, IMEX 2019 will be the window to our world for discerned delegates to get a taste of why Asian Trails had lead the way in offering incentives and events that exceed expectations.

Attending this year’s IMEX will be

  • Emir Cherif – Managing Director, Malaysia and Singapore (Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau Stand Booth number B200)
  • Yves van Kerrebroeck – Managing Director, Thailand (TCEB Booth number B150)
  • Alexander Leven – General Manager, Vietnam (Malaysia Convention & Exhibition Bureau Stand Booth number B200)
  • Johann Aigner – MICE Manager, Thailand (TCEB Booth number B150)

For more information or for making an appointment with one of our colleagues, welcome to email us via

We are keen in meeting you in person and fill in your project-based wishes from A until Z.

See you in Frankfurt!


Change of management at Asian Trails Laos

We are pleased to announce the appointment of Ms Laetitia Law-Lai, a French national, as our new Asian Trails Laos’ General Manager as of 8th April 2019. Laetitia will replace Ms Virginie Kury who will move to Phnom Penh to head Asian Trails Cambodia as General Manager.

Laetitia joined Asian Trails in 2017 as MICE Manager for Asian Trails Cambodia, based in our Siem Reap office. Having previously lived and worked in Vientiane, her expansive knowledge of Laos and the love for the country has been one of the main reasons for her to take up this challenging position within the Asian Trails family.

With a solid background in working with people, training and developing human resources, we certainly have no doubt that her knowledge and passion will successfully lead our Laos team in growing further and in maintaining our high service quality.

She will be reporting to Thuy Tien, Managing Director Indochina based at our office in Ho Chi Minh City.

We wish Laetitia all the best in her new role and thank you for the patronage and continuous support to Asian Trails.


Asian Trails apresenta suas novidades de 2019 na WTM em São Paulo

Como todos os anos, a Asian Trails estará presente na próxima edição da WTM em São Paulo.

Convidamos você a nos visitar para discutir, compartilhar qualquer assunto relacionado às nossas novidades em 2019 e nos abordar pessoalmente.

Entre os dias 2,3 e 4 de abril de 2019, você pode nos visitar no estande N69 do Escritório de Turismo da Tailândia, onde teremos nosso espaço para reuniões. Este ano teremos também a presença de nosso representante no Brasil, Rodrigo Ferreira e o responsável dos mercados latinos em Bangkok, Maurizio Sartori.

Sobre a Asian Trails
Desde 1999 a Asian Trails é reconhecida como o melhor receptivo no Sudeste da Ásia, com sede em Bangkok, estende seus serviços personalizados com guia em 9 destinos: Camboja, China, Hong Kong, Indonésia, Laos, Malásia, Mianmar, Singapura Tailândia e Vietnã


Tales from our Trails: Flores – The charming island alternative to Bali

Bjorn Schimanski, Managing Director of Asian Trails Indonesia, invites you to travel beyond Bali to the rugged beautiful island of Flores with the pleasant fishing town of Labuan Bajo, long sandy beaches, fantastic dive spots and the nearby Komodo National Park with its famous inhabitants – the Komodo dragons.

The majority of tourists to Indonesia tend to stick to the same classic routes. We all know this, and it is our bread and butter. Although the number of tourists to the country has increased sharply yet we find that most of our guests and about 40% of total arrivals land on Bali, the ‘Island of the Gods’ – a percentage that has not changed much over the years.

But this does not mean that things are not changing or developing. Bali is still a standalone destination for most visitors. However, as connectivity increases and ‘new’ islands develop we see Bali changing into a convenient hub from where you can fly in and out, stay a couple of days or longer and then continue to discover some of the other destinations Indonesia has to offer.

Welcome to Komodo!

Many of these places are still in — what I would call — a sweet spot, not yet a focus of mass tourism (or the new buzz word ‘over-tourism’) but already offering good flight connectivity, basic infrastructure and some standout accommodation.

One of the most charming of these places is Flores and the surrounding area. The island, around three times the size of Bali, was first put on the map by Portuguese traders and missionaries in the 16th century. They gave the island its name and left quite a mark on the island. It is not difficult to spot Portuguese ancestry in the local population and the biggest heritage the Portuguese left behind, which is a connecting link between the different ethnic groups of Flores, is Catholicism. Churches are full on Sundays and the Easter processions in the eastern city of Larantuka are legendary and fascinating to watch.

The blend of ancient local costumes and culture with Catholicism make up a curious mix, and is a big draw for a visit. This is topped off with superb landscapes, an incredible underwater world and the largest living lizards anywhere. These should convince you to hop on the next plane from Bali (or Jakarta) to see them for yourself.

The first time I visited Flores was in 1999 when I travelled overland from Maumere in the eastern part of the island all the way up to Medan in Sumatra. It was quite a trip of approximately 4,500 kilometres on dodgy buses, slow trains and huge boats overloaded with refugees who escaped the terrors of a religious war on the Maluku islands (further east), which broke out during the transition period to democracy in Indonesia.

On the top of Padar Island during the dry season

Back then my last stop on Flores was the sleepy town of Labuan Bajo, which consisted of no more than a few huts. I certainly did not think that I would open our fourth Asian Trails Indonesia office right there 19 years later. But things are changing fast in Asia once a certain stage of development kicks in.

Labuan Bajo with its adjoining harbour is the entrance to the Komodo National Park, which has quickly rose in popularity for good reasons. The beach area where I spent a couple of days in a bamboo hut for US$10 a day (that included full board) is now owned by one of the nicest boutique resorts in the area – the Plataran Komodo Beach Resort. A marina is currently being built and a Starbucks will open soon (who needs that as there is the fantastic local Arabica Flores coffee – one of the best anywhere).

There is talk of a daily ferry shuttle to the Komodo National Park for masses of mainly Asian tourists while, at the same time, other parties within the government are trying to increase the entrance fees or limit the arrival numbers. Let’s see how all this plays out, but we are clearly only at the beginning of massive investment and development in the coming years.

A game changer and a harbinger of things to come is the newly-opened AYANA Komodo Resort, Labuan Bajo, with over 200 rooms. It is the first of a couple of 5 star properties opening up in coming years in and around Labuan Bajo.

The main attraction and reason for most people visiting Flores are obviously the Komodo dragons, which are endemic to only three islands to the west of Labuan Bajo. It takes about four hours in a speed boat or up to eight hours in a slow boat to get there. A minimum of three days should be enough to visit the basics, and fly in and out. However, we recommend adding more days to get more out of the trip.

The wider Labuan Bajo area makes for a great beach extension, as there are some lovely boutique resorts on the small islands that have the feel of small Greek islands but with a Pacific setting — difficult to describe and you have to be there to experience the unique ambiance.

If the budget permits then go on a cruise. The holiday can hardly get any better – sleep on board and explore the many different savannah-style islands with amazing underwater world full of turtles, manta rays and intact corals.

And for those who truly want to discover places on Flores that are not yet “exposed” by Instagram, “invaded” by hotel chains or Airbnb, or featured in tourism packages I recommend an overland island tour of between five days to a week. Thanks to good air connectivity you can easily start the journey in the east of the island and finish in the west (or vice versa). While the infrastructure around Labuan Bajo is the most developed on the whole island and caters for a wide range of budgets, we work mostly with selected guesthouses in the rest of Flores that make up part of the charm. This tour certainly has the potential of becoming another classic route!

Sunrise over Komodo